Vol 6 No. 41 - July 5, 2006

 

Drilling bill passes House

Sandbar site plan approved

Whitmore to seek county post

Bad pier pilings force change of plans

Harry�s wins bid for city pier

Sun coverage of turtles, local politics honored

Public input wanted on manatee management plan

Governor signs city boundaries bill

 

 

 

Drilling bill passes House

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act last week by a vote of 232-187, which, with the Senate’s approval, would end a federal ban on oil and gas drilling off the country’s coastlines.

The bill bans drilling within 50 miles of the coast unless states allow it, and permits states to vote every five years to extend the protected area to 100 miles, less than the 125-mile limit some Florida representatives wanted.

House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo of California called the bill a "compromise" among 24 different energy bills that gives states the ability to decide whether to drill within 100 miles of their coastlines and a share in the revenue if they do.

"It’s time to stop saying no," he said to fellow representatives concerned about whether the amount of offshore oil available and the potential damage to the environment is worth the risks of drilling.

Rep. Ric Keller, of Orlando, agreed, saying that oil rigs in the western Gulf endured Hurricane Katrina with no spills and reminded colleagues that the worst spill in U.S. history, the Exxon Valdez, was from a tanker, not an oil rig.

Rep. Katherine Harris, of Longboat Key, voted against the bill, opposing the requirement that state legislatures vote against drilling every five years if they want to opt out of the bill’s provisions.

"I trust the people of Florida and the Florida Legislature more than Congress," said Harris, who proposed her own bill, the Coastal Economic and Environmental Protection Act of 2006, authorizing legislatures to decide whether to drill offshore without time constraints. "Let the people who Floridians elect decide."

Harris’ bill also would have pushed the buffer zone to 125 miles off the coast, which several members of Congress from Florida supported.

The Florida tourism lobby fought hard against the bill, but the average tourist is not going to change plans because the bill passed, said Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Larry White.

"Were the Senate to follow suit and drilling was to start, at that point, the net effect on tourism is zero. It wouldn’t impact tourism until they drill and something goes wrong and it shows up on the beach," he said. "It’s a concern, but there are sharks and hurricanes and red tide lurking out there."

White said he is not concerned about provisions that would allow states to drill as close as three miles from shore.

"That would never happen in Florida," he said.

Rep. Bill Young, of St. Petersburg, said that Florida’s west coast is protected from drilling more than most because of the military mission line that extends up to 234 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, where the armed forced conduct training exercises. The bill prohibits the Department of the Interior from granting leases in the zone, he said.

The Bush administration weighed in before the vote, saying that the revenue sharing provisions of the bill could add to the federal deficit and drain money from the war in Iraq. Gov. Jeb Bush agreed to the 100-mile limit.

Florida’s two senators, Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, have promised to fight the bill in the Senate. They introduced the Permanent Protection for Florida Act of 2006 in February to keep oil and gas rigs 260 miles off the west coast, 150 miles off Pensacola and 150 miles off the east coast.

The bill is not yet scheduled to be heard in the Senate.

 

Sandbar site plan approved

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — The new and improved Sandbar restaurant has cleared a final planning hurdle.

City commissioners put the approval stamp on the restaurant’s final site plan despite lengthy argument from attorneys and planners hired by neighboring residents who object to the increased activity they say the improvements will bring.

"I urge you not to approve a fundamentally flawed plan," Jan Norsoph, a certified planner said to commissioners.

Attorney Dan Lobeck said one of those flaws was that many of the parking lots required for the number of seats in the restaurant were only leased with no options to renew.

"This is a major expansion that will affect nearby residents," Lobeck said. "There are no written agreements for extending the leases of two parking areas."

Lobeck and Norsoph were hired by Barbara and William Nally who own a home they built in the commercial zone where the Sandbar is located.

Lobeck argued that since the use of the Nally’s lot is commercial, that was the same as if the home was located in a residential zone.

Alan Garrett, Anna Maria’s planner, agreed under questioning that the use was residential.

"But the zoning is commercial, and the house required a variance," he said.

Lobeck countered that the improvements at the Sandbar would cause problems for his clients.

"That’s why residential uses are not permitted in the commercial zone," Garrett said.

Garrett said that the plans conformed with all city codes.

"The final site plan is in substantial compliance with the preliminary site plan that was addressed on June 29, 2005."

Ed Chiles, the Sandbar’s owner, began the expansion and renovation plans after being sued over lack of compliance with the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He was ordered to bring the restrooms and the parking at the restaurant into compliance with the act. He decided the renovation that was needed to comply with the law also provided an opportunity to do a complete makeover at the historic restaurant.

Chiles swapped a strip of land he owned in the middle of his property with a strip the city owned adjacent to the existing restaurant building. That swap enabled Chiles to expand his building to the east enough to build restrooms that meet ADA requirements.

In exchange, Chiles offered to make a landscaped and paved public walkway running the length of his property. At the north end of his property, he agreed to extend the walkway through the city’s beach access on Spring Avenue so that people with disabilities and others could get out to the beach and "enjoy the sunsets."

That beach access and one to the south of the Sandbar property were the subject of discussion at the final site plan hearing.

"My client will take liability for the portion of the walkway on his property and he agrees to maintain it," said Ricinda Perry, an attorney representing Chiles. "However, we do not think it’s fair to ask him to bear the liability on the city-owned beach accesses."

In the end, the agreement was for Chiles to maintain the beach accesses and for the city to assume liability.

There was strong objection from neighboring residents on the use of Spring Lane.

"We take exception to the proposed extension of the Sandbar parking lot into Spring Lane for the use of so-called drive aisles," said Judy Adams. "This proposed drive aisle is in fact a part of the proposed parking lot and should be contained within the walls of the lot."

An agreement was hammered out whereby the lot will be designed so that cars can’t block out into Spring Avenue or Spring Lane.

Chiles also agreed to remove all the existing shell and hard pack surface from his entire parking area and replace it with some pervious material so rainwater can soak down into the ground instead of flowing onto neighboring property.

The site plan also includes a drainage plan that is designed to improve the flooding that takes place there when it rains.

Commissioners unanimously approved the plan.

Whitmore to seek county post

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — After months of speculation, Mayor Carol Whitmore has announced that she will run for Pat Glass’ at-large seat on the Manatee County Commission and people are lining up to support her.

"I’m overwhelmed with all the support," she said.

Earlier in the year, she had considered running for the seat but decided against it when former county commissioner Ed Chance said he planned to run.

"I backed out because of the time and resources it would take to run against Ed," Whitmore explained. "I decided it would take too much away from my job as mayor.

"I gave my support to Ed. I knew him and worked with him when I was a city commissioner and he was a county commissioner. We always worked well together."

After Chance passed away last week, Whitmore said state Sen. Mike Bennett came to her asking her to step into the race.

"He came to my office and said, ‘We need someone that we can communicate with and work with,’" she explained. "He is having a fundraiser for me at his house on July 12."

Whitmore said Glass, state Rep. Ron Reagan, developer Pat Neal, all of the local mayors, as well as local physicians and Island residents, have called expressing their support of her campaign.

"I have good working relations with everybody," she said. "They all know who I am. I’ve never lied or done a back room deal."

Whitmore said she plans on running an aggressive campaign because she is starting late. Challengers include Stella Burnett and Craig Trigueiro.

Whitmore is office manager and nurse at the practice of her husband, Dr. Andre Renard. She has served as mayor of Holmes Beach for eight years, and prior to that she served on the city commission.

Bad pier pilings force change of plans

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The Historic Bridge Street Pier refurbishment is in its early stages, but it appears the adage, "If it can go wrong, it will," is in effect.

City commissioners approved a change in plans that will save a little money and keep the pier rehabilitation project on schedule, as long as they can find a contractor soon.

The commission agreed to scrap plans to wrap some of the pilings underneath the restaurant area of the pier in an epoxy cement to protect and strengthen them.

Instead, they voted in favor of taking down the pier restaurant area, removing the 44 concrete pilings and replacing them with wood.

The initial cost estimate was $124,372 to wrap 12 of the 44 pilings, but after removing the growth on them and testing all of them, the engineers determined that 23 would need extensive repair at a cost of $160,475.

Furthermore, the contractor, SteMic Marine, told the city that it did not have the equipment available to do the job because of previous obligations.

After learning the news, the city’s pier team, consisting of department heads and Commissioner Bill Shearon as a liaison, decided to ask the engineer, Sego and Sego, to get estimates on demolishing the pier and its superstructure where the restaurant is located, removing the pilings and replacing them with wood. Sego and Sego came up with $110,000.

Building Official Ed McAdam described what the pier would look like after that phase of the project.

"You would see the wood pilings, you’d see diagonal bracing and you’d see a deck," he said. "We would, however, remain on schedule for the estimated May through June 2007 construction completion."

According to McAdam, the area of the pier beyond the restaurant would not be affected. The overall project calls for refurbishment of that area later as well as the addition of a floating concrete dock for an eventual water taxi, a day dock, a bait shop at the end of the pier and an office for the harbormaster who would oversee a planned mooring field.

After approving the changes, Mayor John Chappie asked commissioners about seeking a line of credit to get the pier finished without having to do it in stages.

The city plans to repay any money borrowed with proceeds from the concessionaire’s rent and from Community Redevelopment Agency tax funds.

"We initially talked about $1.7 million," he said. "Remember, we would only pay interest on what we use, but once we set a figure, we wouldn’t be able to come back and ask for more."

The commission decided to heed Chappie’s words and agreed to seek a $2.2 million cap to cover any unforeseen problems and inflation.

 

Harry�s wins bid for city pier

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – After months of haggling and two requests for bids, the city has finally found someone to run the Historic Bridge Street Pier restaurant when it opens next year. His name is Harry.

Only two entities responded to the latest request for bids: Harry’s Continental Kitchen and Rotten Ralph’s. Each submitted a proposal based on minimums outlined in the request. One of those was rent and it had to be at least $7,500 per month.

Rotten Ralph’s proposed $8,000 and Harry’s proposed $8,500, but that didn’t automatically give the vote to the latter.

Instead, the city pier team, consisting of department heads and Commissioner Bill Shearon acting as liaison, broke down each respondent’s answers to all the questions on the proposal. The rent represented 40 percent of the decision and the other answers represented 60 percent.

After presenting their findings to the city commission last week, the pier team had each commissioner fill out a blank scorecard. The results were close, but they were the same as the pier team’s findings. Harry’s won.

The commission then voted to have the team begin negotiations with principals Harold R. Christensen, Lynn R. Christensen and their son, Hal.

The restaurant is not expected to reopen until a complete rehabilitation of the pier is finished some time next summer or fall.

The Christensens described their vision for the restaurant in a written statement.

"Harry’s at Historic Bridge Street Pier will provide an Island state of mind through a modern, old-fashioned way. It will be an angler’s retreat with pictures of Old Bridge Street, large mounted fish and Caribbean soul. Sounds of Jimmy Buffet, steel drums and the splash of waves will set the mood. Harry’s attractive, friendly staff will provide the rest. High quality local seafood and fun family food with competitive prices will please the guests’ palate and pocketbook! Come enjoy the tropical air while strolling down the pier or just kick back and relax at Bradenton Beach’s newest old time addition!"

 

Sun coverage of turtles, local politics honored

The Sun has been honored with statewide awards for its coverage of sea turtle nesting on Anna Maria Island and for its political cartoons.

Award-winning Sun reporter Laurie Krosney took third place in the Florida Press Association 2005 Better Weekly Newspaper contest in the environmental reporting category for her series of stories on turtles and on Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch.

Sun cartoonist Steve Borggren, also a repeat winner, received a first place award for original local editorial cartoons. The entry, which ran in the May 25 edition, focused on the issue of consolidating the three Island cities into one.

“Borggren takes a definite strong stance on a local issue, yet injects humor, too,” said one of the judges from the Indiana Press Assocation, in comments included with the award.

Krosney won for her stories and photos of turtles and for her reporting on Turtle Watch.

“Great coverage of the people who work hard to help the turtles,” one judge wrote in her comments.

Weekly coverage of turtle nesting and Turtle Watch in The Sun has included not only stories but also graphics, such as Turtle Tom’s Timely Tips and the Turtle Tally box, showing the number of nests and false crawls and also the hatchlings that make it successfully into the Gulf.

“One of the goals of the coverage,” Sun Publisher Mike Field said, “has been to help get the Turtle Watch message out to the public. We’ve tried to emphasize the importance of protecting the turtles, not just because they’re endangered but also because they’re an important resource for the Island.”

The honors for environmental and political coverage follow the 11 awards The Sun won in the FPA’s advertising contest earlier this year.

 

Public input wanted on manatee management plan

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking public input on the reclassification of manatees from an endangered species to a threatened species.

The commission voted in June to recommend reclassification, triggering the creation of a draft manatee management plan outlining protections necessary for the species’ recovery.

Reclassification will not become official until the management plan is approved, which could take more than a year.

Written comments must be received by Aug. 8, and should focus on topics that should be considered in managing the species. Topics are outlined in a sample draft management plan available at: MyFWC.com/imperiledspecies/mgt_plan_template.htm.

Send comments to: Manatee Management Plan Comments, DHSC, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 620 South Meridian St., Mail Station 6A, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600 or e-mail manatee_plan@myfwc.com.

To comment on other species that are being considered for reclassification, send comments to the following:

Gopher tortoise – Gopher Tortoise Management Plan Comments, DHSC, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 620 South Meridian St., Mail Station 10, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600.

Bald eagle – Bald Eagle Management Plan Comments, DHSC, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 620 South Meridian St., Mail Station 10, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600.

Panama City crayfish – Panama City Crayfish Management Plan Comments, DHSC, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 620 South Meridian St., Mail Station 10, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600.


 

Governor signs city boundaries bill

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – With the stroke of his pen, Governor Jeb Bush has pushed the city’s police force into action to control boat parking south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Bush signed House Bill 1217 last week, which extends the city’s law enforcement boundaries into the Gulf of Mexico and the bay.

The bill, sponsored by Florida Rep. Bill Galvano, was needed to give the city the power to enforce a new mooring field it plans to install in the waters south of the pier, but the police want to put it to use now.

In light of vandalism at the pier including dumping of nautical sanitary facilities in the restrooms, Police Chief Sam Speciale wants to check out the boats anchored there.

Many of them have been there for years and they may not be operational anymore, even though they are occupied. Speciale also said he wanted to check out their sanitary facilities to make sure they aren’t dumping sewage into the bay.

In reacting to the news of the bill’s passage, Speciale said they took the department’s boat to a dealer to get it ready visit the vessels.

"We will check everyone’s registration to make sure they are registered and that they own the boat," he said.

"In some cases we will issue warnings or citations to give them time to get legally registered and if they don’t, we will have the boats towed away."

 

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