Vol 6 No. 28 - April 5, 2006


Boaters flood bridge hearing

Key Royale Bridge to be built in summer

Panel nixes parking plan

Commissioners cogitate on commitment to sign ordinance

... while Chamber sets meeting on issue

Commissioners say cell tower request moving too fast

County plans to shore up more Island beaches

Documentary focuses on fishing villages




Boaters flood bridge hearing

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Boaters came in waves to oppose the proposed changes to drawbridge openings on the Anna Maria and Cortez bridges at a special meeting held by the U.S. Coast Guard last week.

The bridges currently open every 20 minutes for boaters. The proposal would change that to every 30 minutes with no openings between 7:35 and 8:29 a.m. and 4:35 and 5:29 p.m., 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

More than a year ago, the Island mayors began lobbying for the changes after Longboat Key Commissioner Jeremy Whatmough learned from Tjet Martin, of Bradenton Beach, that the Coast Guard allows some drawbridges to close during morning and evening rush hours.
Mayor Carol Whitmore, who said she was representing the Island mayors, spoke in favor the changes and noted, "I’ve lived here since 1969 and Island residents have been waiting for this for a long time."

"They have been trying for many years to get our office to even look at the problem," Mike Lieberum, Coast Guard bridge management specialist, acknowledged "With a change of management in the office, we’re now going to look at proposals. We want everyone’s input to see if this is going to work. We’re looking for constructive criticism."
Boaters voice opposition

Opponents outnumbered proponents two to one and brought up issues such as the danger of holding for the bridge to open, Island residents’ opposition to a high, fixed-span bridge that would eliminate openings and increased traffic from development.

"The biggest problem I see is bridge tenders with no knowledge or maritime training," Bob Jorgensen, of Holmes Beach, said. "I’ve seen bridges open every 20 minutes with no boats there. I’ve seen bridges open with sailboats over a block away."

However, Connie Collings, supervisor for the Anna Maria, Cortez, Longboat Pass and New Pass bridges disputed those statements.

"My bridge tenders are adequately trained and do our best to get the boats through in a timely manner," she said. "If you change it, many times there are 10 or 11 boats coming through in one direction. There isn’t enough room for them to be stacked up on either side of any of the bridges. That is very unsafe."

She said that in February between 7 and 8 a.m. there were 12 openings and two were on the weekends. During the same time period in March, there were 19 openings with three on the weekends.

If a boater causes the bridge to open unnecessarily, the bridge tender writes a report and gives it to the Coast Guard, she said. Boaters can be liable for fines up to $10,000.
One Bradenton resident said sailors can’t time their arrivals at bridges because sailboats are slow moving and also they "can’t just stand dead in the water " while waiting for the bridge to open.

A county resident read a letter from two charter boat owners who noted, "Our livelihood depends on getting in and out on specific times. It’s wrong to restrict our charter business for the convenience of part-time residents."

"What about in the summer when you’re having a violent storm and you’re out there trying to hold?" Joe Jackson, of Holmes Beach, asked.

"That’s covered in the regulations under ‘vessels in distress,’" Lieberum replied. "If you feel that something can be damaged property-wise, you have the authority to call that bridge and ask for an opening. If you do not get that opening, report it to the Coast Guard."

The Coast Guard also received 22 letters in opposition to the changes, four of which were form letters.

Support for a change

Whatmough gave a number of reasons to support a change including improved traffic flow, reduced backups and congestion, reduced fuel consumption and a positive impact on public safety response time.

"This is a significant step forward," he said. "Please implement the change."
Tony Webb, a boat owner, said, "I can’t believe we’ve gone this long with 20-minute openings when 10 minutes is nothing to a boater. I have counted between 50 and 80 cars and sometimes up to 100 at peak times in both directions. With an average of two people per car, that’s 75 waiting in each direction waiting for one sailboat with two people in it."
Jeff Hurley, of Holmes Beach, agreed and asked, "What’s more important? People that need to go to doctor’s appointments, to get home to get their kids and so forth or someone on a pleasure cruise."

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said the changes would enhance the flow of through traffic and reduce congestion.

In addition to the comments, the Coast Guard received one letter of support for 30-minute openings, but the writer did not support the rush-hour closings. It received another letter calling for a trial period before a final decision is made.

Lieberum said Coast Guard officials would review the comments and make a decision in 30 days.

"We will write up the final rule and forward it through the system, then publish it in the Federal Record and it will go into effect," he explained..<< Top


Key Royale Bridge to be built in summer

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Replacement of the Key Royale Bridge should begin in late June or early July and take 180 days.

A report from City Treasurer Rick Ashley came out last week when commissioners approved an amendment to the construction agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation.

"This added cost and the associated required deposit of $138,332 is an unanticipated increase in the CEI costs, which are the costs of construction, engineering and inspections for the oversight of the actual bridge contractor during the construction phase," Ashley explained.

He noted that because FDOT is negotiating with the contractor, the city has little control over the contract amounts.

"The funds needed for this will have to come from city monies as it is not feasible at this time to do a third draw on the commercial paper loan that was authorized as it would involve another loan closing and expenses," Ashley said.

"After these funds are deposited with the comptroller’s officer, the total amount deposited up front for the bridge construction will be $3,852,328, of which we have borrowed $3,715,000."

Ashley said FDOT made an award for the construction contract and is in the negotiating phase, a 90-day process. FDOT officials expect the construction to be completed in March 2007.

The city has fronted the money for the construction and will be reimbursed by the FDOT. Ashley said he expects the reimbursement in the summer of 2007...<< Top

Panel nixes parking plan

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – It may be temporary, but the planning and zoning board has voted against allowing a small parking lot across the street from city hall on BeachHouse restaurant property.

The board voiced its opinion last Thursday against the proposal to develop such a lot as it was reviewing and evaluating changes to the Bradenton Beach Land Use Code.

The board was going over the future land use map for the city, considering where to designate land as conservation and where to use the preservation designation.

The conservation designation would be given to areas near the bay where there are protected forms of native flora such as mangroves established and where the city wants the land to remain in its natural condition. No development would be permitted except by special exception review and approval by the city. Allowed structures would include parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities, docks, piers, shelters, boat ramps and access structures.

The preservation category would be located on land that forms the first line of defense in major storms and hurricanes and is seaward of the coastal construction control line and/or Gulf Drive, whichever is farthest west. No new development would be allowed except for water-dependent uses, including parking and beach recreational uses.

The board wanted the land south of the BeachHouse to remain preservation, but board member Jo Ann Meilner disagreed.

"Am I crazy, or didn’t we already agree not to allow parking there?" she asked. "Am I the only one who does not want parking there?"

Mayor John Chappie, who was observing the meeting, reminded members that they had voted against allowing parking there at an earlier meeting but they found out at a subsequent meeting that negotiations were ongoing to develop a lot there. BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles has been trying to get a lot established there with one entrance and one exit to replace the illegal parking that has been growing over the years. Until the city fenced off its beach access south of that land and ordered Chiles to do the same, cars had been pulling in illegally and when they tried to pull out, the drivers were backing out into traffic.

Chappie asked the board to reaffirm their vote, and one member of the board said it would not necessarily shut the door completely to the proposed parking lot.

"If the city fathers decide it is needed, they will be able to overturn this when the city commission votes on these changes," Ernest Clay said.

Building official Ed McAdam told the board that Chiles had come in that day with a permit request for a fence. He also brought in Florida Department of Environmental Protection approval for the fence, which is required on land that close to the water.

Chiles has been asked by the city’s Scenic Highway Committee to bring in plans for the proposed parking lot. Members of that advisory board had expressed a desire to work with Chiles to try to control the parking there, which they said gets out of hand during season.


Commissioners cogitate on commitment
to sign ordinance

ByLaurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — At least three of the five city commissioners have been doing some serious thinking about the sign ordinance that has been under discussion for several months.
Commissioners Duke Miller, Chris Tollette and Dale Woodland each issued a one-way memo to their fellow commissioners.

Miller took several pictures of signage in the city and noted that he’s not sure the proposed three square foot limit for signs, including real estate signs, in the residential district is too restrictive.

Miller noted that most of the signs he noticed along North Shore Drive and North Bay Boulevard were within that limit, including Island Real Estate, Betsy Hills, Horizon and Green Real Estate signs.

Other signs advertising real estate in the residential districts are smaller than the proposed limit, Miller noted.

"The smallest of the signs at 1.5 square feet is easily readable from the road, contrary to concerns about ‘safety hazards’ of smaller signs," he said.

Tollette has expressed concern about the limitation of one sign per residential property.
"At our next workshop, I will be presenting photographs of some of our historic homes which do have attached plaques. Also, the homes, which have what I call decorative, address signs or ‘home names,’" she said.

Tollette also had questions about information signs"placed in store windows. Those would be the open and closed signs.

Tollette also commented that she thought it might be a good idea for the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce to provide some education on sign usage.
"What impact do signs have on customers, is less better than more, visual impact on potential customers, what does your sign say about your business?" were some questions that Tollette brought forward.

Woodland noted that he thinks it was a good thing that the commission didn’t take a vote on the proposed ordinance at their last meeting.

"I sensed some people thought this was being pushed along too fast, " he said.
Woodland also said that he thinks it’s important that people know that the reason for the new ordinance is to reduce sign clutter.

"It was obvious from the many comments that in general people want us to regulate signs, but our initial approach is too restrictive. I concur," he said.

The commission charged its planner, Allen Garrett, with coming up with a new sign ordinance some months ago for that very reason — to reduce visual clutter.
Garrett held two workshops for members of the business community out of which many of the proposed signage changes grew.

The ordinance has been discussed at several commission workshops. It wasn’t until late last month that the real estate community weighed in on the proposed ordinance.
The issue will be discussed again at the commission’s April 13 workshop.

"On a lighter note," Woodland said, "It occurred to me that we could significantly reduce sign clutter of only those homes NOT for sale had signs."..<< Top

... while Chamber sets meeting on issue

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce is hosting an instructive seminar on changes in the sign laws in all three cities at Holmes Beach City Hall at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 6.

Chamber Chairman Don Schroder said the chamber wants to craft an Island-wide ordinance that could be presented to each city.

In a memo, he cited the new sign ordinance in Bradenton Beach, a proposed ordinance in Anna Maria and forthcoming change in the Holmes Beach code as containing highly restrictive language concerning placement, color, size and number of lines that a sign may contain. He said the new laws could even restrict the size of permanent signs outside strip malls.

Schroder’s memo said, "It has become apparent that all three cities on the Island have begun a concerted effort to drastically restrict the business community’s ability to place appropriate signage on their buildings or on private property."

The chamber is inviting each mayor to send a representative as well as their planning officer so that those individuals can understand the gravity of the effect these ordinances will have on Chamber members’ ability to successfully conduct business.

Copies of the ordinances are available at the Chamber office. For more information, call the Chamber at 778-1541..<< Top


Commissioners say cell tower
request moving too fast

ByPat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commissioners want residents to ring in with their thoughts on the addition of an antenna on the cell tower at Smith Realty.

"This came out of nowhere; I feel like it’s moving a little too fast," Commissioner Roger Lutz said. "It’s a pretty excitable issue, and everybody that wants to talk ought to have a chance. Let’s get this meeting reported in the newspaper and see how many people show up next time."

Harlan Ginn, the agent for Smith Realty and a zoning consultant for Metro PCS, asked for the special exception to add the antenna. The current cell tower ordinance limits the number of commercial antennas to three.

"Metro PCS, the carrier that will be attaching its antenna to the tower, has entered into a lease with Crown Castle International, the owner of the tower," Ginn explained. "Metro PCS is the newest cell phone carrier to enter the market. Metro PCS likes to design their network on co-locations.

"Co-locations means putting antennas on existing towers and buildings, rather than building new towers. We would co-locate at the 90-foot level. Our equipment would be contained within the walls of the current compound."

Three people raised issues. Joan Perry said it would increase intensity in the neighborhood and noted, "Arrays are not real attractive. The only pretty thing up there is the osprey nest because we’ve run out of habitat."

John Wize, who lives by the tower, asked who performed the stress analysis on the tower, and Commissioner Pat Morton questioned the wind load and whether the tower could handle the addition.

Questions answered

"When Metro PCS runs the structural analysis, a professional
engineer signs and seals the drawings. He can be personally liable," Ginn responded. "We have had to walk away from sites because the structure failed (the analysis).

"Your action tonight is only to allow the application for a building permit for this antenna," City Attorney Patricia Petruff explained. "The detailed drawings would be sent out to the city engineer for a complete review to insure that it complies with all applicable regulations including the Florida Building Code, wind load and those types of things."

She also noted that the city’s cell tower ordinance encourages co-location.
"I would be more comfortable if somebody from staff could tell us they’ve looked at it and it complies with everything we have," Lutz said.

"Our cell tower ordinance says 140 mph (wind load) and that’s all that it’s ever been," Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes responded. "That is a three-second gust, which is 110 mph sustained. We already have engineering for this fourth array that sustains that."
Building Clerk Susan Lonzo said the special exception application has been in process for a year and noted, "If the ordinance allowed for four arrays, that antenna would be up by now. We get structural reports every time a new antenna goes up, and the building department approved those. They’ve met the criteria."

She said all the surrounding neighbors received notice of the application by mail, and 12 of them came in to the building department to ask questions.
The request was continued until the April 25 commission meeting.
<< Top


County plans to shore up more Island beaches

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Because of the extended amount of time this current renourishment has taken, plans to reinforce beaches along the city of Anna Maria have been dropped for now.
That doesn’t mean the county won’t follow up on that area of the Island later and it might spell relief for beleaguered homeowners north of the area originally planned to get more sand.

That’s part of the message Manatee County’s Ecosystems Administrator, Charlie Hunsicker, gave to members of Save Anna Maria at a meeting last Saturday in the Island Branch Library.

Hunsicker went over the renourishment projects on the Island over the past 14 years, but after talking about the current one that began last summer and was delayed over the winter due to storms and high seas, he talked about plans for Anna Maria.
Hunsicker said the county plans to renourish the beaches along Anna Maria that were not part of the 1992 project, but were added to the 2002 program. Because those beaches were not part of the original federally funded program, they were not eligible for new sand in 2002. However, the county and state pitched in to fund the additional coverage in Anna Maria at that time.

After the 2004 storm season saw five hurricanes pass near the area and accelerate erosion along the state’s beaches, the federal government set aside $238 million to bring renourished beaches in Florida back to the level they would have been without the storms.
Because the beach projects in Anna Maria were not federally funded in 2002, they were left out of the 2004 federal funding, but Manatee County agreed to use some of the resort tax money set aside for beaches to pay for that portion. Then came the delays due to weather that set the project behind almost nine months and the Anna Maria project was dropped.
Hunsicker said the county would start the paperwork to do that project by late this summer or next spring. He said a big part of a renourishment project is mobilization, which could cost up to $2.5 million. The actual renourishment of the Anna Maria beaches would cost less than that, so he said they might tack on other areas.

"We might try to do some of the areas along North Shore Drive where there has been heavy erosion," he said. "We will also try to get permits to go south from Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach."

Hunsicker also talked about using groins to help stop erosion in some areas. He talked about the 1940s and ‘50s when the bottom portion of Coquina Beach was a series of small Islands.

"The county decided to add sand and make it a solid mass of land so Gulf Drive could be extended and a bridge built to Longboat Key," he said. "After they did that, they found out that Mother Nature was trying to turn that mass back into islands, so they built those groins along Coquina Beach."

Hunsicker said the county is looking at groins south of North Shore Drive and Bean Point in Anna Maria to try to control erosion there.

<< Top


Documentary focuses on fishing villages

ByCindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – The premiere of an oral history documentary featuring residents of Cortez and Cedar Key opened Friday night to a packed house at the Bayside Banquet Hall.

"In Their Own Words – the Perseverance and Resilience of Two Florida Fishing Communities" features interviews with residents of both fishing villages, whose economies were devastated by a 1995 Constitutional referendum banning gill nets.

Cortez fisherman Albert Mora expressed a common opinion of fishermen in both villages when he said the state should not have allowed voters who know nothing about commercial fishing to decide on the net ban.

Mark Ibasfalean, also of Cortez, recalled feeling betrayed by his Manatee County neighbors when the vote against gill nets was passed. Another resident compared the net ban to putting Indians on a reservation and expecting them to maintain their nomadic way of life in much less territory.

Funded by the Cortez-based FISH Preserve, the Florida Humanities Council and the Legacy Institute for Nature and Culture (LINK), the documentary was written by Michael Jepson and photographed by Carlton Ward Jr.

The filmmakers also recorded recollections of life in the old days,"before the net ban.
Cortez resident Blue Fulford reminisced about the village before nets were regulated and seasons were closed, when no one locked their doors and none of the yards had fences.
"Everybody was kin," he said. "It was just heaven on earth."

In those days, men built their own boats, and a marked stick was just as good as a tape measure for making a boat come out right. Kids went to the Cortez school barefoot. Boys grew up hearing their grandfathers’ tall tales of the sea and chose to follow in their wake.
It’s a way of life missed by many. There are no nets drying in yards anymore, or fishermen walking down to the docks carrying their lunch pails and paper sacks, Fulford said.
"It’s the things that you don’t see anymore that are hard."

<< Top

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