Vol 6 No. 46 - August 9, 2006


Broader tax relief sought

Demolition of Center within four weeks

�O�Connor Challenge� Aug. 26

Hurricane �supressant� in works

City sued over Sandbar expansion approval

Good news; hurricane forecast revised down

Senate approves oil drilling plan

City hall caught with its roof down




Broader tax relief sought

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The Manatee County Commission is expanding a proposed tax relief ordinance originally intended to benefit beach accommodations owners.

Rather than limit eligible business owners to those on Anna Maria Island and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key, commissioners asked Senior Assistant County Attorney Pat McVoy last week to rewrite the proposed ordinance to include hotels and motels on all navigable waterways in unincorporated Manatee County.

Cortez fish houses and marinas also would be included, but restaurants and other tourist-related business would be excluded.

"The whole purpose of this was to save hotels and motels," said Don Schroder, president of the Coalition Against Rising Taxation (CART), which asked commissioners in May for an ordinance that would allow Island accommodations owners to defer their property taxes until the sale of the property.

CART contends that sharply rising taxes are forcing accommodations’ owners to sell out causing a negative effect on the rest of the tourism economy.

The county property appraiser is evaluating property based on its potential "highest and best use" – which, on the beaches, means condominiums – instead of on its income-producing ability, according to Schroder, who also serves as chairman of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. Property Appraiser Charles Hackney has said that is one of several criteria his office uses to determine value.

An amendment to the state Working Waterfronts law was passed earlier this year by the Legislature allowing counties to pass tax relief ordinances, which are intended to help property owners eligible for "working waterfront" status.

Manatee’s proposed ordinance would roll back property tax values to 2002 levels, increasing a maximum of 5 percent per year for each year since then, a much lower rate than the actual commercial property tax increases on the beaches in recent years.

"We went back to 2002," Schroder said. "That’s when taxes really started to skyrocket."

The deferment is like a loan with an interest rate tied to the Florida retirement system, currently about 8 percent, McVoy said

"That’s a pretty tough pill," she said, adding, "It’s a mechanism that’s there that can maybe help sustain your business through some unexpected difficulties."

The ordinance presents challenges, including whether condominiums qualify for the deferral, McVoy said, adding that if a condo complex is operated like a hotel or motel ,with at least six units open to an exterior and an office on the premises, it could qualify.

She warned the commission that Hackney has cited a constitutional mandate to determine the just value of property, and could challenge the proposed ordinance on constitutional grounds.

"Let him challenge it," Commission Chairman Joe McClash said. "People should be challenging the way they’re doing it."

Commissioners said they hope to pass the ordinance before tax bills are mailed on Nov. 1.

The county’s Tourist Development Council is scheduled to discuss the proposed ordinance on Aug. 21 at 9:30 a.m. at Holmes Beach City Hall, followed by public hearings this fall.


Demolition of Center within four weeks

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — The walls of the Island Community Center will begin tumbling down within the next 30 days.

Board Chairman Andy Price signed the contract with Walbridge Aldinger Construction Company last week for construction of the new Community Center.

"We have all the permits," Assistant Executive Director Scott Dell said. "We’re hoping that the demolition can begin as soon as Aug. 21."

Center officials have been working toward this goal for five years.

"This has been delayed for a long time, but it gave us time to plan for it all," Dell said. "I’m psyched that this community will have a building that it will be proud of."

Programs have been moved to new locations and the administrative office will be housed in a trailer at the back of St. Bernard Catholic Church parking lot by the end of this week.

"I have the deepest gratitude for the church and the community coming forth to house our programs," Executive Director Pierrette Kelly said. "And also to our donors who stepped up and to Northern Trust for giving us the financing to make sure we can take care of this project."

Sports programs
The next sports program scheduled for the fall is soccer, and Dell said it would be moved to the Holmes Beach city fields. The offices of the athletic and teen coordinators will be in the city’s public works building, as will the teen program.

The basketball program is a problem because it requires a gym, Dell said.

"I haven’t met with the strategic planning department of the construction team yet," Dell said. "At this point, I can’t tell you too much. We’re exploring our options. It may be a condensed or modified season."

"We always planned to maintain the programs and services we have," Kelly added. "Basketball has really become a part of our community, and we’ll move every obstacle to have it."

The Little League program will be held on the existing fields at the Community Center. Dell said the field will be blocked off and the sprinkler system maintained and construction equipment will not be allowed on the field.

Other programs
Before and after school programs are being held at Anna Maria Elementary School, and counseling programs are being held in the conference room in the Holmes Beach Police Department. The majority of the adult and senior programs have moved to St. Bernard.

Kelly noted, "We’re trying to fit into the church’s schedule and not impose on them, Some programs will be at other churches. We’re trying to find places that they can be consistent throughout the nine months."

Bridge lessons are being held in the West Manatee Volunteer Fire Station in Bradenton Beach, but the bridge players are meeting at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation in Holmes Beach until October. Beginning Oct. 3, they will move to St. Bernard.

"Everyone is trying their best to be flexible," Adult Program Coordinator Sandee Pruett explained.

The SHARE program was initially set to be moved to St. Bernard Church, but Pruett said church groups have programs scheduled for the activity center during the season.

"I thought it would be better to keep it in one location, so we’re having it at Roser Church Fellowship Hall.”

Saving trees
The existing healthy trees on the Community Center property will be dug up and relocated along Palm Avenue at the rear of the property and then dug up and replanted once construction is complete.

"We’re responsible for the landscaping of the new Center, and we’re working hard to preserve what we have," Kelly pointed out. "Because we’re saving our trees, we’re saving a lot of money."

Dell said Center officials saved $27,000 by keeping the trees and agreeing to do their own landscaping.

"We’d love to have help from any of the gardeners and master gardeners to landscape the property," Kelly said. ‘We’ll have a community event to help us put it all together. That’s what the Community Center is all about."

"We hope everyone will pitch in and get their hands dirty," Dell added.


�O�Connor Challenge� Aug. 26

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Dust off your bowling shoes and get ready for some Island-style fun at the 16th Annual O’Connor Bowling Challenge on Saturday, Aug. 26, sponsored by The Sun.

Billy and George O’Connor and their wives, Sharon and Sue, organize the event, and this year, they will have a new trophy to award to the bowler with the highest score – the Chuck Stearns Memorial Trophy. The trophy is in honor of Holmes Beach Police Officer Charles "Chuck" Stearns, who passed away last year.

"Chuck was with us from day one," Billy O’Connor explained. "He was the kind of person that always made you happy; you looked forward to seeing him. This is our way of never forgetting someone special."

In addition to the trophy, the O’Connors have made three plaques honoring Stearns. One will be presented to his widow, Lynda, one will be presented to Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine to be installed in the police department and one will be presented to Executive Director Pierrette Kelly to be installed in the new Community Center. Each year, the winner’s name will be added to the plaques.

Check-in is from 5 to 6 p.m. at AMF Bradenton Lanes, 4208 Cortez Road, Bradenton. Bowling begins at 6 p.m. The fee is $20 per person, which includes shoes and three games.

Following bowling, there will be an awards party at the BeachHouse restaurant in Bradenton Beach. Trophies will be awarded and prizes from Island merchants will be raffled, including a big screen television donated by The Sun.

Registration forms are available at Duffy’s Tavern, 5808 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach; and The Sun office, 9801 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria. To reserve a lane, call the Community Center at 778-1908 or Billy O’Connor at 792-9099.

Other event sponsors are the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Duffy’s Tavern and SS20 Building Systems. All proceeds will benefit youth sports at the Community Center. The event has raised $160,000 in 15 years.

Hurricane �supressant� in works

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Peter Cordani wants to put Dyn-O-Storm on the radar.

Cordani wants to kill hurricanes using a product he says could suck the life right out of them.

The product is a different version of other polymers made by Cordani’s Jupiter-based company, Dyn-O-Mat, that are used to absorb pet urine and retain moisture in garden soil.

The gel-like substance would soak up moisture from a hurricane, cooling it and slowing it down by 10 to 12 miles per hour, then fall into the water or on land, reliquify, and dissolve harmlessly, he says.

The glitch – it needs about $48 million worth of testing.

"If I didn’t believe that there were some possibilities for it, I wouldn’t have volunteered," says Peter Ray, a Florida State University professor with a Ph.D. in meteorology who is willing to test Dyn-O-Storm if Cordani can secure the funds.

Little testing has been done on hurricane modification since 1998, when the American Meteorological Society issued a policy statement stating: "There is no sound physical hypothesis for modifying hurricanes," says Frank Lepore, of the National Hurricane Center.

"The time and money would be better spent understanding the dynamics of these things," he says, adding that concerns about the product include whether it could cause a drought, relocate a storm to another country or negatively impact the environment.

"We don’t know the environmental impacts of the stuff dissolving in salt water," he says.

Hugh Willoughby, formerly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research office, ran some preliminary tests a few years ago, Lepore says.

He found it would take a significant amount of the substance to influence even a small section of a hurricane, so much that it would have to be delivered by hundreds of aircraft.

Nonsense, Cordani says, estimating that only eight to 10 planes would be needed.

No one will ever know without research, Lepore says.

"We put a team together this year to move forward, reaching out to Congress for help," Cordani said, adding that he also has consulted with Michael Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "My ultimate goal is to see NOAA do the science and the U.S. Air Force do the planes."

Meanwhile, Cordani’s parents are moving back into their Palm Beach Gardens home, 14 months after it was destroyed by a storm. The new generator and storm shutters are a good idea, but not as good as Dyn-O-Storm, he says.

"If we would have used it in Katrina, it would have saved lives, heartaches, and millions of dollars."


City sued over Sandbar expansion approval

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – The Sandbar’s expansion project is being challenged in court.

William and Barbara Nally, who own a house adjacent to the Sandbar, have hired Dan Lobeck to represent them in a circuit court challenge to the city’s approval of the expansion project’s final site plan.

In their challenge, the Nallys, whose property at 110 Spring Avenue is adjacent to the Sandbar, claim that the project "creates an adverse effect." They cite the potential for flooding, stormwater runoff damage, increased traffic and incompatibility of uses – a commercial operation adjacent to their residence.

The Nally’s house was built in the commercial zone – something that is no longer allowed.

The Nallys further claim that their use and enjoyment of their property will be adversely affected by the Sandbar’s expansion and that the project will have a negative impact on their property value.

The Sandbar expansion will include constructiing a rigid canopy over the existing open-air deck, constructinghandicapped-accessible restrooms, paving accessible parking spaces, placement of block pavers for a pedestrian walkway, and installing a walk-in cooler unit.

The Nallys and their attorney maintain that not all the required parking spaces are owned by the Sandbar. Several lots are leased. The leases are due to expire within two years, and there are no provisions for renewal of the leases, though one owner of a leased parking area testified at the hearing that he would renew his lease with Sandbar Owner Ed Chiles.

A petition for writ of certiorari was filed July 28 in Manatee County. The challenge is based entirely on the record of the quasi-judicial hearing held before the city commission in June.

The Nallys, through their attorney, contend that the final site plan approval "departed from the essential requirements of the law, denied the petitioners their due process rights and was not supported by competent substantial evidence."

A certiorari action is not like a traditional trial. There is no jury. Attorneys for both sides argue their cases before an administrative law judge. The entire case must be based upon the record of the quasi-judicial action – in this case, the final site plan approval. The transcript and the collection of documents presented at the approval hearing will be what the judge considers in issuing an order finding that the city was correct or incorrect in issuing final site plan approval.

In this type of review, the judge will consider whether or not there was due process, whether the city commission applied the correct law and whether the findings are supported by "competent and substantial evidence."

Both attorneys will have a chance to point out to the judge any precedents they want him or her to consider in making a decision.

No date has yet been set for the hearing.


Good news; hurricane forecast revised down

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

If it seems like the hurricane season is off to a slow start, there may be a reason.

According to Colorado State University researchers who make annual hurricane season forecasts, a combination of changes in the ocean/atmospheric system means we probably won’t see as much cyclonic action as first predicted. Head researchers Phillip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray have revised their prediction downward in an update released last week.

Instead of expecting 17 named storms, they now expect 15. The number of named storm days has gone from 85 to 75, the number of hurricanes from nine to seven, the number of hurricane days from 45 to 35, the number of intense hurricanes from five to three and the number of intense hurricane days from 13 to eight.

That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods, however. The average number of hurricanes per season from 1950 – 2000 is 5.9, so the revised prediction is still above average. The average number of named storms is 9.6, the average number of named storm days is 49.1, the average number of hurricane days is 24.5, the average number of intense hurricanes is 2.3 and the average number of intense hurricane days is five.

The physical features that are making the storm season less intense than first thought include an increase in the sea level pressure values, the strength of the trade winds in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and a decrease in the tropical Atlantic surface temperatures.

In addition, there is an increase in the Pacific sea surface temperatures, which increases vertical wind shear over the tropical Atlantic. That wind shear is like the one that helped tear apart Tropical Storm Chris last week, weakening it to a tropical disturbance in the eastern Caribbean.

The fact that we had only two tropical storms during June and July of this year did not necessarily impact the revised forecast, according to the researchers. They pointed out that there were several years such as 1950 and 2004 when there were few storms during the first two months of the season yet there was a flurry of activity during the final four months.

Last year was an unusually active one, in fact a record one, with seven named storms and two major hurricanes before Aug. 1.

What does this mean for us? Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby, who serves as the city’s emergency operations chief, said we should not let down our guard.

"As we saw last year in New Orleans," he said, "it only takes one direct hit to put everything in turmoil."


Senate approves oil drilling plan

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Negotiations are on in Congress over an offshore drilling bill passed by the Senate that is more restrictive than a previous House version.

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, passed last week, would open 8.3 million acres in the Gulf to oil and gas exploration in Lease-Sale Areas 181 and 182.

It also would prohibit drilling within 125 miles of the Florida Panhandle or in the U.S. military's training zone in the eastern Gulf, which extends to 234 miles off Tampa Bay. The protections would be in place until 2022.

The buffer zone does not extend to Florida’s Atlantic coast.

The bill also provides a financial incentive for states to allow drilling, allocating 37.5 percent of royalties that energy companies pay for drilling rights to drilling-friendly states.

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez voted for the bill, which passed 71-25, replacing the Permanent Protection for Florida Act they proposed in February, providing for a 150-mile buffer zone.

"This provides a tremendous zone of protection for the state of Florida," Martinez said. "I look forward to the day this bill becomes law because that will be the day Floridians can rest assured they have lasting protections from drilling."

The Senate bill is more restrictive than the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act passed by the House earlier this summer that would open the entire U.S. coast to oil and gas exploration as close as 50 miles from shore, with an option for states to limit it to 100 miles or more – or allow it even closer than 50 miles.

Senators have said they will not accept many compromises.

Opponents of drilling say an accident could ruin Florida’s tourism industry and quality of life.


City hall caught with its roof down

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – A summer thunderstorm and a re-roofing job did not mix well at city hall over the weekend.

Water got into the building on the west end by the old entrance, according to Mayor SueLynn.

"We have ceiling tiles down and the carpets are wet," she said. "The water apparently came in the old entrance at the end of the building and traveled along the side to the east end of the building."

The mayor said there was insulation down, but there appeared to be no damage to any of the computers, the electrical system or the air conditioning.

The cause of the flooding was not immediately known. The old roof of the building has been removed, and the new one hasn’t been installed.

"It may have been that things weren’t properly covered up," the mayor said.

She added that there is ample insurance included in the contract between USA Roofing, Inc. and the city.

There was no estimate available yet on what the costs will be to repair ceilings, dry out the carpet and insure against the formation of mold anywhere inside city hall.

The $80,000 roofing project began last week and forced a change in city hall hours.

At press time, the mayor announced that city hall would be open only from 8 to 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 7, through Thursday, Aug. 10. Regular hours, which are from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., should resume by Friday.


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