Vol 6 No. 51 - September 13, 2006


Residents a no-show at fee hearing

Waterfront developers plead case

Karp takes Art League reins

Court orders city to show cause in beachfront development case

Pier team readies bid

Budget passes first hearing

County could have Kingfish parking lot solution

Community Center: going, going, gone




Residents a no-show at fee hearing

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

What if they held a meeting - or three - and nobody came?

Actually, two people attended one of three meetings held by the West Manatee Fire District at different fire stations in the district last week to explain the district’s need to increase its impact fee schedule on new construction. The question will be put to voters on the Nov. 7 ballot.

"I hope that’s a good thing," observed Fire Chief Andy Price, "because maybe it means that they understand that the impact fee has no affect on their fire assessments. It only affects new construction.

"It puts the burden on those who move into our communities and build new homes and businesses. We can use the impact fees to purchase facilities and equipment and we don’t have to raise taxes to pay for them. It takes the burden off the taxpayers."

Price said if a property owner demolishes an existing home and rebuilds, he does not have to pay an impact fee if he paid it on the original home, unless he doubles the home’s size.

Impact fees can only be used to build facilities and purchase new equipment. They cannot be used to pay salaries.

"Most districts use the fees to build buildings and buy fire trucks," Deputy Chief Brett Pollock explained. "We can use it to upgrade our technology and add facilities to our training center.

"In the past, we’ve been lucky in getting grants to pay for these things, but the amount available to the fire service had been significantly reduced in the past five years. This can make up the difference."

Price pointed out that the district has not increased the amount of its impact fees since they were implemented in 1985.

The district’s current impact fee is $100 for residential construction and $200 plus $.05 per square foot for more than 5,000 square feet for commercial construction.

Impact fees in other county districts range from $300 to $500 for residential construction and $400 to $980 plus up to $.25 per square foot for more than 5,000 square feet for commercial construction.

The recommendation is to increase to $500 for residential and $980 plus $.25 per square foot for more than 5,000 square feet for commercial.

For example, a 140-lot subdivision, approved in the northwest part of the district brought the district $14,000 in impact fees versus $70,000 if the fees were increased.

A recently approved 34,560 square-foot commercial storage facility brought the district $1,675 in impact fees versus $8,355 if the fees were increased.

The referendum question will read: Shall the West Manatee Fire and Rescue District be allowed to increase impact fees on new construction to pay for new equipment and facilities as necessary to accommodate new growth?

Waterfront developers plead case

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The future of a proposed beachfront condominium project at 1402-1404 Gulf Drive is in the hands of the state, the latest chapter in a saga of how difficult it is to build on the beach.

The Bradenton Beach City Commission voted unanimously to send a large-scale amendment proposal to the Florida Department of Community Affairs for its assessment. While the city commission has not passed judgement on the project, the planning and zoning board voted to recommend that it not be allowed after Building Official Ed McAdam argued that the project would interrupt a dune formation.

The developers, Island Inc. and Beach Development, Inc., were present with an attorney, a land planner and an ecologist. Although the commission was not there to decide for or against the project, City Attorney Ralf Brookes told them they should allow the developers to testify.

Attorney Stephen Thompson gave a brief history and his clients’ argument. The project was initially approved by the city in the 1990s when the building official at the time said he thought the land’s designation as preservation was wrong. However, the city commission disagreed and did not approve the project, which led to a lawsuit. A panel of judges agreed with the developers, saying that the city’s argument that the land should have a preservation classification was flawed because soil studies showed it was not consistent with other land of the same designation. The developers applied to have the zoning changed, but the state ruled the change should be treated as a large-scale amendment.

When the planning and zoning board heard the case, McAdam argued that the project would disrupt a dune formation and leave the upland areas more vulnerable to flooding and storm damage. During last week’s hearing, planner Jim Farr argued that the land is the same as developed land on either side of the project.

"The subject property is being singled out to be preservation," he said.

Jeff Churchill, who said he was an ecologist specializing in wetlands and wildlife issues, said that the property was not unique and should be allowed to be developed.

"It will not lead to the wholesale destruction of the dune community," he argued.

Four residents, two of the homeowners at Bermuda Bay across Gulf Drive from the project site, asked the city not to allow the development. The two Bermuda Bay owners said that the developers, who also developed Bermuda Bay, promised them when they bought their properties that the beachfront would not be developed. They expressed concern that the proposed project would spoil their Gulf view and reduce the value of their property.

Karp takes Art League reins

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Between her daughter in art school and her parents’ creative talents, Joyce Karp says she’s "generationally sandwiched" by art.

The jewelry artist is the new director of the Anna Maria Island Art League, a position vacated by Ginger White-Hergenroeder, who married this month and plans to relocate out of state.

"I feel confident she’ll keep the Art League afloat," said White-Hergenroeder, who plans to continue as a volunteer during visits to the Island. "She is an Island resident and is involved with the Island community, and we wanted to continue our relationship with the community."

"Art’s been a part of my life forever," said Karp, ever since her parents taught her to paint as a toddler. She took up glass beadmaking, then expanded to working with silver and semi-precious stones to create jewelry for her business, "Oops-a-daisy!"

Her long-term plans for the Art League include collaborating with other local galleries and unaffiliated artists on events. She is a member of Island Gallery West and ArtCenter Manatee in Bradenton.

"If we can do half of what they’ve done at ArtCenter, I’d be so tickled," she said.

Other plans include inviting more artists to join the Art League, and recruiting more volunteers.

Short-term, she is planning an October exhibit and the upcoming Winterfest, one of two major annual events sponsored by the organization.

Originally from Bolivia and raised in Michigan, Karp has lived on Anna Maria Island for 15 years.

Her professional background is in nutrition and wellness education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Michigan State University and a master’s in nutrition education from the University of Cincinnati.

Her husband, Gary Hickerson, is Director of Managed Care at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Her son, Nathan Hickerson, attends Manatee High School. Daughter Jessica Hickerson is a student at Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington D.C.

"Watching her fulfill her passion for art has reignited mine," Karp said. The Art League "seems like just the place where I belong."

Court orders city to show cause in beachfront development case

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH –Circuit Court Judge Peter Dubensky has sent the city of Bradenton Beach a show cause order over a code enforcement board decision on a beachfront project planned by GSR Inc., LLC.

The city found the embattled development in violation when it failed to take down big sand piles that it built around beachfront property at 2508, 2510, 2512 and 2516 Gulf Drive. The city contends that these piles would be a hazard to surrounding property in the event of a storm and the code enforcement department cited the project. The city ordered GSR to take down the piles, and when the developers did not comply with a deadline set by the city, the code enforcement ruled it was in violation and fined the developers $250 per day.

Following the decision, GSR filed a writ of certiorari to review the board’s order of June 5 and quash it.

Since then, GSR has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the city authorized its safety officer to have the piles taken down at city expense if a storm threatens the area. The city would then bill the developers.

The order to show cause, issued on Aug. 31, gives the city until Sept. 29 to show why it should not grant relief to the developers. The order said that upon review of the writ of certiorari, the court finds that GSR has demonstrated a preliminary basis for relief.

During the code enforcement board hearing, GSR argued that it would soon begin working on the project, which had been delayed over a state permit and that the sand piles would then have to be rebuilt. GSR lost its building permit from the city prior to the code enforcement action.

GSR is embroiled in a number of lawsuits by investors regarding several developments on Anna Maria Island. Some of those have been set aside while the corporation is in bankruptcy. The court ruled on Sept. 1 that GSR could sell the Villa Rosa development in Anna Maria to Gaspar Properties, Inc., of Tampa, for $11.5 million, which would net $2 million with which the developers could resume work on other projects.



Pier team readies bid

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The city pier team has been meeting regularly and is ready to send out a bid request for the largest part of the pier reconstruction.

"We plan to advertise for bids before Sept. 18," Building Official Ed McAdam told city commissioners last Thursday.

McAdam, Public Works Director Tom Woodard, Programs/Projects Manager Dottie Poindexter and Police Chief Sam Speciale comprise the pier team, along with City Commissioner Bill Shearon who acts as a liaison.

"The pier project is ahead of schedule and still within budget," Shearon reported.

The first step of the project was to tear out the concrete pilings and the deck that formed the foundation for the restaurant and replace them. Wood Dock, of Cortez, has finished the demolition, installed the new wood pilings and started working on the substructure for the decking.

The pier team also requested that the commission approve a construction incentive program at last Thursday’s meeting.

"We feel allotting $250 a day for every day they finish ahead of schedule, is important," Shearon said. "The restaurant operator, Rotten Ralph’s, has expressed an interest to get in there and start operating as soon as possible and this would help make that happen. That would get the rent coming in sooner."

The city has been without any rent income for two years, since the last operator had to shut down because of wind damage to the restaurant from Hurricane Charley. The city cancelled the contract with that operator shortly after that and began work on completely rebuilding the restaurant and redesigning the rest of the structure. Plans include a day dock, a building for a harbor master when the city gets its mooring field south of the pier and a dock for a water taxi, which the county has previously considered, but has been put on a back burner for now.

The proposed incentive plan had some opposition, however.

"Will the workmanship be there or will it be rushed?" he asked. "I don’t think it’s worth $250 a day when we’re already ahead of schedule."

The commission passed the program by a vote of 3–1.

Budget passes first hearing

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH — It was not a carnival atmosphere, even though it was held under the "big top."

The Bradenton Beach City Commission held its first of two required public hearings on Tuesday, Sept. 5, which was the date of the primary election. Because city hall was being used as a polling place, Mayor John Chappie set up the hearing in the parking lot under a large tent.

Barbara Rodocker, owner of Silver Surf Resort, BridgeWalk, a Landmark ResorT and the Sun House restaurant on Bridge Street was the only person to attend other than elected officials, staff and news media.

The $3.831 million budget represents an increase from the $3.155 million budgeted for 2005 – 2006 budget. The millage, or property tax rate, went down slightly, from 2.4902 to 2.4878, while the city’s taxable value went from $547.4 million to $646.278 million.

The amount of ad valorem property taxes the city will collect went from $1.33 million to $1.56 million during the year.

The property tax rate would drop from $249.02 for each $100,000 of taxable value to $248.78.

The new budget includes salaries for a full-time assistant for Programs/Projects Manager Dottie Poindexter and a temporary full-time person in the code enforcement area of the building and planning department.

The final public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, inside city hall.


County could have Kingfish parking lot solution

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

The county may have a solution to the question of how to increase parking at Kingfish ramp without riling residents of Westbay Cove.

"Based on the survey, it looks like we have some pretty significant constraints at the western end," Manatee County Environmental Manager Bill O’Shay told members of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Committee last week. "We wouldn’t want to have boat trailers backing out of the right of way.

"It might be better to relocate that picnic area and do a little park adjacent to the condos and use what is currently the picnic area to rework the parking lot. That’s not the most popular idea because they are concerned about losing the shade, but that would keep the parking away from the condos."

He said he would ask the county’s consultant for input on the suggestion. He also said the board of county commissioners must approve any plan for the ramp area, but he would bring the plan to city commissioners first.

The county has surveyed the ramp area and it is not in Holmes Beach or the city of Bradenton. The county has ordered a title search to prove ownership.

Ramp restroom

With regard to the permanent restroom facility for Kingfish at the east end of the ramp area, O’Shay said Holmes Beach city commissioners vetoed the plan, favoring the existing portable restroom.

However, he pointed out, "In any storm event the port-a-potties get blown over, and you have sewage running through the parking lot into the bay. It’s just not a good thing to have."

John Ormando, assistant public works director for the city of Bradenton, noted that the committee had grant money to build the restroom but decided to use it elsewhere when city commissioners nixed the plan.

If the restroom is approved, O’Shay said he might be able to get grant funds from the Florida Boating Improvement Program to build it.

Manatees and plants

O’Shay also reported that manatee protection signs should be installed in Palma Sola Bay by October or November. The signage is required in order for Ormando to get a permit allowing the city to construct the new boat ramp planned for south side of the Causeway near the site of the former Bongo’s restaurant.

"I was hoping that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service would look at Palma Sola Bay as a stand-alone water body," O’Shay explained, "but they wouldn’t. "The remaining waterways have been divided into four phases and the first phase includes the bay."

Ormando reported that the Florida Department of Transportation has verbally approved the Causeway’s landscape plan. He said he hopes to go out to bid for the project by the end of the year.

Landscape architect Beverly Burdette told the committee last month that exotics along the Causeway are slated for removal, but groups of Australian pines, such as those at the pavilion, would be left in place to provide shade for beachgoers.

Bus shelters

Ralf Hesseler, of the county’s transportation department, said the county plans to install two bus shelters, one on each side of the Causeway by the current and planned restrooms. However, he said that stops could be put anywhere that riders might use them.

Committee members are deciding on a design for the shelters. They said they like the Bradenton Beach design without the decorative elements and in natural wood and they also like the Holmes Beach design.

He said style doesn’t matter as long as it meets the codes and complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act. He said the county would allow $9,000 per shelter and if the price exceeds that, the committee would be liable for the difference.

Committee members said they hope to use a portion of their grant funds to landscape the shelters. Ormando said the city of Bradenton would maintain the landscaping.



Community Center: going, going, gone

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Walbridge Aldinger Construction Company began demolition of the Anna Maria Island Community Center with interior work and razing the dugouts and part of the stadium last week. The main building is slated to be demolished today.

In July, the board of directors approved spending up to $4.1 on the new building and borrowing up to $2 million to complete the project. Center officials have raised $2.5 million toward the project.

The old Center will be replaced with a state-of-the-art two-story building. Construction is expected to take nine months to a year.

The administrative offices have been moved into a trailer at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 43rd Street in the back parking lot of St. Bernard Church in Holmes Beach. Adult and senior programs are being held in the church’s activity room. The SHARE program has moved to Roser Church Fellowship Hall.

Before and after school programs are being held at Anna Maria Elementary School. The teen program is being held in the Holmes Beach Public Works building. Counseling programs are being held in the conference room in the Holmes Beach Police Department.

The Center’s mailing address remains the same: P.O. Box 253, Anna Maria, FL 34216.


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