Vol 6 No. 44 - July 26, 2006


Shards to stay on beach

A trail of unfinished projects

Mayoral race to feature two candidates

No new commission faces in Bradenton Beach races

Red tide forum suggests optimism

Whose beach is it, anyway?

Cities confiscating items on the beach

Crash closes Gulf Drive for 12 hours




Shards to stay on beach

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Fragments of rusty metal that are still on the beach two months after the renourishment pipes were removed may never be cleaned up.

Beach walkers often notice the coin-sized fragments at the shoreline, which is state-owned up to a boundary on the beach called the Erosion Control Line.

But the state has no plans to clean them up, according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Sarah Williams.

"The Army Corps of Engineers is the contracting officer. They would work with the contractor to clean it up," she said.

The corps has received no complaints about the fragments, says Barry Vorse, spokesman for the Corps, which hired Goodloe Marine as its beach renourishment contractor.

He sent Ron Rutger, of the Corps, to survey the beach, and he quickly found a small handful of fragments. But he said it was unlikely that the Corps would require the contractor to remove the fragments because their size and number appeared to be "within contract specifications," he said, adding that the Corps will decide soon whether to act.

If it organizes a cleanup, the area would be limited roughly to the same area as the former location of the pipes. That’s because east of the Erosion Control Line, the beach is owned by private beachfront property owners, who are responsible for cleaning up anything on their own property, according to Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Administrator Charlie Hunsicker.

The county, which has an easement on the beach to conduct beach renourishment projects, made sure the contractor did a one-time cleanup of the area where the rusty pipe had been, he says. Since then, metal pieces have been washed in by the tide and uncovered by the wind.

"Metal is litter," says Keep Manatee Beautiful’s Ingrid McClellan. "It is debris left over from a project. The county may hire contractors to do any project – a road project or a beach renourishment project – and the responsibility of the contractor is to remove the debris that is the consequence of the project. And it may take more than one time."

The cities of Holmes Beach, Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach aren’t responsible for cleaning up the fragments because they don’t own the beach, and it wasn’t the cities that were responsible for the beach renourishment project, city officials say.

"The county has an easement to use it, so it seems it’s the county’s responsibility to clean up what their contractor left," says Bill Saunders, with the city of Holmes Beach, explaining that an easement agreement was signed by all private property owners on the beach allowing the county to run its renourishment and cleanup equipment though their private property.

On Manatee County’s two public beaches, Manatee and Coquina, county beach cleaning machines will continue to clean up as many of the fragments as possible. The machines can pick up trash as small as a cigarette butt, Hunsicker says.

And while the county cleanup crew will continue to pick up dead fish during a red tide, even on sand that is not owned by Manatee County, he says, they won’t be scouring private sands for rusty metal. That’s because dead fish are considered a health hazard, and, tetanus notwithstanding, rusty metal is not.

Although someone could conceivably be injured by the fragments while walking or digging in the sand, the county can’t stretch its concern for public safety quite that far, or it would be obligated to pick up every nail on the road from here to Parrish, he suggests.

However, the county does stretch its public safety authority far enough to prohibit private beachfront property owners from drinking alcohol, using glass containers or walking their dogs on their own sandy land, Saunders says.

The metal fragments eventually will deteriorate and become part of the environment, Hunsicker says.

That’s not a good enough explanation, some say.

Volunteers with the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch pick up trash, including metal fragments, even though the metal probably is not a threat to sea turtles, coordinator Suzi Fox says, adding that she checked into the problem when the beach pipes began to leach rusty water into the sand and learned that the iron was not a problem.

Still, the fragments are trash.

"I think we’ll be unearthing them for years," she says.

Volunteers with Keep Manatee Beautiful will continue to clean them up at beach cleanups three times a year, during the Florida Coastal Cleanup, the Great American Cleanup and a third time of their own choosing, McClellan says.

Some private property owners do a mini-cleanup when they walk the beach. Some tourists do, too.

Thanks to those who are stepping in to solve the problem left by the Corps, while they decide if and when to pick up the pieces.

Complaints about the metal fragments should be directed to Frank Mohr, of the Army Corps of Engineers, at (813) 840-0824.


A trail of unfinished projects

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The news last week that GSR Developers LLC had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy leaves a string of projects that are yet to be finished and only one project completed, according to records at the Bradenton Beach Building Department.

The only project finished and issued a certificate of occupation was the Capri at 210 Gulf Drive and that was not a GSR project, according to the records. One of the principals of the company, Steve Noriega, joined with Jerry Rogers to build the beachfront property.

Other projects in Bradenton Beach include Hibiscus I and II in the 100 block of Fifth St. S., Gardenia I and II at 110 and 112 Seventh St. S., and Rosa Del Mar at 2508, 2510, 2512 and 2516 Gulf Drive.

All of those projects were stopped by the building department, according to Building Official Ed McAdam.

Rosa Del Mar, the two Gardenia buildings and Hibiscus II lost their permits when Spectrum Construction owner Paul Gallizzi, wrote the city and asked to be removed as the permit holder.

"I had to pull the permit when the contractor asked to be removed," McAdam said. "I could not transfer it to anybody else."

The Hibiscus I, a condominium project on the Bay, could be issued a certificate of occupancy if an acceptable stormwater plan were submitted. McAdam said he rejected the first three attempts.

The Rosa Del Mar, a condominium project on the beach, is being penalized by the city for a code violation because sand was piled along the sides and at the rear of the lots toward the water. The city cited GSR saying the bunkers represented a hazard to Gulf Drive, a main evacuation route, and neighboring properties in case a storm causes high waters to wash ashore.

GSR filed a Writ of Certiorari to overturn the ruling on July 5. McAdam said he would ask the city to appoint safety officer John Cosby as emergency officer and enable him to take proper action in case of an approaching storm. In that case, the city would likely hire someone to bulldoze the sand pile.

The lone project in Anna Maria was GRS’s largest attempt. Villa Rosa was a single-family luxury home project along a canal. One house was built, but no certificate of occupancy was issued by the city.

GSR bought the canal-front property from the Lardas family for $3.3 million and got a site plan approved for 13 homes.

In addition, GSR owns two lots at the entrance to the project. It marketed the project pricing the homes at between $750,000 and $1.2 million.

There was some controversy over ownership of the canal that abuts the property. GSR marketed the homes as canal-front, but a check of the records showed that the Lardas family did not convey ownership on paper during the sale.

Homeowners on the other side of the canal started to question their ownership and the city settled by saying each property owner, including the GSR lots, owns up to the midpoint of the canal.

The developers got a variance to bring in a portable building to serve as a construction and sales office at the entrance. When the first home was finished, they were to move their sales office into the house and remove the sales office but with the bankruptcy, nothing is likely to happen soon.

Meanwhile, the portable building’s lot is becoming overgrown with weeds.

In Holmes Beach, five projects have been stopped due to the contractor requesting to be taken off the job, which nullifies the permits. They are remodel projects at 208 56th St. and 407 74th St. and new single and multi-family homes at 311 61st St., 312 60th St. and 518 Key Royale Drive.

Phone calls to Noriega and a GSR attorney were not returned.

Mayoral race to feature two candidates

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – Voters this November will choose between two candidates for mayor and three for two seats on the commission.

Fran Barford, the current chair of the planning and zoning board, will run against Tom Turner, a former chair of the P&Z board,

Barford was formerly the mayor of Temple Terrace and has a long record of service in city politics. She had planned to run for commission, but when incumbent Mayor SueLynn decided not to seek a third term as mayor, Barford said she’d run.

"I think I have the experience to do the job and to bring back a spirit of responsibility and the understanding that our citizens are our customers and they are our stockholders," she said.

Turner has been a full-time resident of the city for the past 22 years. He’s been a property owner for 35 years. Turner said he’d like to see the city return to a position of fiscal responsibility.

"Over the past few years, I have seen spending go out of control in many ways. The financial reserve has been run down to the point where the city is not financially stable," Turner remarked.

Turner said he also wants to be a part of the revision of the city’s comprehensive plan.

The commission terms of incumbents Linda Cramer and Duke Miller are up this year. Both have qualified to seek re-election. They face a challenge from JoAnn Mattick. The three will be in a race for two commission seats.

"I want to represent our residents’ vision for the future progress in our city," Cramer said.

Mattick, who has run for election in the past and who wrote a grant that netted the city more than $100,000 from the DOT for beautification of pedestrian areas, said she wants to work to make sure that the codes are re-written to conform with the new comp plan.

"We need to make them more easily comprehensible," Mattick said. "We need to re-write them so the building department is more user-friendly."

Incumbent Duke Miller says he wants to have a hand in the commission’s work on revision of the comp plan.

"This work will direct our city for the next 10 to 15 years," he said. "It’s one of the most important things we will do."

The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7.

No new commission faces in Bradenton Beach races

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Election qualifying came and went last week with no new names to add to the races in Bradenton Beach.

Bill Shearon, who announced early that he would run for re-election to his fourth ward city commission seat, will serve a second tour by virtue of the fact that he is unopposed. Shearon served one of his first two years as vice mayor and also serves as city liaison to the team that is managing the rehabilitation of the Bridge Street Pier.

In the second ward, Michael Pierce will replace Lisa Marie Phillips, who decided not to run for a second term.

Pierce has served on the city’s planning and zoning committee, its ad hoc committee for the evaluation and review of the comprehensive plan and land use laws and the city’s visioning sessions. He is a familiar face to city hall and also served as chairman of the Anna Maria Elementary School’s School Advisory Committee. Nobody stepped up last week to challenge him.

Phillips was instrumental in getting the city designated a Waterfront Florida neighborhood and helped organize two annual Eco Expos that showcased environmentally friendly landscaping, irrigation and other tips for homeowners in the city. The expos also served as a forum for environmental groups to have displays to help educate residents.

Voters in Bradenton Beach face decisions on filling a U.S. Congressional seat, re-electing a U.S. Senator and replacing a county commissioner when they go to the polls Nov. 7, but they won’t have to cast votes for any city positions.


Red tide forum suggests optimism

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CITY ISLAND – Researchers are developing new ideas that could minimize the impact of red tide along the country’s tourism-dependent beaches, according to scientists attending a forum last week at Mote Marine Laboratory.

Nearly 70 researchers from Massachusetts to Mexico to Walt Disney World met for four days to review 60 years of red tide research and discuss the direction of future studies.

Red tide, caused by the organism Karenia brevis, produces a poisonous neurotoxin that kills fish, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and sea birds. It makes shellfish unsafe to eat and causes respiratory problems in people, especially those with asthma.

In 2003, red tide had a $402 billion economic impact on Florida, or 77 percent of the state’s total economy, said Don Anderson, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.

While the scientific community has been criticized for focusing more on the causes and effects of red tide rather than on cures, researchers discussed potential new options at a forum on Thursday night, held simultaneously at Mote, Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies in St. Petersburg.

One theory suggests that adding fresh water to saltwater may impact red tide’s ability to survive. Some researchers disagreed, saying that red tide is a highly adaptable organism that has learned to live in low saline environments.

Public participants were concerned about the overall impact on the ecosystem of changing salinity, mirroring concerns about using clay to sink red tide cells to the ocean’s floor, a technique widely used in Asia, but still being studied in the U.S.

There’s not enough information about what clay could do to bottom-dwelling life forms to safely use it against red tide, public participant Patricia Cummings said.

But Anderson argued that ocean floors would be impacted by red tide with or without the use of clay, as proven by last year’s dead zone that developed in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists pointed out that inadequate information also exists about what effect eliminating red tide would have on the ecosystem. For example, it does some good things in the environment, such as producing carbon necessary for the food chain, said Gabriel Vargo, of the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

The question is not how to eliminate it, but how to control or manage its effects, said Mario Sengco, of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland.

One way is to reduce nutrient runoff, said public participant Don Cheney, of the Healthy Gulf Coalition.

Scientists agreed that reducing fertilizer runoff, which contains plant nutrients, is a sound practice, although they cited an absence of evidence that nutrients are a major cause of red tide.

One of the largest nutrients for red tide is something it produces itself – dead fish, according to research at the University of South Florida, Anderson said. Other possible causes include minerals in dust storms originating in the Sahara desert and naturally occurring nutrients in the ocean floor.

"We don’t have the critical knowledge at this point to know how blooms actually begin," Sengco said, adding, "It’s probably a good idea to start controlling pollution."

Red tide can adapt to a low nutrient environment, and there’s no way to know whether removing only one nutrient, fertilizer runoff, would kill it, Vargo said.

"But the more you minimize nutrient input, the better off you’re going to be."


Whose beach is it, anyway?

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

There’s a dog owner in Holmes Beach who wants to know why she can’t walk her golden retrievers on the beach she owns. An Anna Maria man wants to know why he can’t replicate a Corona commercial on his private beach and drink alcohol from a glass bottle. A Bradenton Beach man wonders why he can’t sunbathe in a T-back swimsuit on his private sand.

It seems obvious, says Bill Saunders with the city of Holmes Beach, that private beachfront property owners should be able to walk their dogs, drink alcohol, use glasses instead of plastic cups and do other things that the county prohibits on its two public beaches as long as they do it on their own land.

How can Manatee County regulate such activities on private beachfront property, when it won’t even clean up metal fragments left there from its beach renourishment project?

The county can regulate activities on private beachfront property that it ignores on private mainland property because of its police powers, Manatee County beach administrator Charlie Hunsicker says.

Counties and cities are authorized by the Florida Constitution and the Legislature to use their police powers to regulate conduct on private property if it affects the health, safety and welfare of adjacent properties and the public at large, he says.

And unlike most activities in mainland yards, things done in sandy yards along the coastline can affect the rest of the beach, so the state has retained authority for local governments to regulate those activities, he says.

In addition, the county can use private beach property for beach renourishment projects under its easement. The upland edge of the easement is delineated by the 5.0 contour line, which shifts with the wind and renourishment projects, but remains between the Erosion Control Line and yet another line, the Coastal Construction Control Line, west of which builders have to abide by more stringent rules because of the proximity to the Gulf.

"The Legislature has primacy over coastal construction affecting the viability of beaches and erosion and accretion dynamics," Hunsicker says.

In addition, state and federal regulations of private beachfront property are layered on top of local government regulations to aid sea turtle nesting six months out of the year.

The bottom line of all the lines and all the laws is that beachfront property owners don’t have the same private property rights as other property owners.

But then, other property owners don’t get to watch dolphins jumping in their backyard swimming pools.


Cities confiscating items on the beach

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – A tent on the beach caused a false crawl recently, and it may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

According to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox, tracks in the sand showed where a mother sea turtle had crawled onto the beach and run into one of the tent’s supporting rods. The tracks showed where she turned around and went back into the Gulf of Mexico.

Bradenton Beach Code Enforcement Technician Gail Garneau, who was called to the scene, documented the event with her camera and confiscated the tent.

Garneau said from now on, the city would take possession of items left on the beach after dark and store them. Owners of the equipment would pay $35, plus $15 for staff time, to get them back.

For homeowners and renters on the beach, this is the time of the year to make sure everything you own is off the sand, according to Fox.

"Turtles will nest right next to a building," she said. "They’ll nest in sea oats, anywhere there is sand."

Fox said turtles don’t know the difference between state owned beach, which is where the renourished sand is located, and privately owned beach, which abuts that sand. They only know that sand is the only place where they can dig a hole and deposit their eggs so that they can develop and hatch later.

She said lawn furniture and temporary structures, such as tents, can be a hazard to the mother turtles, that sometimes become snagged in them. She said they also pose a hazard during stormy weather.

"During a storm when the wind blows, people living or renting face the possibility of a tent pole going through their picture window," she said. "Those items can also get buried in the sand during an intense thunderstorm."

Fox said those items are also a hazard to people walking the beach at night and Turtle Watch volunteers who get out on the beach shortly before sunrise.

In Anna Maria, code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon goes out after dark looking for items that could be hazardous to turtles.

"If they’re out there anytime between sunset and sunrise, I tag them and explain on the tag in why they are in violation," she said. "Then I go back the next night and if they’re still there, I would take them off the beach."

The equipment ends up at public works behind lock and key and people have to come to city hall to get it back, Rathvon said. For now, they don’t have to pay a fine because there is no fine in the city’s ordinance.

Fox said it is important to educate everybody about those hazards and people who make money renting beachfront property to tourists should put literature in those units to inform tourists who might not be familiar with sea turtle nesting.

"Some property owners write up their own literature, or we have some they can get and distribute," she said.

For more information, call her at 778-5638 or on her cell phone at 232-1405.


Crash closes Gulf Drive for 12 hours

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – An alleged drunk driver crashed into a concrete power pole just before 3 a.m. on Tuesday, July 18, at the 1300 block of Gulf Drive South causing motorists to take a longer route to get between Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island for nearly 12 hours.

According to a Longboat Key police report, it all began when a Longboat Key police captain pulled out onto Gulf of Mexico Drive around 2:54 a.m. He observed a 2005 Toyota Camry pull up behind him, just feet from his rear bumper. The captain said the driver, 18-year-old Robert M. Walsh of Bradenton, was weaving within his lane of traffic before he passed the captain, forcing him onto the side of the road. He said Walsh’s car accelerated to between 85 and 100 miles per hour as it approached the Longboat Pass Bridge. The captain stayed behind Walsh at a slower speed and called police headquarters to get a uniformed officer on the scene.

The captain reported when Walsh got to south Bradenton Beach, his car left the road and ran into a guide wire and an electrical pole, snapping it off toward the top. It was left dangling by the wires.

The report said Walsh tried to drive off and ran off the road again. This time his vehicle was disabled by the damage from the crash. He got out of the car and started to walk away as the captain approached. The captain got out of his car and directed Walsh to stay near the front of it. He reportedly asked what he had hit and appeared to be disoriented and confused. He also smelled of alcohol.

Longboat Key officer Doug Coffman arrived at the scene and reported that Walsh refused medical attention. He also reported smelling alcohol on Walsh. Another officer took Walsh to the Longboat Key Police Station for a breath test, which gave an errant reading and he was asked to submit to a urine test, which he did. He was then taken to Holmes Beach for another alcohol test, which showed negative results.

He was charged with reckless driving and driving under the influence and transported to the Manatee County Jail. At the jail, deputies found a small amount of marijuana and he was further charged with introducing contraband to the jail. Bradenton Beach police also charged Walsh with reckless driving.

Meanwhile, Bradenton Beach police were called into duty to detour traffic after Florida Power and Light officials determined it was unsafe for traffic to travel under the dangling wires. FPL spokesman Mel Klein said the power pole carried a main feeder line, which cut the power to 3,000 customers in the area.

People traveling between Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key were told to turn around and exit both Islands to the mainland where they were told to use U.S. 41 to get to their destinations. Traffic between the two islands was reopened Tuesday afternoon.


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