Vol 7 No. 2 - September 27, 2006


County, city battle over boat ramp

Code enforcement cries foul

Some oil from spill won't be cleaned up

Court OKs Villa Rosa sale

Marine HQ plans floated

Construction begins on St. Joe's SevenShores

Waterfronts seminar travels to Cortez

Let there be peace on Earth




County, city battle over boat ramp

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commissioner David Zaccagnino said he would ask commissioners to consider annexing the Kingfish ramp area from West Bay Cove to the Anna Maria Bridge.

The area has been in contention since last year; when county officials asked city commissioners for permission to remove Brazilian peppers at the ramp in order to increase parking. Citing concerns from Westbay Cove residents and their own concerns about the entrance to the city, commissioners refused permission to remove exotics.

Zaccagnino said that the proposed changes "pose a major safety concern for our city residents and visitors. From what I am hearing from some county representatives, they are determined to add more parking while neglecting our recommendations."

In addition, county officials asked for permission to install a permanent restroom facility at the east end of the ramp area using grant money secured for the Palma Sola Scenic Highway program. Commissioners again said no.

The county then ordered a survey from Zoller, Najar, Shroyer (ZNS) of the ramp area. Earlier in the month County Attorney Tedd Williams reported that the area is in the county, not the city. He said it also appeared that some portions of Westbay Cove are in the county.

The city ordered its own survey from Leo Mills, which is due next week. However, Public Works Director Joe Duennes said he spoke to Mills last week and there could be conflicts in the two surveys.

"Leo was originally in concert with ZNS, but he did more research and he now thinks that the line is 400 feet east of where ZNS says it is," Duennes explained. "He’s looking for more justification and plans to talk to ZNS."

Duennes said both ZNS and Mills agree that the boat ramp is in the county but it’s Westbay Cove that’s in question.

"Leo thinks the line is the first power pole west of the Rotary welcome sign, and ZNS thinks it’s up near the green DOT (Florida Department of Transportation) sign. ZNS is using DOT road maps, and Leo is using government field documents from the 1800s. Hopefully they’ll end up agreeing."

Meanwhile, Zaccagnino said the city already polices and mows the area and pays some of the utility bills.

"The entrance to Anna Maria Island needs to be beautiful, not constrained and engulfed with additional trucks and trailers," he said. "We have all seen the county traffic studies that point to this specific areas as one of the most constrained in the county, and the Perico Seven Shores development is still on the horizon."

He said the area could be beautified following a plan submitted by two Westbay Cove residents. Their Kingfish wetlands project includes removing the Brazilian peppers, landscaping the area with Florida shrubs and plants and installing a nature trail along the roadside.

Code enforcement cries foul

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Code board members said the city commission is making a big mistake in trying to eliminate their "jobs."

The commission is set to pass an ordinance this week that would replace the volunteer, unpaid board with a special magistrate. Following their code board meeting last week, members gave commissioners an earful about how they feel.

"What these people bring to the board is their life experience, their business and background," Chairman Chuck Stealey said. "If was citizen and had a violation, I’d rather come before my peers with knowledge in all these different areas and empathy for the community than a hired lawyer."

Barbara Hines, a board member who is a lawyer and has been a judge and a hearing officer, pointed out, "I’m here because I’m a citizen of Holmes Beach and I care about Holmes Beach and I’m free. As a board member, I have been impressed by the level of caring and commitment."

Board members agreed that they have a feeling for their community that no outside magistrate would have.

"This is the one place where somebody can come up and speak to their peers and have their peers make a judgment," Don Schroder said.

"If we lose this, we lose another piece of our Island," Ted Geerearts said. "This is why we live here instead of some big city. We have passion for our community."

"Anybody in this city who has a problem would appreciate the opportunity to present that problem to other people who reside here," Don Maloney concurred. "And we have seven minds instead of one."

Maloney pointed out that most commissioners have never attended a code board meeting, and have no idea how it functions, yet they are willing to eliminate it.

"It just annoys me that elected officials make decisions about things they don’t know a damn thing about," Maloney said.

Schroder said he is concerned that commissioners were willing to eliminate the board without asking for input from board members and noted, " I feel there is a great lack of communication with something as important as this to the citizens, and that the individuals that are involved with code enforcement were not personally noticed that this was going on. I’m very disappointed that we were not asked to defend ourselves."

Board members took issue with some commissioners, who have maintained that meetings have been canceled because of the lack of a quorum.

"There has never been a meeting canceled because of lack of a quorum," Schroder, an eight-year member said.

Stealey, who said he has only missed two meetings in 10 years on the board, said he spoke to Code Enforcement Officer Nancy Hall, who has been with the department nine years, and "she said there was never a time the city wished to have a hearing which there was not a quorum available."

He also questioned whether the city would save any money with a special magistrate. Hines said the person must be paid not only for appearances but for research as well.

Michael Connolly, attorney for the board, said he has been a special magistrate and there would be no cost savings to the city because he would spend the same amount of time on cases as he does currently.

Commissioners’ comments
Commissioner Pat Morton, who has attended several code board meetings, told the board, "I do appreciate what the code board has done. You do a very good job."

Commissioner David Zaccagnino, who said it was his first time observing the board, said he made a mistake voting to abolish the board.

"I’ve been a commissioner for 1 1/2 years and I’m learning along the way. I think I might have made a mistake by not researching this. The way it was presented to me is different from what I’m hearing today, so I’m glad I came.

"I think it’s important to be judged by your peers, having seven minds working on something, having different viewpoints and input. You’re doing a great job and it’s working. If something’s not broken, don’t fix it."

Stealey told the two, "If it’s the best thing for the city and it allows us to become more professional, if the days of the board are gone and that’s the commissioners’ decision, that’s fine. The only thing I ask is that the commissioners’ make the decision based on fact and in the best interests of the citizens."

Some oil from spill won�t be cleaned up

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

PORT MANATEE – About 100 of the 900 gallons of oil spilled at Port Manatee last week cannot be cleaned up, Florida Power & Light spokesman Jim Davison said.

Storms last week dissipated the remaining oil before cleanup crews could recover it, he said. Cleanup operations included trapping oil with absorbent floating containment booms and vacuuming it from the surface.

Oil recovery operations stopped on Thursday, but FPL worked through Friday to pump the oil remaining in a leaky dockside pipe to a storage facility, he said.

The leaking oil was discovered in Tampa Bay on Sept. 18 as it was being pumped from a barge berthed at Port Manatee to a pipeline bound for a storage tank. It was scheduled to be delivered to FPL’s Manatee Energy Center in Parrish.

The spill occurred near seagrass beds in Bishops Harbor and Cockroach Bay, and just east of a former dredge spoil site turned into a bird nesting island.

No reports of wildlife injuries have been received, Davison said, adding that a redfish hatchery near some of the spilled oil appears to be unaffected, as are the seagrass beds.

"This oil doesn’t sink, it floats, so it wouldn’t reach the seagrass," he said.

Lifeguards on Anna Maria Island patrolled the beaches last week and found no signs of oil washing ashore, said Jay Moyles, chief of Manatee County’s Marine Rescue unit.

An investigation of the cause of the leak is under way and will take at least two weeks to complete, Davison said, adding that the pipe apparently leaked into a valve pit alongside the berth.

FPL will be fined an undetermined amount, according to Chris Rossbach, Emergency Response Manager for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Tampa office.

Court OKs Villa Rosa sale

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

A U.S. bankruptcy judge has ruled that GSR can sell its Villa Rosa subdivision in Anna Maria to Gaspar Properties, Inc., of Tampa.

The ruling, by Judge K. Rodney May, allows the sale to Gaspar for $11.5 million and comes in response to an emergency petition filed by attorneys for GSR principals, including Robert Byrne and Steve Noriega.

GSR and Gaspar have until Oct. 15 to close the deal on the property. That closing must come before Judge May for final approval.

The court also ruled that GSR has to come up with $100,000 for creditor Bon Eau Enterprises LLC by Dec.15 or forfeit all the unsold property in Villa Rosa to Bon Eau.

The sale of the property to Gaspar should pump $11.5 million into the GSR coffers, allowing the company to pay off all the secured creditors, leaving about $1.9 million for GSR to use as operating capitol. The court would supervise payouts to creditors.

However, the unsecured creditors would be left out in the cold with no payback of the estimated $2.8 million owed to them.

The sale must be completed by Oct. 15. GSR’s bankruptcy plan is due in court on Nov. 13.

Meanwhile, the company has moved its sales office trailer off of the South Bay Street site in Anna Maria. Rubble and broken construction materials now occupy the area where the trailer was located and the city of Anna Maria has ordered the firm to clean up the mess.



Marine HQ plans floated

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – A proposed headquarters for marine-based law enforcement agencies could improve the safety and enjoyment of beachgoers at Coquina Beach, according to the county’s marine rescue chief.

The facility’s projected location at Coquina Bayside Park on the east side of Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach is highly visible to both drivers and boaters, said Jay Moyles, chief of Manatee County’s Marine Rescue unit.

"When a law enforcement vessel is parked out there, people will behave," Moyles said.

He updated the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity last week on plans for the headquarters, which could provide dockage for marine law enforcement boats and impounded vessels, offices to process arrests, a place to deploy the sheriff’s office mounted posse, a maintenance facility and an education center.

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Larry White has expressed an interest in placing a webcam at the site to display live video and current temperatures online, Moyles said, adding that a flagpole and veteran’s memorial at the site would be welcome additions to the project.

If the project is approved, a nearby building currently used for marine rescue vehicles would be converted for the use of the county’s parks and recreation department, he said, adding that the new facility would be designed to blend in with the Coquina Beach multi-use trail.

The $417,000 trail project is slated for completion by the end of the year along the public beach east of the sand dunes.

To keep the path from veering too sharply, 37 Australian pines will be removed during construction of the trail, Tom Yarger of the county’s parks and recreation department told the scenic highway group. About 90 percent of the trail will be shaded by the remaining pines, and palm trees will be planted in the area, he added.

Construction begins on St. Joe�s SevenShores

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

A huge lake is evolving just east of the Anna Maria Bridge, one that will give residents of St. Joe’s SevenShores project on Perico stunning lakefront views to compliment their magnificent views of surrounding bays and bayous.

With nine units sold to date, Joe Romanowski, of St Joe Towns and Resorts, said he is "very happy considering that sales opened after the season."

He said the units have been sold to local retirees.

The once contentious 686-unit, high-rise development is now in the making with the construction of the 27-acre, 22-foot-deep lake through the middle of the project. Thirteen buildings and a community clubhouse will rim the lake. All of this is surrounded by water and mangrove marsh.

"We started the lake in May and hope to finish it in the first quarter of next year," said Romanowski, who is the vice president and project manager of St. Joe’s central Florida region. “The clubhouse will be completed late next year."

Romanowski said the clubhouse would include an exercise facility, a screening room, a swimming pool, four tennis courts, a gathering room and a restaurant.

"The restaurant will offer breakfast and lunch for residents who come to work out, catch a movie or swim in the pool," he said.

Building II is the first one scheduled for construction. Units are priced from $600,000 to over $1 million, and there is a choice of layouts and two or three bedrooms.

The entrance from the Palma Sola Scenic Highway to the development will be started in the first quarter of next year.

"The entrance will be understated yet elegant," Romanowski stressed. "It will be lushly landscaped and there will be no walls or pillars, so it will blend in with the surrounding area. We will use native plants throughout the project.

"Our development order requires us to remove all invasive species. This will require a lot of hand clearing because we can’t take machines into the wetland areas."

In addition, the company has acquired the Perico Harbor Marina to the west of the project.

"We acquired the existing permit, which called for removal of the dry storage in order to reduce the number of boats in the water from 240 to 126,’ he explained, "but we’ll only have about 120.

"We are in conversation with folks who have an interest in having commercial uses there. The convenience store will be come a ship/convenience store. This whole area is going to change dramatically."

The marina area, including a gasoline kiosk, shops and a restaurant, will be open to the public.

The entire project could take 10 years to complete, Romanowski said, adding, "The stronger the sales, the faster we’ll move." We’re excited about it. We think it will be a great addition to the area."


Waterfronts seminar travels to Cortez

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The annual Waterfronts Florida Managers’ Seminar recently allowed officials from other parts of the state to inspect the newest member of the group.

Delegates from member cities such as Port St. Joe and Baghdad shared information on their experiences in trying to retain access to their waterfronts while developing plans for the future.

After the two-day seminar ended, Carol and Mac McLeod, of Port St. Joe, spoke about what they learned.

Carol is the manager for her city’s Waterfronts group, which just finished its first year, and she met her husband while he was living in Manatee County.

"We’re trying to start a new community," she said of Port St. Joe. "We were a paper mill community and we’re now trying to be an eco-tourism community. We want to be able to keep the waterfront accessible where anybody can get to the water."

McLeod said the secret is getting the community behind the project.

"I would like to go back and tell out people about the great turnout Bradenton Beach has had," she said. "I want to get everyone excited back there about what we’re doing."

She said she was impressed that the news media came out and wanted to get the local media in her city to give them more coverage.

The seminar was hosted by Bradenton Beach, but the managers took a side trip on the final day of the event to another Waterfronts community, Cortez.

Cortez became a Waterfronts community several years ago, using the program’s visioning process to help define itself and determine what it wanted to be in the future.

Cortez itself is not a chartered city, but through the visioning process, it helped develop a zoning overlay district in the Manatee County comprehensive plan to help keep it as an historic fishing village.

Delegates to the seminar boarded a chartered trolley on Tuesday and crossed the drawbridge to the Cortez Community Center, where Florida Maritime Museum Coordinator Roger Allen moderated the tour. The Florida Maritime Museum is a venture that is coordinated by the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Historical Commission and the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage (FISH), a Cortez citizen’s activist group.

Allen showed the delegates boats that volunteers at the museum were working on. Some vessels were replicas of native fishing boats and there was also a 1954 Chris Craft that they were restoring.

Allen also talked about the struggle to keep development out of the historical village. He said that since development had begun north of Cortez Road, there had been a string of developers coming through telling FISH what they were going to build for their community. He said the key phrase was "their community" and that the plans did not fit what they wanted.

Allen said that the one thing the residents wanted to accomplish was to keep Cortez as a working fishing village, something that received an almost fatal blow more than a dozen years ago when the state outlawed cast-net fishing.

FISH Chairman Allen Garner joined Allen and summed up the efforts to save the village.

"Cortez did not want to be known as a village that used to be a fishing village," he said.



Let there be peace on Earth

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Students in tie-dyed shirts and peasant skirts carpeted the campus, waving signs, singing songs and reading poetry.

The lyrics of "Peace Train" by Muslim musician Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) drifted around the Peace Pole, where Arabic and English letters proclaimed side by side, "May Peace Prevail On Earth."

Students wore peace signs as necklaces and flashed them as hand symbols during speeches about treating people equally and with respect.

"Peace out!" one shouted. "Hippies forever!" another called out.

It could have been a protest against the war in the Summer of Love at Berkeley.

But no one mentioned the war in Iraq during the fifth annual Peace Day festivities at Anna Maria Elementary School on Thursday.

Instead, they celebrated peace.

"If the UN was here, I think they would get the message in your children’s faces," Principal Kathy Hayes told the crowd of parents and teachers.

The ceremony began with Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, in her last public appearance at the school as mayor, proclaiming Sept. 21 as the International Day of Peace.

Kindergartners sprinkled grain around the Peace Pole for the animals and birds, a symbol of their wish that all children worldwide have enough to eat.

The first-graders set butterflies free from their net cages and kept the secret right up until they started playing "Blowin’ in the Wind."

The second-graders planted biodegradable seedling pots around the Peace Pole, containing plants to feed the butterflies.

The third grade carried white doves of peace made from recycled bags and water bottles, and placed a message of peace in each one.

The fourth grade made colorful plaques decorated with seashells, tile and colored glass and placed them around the Peace Pole.

The fifth grade carried the flags of the world’s nations and planted them around the Peace Pole in a miniature version of the United Nations pavilion.

Students planted memorial plants for parents and teachers. They recited the Peace Pole proclamation in several languages, read their poetry and sang original songs.

And they heard the songs of another era, sung by their parents and grandparents who gathered on campuses, flashing peace signs and passing out flowers, and tried to end another war.

"All we are saying is give peace a chance."


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