Vol 6 No. 29 - April 12, 2006


Study on merging cities rejected

Speaking of signs: Chamber protests sign ordinance enforcement

Sign enforcement well noticed, says code officer

Horseshoes in Anna Maria: The ring of history

Forty-four signs taken to �jail�

Discussion set in Anna Maria

Mama Lo�s by the Sea goes up for sale

Spring Fling tickets now on sale




Study on merging cities rejected

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Commissioners decided last Thursday that a study of consolidation between the three Island cities should be all or none, and without Anna Maria’s input, they opted for none.

The commission agreed by consensus not to approve spending $12,000 to hire the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to study the benefits and costs of merging all three cities. The reason was the fact that the Anna Maria City Commission voted last year not to put the issue on the ballot. Voters in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach were given the opportunity to vote and by sizeable margins, supported studying the possibility of consolidating the three cities.

Mayor John Chappie has had several meetings with Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore and Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn, who was not allowed to represent her city at the meetings because of her commission’s vote.

"Our ballot issue said all three cities and I think that is a hurdle," he said, referring to the question on the Bradenton Beach ballot. "Until it is passed by the Anna Maria City Commission or referendum, I am not comfortable on this. I don’t think our voters passed this to become one with Holmes Beach."

Commissioner John Shaughnessy agreed, and talked about Holmes Beach politics.
"Mayor Whitmore is not running for re-election and the only person running so far (Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger) is said to be against consolidation," he said.
Chappie said he did not feel it was fair for Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach to split the cost of the study because there is no guarantee that Anna Maria would pay its fair share if there was a change of heart there.

"I feel we have met the wishes of our voters," said Commissioner Bill Shearon in referring to the mayor’s participation in the talks with the other mayors. "We can’t spend money on this unless all three cities on the Island are in agreement."

Vice Mayor Lisa Marie Phillips said talks between Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach could be viewed as "bullying" tactics by residents of Anna Maria, and she would not want that to happen.

"I feel the minority made the decision for the majority in Anna Maria," Shaughnessy said.
Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, however, said she was disappointed with the Bradenton Beach decision.

"I feel both cities could have paid the $12,000 each for the study," she said. "I don’t feel that the Bradenton Beach City Commission fulfilled the wishes of their voters with this action."

Whitmore said she would recommend to her commission that they not follow through with the study, but leave the door open for the future, in case Anna Maria’s commissioners decide to participate.

Anna Maria City Commissioner Christine Tollette, who ran for office saying she was for studying the issue and won her seat with the most votes, said she is disappointed that is issue is dead for now.

"It’s a shame because I feel we need to find out if consolidation would save the three cities money and where," she said. "Unfortunately, when I ran and said I thought we should participate in the study, two other commissioners in the race said they thought it was a good idea but after they won, they changed their minds."

She said she might address the vote at their April 13 work session, but she doesn’t think she would find support among commissioners to pursue a study or even put the question on the ballot in the near future.


Speaking of signs: Chamber protests sign ordinance enforcement

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH— Signs, or the lack of them, brought Island real estate agents, business owners and residents together last week to discuss issues about sign ordinances developed by the three Island cities.

The meeting, called by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, was precipitated by code officials in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach, who cracked down on signs in the rights of way. In a couple of days, Holmes Beach, officials collected more than 100 signs, and in Bradenton Beach, officials collected 44 signs.

"We, the business people, feel that we’ve been trod upon," Chamber President Don Schroder said opening the meeting. "We need to come together and make a comprehensive plan for the whole Island and present it to the three cities."
Anna Maria commissioners are considering changes to their sign ordinance, Bradenton Beach officials are enforcing their new sign ordinance approved last fall and Holmes Beach planning commissioners have suggested changes to their sign ordinance.

Issues raised by those at the meeting included the color, size, number, height and placement of signs; not receiving notice of the crackdown; signs that establish a brand for the real estate company; and taking down rental signs when a property is rented.

"It’s clear that the cities have every right to regulate signs,’ Chamber attorney Chuck Webb explained, "and they can do that based on aesthetics.

"A potential problem I see is that if a sign is shrunk down so small and pushed so far back from the property line, that you can’t see the message. As long as you can get your message across, they can regulate it."

Issues with ordinances
Al Galletto, of Island Real Estate, said there should be a consistent sign size and signs should be allowed to have two riders. Steve Bark, of Bark and Company Realty, said the standard size is 18 by 24 inches.

Schroder, of Re/Max Gulfstream Realty, said his company’s signs are 4 square feet, and the same sign is used in 56 countries on eight continents. Holmes Beach planners have recommended changing the size to 2 1/2 square feet.

"One of the things that we’re known for and our associates pay for is our likeness, our brand," Barry Grooms, of Re/Max pointed out. "It’s almost anti-competitive to take our brand away."

Grooms said that sign owners did not receive adequate notice and signs were gone overnight, but he conceded that after driving through Bradenton Beach, it looks much better after the crackdown.

Marie Franklin, of Anna Maria Realty, said it is impractical to remove a rental sign when the property is rented because "We are known for seasonal rentals and we would be taking signs up and down every day."

Karen Cunningham, of Bradenton Beach, said tourists drive around looking for rentals and if the signs are 5 feet from the property line, they can’t be seen easily.

Barry Gould, of Island Vacation Properties, agreed and added, "The 5 feet back from the property line surprised all of us. We never heard of that before. In some places, you’d have to put it in someone’s living room to satisfy the code."

Officials defend actions
"It would have been nice to see everybody when we were drafting the ordinance," Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore noted wryly. ‘We don’t do sign ordinances because we have nothing better to do. Usually it’s because citizens come to us and say there’s a problem. We don’t pass an ordinance in one night. It takes two public hearings and months and months."

She said the city’s sign ordinance has been in place since 1998 but not enforced. In August 2005, Code Enforcement Officer Nancy Hall sent a letter and a copy of the ordinance to real estate and business owners to warn them that the city would begin active enforcement.

"If you want us all to have a unified ordinance, you have to talk us into it," Whitmore advised. "and unless you come and tell us, we don’t know to change things."

Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino said commissioners don’t want the city to look like Longboat Key or Naples, but residents complain about sign proliferation.

"My commission would be agreeable to work with you and find a happy medium," he said. "It makes business sense for all three cities to agree on a common ordinance."

Holmes Beach Planning Commission Chairman Sue Normand said changes in the sign ordinance that the board recommended must be approved by the city commission, and the board tries to take into consideration what is best for the whole city.

"What we’ve changed is very, very minimal," she explained, "other than the 2 1/2 square-foot sign. We also said we would like to see no more than two signs on a piece of property.
Schroder said properties such as West Bay Point Moorings need three signs — one on Marina Drive, one at the corner and one at the entrance. He said that the Holmes Beach planners recommended reducing the height of pole signs from 6 to 4 feet and that could be too low if there is a hedge.

He asked who recommended setting signs 5 feet back from the property line, and Normand said it was the city’s planning consultant. She said the board was trying to get signs out of the rights of way and onto the property.

Normand advised the group to come to the board’s next meeting on April 13 with a list of items to reconsider.

Sign enforcement well noticed, says code officer

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Contrary to complaints aired at a meeting on Thursday, Code Enforcement Officer Nancy Hall said the confiscation of signs in the rights of way owners received ample notification.

"We’ve been trying to clear up the signs since 2004," she said. "Last year, we got quite a few complaints. In August 2005, we sent a letter to all businesses and real estate companies with occupational licenses to educate and re-educate people about the sign ordinance."

The letter, accompanied by a copy of the city’s sign ordinance, said, "Within 30 days of this mailing, the code enforcement department will actively enforce the sign ordinance." It also said signs would be picked up and placed in the city’s sign compound.

Hall said she began the enforcement effort with sandwich signs last fall and then moved on to signs in the rights of way last week. She said prior to the confiscation, she spent 5 1/2 hours calling everyone on the mailing list and giving them until Monday, April 3, to comply.
"We only pulled signs in the rights of way," Hall explained. "They really have to be 5 feet back from the property line, but if they were past the utility poles, we left them."

In a couple of days, Hall confiscated 103 signs and covered about 20 percent of the city, including Gulf Drive, Key Royale and the north side of the city from 85th to 72nd streets. Hall said if the placement of the sign was questionable, she left it in place.

Regarding signs in the rights of way that belonged to residents, Hall said she knocked on their doors, advised them of the ordinance and asked them to move their signs. If no one was at home, she pulled the sign, put her business card on it and put it by the front door.
"A couple of signs were from agents from Lakewood Ranch or places where they wouldn’t have gotten the letter," Hall explained. "When I came upon these signs, I called them before taking the sign."

Owners can get their signs from the city compound at the public works department. The ordinance allows for a $25 fee, but Hall is waiving the fee for now. She said she is also taking photos of every sign before pulling it for future reference.

"It the owners’ responsibility to make sure their signs are properly placed," Hall pointed out. "We’ve been very lenient and courteous and gone out of our way to notify them."


Horseshoes in Anna Maria: The ring of history

ByBill Barlett
special to the sun

One morning during my daily fishing ritual, I met a freshly transplanted New Englander who asked me countless questions about Florida fishing. A thousand questions later, I offered to show him and dispatched him to fetch his pole. He showed up the next morning and in the coming days we became well acquainted.

One day during a gator trout feeding frenzy, I shouted, "Mr. Doyle, you gonna be here tomorrow? If so I’ll catch some extra greenies."

He yelled back, "I won’t be here because I play horseshoes on Saturdays."
In the 20 plus years I’ve lived or vacationed on this Island, that was something I always wanted to do.

"Why don’t ya come and join us?" he asked. "They’re not cutthroat players, and I’ve met a lot of good people there."

He gave me a short playing rule primer, becoming more animated the longer he talked.
"I can’t encourage you enough to check this place out."

Well, I was sold, so I hung up my pole for a day and decided to go "shoein" with Steve instead.

That Saturday, I trundled to the corner of Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue to take part in the morning’s competition. I found the horseshoe pits neatly tucked away in a tiny little park, lushly landscaped with only native Florida plants. Surrounding a trio of shuffleboard courts, four concrete horseshoe pits play host to the Wednesday and Saturday games. Walking from the parking lot, I could hear shoes clanging from the secluded little hideaway and the buzz of friendly bantering, broken only by the occasional shout of "Ringer!"

On that first day, I met everybody at least once. They introduced themselves and then did it again when, later, when I forgot some of their names.

"Don’t worry," encouraged Steve, "you’ll get to know ‘em all in no time."
During warm ups, the players milled about with obvious purpose. "You do any fishing this week?" "Hope your daughter’s feeling better." "There’s coffee and a pastries on the table – help yourself." "Who’s pickin’ up George today?"

The caring and friendship I saw was palpable, immediately chasing away the new guy butterflies.

"I’m feeling a whole lot of fellowship here today," trumpeted Saturday regular George McKay, as he pumped up the group for the morning’s play. "Let’s get started — draw chips for teams. If needed, I can be the ‘walker’ today," prompting a large groan from the crowd.
One competitor quietly told me, "George is deadly, when he’s the ‘team of one.’"
Frankly, I don’t recall if George was deadly that day or not but, within a few weeks, I grew close to this hodgepodge of humanity and am proud to call many my of them friends.
"England has nothing like this," remarked seasonal resident Peter Watson "Carole and I look forward to playing with these chaps each year and have made some great friends among them."

This wonderful mix of residents and visitors made me wonder, "How long has this been going on?"

Anna Maria’s early years offered little organized social activity. Shortly after the ferry dock construction in 1911, now the city pier, day trippers came to enjoy the Island’s unspoiled primitive beauty. Anna Maria was home to deer, rattlesnakes and the greatest fishing in Tampa Bay waters.

Steamships, like The Favorite and The Manatee, debarked their passengers and early photos showed them promenading up Pine Avenue to enjoy a day at the beach They’d pass the Anna Maria Inn, Roser Church and the Old Icehouse, which became the AMI Historical Museum in 1992 Reaching the Community Hall, then the Tourist Center, most would continue on to the bathhouse pavilion and diving platform at the end of Spring and Magnolia Avenues Some of the men, however, would linger at the Tourist Center to play horseshoes, smoke fine hand-rolled Cuban cigars and discuss the times.

In Carolyne Norwood’s book, "Anna Maria Island: The Early Days 1893-1940", the essence of island life is captured in a 1940’s quote by long time Anna Maria resident, author Wyatt Blassingame "Here, a man can have as much privacy as he wants or have companions to whoop it up all night long Even better, he can have as much of each whenever he wants it, for I have never known a place so free of group-made social restrictions The difference between this Island and a city is, here, you can know any you want to know – the new and the old, the cracked and the uncracked I love it."

The Community Hall is now the Island Players Theater and while the surrounding land has changed considerably, other things have not Horseshoes are still being tossed there but today the mix is both men and women, young and old, discussing current events, and playing this unique sport Instead of steamship, they arrive by car, bicycle, the short walk from their island homes, or from Europe, Canada and South America A closer look reveals a microcosm of the American Dream – a melting pot of diversity from all walks of life I have to wonder if Blassingame was a horseshoe player because his comments seem a perfect description for this eclectic island group.

I’ve been shoein’ for about 18 months and grow fonder of these folks with each session All are treated like old friends despite their heritage or station in life Good natured ribbing is commonplace and everyone is welcome Randomly formed teams vie for bragging rights and the privilege to hoist the duck-shaped, championship trophy at the end of each day
"The only ringers here are the ones we put on the stakes," quipped long time tosser, Ron Pekpa "Some travel quite a distance because we’re just a fun group who get together to enjoy each other’s company." "I’ve made some of my best friends here," remarked Cortezian, Tom Rhodes "Everybody cares about everyone," evidenced by several core players routinely driving out of their way to shuttle an 89 year old from his retirement home.

More people are discovering the pervasive camaraderie of the horseshoe group and, once they come, they’re hooked Check it out for yourself and try your hand at this game of ringers that is not played by ringers! It’s no longer the only game in town but it’s a great way to relax and meet people on Anna Maria Island.


Forty-four signs taken to ‘jail’

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – They’re calling the old semi trailer next to the public works building "sign jail" nowadays, after the city’s building department started seizing signs in the rights of way and storing them there.

Code Enforcement Officer Gail Garneau said that as of Friday, she and fellow officer Gerry Rathvon had taken 44 signs from the roadsides in the city because they were in the right of way. Of those, owners of eight signs had come to pay the $35 penalty to retrieve them. If they did not have permits for the signs, they had to shell out another $25.

Bradenton Beach started enforcing its sign ordinance last week, and the reaction has been more positive than negative, according to Building Official Ed McAdam.

"I would say 80 percent of the people who have talked to me were glad we were cleaning up the situation," McAdam said. "They say the roadside looks a lot better."

Garneau said there were a few incidents of resistance from sign owners. One confronted her on the street while a television crew was covering the story, and she said one property owner said she had not been informed of the crackdown, which was published the week before by The Sun. However, she said there was plenty of positive support of the enforcement.

"While we were pulling up signs (Thursday), three people came up to us and thanked us," she said. "Even some real estate agents have called and said it looks a lot better now."
Garneau said she still has a few more blocks to inspect, but two department employees were out Friday for personal reasons and she had to be in the office.

The enforcement of the right-of-way law is the first of three phases for the code enforcement officers. The next step will be enforcement of the setback rule in the recently amended sign code. Signs have to be five feet or more from the front property line. The last stage will be enforcement of the new rule requiring sign owners to have permits, which come with stickers and tags to put on the signs.

Those two stages will require a different strategy because removal of signs would require the city employees to enter private property.

City Attorney Ralf Brookes said code enforcement officers may not enter private property to take signs, unless they are there to inspect work. McAdam said they will go through the code enforcement process to get those sign owners to comply. Under the process, the owners will get warning letters with a deadline for coming into compliance. If they don’t meet the deadline, they will be taken before a code enforcement board for a hearing and they might receive hefty daily fines if they still don’t comply.

Garneau said they are not trying to confiscate large permanent signs, but they will place violation stickers on them if they are accessible from public land and they, too, would face a possible code enforcement hearing if they don’t comply.

The new sign code does not apply to garage sale signs, private rental signs displayed from the home for rent or small signs such as some that might display an address or a home’s name.

Copies of the new sign ordinance are available at Bradenton Beach City Hall.



Discussion set in Anna Maria

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

Anna Maria’s draft of a sign regulation ordinance will be under discussion this week.
City commissioners had their new ordinance ready for second reading and passage when they backed up a few steps to take input from members of the real estate community. The proposed ordinance would limit the size, color and placement of signage located in residential areas, which would include signs selling or renting property in those districts.

There was no organized outcry against the restrictions in a series of workshops held with members of the business community and then with the commission until protests emerged late last month just as the ordinance was set for passage.

Commission Chair John Quam took public comment on the ordinance and announced that it would not be voted on until more people give their input.

The sign ordinance is one item on the city commission’s April 13 work session set for 7 p.m. at city hall.



Mama Lo’s by the Sea goes up for sale

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — One of the Island’s most popular eateries is for sale.

Lois Finley has placed Mama Lo’s by the Sea on the block for $150,000.

"I’m selling the name and the business," Finley said. "There is no lease, but I’m selling the name and I can teach whoever buys it how to make some good money here on the Island."

Finley was all set to purchase the unit she occupies in Bayfront Plaza, which is converting to business condos. However, a glitch in wind insurance availability sidelined the sale of all the units there for a while.

"I was all set to buy my space in October, but then we couldn’t get wind insurance," Finley said. "You can’t take out a mortgage without full insurance coverage, so even though I had a lender, I couldn’t close."

Finley said she and other tenants in the Plaza who wanted to purchase their units searched high and low for wind coverage.

The coverage became available again recently, but by that time, the interest rate had risen from 6.75 to 7.5 percent.

"That represents about $300 more a month," Finley said. "Plus the cost of the insurance will probably go up, and the association dues for that space in Bayfront Plaza are $1,500 a month. That does include the insurance, but I think that will be going up."

Finley said she decided to sell her business she’s operated for the past six years rather than struggle to make that kind of payments.

"That’s a lot of ice cream to sell," she said. "And that’s a lot of stress that I just don’t need. It’s a good business, but I’m ready to retire."

Finley said the decision to sell was difficult for her.

"I’m going to miss everyone," she said looking into the distance. "My employees have been just wonderful, and we’re very close. I’ll miss the tourists and the locals. I’ll miss my business neighbors."

Finley said she and neighboring restaurants The Waterfront and The City Pier Restaurant often borrow from each other.

"If you’re out of to go boxes, you just borrow. It’s wonderful to be a part of this small community.”

The sale of MaMa Lo’s comes in the wake of the closing of Tropical Treats and Eats. In that case, co-owner Marcia Mattick said the high cost of doing business was not a factor.

Finley said she and her husband, Charlie Shook, will be staying on Anna Maria.

"We love this Island," she said. "We’re not going anywhere.

Finley’s daughter Susan Finley and her fiancé Mike Brinson live here. They own and operate Anna Maria Island Accommodations.

As to what’s ahead for Finley when the business sells:

"Rest," she said. "I’m going to rest and play golf. "I have loved having Mama Lo’s. It was always my dream to have a coffee shop by the water. I had that. Well, actually it turned into an ice cream, sandwich and coffee shop, but I lived my dream. Now it’s time to move on.

"People have been wonderful. The locals supported me. My staff couldn’t have been better, and the business community is always there. What a wonderful time I’ve had."

For more information, contact Finley at 779-1288.



Spring Fling tickets now on sale

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Get your tickets to the fun party of the season, mates, as the Anna Maria Elementary School PTO presents "Pirates of Anna Maria," this year’s Spring Fling dinner, auction and dance on Saturday, May 13, at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach.

The crew of homeroom moms and PTO members is putting together a bash fit for a pirate, and tickets are only $35 per person, a bargain considering you get a bountiful buffet dinner, opportunities to bid on unique items in live and silent auctions and dance music.
Spring Fling Planning Committee Chair Joy Murphy showed up at the latest meeting sporting pirate clothing. There will be prizes for attendees who win the pirate costume contest. Murphy said she is willing to speak wearing her outfit at any club meeting on the Island to promote the event. Call her at 730-2820.

Tickets are still available, but beware; they sold out last year, and it looks like that could happen again this year. There is child care available for 16 children at the church and that’s another reason to get your tickets early.

This fund-raiser features auctions for items donated by individuals and business owner plus a chance to bid on art projects and themed baskets made by each of the classrooms at the school.

Tickets are available at the school front office. Call 708-5525 for more information.


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