BRADENTON BEACH Commissioners
decided last Thursday that a study of consolidation
between the three Island cities should be all or none,
and without Anna Marias input, they opted for
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 commissions 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 dont
think our voters passed this to become one with Holmes
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,"
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
"I feel we have met the wishes of our voters,"
said Commissioner Bill Shearon in referring to the
mayors participation in the talks with the other
mayors. "We cant 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 dont
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 Marias
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.
"Its 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 doesnt think she would
find support among commissioners to pursue a study
or even put the question on the ballot in the near
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 weve
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.
"Its 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 cant 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
companys 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 were known for
and our associates pay for is our likeness, our
brand," Barry Grooms, of Re/Max pointed out.
"Its 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
Karen Cunningham, of Bradenton Beach, said tourists
drive around looking for rentals and if the signs
are 5 feet from the property line, they cant
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, youd have to put it
in someones 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
dont do sign ordinances because we have nothing
better to do. Usually its because citizens
come to us and say theres a problem. We dont
pass an ordinance in one night. It takes two public
hearings and months and months."
She said the citys 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 dont
know to change things."
Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino said
commissioners dont want the city to look like
Longboat Key or Naples, but residents complain about
"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 weve 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 citys 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 boards
next meeting on April 13 with a list of items to
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.
"Weve 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 citys
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 citys
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 wouldnt have gotten
the letter," Hall explained. "When I came
upon these signs, I called them before taking the
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. "Weve been very lenient
and courteous and gone out of our way to notify
in Anna Maria: The ring of history
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 Ill catch some extra greenies."
He yelled back, "I wont be here because
I play horseshoes on Saturdays."
In the 20 plus years Ive lived or vacationed
on this Island, that was something I always wanted
"Why dont ya come and join us?"
he asked. "Theyre not cutthroat players,
and Ive met a lot of good people there."
He gave me a short playing rule primer, becoming
more animated the longer he talked.
"I cant 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
That Saturday, I trundled to the corner of Gulf
Drive and Pine Avenue to take part in the mornings
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.
"Dont worry," encouraged Steve,
"youll get to know em all in no
During warm ups, the players milled about with obvious
purpose. "You do any fishing this week?"
"Hope your daughters feeling better."
"Theres coffee and a pastries on the
table help yourself." "Whos
pickin up George today?"
The caring and friendship I saw was palpable, immediately
chasing away the new guy butterflies.
"Im feeling a whole lot of fellowship
here today," trumpeted Saturday regular George
McKay, as he pumped up the group for the mornings
play. "Lets 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 hes the team of one."
Frankly, I dont 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 Marias 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 Islands 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 Theyd
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
In Carolyne Norwoods book, "Anna Maria
Island: The Early Days 1893-1940", the essence
of island life is captured in a 1940s 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.
Ive 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
"The only ringers here are the ones we put
on the stakes," quipped long time tosser, Ron
Pekpa "Some travel quite a distance because
were just a fun group who get together to
enjoy each others company." "Ive
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, theyre
hooked Check it out for yourself and try your hand
at this game of ringers that is not played by ringers!
Its no longer the only game in town but its
a great way to relax and meet people on Anna Maria
signs taken to jail
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
Theyre calling the old semi trailer next to
the public works building "sign jail"
nowadays, after the citys building department
started seizing signs in the rights of way and storing
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
"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
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
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 dont 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 dont 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 dont 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 homes name.
Copies of the new sign ordinance are available at
Bradenton Beach City Hall.
set in Anna Maria
sun staff writer
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 commissions
April 13 work session set for 7 p.m. at city hall.
Los by the Sea goes up for sale
By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer
One of the Islands most popular eateries is
Lois Finley has placed Mama Los by the Sea
on the block for $150,000.
"Im selling the name and the business,"
Finley said. "There is no lease, but Im
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
"I was all set to buy my space in October,
but then we couldnt get wind insurance,"
Finley said. "You cant take out a mortgage
without full insurance coverage, so even though
I had a lender, I couldnt 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 shes
operated for the past six years rather than struggle
to make that kind of payments.
"Thats a lot of ice cream to sell,"
she said. "And thats a lot of stress
that I just dont need. Its a good business,
but Im ready to retire."
Finley said the decision to sell was difficult for
"Im going to miss everyone," she
said looking into the distance. "My employees
have been just wonderful, and were very close.
Ill miss the tourists and the locals. Ill
miss my business neighbors."
Finley said she and neighboring restaurants The
Waterfront and The City Pier Restaurant often borrow
from each other.
"If youre out of to go boxes, you just
borrow. Its wonderful to be a part of this
The sale of MaMa Los 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. "Were
not going anywhere.
Finleys daughter Susan Finley and her fiancé
Mike Brinson live here. They own and operate Anna
Maria Island Accommodations.
As to whats ahead for Finley when the business
"Rest," she said. "Im going
to rest and play golf. "I have loved having
Mama Los. 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 its time to
"People have been wonderful. The locals supported
me. My staff couldnt have been better, and
the business community is always there. What a wonderful
time Ive had."
For more information, contact Finley at 779-1288.
Fling tickets now on sale
sun staff writer
Get your tickets to the fun party of the season,
mates, as the Anna Maria Elementary School PTO presents
"Pirates of Anna Maria," this years
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
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 thats 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.