Vol 6 No. 52 - September 20, 2006


Homeless plan proposed

Budget, taxes come under fire

Property rights disputed on renourished beach

Fund raising continues for Community Center

Members� protests demise of code board

SAM discusses boat ramp, Grassy Point

Fall festival back on campus

Robinson Preserve beginning to blossom




Homeless plan proposed

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commissioners have been asked to consider adopting a ban on "outdoor lodging," one designed to reduce what some see as a growing homeless presence within city limits.

"The city of Bradenton has adopted this ordinance," Commission Chairman Rich Bohnenberger explained, after making the proposal. "The city of Sarasota has adopted this ordinance and I don’t want Holmes Beach to become an oasis. I think panhandling needs to be addressed as well and the chief of police agreed."

Bradenton’s ordinance prohibits the use of public or private places for outdoor lodging except with the permission of the city or the property owner.

Outdoor lodging is defined as "using public or private property for living accommodation purposes by the erection, use or occupation of any tent, hut, lean-to, shack or temporary shelter for sleeping purposes or the laying down of bedding, such as a blanket, sleeping bag or similar material for the purpose of sleeping."

Living accommodation is defined as "to remain living, to dwell or to reside at a place for a period of time for the purpose of using such place as a home."

However, according to the ordinance, there are other criteria that must be met including:

• Numerous items of personal belongings are present;

• The person is engaged in cooking activities;

• The person has built or is maintaining a fire;

• The person is asleep and when awakened, state that he or she has no other place to live.

Punishment for violating Bradenton’s ordinance is a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail.

The law is similar to one in Sarasota that is being challenged in the courts. Homeless advocates say the ordinance unfairly targets homeless people and is unconstitutional because it criminalizes homelessness.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said he is not in favor of the law because he doesn’t think there is a problem in the city.

Other commissioners disagreed, saying that the Sarasota and Bradenton bans will push homeless people out onto the Island unless there is a similar law here.

"They’re walking across the Causeway with their backpacks every day," Bohnenberger said.

"If everybody outlaws them and we don’t, then we inherit them," Commissioner Roger Lutz added.

Budget, taxes come under fire

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – City commissioners established a 1.8 millage rate and approved the $12 million 2006-07 budget on first reading last week after hearing from three unhappy residents.

"Taxes are the one thing that you can do something about," Russ Olsen declared. "The mayor says she hasn’t raised taxes in eight years.

"That’s news to property owners who have seen their taxes double and triple and quadruple. We’re not all that stupid out here."

Olsen said the commission could have dropped the millage to 1.63 (the rollback rate) and still received the same amount of money as in the current budget.

"We’re facing economic disaster," Olsen said. "Go merrily on your way, hire another policeman, dredge some canals, buy some vehicles, adopt a generous pay plan.

"The list goes on and on. These are not necessary things. I don’t know what motivates you to think you gotta spend that money."

Emery Jack Moss, a resident of Martinique condominiums, had another issue. He said he was taxed out of his home in Orlando and had to move into his condo, which he had planned to rent.

"At the Manatee County commission meeting they said a $300,000 home increased $28 and some cents," Moss said. "While theirs was increasing $28, my condominium was increasing $1,500. We’ve had a $1,500 increase for each of the last five years.

"So let’s not kid anyone who’s paying the taxes in this county. It’s the non-homesteaded resident. You need to have a little compassion for who’s carrying this burden."

He said non-homesteaded residents in his building pay $1,000 in taxes for every 100 square feet. Wayne Simpson, also a resident of Martinique, said his taxes increased from $3,000 in 2000 to $10,000 today.

Commission Chairman Rich Bohnenberger said the real issue for non-homesteaded residents is the state’s Amendment 10, a voter initiated constitutional amendment that caps tax increases for homesteaded residents but not others.

He said some legislators attempted to expand the 3 percent cap to all properties but the effort was not successful. He also said that if the commission adopted the rollback rate it would save each resident $57.

The budget includes $3.8 million for the Key Royale Bridge replacement; a $500,000 increase in the city’s reserve fund; a new police officer; $1 million in public works projects, equipment and services and a 3 percent COLA for employees.

The second reading of the budget is set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

Property rights disputed on renourished beach

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

A property rights victory for Gulffront property owners is being appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

About 150 beachfront owners in northwest Florida won a ruling this summer that they were unconstitutionally deprived of their property rights without just compensation when local beaches were renourished.

Save Our Beaches and Stop the Beach Renourishment successfully challenged a beach renourishment permit, arguing that the city of Destin and Walton County owed them compensation for infringing on their private property rights.

The case focused on the location of the erosion control line, a line in the sand that divides Florida’s beaches into public and private property. Generally, seaward of the line, the beach is owned by the state of Florida, and landward of the line, the beach is owned by private property owners. New sand added during beach renourishment follows the same division, according to Richard Brightman, of the Hopping Green & Sams law firm in Tallahassee, representing beachfront property owners.

The municipalities claimed that sand added on private property belongs to the public, said Shannon Goessling, executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the public interest law firm representing Save Our Beaches.

The First District Court of Appeal agreed with the property owners that the municipalities unconstitutionally proceeded with the beach renourishment project without obtaining the necessary private property rights by gift, purchase or condemnation, in effect creating a public beach between the private beach and the water without due process or just compensation. One of the rights cited was to have private property's contact with the water remain intact.

The case has been appealed to the Florida Supreme Court by the municipal governments and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which issued the renourishment permit. Representatives of those parties declined to comment on the pending case.

Property owners in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach have contested beach renourishment projects in the past, but the Destin case is the first to go to the Florida Supreme Court, Brightman said, adding that it’s a case of great public importance since the state of Florida is nearly all coastline.

The private property rights of beachfront owners are violated when the public trespasses across private sand to get to public sand, sets up tents, umbrellas and chairs that obstruct the view and leaves behind trash, he said. The public’s property rights are limited to "traversing" the wet sand along the water, Goessling added.

Gulffront property owners have few practical options when the public uses their private beach, he said – call the police, post no trespassing signs or fence in their private beach up to the erosion control line.

Instead of a fence, a Gulf-front property owner in Holmes Beach has planted sea oats perpendicular to the beach, an innovative idea, Brightman said, because the plants are legally protected and people are not allowed to walk through them.

The beach renourishment project in Destin is temporarily suspended, but not because of the court case.

"We asked the courts to stop the beach renourishment, but none of them did," Brightman said. The Army Corps of Engineers stopped the project after four sea turtles were killed. They plan to restart the project next month.

Fund raising continues for Community Center

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Fund raising for the construction of the new Community Center was the focus of the board of directors’ meeting last week.

In August, board members signed a contract with Northern Trust Bank to borrow up to $2 million to complete the project.

"We did exactly what you asked us to do," Executive Director Pierrette Kelly said to the board. "We entered into the contract with Northern Trust. Basically, they want us to raise $500,000 in cash and $600,000 in pledges between now and the first part of January."

Center employees have raised $2.5 million for the project that could cost up to $4.1 million. Kelly said the average gift from large donors is $50,000. The largest gift is in excess of $500,000, and donors range in age from 40s to 70s.

"The major donors are really critical to make this effort a success," she stressed. "A lot of people in our community really want naming opportunities and this is a chance for them to leave something for this community that will be valued for the next hundred years.

"Obviously, the naming opportunities are for the larger gifts. They start at $15,000 and go up, but we are going to have benches, playground equipment, bricks, etc. for the entire community.

Kelly said she has written 70 grant applications over the past two months and targeted another 230 grant applications.

"The real magic in writing grants is the relationship with the person making the funding," she explained. "We’re trying really hard to build those relationships."

Another fundraising effort by employees, board members and supporters is hosting parties at their homes to educate people about the programs and services that the Center offers.

"I invite all of you to think about having a small group to your home," Kelly said. "If people value the community, they’re going to appreciate the fact that you respect them enough to talk to them about this important project and include them in this opportunity.

"I don’t want you to ask for money, and I’ll be very upset if you do. Just let them know about the Center, and let me do the asking."

"Your initial reaction is, ‘I don’t know anyone who can write that kind of checks.’" board member Tom Breiter added. "Maybe they’ll tell someone. It’s like multi-level marketing; you just have to spread the word."

Board member Stuart Moon pointed out, "You never know where it’s going to come from" and told of a fisherman who donated $20,000.



Members� protests demise of code board

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — After commissioners approved on first reading an ordinance to replace the code enforcement board with a special magistrate, two board members expressed their concerns.

"Some of you have never been at a meeting of that board that you’re considering eliminating," code board member Don Maloney said. "Please attend the next meeting of that board and then tell me that a professional would do a better job."

He said citizens deserve to have their cases heard by their neighbors rather than an "off-Island lawyer," and that there’s never been a complaint about the board.

In June, Chairman Rich Bohnenberger had asked commissioners to consider the change to a special magistrate. A special magistrate is a professional who acts in a manner similar to a judge and conducts hearings on code enforcement issues and violations.

"This code board under Chairman (Chuck) Stealey is one of the best code board’s in the state," code board member Don Schroder pointed out. "I think we’re losing something by having a magistrate regardless of how good he is. You’re taking something away from what this city is and what the citizens deserve. What are we saving?"

Bohnenberger said the board has been unable to meet on some occasions because of lack of a quorum.

"I’m have no knowledge of when we were not able to have a meeting," Schroder replied. "I’ve served on that board for seven years.

"No one has ever gone to court and reversed a decision. I think we’ve done a damn good job, and I would ask you to reconsider."

According to the ordinance, the special magistrate must posses a law degree. The mayor would appoint the magistrate with commission ratification. City Attorney Patricia Petruff said the board would have to complete any pending cases, and the special magistrate would rule on new cases.

SAM discusses boat ramp, Grassy Point

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – The Save Anna Maria civic group supports a petition to Save Kingfish Wetlands that advocates the creation of a new nature trail at the Kingfish Boat ramp and opposes efforts to expand its parking lot.

The Kingfish Wetlands Project aims to protect between 400 and 500 feet of shoreline at the boat ramp and encourages preserving mangroves, removing Brazilian peppers and planting Florida shrubs and plants, SAM member and project co-chair Molly McCartney told the group’s members on Saturday.

Ideally, a nature trail protected by bollards would lead to Manatee public beach, she said.

"We could make it a great entrance to the Island," she said. "It’s an Anna Maria Island issue, not just a Holmes Beach issue, because they’re talking about a bloated parking lot at one of the Island’s main entrances."

Manatee County officials have discussed removing vegetation to make room for more parking spaces, McCartney said, adding that SAM opposes the parking lot expansion because of safety concerns for boaters at the already-congested ramp, for non-boaters trying to get on and off the Island and for environmental reasons.

The Manatee County Audubon Society supports the petition, she said.

The group also is investigating plans to build a nature trail at Grassy Point in Holmes Beach similar to one at Leffis Key in Bradenton Beach.

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is working to remove exotic plants from the preserve and may add one or two parking spaces and a boardwalk, Holmes Beach City Commissioner David Zaccagnino told the group.


Fall festival back on campus

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – When the ghosts and goblins come haunting this Halloween, they’re going to return to Anna Maria Elementary School in a big way.

They’ll be back on campus for the first time in three years, but they’ll be back in a new modern campus.

Something else will be different. They’ll be plying their trade in front of the school instead of behind it.

The AME PTO Fall Festival Committee met last week to work out details of the festival, one of two that the group sponsors each school year to raise money for its projects. Last year’s festival raised $11,400.

This year’s festival, which coincides with Halloween, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 28, beginning with a parade of students in costume from Holmes Beach City Hall down Marina Drive to Gulf Drive and then to the school.

As in the past, the students will be judged and the boy and girl winners of each grade will receive a prize after they get to the school.

The procession then breaks up and the celebration begins. Only this year, it will be more visible. Liza Morrow, chairperson for the committee, had a suggestion.

"I would like to see the festival out in front of the school," she said. "We have enough room and if we can convince people to take the trolley or park off campus, cars would not be using the driveways and posing a hazard for the kids."

Morrow took a poll of the moms on the committee and they agreed. Principal Kathy Hayes said she liked the idea, as long as traffic would not be a problem. PTO President Shannon Dell hinted that they might be able to get some buses to bring people from off-campus parking lots near the school.

There will be prize drawings for those who purchase tickets with coupons for food discounts at a local restaurant. The committee will be seeking donations from the business committee to use as prizes.

Morrow talked about an idea from committee member Holly Connelly – a Kiss the Pig contest where people purchase tickets and put them into jars for the person they want to see smack lips with a pig. Hayes agreed to participate and the group talked about Dell, coach Barry Burrell, art teacher Gary Wooten and head custodian Shirley Beard.

Games will be set up with tickets for winners who can cash them in for prizes and there will be a bake sale. Tricia Hackworth suggested they not hold a contest to see which classroom could have the most items to sell.

"I think we have enough competitiveness," she said. "We don’t need moms bringing in a bunch of items just to put their class over the top."

The other agreed to drop the contest.

Finally, there will be a haunted house inside the auditorium this year. Stacey Siegal, who chairs the gift wrap sale, said she could not chair this event, but would help. Mary Gallagher, JoDene Moneuse and Donna Perez said they would help.

Anyone wanting to sponsor a gift or help with donations is invited to call the school office at 708-5525.



Robinson Preserve beginning to blossom

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Wood storks and roseate spoonbills are returning, a pair of eagles nests atop an Australian pine, mangroves sprout and glasswort blooms — Robinson Preserve is awakening to its natural state — all, of course, with a little help from its friends.

"To me this is an affirmation of the beauty of where we all live," Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County Conservation Lands Management (CLM) Department Administrator, declared on Saturday’s tour of the preserve.

The county’s habitat restoration project at the preserve is moving rapidly ahead, said Hunsicker, and the earthwork is 90 percent completed. He praised the contractor, Bul-Hed, for its fast and efficient work and noted, "They took an ownership into this project."

The group tour took visitors along the same path as they took in July and the changes were startling. A planned canoe/kayak launch area was cleared of invasive vegetation and white mangroves were sprouting along its banks, which were now graded.

"The water is tidal," Melissa Cain, CLM volunteer/education coordinator, explained, "so grading the bank helps offset flooding. This will be a marsh community."

Cain said the county plans to invite residents to help install plants along the banks, and Hunsicker said there is $512,000 earmarked for plants.

Hunsicker pointed to an area beyond the launch where there will be a visitors’ center. He explained that the Preston family, of the Manatee Fruit Company, has donated its family homestead in Palmetto and it, hopefully, will be moved to the site to become the visitors’ center.

New lakes and ponds have appeared along the truck-rutted path, which will become the preserve’s trail system. Hunsicker said it would be walkable by March 2007.

"There will be two miles of trails and a 50- to 60-foot observation tower," he said. "The preserve is connected to the Palma Sola Causeway by a footbridge, so you’ll be able to walk or rollerblade from 17th Avenue Northwest to Anna Maria Island."

County rangers are still waging battle with exotic invasives on the property explained Max Dersch, CLM west supervisor.

"There are particular challenges in areas impacted by agriculture," he explained. "Farmers bermed the tidal flow ways and built ditches around the property. That allowed a lot of non-native plants to move in.

"The non-natives have an advantage over native plants because they came from places where they had more competition. We have removed a lot of the earth that was their seed source, but they can come back carried by birds, wind and people.

Cain pointed out glasswort, a salt-tolerant, native plant that was sprouting up around the lagoon that was a borrow pit for the farming operations. What was once a stagnant, salty, dead zone is now beginning to thrive. Thousands of mangrove seeds also have begun to appear.

Hunsicker swept his arm across the expanse of the preserve and declared, "Think about it. This property was once going to hold 480 homes! The county closed on it one week in advance of Taylor Woodruff Homes."

Members of the group nodded and smiled in appreciation.

The Robinson Preserve is located along 99th Street Northwest between 17th and Ninth avenues northwest in Palma Sola.


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