Vol 6 No. 50 - September 6, 2006


TideMark Partners ready Beach Inn rehab

Housing, boat ramps planned for village

Three new boat ramps in the works

Bigger, better Bayfest planned

Cities urged to coordinate evacuation plans

Jeff Darwin: In tune with Island teens

Red tide remains

Attorney general can’t answer charter question




TideMark Partners ready Beach Inn rehab

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — It’s "full steam ahead" for TideMark and its new “beach component,” The Beach Inn, according to project developers Reliance TideMark Partners.

"We will close the Beach Inn and begin renovating it in 30 to 60 days," said Lance McNeill, one of the partners in Reliance Tidemark. "We’re working with our contractor to finalize the numbers.

"All the plans are done. The 18 units will be totally ovated, and we’ll increase the size of the units."

McNeill said the company closed on refinancing the Beach Inn on Thursday and is getting the construction money lined up to move forward with the project.

"Reliance completed the deal and stepped up and assisted on the financial side," he explained. "There needs to be a beach component and the Beach Inn is a great start. It’s a compliment to the new construction at TideMark."

Meanwhile at TideMark, McNeill said there has been $5 to 6 million in work done to date, which includes dredging the boat basin, constructing the seawall, driving the pilings, pouring the foundation and installing underground utilities

"The utilities are being completed now," McNeill said. "The vertical construction has been out to bid for a month and we’re finalizing our negotiations. One of our major concerns is putting construction materials on site during hurricane season.

"There will be no changes in the architecture, the number of units or the theme. The character and local flavor of the Island is what makes this project so unique. We’re excited about it. We think it will have a positive impact on the Island."

McNeill said people should see vertical construction by the first of the year, if all goes well.

TideMark is offering one-and two-bedroom condominium units with pre-construction prices ranging from $580,000 to $1.94 million Each of the 40 TideMark condominium units will have first option on the 62 slips in the adjacent boat basin.


Housing, boat ramps planned for village

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Long-term plans for the Manatee Fruit Co. flower farm in Cortez include a residential development and a public boat ramp facility, company President Whiting Preston announced last week.

Plans for the 350-acre development are still in the study phase, Preston said, but the family-owned company is already working with the county under a public-private partnership on the boat ramp facility.

"Conceptually, there would be a shared responsibility for construction," he said, adding that plans include two or three boat ramps on Palma Sola Bay, parking spaces for 70 boat trailers and 20 cars and a dry dock marina.

"Because of the condominiumizing of boat facilities, public access to the water is something that I think everybody sees a need for," he said, adding that the county approached the company with the idea.

The site was selected after a long process of elimination, said Bill O’Shea, who is coordinating the project for the county. The county commission asked its staff to identify potential boat ramp sites, and after presenting 15 sites, the staff ranked two sites on Manatee Fruit Co. property first and second, he said. The flower farm west of the Sunny Shores mobile home park was selected as the best.

Another site at the renovated Sunny Shores Marina, now Parrot Cove, was suggested by marina owner Bob Gertz in 2004, but commissioners decided the site didn’t provide enough public access to justify spending $106,000 in public funds to dredge his channel.

Another potential site at the Seafood Shack restaurant a few blocks west of the farm drew vehement opposition from the Cortez community, primarily residents north of Cortez Road who said the ramp would pose traffic problems.

"This takes the impacts away from the existing residential and plans it with the rest of this community," Preston said.

Attorney Caleb Grimes, representing Manatee Fruit Co., presented a conceptual site plan of the boat ramp facility to the commission last week.

A traffic study concluded that the main entrance should be at 119th Street West, he said, where a new traffic light and turn lane were recently installed. At the southeast corner of the intersection is the new Florida Maritime Museum.

"We want the boating public to get in and out easily," Grimes said.

Dry boat storage with a marine store and public restrooms will be made to look almost like a home, he added.

A private dry boat storage facility was approved by the commission in June a few blocks east of the farm – the Bradenton Boat Club "rackominium" will have three buildings with 272 dry slips and 22 wet slips.

Commissioners Joe McClash and Jane von Hahmann congratulated the company on the plan, and the commission passed a motion to allow the company to develop the boat ramp facility.

No timetable has been set, Preston said.

Three new boat ramps in the works

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Manatee County commissioners last week received updates on three proposed boat ramps and a report on improvements to existing boat ramps from Environmental Manager Bill O’Shay.

The three proposed boat ramps are west of Sunny Shores on Manatee Fruit Company property in Cortez, north of Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton and adjacent to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

O’Shay said in September 2005, he showed the board a plan for the Sunny Shores boat ramp and commissioners voted to allow the Manatee Fruit Company to develop it as a component of a residential development project.

Attorney Caleb Grimes, representing the Manatee Fruit Company, presented a conceptual sit plan and said company officials didn’t want to adversely impact homes on the canal there or overburden the main entrance to existing homes with traffic to the ramp.

"We wanted to make something that the public could come in and out very easily," Grimes said. "We looked at traffic concerns. We came up with a design that would work and enable us to come up with a plan that would be a public/private partnership."

He said designers proposed an upland canal to connect with Palma Sola Bay at the north end and to create an internal harbor area at the south end. There would be boat storage, a marine store, public restrooms and a boat ramp.

"Access would be on 119th Street at the traffic light," Grimes said. "We were able to put in 70 boat spaces plus 20 car spaces associated just with the boat ramp."

The board told Grimes to continue to work with O’Shay and Conservation Lands Management Department Administrator Charlie Hunsicker on the project.

O’Shay said a survey of the area north of Manatee Memorial Hospital that is planned for a new ramp showed that the land east of the bridge on U.S 41 is in unincorporated county and the land west of the bridge is in the city of Bradenton.

"We’re looking at locating the ramp further east from the bridge in case the Florida Department of Transportation ever needs right of way to reconstruct the bridge," he said. "A preliminary engineering report will give us options on how to develop it."

He said plans are to construct a ramp with restroom facilities, a bait shop and a concession stand by June 2008, and he is coordinating the project with Bradenton city staff.

A new boat ramp adjacent to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is in the beginning stages, O’Shay said. He is working on it with Pinellas and Hillsborough county officials and representatives of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Kingfish ramp

Reconfiguring the parking lot at Kingfish ramp is planned for June 2007, O’Shay said. Adding an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) sidewalk and parking space and restrooms are planned for June 2008.

He said there is damage to the seawall cap from commercial vessels, which is being monitored, and he noted, "As it worsens we will have to replace or repair it."

O’Shay said seaweed buildup on the ramp is a problem and county workers remove it daily. Chairman Joe McClash suggested installing a break wall to prevent it from coming ashore, and O’Shay said he would investigate the possibility.

"We’re having issues with that boat ramp with the city of Holmes Beach and community to the west (Westbay Cove)," Commissioner Jane von Hahmann pointed out. "Since that is the entry to Holmes Beach, they are concerned about us developing a parking lot to the west of the welcome sign."

She said the other issue is that the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Committee secured a grant to replace the portable restroom there with a permanent facility, but city officials said they did not want it.

"If anything we need to have them understand that a permanent restroom is a better call here," she said.

McClash said the county attorney’s office is researching jurisdiction of the ramp area.

"We just got the survey back, and it is not in Holmes Beach or the city of Bradenton," County Attorney Tedd Williams responded. "We are still looking for documents to prove ownership. That’s a little harder question."

He said his office plans to order a title search.

O’Shay said since January 2005, the county has spent $20,966 at Kingfish.

Coquina ramps

O’Shay said that at the Coquina North ramp engineering to widen and replace the ramp, refurbish the docks and expand the parking lot should be completed in October.

“That would give us some options as far as how to go about improving that facility with some costs associated with that," O’Shay said. ‘We expect to have the facility refurbished by June 2007."

He said since January 2005, money spent or encumbered on the ramp is $28,200.

At Coquina South ramp, a concrete apron was constructed in February and the dock was refurbished in June. Plans are to reconfigure and extend the parking lot by June 2007, install sheet piling with a cap to keep sand from accumulating on the ramp by December 2007 and make it more handicap accessible.

Since January 2005, the county has spent $47,965 on the work.

McClash asked about commercial vessels using the ramp.

"Part of the reason we had to rebuild the ramp is because there were barges involved with the Longboat Key dredging tied up to that facility," O’Shay replied.

"They cause damage. We researched county ordinances and found one that prohibits commercial vessels from utilizing county ramp facilities."

O’Shay said his office has contacted the Sheriff’s Office asking it to enforce the ordinance.

McClash said he has seen other vessels there and suggested that the board revisit the ordinance.

Bigger, better Bayfest planned

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Cindy Thompson has a reputation for putting together extraordinary events. She helped organize several festivals for the Anna Maria Elementary School PTO and made last year’s Bayfest on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria a stunning success. How will she top it this year?

She won’t have to because she’s enlisting the help of a group of volunteers who already have a new layout and are working on booking more and better booths, food vendors, music and fun for the kids. Bayfest, sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Sun and the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 21.

The planners met Aug. 29 at the Chamber of Commerce and unveiled some marked improvements.

"We are so much further along than we were last year," Thompson told committee members. "It’s fabulous."

For one thing, visitors won’t have to suffer the indignities and heat of Port-A-Potties this year. Organizers have contracted with a supplier who will offer six air-conditioned restrooms on three trailers. It costs a little more, but they figured it would be worth it.

Bayfest will offer something new for food aficionados - a crab cake cook-off. Chefs from various restaurants will compete in this event, which will be judged by food critics from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Bay News 9 and Taste magazine.

"We didn’t want the judges to be local residents because we wanted then to be unbiased, and when you live out here, you tend to have your favorites," Thompson said.

The layout of the event, which is the first festival of the fall season, has changed. The food court will be moved from the Bayfront Plaza parking lot to the north Roser Memorial Community Church lot. That puts it closer to the people walking up and down the street and closer to the adult entertainment stage and the refreshment dispensers. Thompson said they have room for 20 vendors and can make room for more. Diners will sit beneath large tents to enjoy their food in the shade.

Across the street, children will have opportunities to climb a wall and explore sea life up close in a touch tank. Raymond, from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, will be there with baseball paraphernalia and souvenirs.

There will be a kid’s music area with Dave Moran with kid’s school rock, "A Century of Broadway" with Trina and Holly Rizzo, the Edison school band, the Swinging Cats of Rhythm, led by Jimi Gee.

For the adults, the live music includes Dr. Dave, Koko Ray and Almost Famous. Organizers are working on more acts as well.

Bayfest has been innovative in bringing entertainment to Island festivals. In addition to introducing the crab cake cook-off, it will again offer a classic and antique auto show organized by Bill Mergens. Last year’s turnout was down because there was another auto show in the area.

Mergens said this year, Bayfest will be the only game in town. He expects 100 hot rods and restored classics, and they will again have a disc jockey on hand playing oldies.

Organizers hope to have as many as 100 vendors offering arts, crafts, home furnishings and other unique items. There will also be an area for not-for-profit organizations such as Mote Marine, the city of Anna Maria’s Environmental Education and Enhancement Committee and other environmental groups.

To sign up as a vendor, call Thompson at 761-4766 or the Chamber at 778-1541.



Cities urged to coordinate evacuation plans

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Manatee County Emergency Management Chief Laurie Feagans urged Island elected officials to coordinate their contingency plans in the event of a hurricane.

"We really wanted to get a dialogue going on where you are planning on going should the storm be coming here," Feagans said at a recent meeting of the Island Emergency Operations Center.

Bradenton Beach Lt. John Cosby said officials of all three cities plan to evacuate to Shorewalk in Bradenton.

"Is that facility going to be hardened and shuttered? Feagans asked. "Can you bring in phones?

Cosby said the condominium is not hardened but officials have asked for inside units.

Feagans said representatives of her office have met with Manatee Community College officials and identified a campus building that could be used as an evacuation location for Island officials.

"We’ve hardened a two-story building there," she said. "It is rated for 120 mph wind. There’s a culinary arts classroom with a kitchen.

"We’ve had dialogue with the chief of security and he was very agreeable of possibly making that the Island relocation. The downside is that it’s not on its own power."

Don Hermey, county emergency planner, said there are about 12 classrooms that are 30 feet by 30 feet in the building. He said part of the parking area would be a staging area for FPL after the storm.

Cosby noted that the Shorewalk is "a place to stay, not a place to run the operations of the government. I like this. I think it’s a great idea. We could try and run the government as best as we can from that spot and then still have the condo as a place to go with their families."

He pointed out that "every time the storm rounds the corner down there, everybody from down south has already evacuated up here and filled up all the rooms. By the time we’re ready to have to make a decision and go, there’s no place to go."

“We think it would be a great option for you," Feagans said. "You’d all be in one location."

Feagans said in the event of a Category 3 or higher storm, emergency personnel would go to the alternate EOC on 26th Avenue in Bradenton. She said the space is very limited and urged Island officials to rotate duty there.

Cosby said the mayors of the three Island cities go to the EOC, but his city and Holmes Beach alternate a police representative on 12-hour shifts.

"We did this the last two years and it worked out very well," he said.

He suggested that Feagans talk to the mayors at the next meeting of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials and ask them to develop a rotation schedule.


Jeff Darwin: In tune with Island teens

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Jeff Darwin is in tune with the teens that he leads as the coordinator of the Island Community Center’s teen program.

"I’m comfortable working with teens," Darwin said. "The kids gravitated very quickly to me."

With a background in political science and religious studies, Darwin, 32, became the coordinator of the REACH (Responsible Educated Adolescents Can Help) program in February. The program has about 95 participants ranging from 11 to 17 years old.

Darwin offers a range of growth, volunteer and reward activities, all "geared toward the attainment of new knowledge and skills in adolescent development and participation in community service projects."

The group’s volunteer projects include food and blood drives, helping with Community Center fundraisers such as the fishing tournament and participating in Bradenton Beach’s Eco Expo, the Florida Gulf Coast Outdoor Festival at Coquina Beach and Better Manatee Day.

"They give me seven to eight volunteer hours a month and that allows them to go to the fun things the next month," Darwin explained.

Fun activities include trips to theme and state parks, playing paintball, going to the movies, roller skating, mini golf and having Friday night pizza and movie parties. During the past summer, they were at Manatee County Public beach twice a week to play volleyball.

The teens also have fundraisers such as car washes to pay for their fun activities, which gives them experience in handling money.

Growing and learning

Growth activities include homework, help, girls’ and boys’ nights, discussions of world events, writing workshops, art projects and sports.

"Discussions of world events gives them a better understanding of the world around them and lets them know that the world doesn’t revolve around them," Darwin said.

Girls’ and boys’ nights give the teens a chance to talk about issues they would not normally discuss in mixed company. Arts and writing sessions help them refine their talent and develop their creativity.

"The Community Center is like a family for these kids," Darwin said. "They have grown up here. Knowing them by name and knowing who they are produces better behavior, and if they excel at something, people acknowledge that."

This summer Darwin teamed with members of the Anna Maria Island Young Professionals to offer a job-shadowing program.

Participating professionals included Will Bouziane, real estate associate; David Zaccagnino, financial planner; Brandy Booth, AMI Chamber administrative assistant; Rob Dalke, computer technician; Jeff Capello, stockbroker; and Derek Pettigrew, real state associate.

During shadowing, the teens were instructed to ask the professional questions regarding his/her job and record the answers. Sample questions were provided on a form. They also recorded the professional’s job duties The teens then shared the answers with each other.

"The purpose is to give them an idea of what the real world is like," Darwin said, " and to give them a sense of direction. It gives them goals and the idea of a positive future and gets them thinking about college or continuing their education."

The teens are currently meeting at the Holmes Beach Public Works building next to the skate park while the new Community Center is being built. For information on joining the group, call the Community Center at 778-1908.


Red tide remains

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

High concentrations of red tide were found last week from Manatee County south to Charlotte County, including at New Pass at the southern tip of Longboat Key, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

Water samples collected six to 12 miles offshore between Longboat Pass at the northern tip of Longboat Key and Johns Pass in Pinellas County contained medium to high concentrations of red tide. Fish kills and respiratory irritation have been reported on Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.

Tests on two skimmers and two laughing gulls found dead in Anna Maria last month showed traces of red tide in the stomach of one gull, probably from consuming tainted fish, said Danielle Stanek, a veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

The bloom of the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, continues to move north, with low concentrations detected in southern Pinellas County at Fort DeSoto, and high concentrations 1.5 miles offshore.

Internet updates on red tide along Sarasota County beaches are available in the new Beach Conditions Report provided by lifeguards to Mote Marine Laboratory at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily.

Information includes whether dead fish are present, whether beachgoers are experiencing respiratory irritation, the water color, the wind direction and the flags flying at the lifeguard stations.

"Investigations by scientists at Mote, the Florida Department of Health and other institutions suggest that individuals with certain chronic lung problems should be aware of beach conditions," said Andrew Reich, manager of the Aquatic Toxins Program for the Florida Department of Health.

"This is the first step in providing a real-time reporting system for people to use before they head to the coast."

The updates are slated to expand to other beaches and be available by telephone soon, according to Mote.


Attorney general can’t answer charter question

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — The state attorney general’s office has declined to answer a question from the city attorney regarding filling seats on the charter review commission.

According to the city’s charter, five members of a charter review commission, whose members are elected in a regular election, must review the charter every five years. However, only one person qualified to run for the charter review commission, leaving four seats unfilled.

City Attorney Edward Conrad had asked the attorney general’s office for clarification.

"Opinions of this office generally are not issued on questions requiring an interpretation only of local codes, ordinances or charter rather than the provisions of state law," Assistant Attorney General Joslyn Wilson said.

"Such questions are usually referred to the city attorney for resolution as that office is better able to discern the intent and purpose underlying the adoption of such a provision."

Wilson said the city has the authority to interpret its own charter and can amend the charter to resolve the issue.

According to the charter, there are three ways to amendment it:

• By ordinance — The commission can propose an amendment to the charter. The amendment must be placed on the ballot for the voters to decide at the next general election held in the city or at a special election.

• By petition — The electors of the city may propose an amendment by presenting a petition signed by at least 10 percent of the total number of qualified voters registered to vote in the last regular city election.

• By charter review commission — This option is out because the charter review commission is the issue.


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