Vol 7 No. 2 - October 4, 2006


Tragedy prompts mom to help others

Survey says Westbay is in the city

Home sales down, prices up

Time to clean up our act

New DeSoto has Island ties

Commission delays 30-day rental issue until after election

Buy coupons for fall fest

Unusual tax solution offered




Tragedy prompts mom to help others

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

BRADENTON — With the click of a few keystrokes, Christine Olson realized a dream.

She became the first person in the state to enter her name, address and three contact phone numbers into a state database. Now if she is in an accident, law enforcement personnel will know immediately who to notify.

Olson’s 22-year-old daughter, Tiffany, and her boyfriend, Dustin Wilder, were killed in a motorcycle crash more than nine months ago.

"I didn’t even know about it for six hours," Olson said from the offices of State Representative Bill Galvano on Monday. "I don’t want that to ever happen to anyone else. I was only 15 minutes away from where the accident happened, but no one knew who to call."

Olson met a trooper in the parking lot of Manatee Memorial Hospital six hours after the accident happened.

"The trooper told me she had died and she had already been taken to the medical examiner’s office," she said.

"Christine Olson took her personal tragedy and grief and did something to make sure that this doesn’t happen to other families," Galvano said. "Because Christine Olson made this a banner, because of her work with the Department of Highways and Motor Vehicles, emergency contact information will be available on a voluntary basis to law enforcement personnel. They’ll know who to contact."

On average, it takes five hours to locate family or friends of an accident victim who is unable to provide that information.

Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Doug Dodson said the new information gives a great tool to a lot of people and families, including young people.

"Sometimes it’s taken as long as a day to find whom to notify," he said. "This is a tool that helps everybody. It’s just win-win."

The system is called David, an acronym for driver and vehicle information database. Once a person has entered emergency contact information, an officer can pull that information up from their squad car computer, including a picture of the person so when they arrive at the scene, they will be immediately recognized.

The site is secure and can’t be accessed by unauthorized people, according to Galvano.

For Olson, who is a long-time employee of the Rod & Reel Pier Restaurant, it was a banner day.

"I’ve worked so hard for this," she said. "But there’s still so much to do. Now we have to get everyone to enter their information and to keep it updated."

Olson is urging everyone to log onto the site and enter his or her emergency contact information.

Her son, Derek, and nephew, Shawn Olson, were present when Olson became the first person to enter her data. They both planned to enter their own today.

To access the site, log onto www.hsmv.state.us.com . You can also visit Olson’s website at www.toinformfamiliesfirst.com to find out more about the new system.

Survey says Westbay is in the city

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes said Thursday that the city’s survey of the Westbay Cove/Kingfish ramp area is completed and it shows that the condo is in the city.

Because officials of Manatee county and the city disagreed on issues such as removing the Brazilian peppers between the ramp area and the condo and increasing the ramp’s parking spaces, both ordered a survey of the area. Surveyors agreed that the ramp is in the county, but they disagreed on Westbay Cove.

The county hired Zoller, Najjar, Shroyer (ZNS) and the city hired Leo Mills. Originally, ZNS maintained that their survey showed that a portion of one Westbay Cove building was in the county, while Mills said it was in the city.

‘Our survey shows the line is 121 feet to the east of where ZNS said it is," Duennes said. "Leo Mills talked to ZNS and they agreed with him that the condo is in the city."

Duennes said ZNS was using information from the Florida Department of Transportation and Mills was using government field notes from the 1800s and both agreed that the government notes were more accurate.

The survey also showed interesting situations at the north and south ends of the city. At the south end, the Ocean Park Terrace condominium building is in Bradenton Beach, while its swimming pool is in Holmes Beach.

At the north end, residents of White Avenue have always known that the street is partly in each city. What they probably didn’t know is that the line bisects the street twice — in a V shape. Both ends of the street are in Holmes Beach and the center of the V is in Anna Maria.

Annexing Kingfish
On Tuesday, city commissioners had postponed a proposal by Commissioner David Zaccagnino to annex the ramp area.

"Until we know exactly what the legal description of that area is, we can’t move forward," Chairman Rich Bohnenberger noted. "The other thing is I would want to be assured by the county that they’ll enter into an interlocal agreement to continue to maintain the boat ramp and the parking area. It could be a big burden on our taxpayers if we have to assume responsibility for the boat ramp."

He also asked the city attorney to research how much control any entity has over and area that "appears to be 100 percent DOT right of way."

Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens said commissioners would be "jumping the gun" to do anything now, but Mayor Carol Whitmore disagreed.

"We’re being proactive," she said. "At least it needs to be on a work session."

On Sept. 22, Police Chief Jay Romine pulled his officers from patrolling the ramp area after learning that it is in the county.

"I had hoped we could just continue," Romine explained. ‘We’ve policed that for 40 years. "However, the county attorney’s office was not comfortable doing that.

"Obviously if things were as they were before, it’s much easier for us. I wouldn’t criticize any other agencies, but they are in our back yard."

Home sales down, prices up

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The number of homes sold in July and August of this year is down compared to the same two months last year, but the average sales price is up and the future looks better according to the latest Anna Maria Island Property Sales Report.

The report, authored and edited by Dantia and Barry Gould, of Island Vacation Properties in Holmes Beach, notes that interest rates are down, rentals are strong, gasoline prices are dropping and red tide is not a major factor this year. There are some indications, according to the sale figures, that prices per square foot under air are dropping and that there are some bargains to be gained by those in the market for an Island home.

The report based on listings and sales of homes off the Multi-List service, shows 12 single-family homes sold in July-August of this year compared with 36 in the same two months last year. However, the average sales price was $985,000, or $423 per square foot under air compared with $830,000 or $479 per square foot last year. Single family homes that sold stayed on the market an average of 122 days this year compared with 74 days last year.

The report said that seven condominium units sold in the two months this year compared with 40 last year at an average price of $718,000 compared with $742,000 last year. The average time a condo unit stayed on the market was 79 days this year compared with 112 days last year.

Duplexes and triplexes went up in price, although the number of units sold may be too little to correctly indicate a trend. For the two months this year, three units sold at an average price of $1,107,000 compared with 15 units sold in the same time period last year at an average price of $683,000.

Overall, 30 homes or multi-family units sold during July and August of this year at an average price of $906,000 compared with 91 units last year at an average sales price of $751,000.

According to the report, "The annual influx of winter residents starting in October will find a large number of real estate bargains not seen in a long time. The early bird dream deals should stimulate the market, but no one should expect the level of sales and appreciation we experienced in 2004 and 2005. There will always be a demand for reasonably priced Island property and contrary to what the pundits are crying, there are many buyers ready to make their move when the time is right."

Time to clean up our act

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

The 21st Annual International Coastal Cleanup gets under way on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 9 a.m. to noon and Keep Manatee Beautiful is hoping for a good local turnout of volunteers.

Whether you want to comb the roadsides, beaches or underwater, there are an abundance of check-in stations locally.

In the city of Anna Maria, go to Anna Maria City Hall at 10005 Gulf Drive. Residents of Holmes Beach may check in at the Kingfish Boat Ramp on S.R. 64 near the Anna Maria Island Bridge. In Bradenton Beach, go to the BeachHouse restaurant parking lot at 200 Gulf Drive.

Residents of Cortez Village may go to the FISH Preserve in Cortez Village at the Cortez FISH House, 11601 Cortez Rd. W. There is also a check-in station along Palma Sola Causeway at the pavilions on the north side of S.R. 64.

If you are a qualified scuba diver, you can help pick up litter on the Gulf floor.

Sea Trek Divers at 105 7th St. N. in Bradenton Beach is managing the diving. Call 779-1506 for check-in time and directions.

Last year, nearly a 1/2 million volunteers lent a hand worldwide to clean up litter and marine debris from the shores, lakes and rivers of more than 70 nations. Locally, 1,146 volunteers removed more than 24,500 pounds of trash from 302 miles of Manatee County’s roads and shores.

In case of bad weather, a alternate date of Oct. 14 has been chosen.

For more information, call Keep Manatee Beautiful at 795-8272 or log on to keep@manateebeautiful.com.



New DeSoto has Island ties

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – This year’s Don Hernando de Soto has ties to Anna Maria Island.

Former Island resident Frank Eldridge, a real estate broker and general contractor, owns the Marina Mall on Marina Drive, home to Ginny’s Antiques and Art, The Four Seasons nail and skin care salon, Anna Maria Island Accommodations, Island Gourmet, Anna Maria Glass and Domino’s Pizza, where his daughter, Jessica Eldridge, is a shift manager.

Eldridge, now a Bradenton resident, is serving as the chief conquistador for the 2006-2007 DeSoto Heritage Festival. A member since 1970, the retired civil engineer and merchant marine master has served as captain, lieutenant and sergeant of the Crewe.

"I know now what it’s like to be a rock star," said Eldridge, who recently returned from a tour of the birthplace of Hernando de Soto and Bradenton’s sister city, Barcarotta, Spain, where he was billeted in a monastery-turned-hotel and escorted on a tour of the city’s historic landmarks.

In 1539, conquistador Hernando de Soto landed at what is now the DeSoto National Memorial at Shaw's Point on the Manatee River in Bradenton. With a crew of 600, he claimed Florida for Spain and began a 4,000-mile exploration of the southeastern U.S. The DeSoto Heritage Festival is held in Bradenton in March and April to commemorate the landing.

Hernando is chosen each year from a 33-member Crewe which represents the organization’s 250 members in two dozen festivals from Mobile to Minnesota, as well as appearances on the Island for the Fourth of July and Christmas parades. The occasional Island shop also has been captured.

Besides parading and plundering, the Crewe collects food for the poor, conducts history talks at area schools, sponsors a golf tournament that supports the Lighthouse for the Blind, raises funds for the Boys and Girls Clubs and is involved in other charitable work, Eldridge said.

Commission delays 30-day rental issue until after election

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — After being unable to come to an agreement on whether to limit rentals to 30 days in the R-1 district, commissioners agreed to let the new commission tackle the problem.

"These are long-term issues. We ought to wait until we get the new faces in," Commissioner Roger Lutz suggested. "We’ve only got two more meetings. I’m not sure how the vote would come out if we voted now."

Lutz said there are three new commissioners coming on in November, two elected and one appointed to the seat being vacated by Chairman Rich Bohnenberger, who will become mayor, and they can make the decision.

The issue arose during the discussion on the comprehensive plan evaluation (EAR). Originally, planning commissioners had recommended 30-day rentals in all of the residential districts in order to preserve the residential areas. However, after hearing strong opposition from city commissioners, they revised their recommendation to include only the R-1 district.

"When we looked at the R-1 district, we found there is very little being used like that (short-term rental)," planning consultant Bill Brisson explained. "I think it’s 35 units in the entire area. So, you can catch it early and prevent it from getting any worse."

Bohnenberger said commissioners agreed in the past "not to impose our desires on the population," but only to make a change if people in the district asked them to do it.

"I don’t know of any justifiable reason to do it," he said.

Brisson said that with short-term rentals, people don’t know who their neighbors are and the renters are people on vacation, who are more likely to have parties and act for their own enjoyment, disrupting the neighborhood.

Bohnenberger said he asked Police Chief Jay Romine if there are more problems with short-term rentals and he said there are more problems with permanent rentals.

He also noted, "People who own property in our city have a difficult enough time paying taxes and insurance. Don’t start tinkering with their property rights."

Lutz said every time he’s run for office, residents have told him to protect the residential neighborhoods.

"Weekly rentals are not compatible with residential living," resident Barbara Hines said. "What you have done is a form of blockbusting. It’s destroying the neighborhoods.

"You can talk about these ‘poor’ folks who bought houses on spec and are renting them. My goodness. People are not entitled to maximum returns. People are not entitled to rape neighborhoods."

Brisson and City Attorney Patricia Petruff said they had no problem with postponing a vote on the EAR until the new commissioners are in office. However, Petruff said no one could apply for a comprehensive plan amendment until the EAR is adopted and transmitted to the state for approval.

Commissioners also agreed with Brisson on resolving the land use conflict in Sportsman’s Harbor subdivision, south of Anna Maria Elementary School. The properties are designated on the future land use map (FLUM) as low density residential but are zoned R-2. Brisson recommended changed the FLUM to medium density, but the planning commission recommended rezoning the properties to R-1.


Buy coupons for fall fest

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – The Anna Maria Elementary School PTO is selling coupons for its annual fall fest to be held at the school on Saturday, Oct. 29.

The coupons are $1 and are worth a free cookie and coupon holders qualify for prizes from a drawing at the event.

The fall fest usually comes around Halloween, which falls on Tuesday, Oct. 31, this year. It begins with a parade of students in costume from Holmes Beach City Hall to the school, and it concludes with a festival for kids and their families.

Liza Morrow is the chair of the fall fest committee this year and there are some changes in store. This is the first fall fest to be held at the new campus, and the committee has decided to hold it in front and behind the school, since the new building sits further back from the street than the old one.

In addition to food, the event includes a bake sale with items from the parents, game booths from each of the classrooms with prizes for the game players and fun action events such as wall climbing, a bounce house, an obstacle course and a slide.

Last year, the event raised $10,400, but there was a question about how much money the PTO was getting from business and individual sponsors to raise that amount.

Morrow suggested the students get more involved with the preparations. This year, there will be a haunted house in the auditorium, and she suggested the students help with the decoration. One of the parents, Amelia Talucci, said her family is working on a scary booth built on a flatbed truck to look like a shark. The kids will go "inside" the shark to look for little toy sharks planted in sand.

Sponsors are needed for some of the games, and food vendors are also needed. For more information or to contribute, call the school at 708-5525.



Unusual tax solution offered

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — One resident offered a unique solution to high taxes — charge a toll on the Island’s bridges and distribute the money to property owners and businesses.

"I propose that Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach do what Sanibel Island and Gasparilla Island did many years ago — charge a toll to get on the islands," Ron Mauer said. "Charge a dollar or two per adult, except for full-time residents and property taxpayers.

"Once a year after expenses of construction of toll booths and salaries of operators, distribute the money as follows: $2,000 for each owner of real property and the remainder be distributed proportionately to the largest taxpayers — motels, restaurants and businesses."

However, commissioners told him that’s impossible because the bridges are on state roads and any money collected would have to be used for bridge maintenance.

"The bridges to Sanibel and Gasparilla are privately owned," Commissioner Roger Lutz explained. ‘That’s how they get away with charging a toll."

"Anna Maria Island is one of the few places left in the whole state where it doesn’t cost to get there or to park at the beach." Commissioner David Zaccagnino pointed out. ‘I think that’s kind of neat."

And despite another protest from Russ Olsen, who decried the city’s 1.8 millage rate and $12 million budget at the first public hearing, commissioners unanimously approved both. Olsen said the city should go back to the rollback rate of 1.63.

"There’s plenty of fat in the budget to cover that," he pointed out. "Once you establish the millage rate, you’re going to spend the money. You people are sitting on a powder keg if you don’t get things under control."

Defending the budget, Mayor Carol Whitmore said, "We’re doing dredging that hasn’t ever been done in this city’s history. We have to take care of the infrastructure.

"Also, we upped our reserves because they are very important to pay salaries and keep the city running six to seven months in case there’s a catastrophic event."

Commissioner Roger Lutz pointed out if the city lowered the millage rate, it would save each taxpayer about $50 and noted, "It’s money well spent."

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said the majority of ad valorem taxes go to the county and School Board, and he suggested that Olsen protest at their meetings.


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