Vol 6 No. 34 - May 17, 2006

 

Hold on - it�s not over yet

Tax relief meeting May 24

Fundraiser set for victims� families

Drug bust nets 25 rocks of cocaine

More traffic tickets coming

Woodland wants another look at consolidation

Mayor up in arms about annexation talk

Code enforcement officers target temporary signs

 

 

 

Hold on - it�s not over yet

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Business owners are looking forward to the completion of the Cortez Road improvement project, estimated in four to six weeks.

After a month-long suspension of work in April to allow for increased tourist season traffic, work resumed May 1 on what looks like crosswalks, but are actually "pedestrian oases," said Debbie Tower, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation.

A pedestrian oasis is intended as a place for pedestrians to cross, but it is not a designated crosswalk because it is not installed at a traffic signal, she said.

The red, brick-like areas also are much wider than normal crosswalks – 80 to 100 feet wide – and are elevated slightly to act as traffic calming devices that slow drivers, she said.

After the pedestrian oases are completed, a final layer of asphalt will be applied where side streets connect to Cortez Road, then stripes will be painted on the roadway and work on the ditches will be completed, Tower said.

The end can’t come fast enough for some business owners from the Cortez Bridge east to 119th Street, who say that roadwork translates into lost business.

"They’re hurting everybody in the daytime," said Al Marnie, of Pelican Pete’s at 12012 Cortez Road W. "They’re closing traffic down one way every day while they’re finishing the crosswalks."

Before work stopped in April, the restaurant was losing about $1,000 a week, he estimated. "People were afraid to pull in because they didn’t want to get stuck."

While the new turning lanes have made access easier, Marnie said, "With the price we paid, I would have gone without the improvement."

It was bad timing for Ann Marie Nicholas, who opened her business near the end of the Cortez bridge, A Room With A Hue, just as the roadwork began last fall.

"I am ecstatic" about the project’s approaching completion, she said. Earlier this month, a driver hit the new curbing in front of her store, lost control and ran into a building next door, destroying her landscaping in the process.

But Nicholas said the new road is an improvement, adding, "It has helped out that bottleneck at the end of the bridge."

Jan Holman, owner of the Sea Hagg at 12304 Cortez Road W., agrees.

"Traffic flows through much better than it did before," she said. "And the turning lanes are pretty nice because you don’t have to wait."

Some businesses didn’t notice much of a problem, including Sally’s Salon, 12106 Cortez Road W., where Sally McAllister said her customers had some trouble getting in and out of the parking area, but didn’t cancel their appointments.

"It’s not as bad as you would think, said Jeremy Radojcsics at Tyler’s Ice Cream, 11904 Cortez Road W. "It could have been a lot worse."

But during construction, a sign on Cortez Road and 75th Street in Bradenton directed people away from Cortez businesses, which caused a drop in business at some establishments, including the Cortez Café at 12108 Cortez Road W., according to Ramona Fulk.

Manatee County requested and provided the sign, Tower said, which did not say "detour" – a word used only when a road is closed – but "alternate route," giving drivers a choice to take Manatee Avenue to the Island.

The sign was removed in April when construction was suspended, and has been replaced since work resumed earlier this month, advising drivers of lane closures and the alternate route of State Road 64 (Manatee Avenue).

Email the reporter at clane@amisun.com.

 

Tax relief meeting May 24

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Beach accommodations’ owners affected by rising property taxes are invited to a community meeting on Wednesday, May 24, at 7 p.m. at the Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

The meeting is intended to help Manatee County commissioners determine whether lodging owners on Anna Maria Island and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key want an ordinance

that would defer increased property taxes.

Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann will lead a discussion about the proposed ordinance, made possible by new state legislation that would allow counties to create ordinances designating certain "working waterfront" properties as qualifying for a tax deferral.

The legislation is awaiting approval by Gov. Jeb Bush.

Von Hahmann requested that the Manatee County attorney’s office begin working on the ordinance last week so it could be ready by fall property tax time, but Commissioner Joe McClash suggested holding the meeting first to gauge interest among Island property owners, she said.

If the ordinance is passed, it would encourage accommodations’ owners to stay in business, not sell to developers, von Hahmann said.

"But do they really want to keep their businesses as they are?" she asked. "If they’re looking to sell, it might not be so favorable."

"We’re trying to get these people to stay in the business," said Don Schroder, a founder of the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation (CART) and chairman of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. "If we do not do something out here, this Island as we know it will disappear. Once we lose the small businesses out here, the pressure will come from big deep pocket developers, and all of a sudden we’ll look like Longboat Key or Miami Beach."

Schroder said he is hoping for an ordinance that would be modeled after the homestead law, with a tax increase cap of between 3 and 5 percent, using 2004 as the baseline from which to measure the increases. Another desirable feature would be portability, extending the tax deferment to each subsequent owner until the property’s use is changed, he said.
Members formed CART in 2004 after experiencing sharply rising property taxes based on the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s re-evaluation of their property using the "highest and best use of the land" standard, defined as condominiums, instead of a standard based on income or present use.

Schroder said that CART is still pursuing a change in that standard and continues to study the possibility of creating tax overlay districts for hotels and motels on Anna Maria Island and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key.

Fundraiser set for victims� families

A fundraiser for the families of Zane Zavadil and Ryan Costello will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia, Anna Maria.

Zane and Ryan were riding together the night of April 8 when Zane’s vehicle went off the Anna Maria Island Bridge and into the bay. After a frantic rescue attempt by two Island police officers, Zane died at the scene and Ryan was hospitalized in a coma. He was recently transported to a hospital

in Atlanta, where his mother, Monica, will be staying. His father, Kevin, and brother, Corey, will live at their home in Bradenton.

The fundraiser will include music, food, baked goods and a silent auction. Local bands that will play at the event include the Magic Tree Conspiracy, of which Corey is a member; FunkSui; Blues Injectors; and Jimi Gee and Friends.

Donations will be accepted at the door.

Friends have set up a fund for the families of the two. Donate at Wachovia Bank to the Ryan Costello and Zane Zavadil Assistance Fund.


Drug bust nets 25 rocks of cocaine

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – For the fourth time this year, a network of informants has led to a drug bust in the Island’s southernmost city. This time, the seller came from the mainland.

According to a police report, officers arrested Warren Scott Kinder, Jr., of Bradenton, on Thursday, May 11, after he sold rock cocaine to an informant. They also found marijuana and $380 in his possession. Two hundred of that was marked bills from the cocaine purchase. He was charged with sale of cocaine and possession of marijuana under 20 grams.

It all began when the informant notified Det. Sgt. Lenard Diaz that the suspect would be coming onto the Island to sell him cocaine. The informant called Kinder with Diaz present and arranged for the sale at 1801 Gulf Drive. Diaz gave the informant $200 in marked $20 bills.

An hour and 15 minutes later, Kinder arrived at the address and the informant got into his car with Diaz observing from a distance. After the sale, the informant gave a signal to Diaz, who notified officers from Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach, who were nearby.

Officers in two cars moved in with their lights activated and one of them tried to block the exit of the driveway. Kinder tried to go around the roadblock, but ended up leaving through the entrance and turned south on Gulf Drive.

Officers gave chase and Kinder finally pulled off the road. The policemen got out with pistols drawn and ordered him out of his car. He told them that all he had in the car was a bag of "grass."

He was arrested and handcuffed while police searched the car. They found the marijuana and $180 in cash plus the marked $200.

Kinder was taken to the county jail where bond was set at $5,000.

On St. Patrick’s Day this year, officers arrested a man who had been selling marijuana to high school students. His residence was a block from the police station


 

More traffic tickets coming

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Write more tickets. That’s the direction city commissioners are asking the mayor to give the Manatee County sheriff’s deputies who patrol Anna Maria’s streets.
Commissioners are drafting changes to their traffic ordinance in preparation for the second reading at their May 26 meeting.

There was earlier discussion about possible ways to deal with the intersection of Pine Avenue and North Shore Drive, which is considered to be one of the most dangerous areas in the city.

"I went by there, and you can’t see the stop sign very well when you head south on North Shore," said Commissioner Dale Woodland. "That palm tree before the intersection needs to be taken out or trimmed back."

Public Works Director George McKay said he’d already taken care of that.

Commissioners also considered a report from their consulting engineer, Tom Wilcox, of Baskerville-Donovan, Inc.

"We do recommend that consideration be given to increased law enforcement — this requires an officer to ticket those drivers failing to stop," Wilcox wrote in his report to commissioners.

He also recommended that the city consider implementing several options in sequential order.

First, if stepped-up law enforcement fails to do the trick, Wilcox recommends installing one of the new blinking stop signs at both North Shore Drive stops at Pine Avenue.

If that doesn’t work, Wilcox said the commission might consider adding rumble strips on the approach lanes.

Wilcox said other suggestions being proposed didn’t appear to be good ideas, including adding stop signs along Pine Avenue.

"We recommend against installing stop signs," he wrote.

Wilcox also recommended against installing speed bumps.

"Speed bumps tend to be hazardous to all vehicles, especially emergency vehicles, bicyclists, school buses and trolleys," the report said.

After McKay presented the report, commissioners decided to ask the mayor to have enforcement stepped up.

"Citizens will complain," said Commissioner Duke Miller. "I had a call from a citizen who got a ticket. He was mad, but he said he was watching himself now, so the ticket did just what it’s supposed to do."

Sgt. John Kenney was at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference during the May 11 commission work session, but he said his officers have been writing tickets and parking a sheriff’s cruiser at different locations around town.

"We’re trying to have a higher profile," he said. "We keep the car in a spot for four or five days. People get used to it there, and then we put a deputy in it."

Kenney said his officers have been writing tickets all along.

"This is a transient area, and so you have a constantly changing population," he noted. "We also ticket residents. When we write tickets, tourists and residents alike get cited."

The North Shore Drive/Pine Avenue intersection is troublesome, he agreed.

"We do have a number of accidents there," he said. "There hasn’t been one in several months, but the last one was bad. An older guy ran the stop sign, and hit a car coming down Pine. That car crashed into the school there. Fortunately, no one was hurt."

Kenney said he has no problem increasing the number of tickets written.

"Just as an example, take the intersection of Pine and Gulf," he said. "We write quite a few tickets there, but they are for the flagrant violations. If we went strictly by the letter of the law, we’d write a hundred tickets a day there. People just sort of roll through the stop sign."
Parking

The parking portion of the ordinance is also getting some tweaking.
"We are going forward with making Cypress, Spruce and Tuna two-way again," Commission Chair John Quam noted. "And both sides of those streets will be closed to parking. We are still in agreement on that. Right?"

Commissioners agreed.

Also, Cedar will be changed from alternate side of the street parking to open parking
Alamanda, which was inadvertently left out of the original traffic ordinance, will be added to the streets that have alternate parking.

The commission will hold a second reading of its traffic ordinance amendments at its May 25 meeting.


 

Woodland wants another look at consolidation

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — A new, fresh look at consolidation is what Commissioner Dale Woodland would like to see in his city.

"The whole consolidation thing sort of got off on the wrong foot," Woodland said. "We never got the chance to take an honest look at the issue. So many mistakes were made. For instance, there was Maloney (former Holmes Beach City Commissioner Don Maloney) having a secret meeting. Any process that starts out in secret is never going to work out."

He was referring to an invitation-only meeting that the former commissioner held to discuss the issue well before the the November referendum asking if citizens wanted to approve a study of Island consolidation.

Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach voters overwhelmingly favored such a study.

Anna Maria voters were not asked the question after a large number of residents asked commissioners not to participate in the referendum. At the time, there was objection to the wording of the ballot question.

The consensus among Anna Maria commissioners then was that if the wording were changed to authorize a study of consolidation of services and/or governments, the city would participate. Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach said the question had to be consolidation of governments only.

Woodland said he wants to look at the issue again.

"Nothing should be taken off the table," he said. "We should be open to listening to anything."

Woodland said in his personal opinion, consolidation of the governments of the three cities is not something that most people want.

"Almost everyone is likes their city and they don’t want to see it lose its identity," he noted. "I love Anna Maria, and people I know in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach also love their cities and are proud of them."

Woodland said there are a lot of things that can be done without combining the governments of the three cities.

"I can see tremendous benefit in having a city manager to oversee the workings of the three cities," he said. "That would bring a level of professionalism to our Island that would be great. I think in the long run, we’d actually realize some economic benefit from having a city manager and it would also give us more clout in the surrounding area."

Woodland said he’d also like to see an open discussion of consolidating services. He said he’s not sure that there would be a huge cost benefit to combining the building, public works and law enforcement agencies, but there are other benefits of equal, if not more importance.

"I think we’d see much more continuity if we combined those services," he said. "For one thing, all three cities experience some upheaval when employees come and go. Having combined services would greatly reduce this."

Woodland said he also thinks that combining especially the building and public works departments would greatly increase the level of professionalism in those departments in all three cities.

"I think we could attract and retain professionals, but I’m not sure. We need to put everything on the table, take a look at it and discuss it."

Woodland said he’s opposed to spending a lot of money up front.

"I don’t believe in hiring consultants and paying them huge sums of money going into something," he said. "We need to look at everything first and see where we all are."

For example, Woodland said each city has its own idea of law enforcement.

"We all like the law enforcement we have. In Anna Maria, we’re very happy with the sheriff’s department. In Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, they like their own police departments. Maybe we will never agree on combining those services. We need to see how we all feel."

Woodland said he thinks the idea should be approached again with a fresh look. He said he has been thinking since reading a piece that Commissioner Duke Miller wrote as a guest editorial for The Sun and offered as a one-way memo to his fellow commissioners.

"Duke made some really good points, and I think we should have an open discussion of some if the things he suggested," Woodland said.

"We need to see where we can come to consensus and where we can’t just in our own city."

Woodland also praised Commission Chair John Quam for a series of polls he took among Anna Maria residents to see how they felt on the consolidation issue.

"I think John took a lot of time and did a very good, careful job," Woodland noted. "The papers, especially, didn’t give him credit for what he did."

Woodland brought up his request to revisit the consolidation issue just as the May 11 commission work session was drawing to a close.

"I’ve been waiting for a couple of months to discuss this," he said as the meeting was adjourned.

His fellow commissioners agreed that another look at the issue was a good idea and asked Quam to place it on an upcoming agenda.

Woodland said he’s going to write a memo asking for discussion at the commission’s June 8 work session.


 

Mayor up in arms about annexation talk

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Mayor John Chappie is upset over consolidation talk by Holmes Beach City Commissioners Roger Lutz and Rich Bohnenberger.

On Thursday, May 4, Chappie played a tape from a recent Holmes Beach City Commission meeting regarding the role of both cities in an attempt to discuss making all three Island cities into one.

"They discussed consolidation and they discussed annexation," Chappie said, as he hit the play button on the cassette player.

On the tape, Lutz discussed the decision by Bradenton Beach not to study consolidation further since Anna Maria did not put a non-binding initiative question on last November’s ballot, as did the other two cities. The referendum asked residents if they wanted their commission to study the issue.

Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach voters approved studying consolidation and possibly paying for a consultant to make a professional assessment.

Lutz voiced disappointment at the Bradenton Beach action and asked Mayor Carol Whitmore to have Holmes Beach department heads draw up projections for what it would cost if that city were the sole city on the Island. Lutz said he did not know if Holmes Beach would be the surviving city if there were a consolidation, but he wanted some figures to review in case that happened.

Whitmore protested, saying the department heads in all three cities were against consolidation. Lutz remarked that he figured they would be, since some of them would lose their positions.

On the tape, Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger said that the simplest solution would be for one city to annex the other two cities, which angered Chappie. He backed up the tape and replayed the statement several times.

Whitmore repeated her assertion that the decision by Bradenton Beach commissioners to drop the study was a disservice to the voters who approved it.

Holmes Beach resident Donald Fernald said that unless Holmes Beach had the power to annex the other two cities, they are wasting their time.

Lutz responded that 80 percent of Bradenton Beach voters were for the study (it was closer to 60 percent) and that five elected officials were against it. Fernald asked how Holmes Beach would overcome that and Lutz said at the ballot box.

"I’ve talked with Mayor Whitmore to let her know I disagree with her actions," Chappie said after playing and replaying the tape. "It’s not a war; it’s a disagreement. I also told Mayor Whitmore that I don’t appreciate what she said - that we did a disservice to our voters."

Chappie said the Holmes Beach decision to have department heads estimate the cost to run the Island was a disservice to them, since they are not professionals in consolidation.

"I thought it was very clear why we voted not to join Holmes Beach," said Commissioner Janie Robertson. "We didn’t want to spend the money for the consultant if Anna Maria wasn’t included."

"Consolidation means all three cities," said Commissioner John Shaughnessy. "Commissioners in Anna Maria didn’t even let their citizens vote."

On May 9, Chappie sent a letter to Whitmore and the Holmes Beach Commission re-emphasizing his city’s position on annexation. It read, "Per the resolutions passed by Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach, there can be no further action until the city of Anna Maria chooses to participate. At that time, per the resolution, all three Island cities can work in conjunction regarding consolidation."

Sun Staff Writer Tom Vaught may be reached at tvaught@amisun.com.


 

Code enforcement officers target
temporary signs

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The illegally placed temporary signs in the city right of way have been taken down, either by the owners or by code enforcement personnel who removed signs within five feet of the property line.

Now it’s time for phase two.

Code Enforcement Officers Gerry Rathvon and Gail Garneau are traveling the streets this week in search of temporary signs within five feet of the property line. They were not removed earlier because it would have required the code enforcement officers to enter private property, which is not allowed without the property owner’s permission. Instead, they are taking the circuitous code enforcement procedure route.

Rathvon said they began taking pictures of the offending signs and sending notices to the sign owners, giving them 48 hours to bring the violation into compliance. If the owners don’t comply, they will get notices telling them that they will be brought before the code enforcement board.

"If they correct the situation there will be no action taken, but we will discuss their violation at the meeting, so that it goes on record," Rathvon said. "If the situation comes up again, they will be treated as second offenders."

The building department began enforcing the sign ordinance in April, even though the city commission passed it last year. The new ordinance requires signs to be at least five feet away from the front property line, meet size limits, be able to withstand high winds. Sign owners must purchase an annual permi,t and they get a sticker to put on the sign to prove they are in compliance.
The first week of enforcement, Rathvon and Garneau seized a large number of real estate signs that were located in the right of way and locked them inside a semi trailer next to the public works building — a structure they referred to as "sign jail."

Since then, 20 signs have been retrieved by their owners, who paid a $35 dollar penalty and purchased the $25 annual permits. Garneau said they don’t expect some of the signs to be bailed out of sign jail since they were cheap for rent or for sale by owner signs that are worth less than the $35 penalty.

The department has processed 120 stickers for the temporary signs, according to Code Enforcement Technician Judy Pruitt.

The city has been deluged with permit applications for permanent signs also. Pruitt said 56 applications have been filled out and seven plaques for permanent signs were distributed. Building Official Ed McAdam has to inspect the permanent signs to make sure they meet size limits and wind velocity resistance under the new ordinance before owners get permits. Owners of existing permanent signs that are out of compliance for size, location or structure have more time to bring them into compliance. Under the ordinance, if replacing the sign would cost $200 or less, they would have three months to comply, if it is worth more than $200 and less than $500, they would have a year and for signs costing $500 or more, they would have five years.

Sun Staff Writer Tom Vaught may be reached at tvaught@amisun.com.


 

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