Vol 7 No. 3 - October 11, 2006


Bayfest dedicated to Pete Lannon

County OKs Island tax relief

Griffith-Cline put up for sale

Two arrested in Cortez drug bust

City approves sign ordinance � finally

Habitat for Humanity: Building dreams, one house at a time

Red tide not as deadly this year

City�s comp plan ready for hearing




Bayfest dedicated to Pete Lannon

ANNA MARIA – The first festival of the season kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21, on Pine Avenue with a celebration of an important member of our community.

Bayfest 2006 will be dedicated to Holmes Beach Police officer Pete Lannon, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Proceeds from the children’s area will go to a special fund set up at Wachovia Bank for “Officer Pete,” as he is known at Anna Maria Elementary School, where he serves as resource officer.

The Island Chamber, which has worked through the summer to organize the event, has secured fun and games for the $10 for adults and $5 for children and are available at the school, 708-5525. There will be a choice of pasta and salads. The Island Girl Scout troop will host a bake sale at the dinner and the Cub Scouts will be in charge of drinks.

• Saturday, Oct. 21, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Bayfest, on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria, is being dedicated to Pete Lannon. Proceeds from the children’s play area and some other booths will go toward the Lannon family.

• Sunday, Oct. 22, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., a body massage and car wash will raise funds at Danielle’s Day Spa, 103 7th St. N., Bradenton Beach, Dina Stewart and Danielle Sewall will host a day of massage, manicures, pedicures and facials at a discounted price. Call 650-5441 now for appointments. Pete’s Teens, a group of his former students, will wash cars at a location to be announced later. All of the proceeds will go toward the Lannon family.

A fund has been set up at Wachovia Bank in Holmes Beach for the family. Tell the teller it is for the Pete Lannon Fund through Anna Maria Elementary School.

Police Chief Jay Romine said he spoke with Lannon last week by phone.

"He was very upbeat, very positive," Romine said. "We’re ready for him to get well and get back to work."

Romine said that until Lannon is ready to return to work, the day shift would fill in for his duties as crossing guard in front of the school.

Lannon was very popular with the students at the elementary school and spoke with this reporter recently about how his former students who had gone on to middle school and high school still recognized him when they saw him. He said he was flattered to think he had played a part in their lives and hoped that DARE, the anti drug, alcohol and tobacco program that he teaches to fifth graders each year would stick with them.

In 2004, The Sun newspaper named Lannon its Person of the Year and the next year, he was named the DARE Officer of the Year by Drug Abuse Resistance Education, the program’s administrators.

County OKs Island tax relief

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON – In an under-the-wire move to lower November tax bills for waterfront lodging owners, the Manatee County Commission adopted an ordinance on Tuesday that allows them to defer paying a portion of their property taxes until they sell the property or change its use.

The ordinance, originally designed to offer tax relief to owners of hotels and motels on Anna Maria Island and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key, also covers accommodations on all navigable waterways in unincorporated Manatee County.

"We are drowning, we are at the end," said Sabine Musil-Buehler, owner of Haley’s Motel, 8102 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, pleading for the deferral. The motel’s property taxes increased from $8,000 in 2002 to $42,000 this year, she said.

"These people are hanging on the brink," said Wayne Genthner of Wolfmouth Charters in Longboat Key, whose charter boat business partly depends on referrals from lodging establishments. "We’re losing the golden goose out here."

The Legislature passed an amendment to the state Working Waterfronts law earlier this year allowing counties to pass such tax relief ordinances. Hotels and motels that meet the definition of "working waterfront" property will be eligible for the deferral.

Taxes will be based on the 2002 value of the properties, plus up to 5 percent for each subsequent year, similar to the 3 percent homestead exemption tax cap for residential properties. The amount deferred will be limited to property taxes for unincorporated Manatee County, not school board or municipal taxes, Commissioner Joe McClash said.

The deferral works like a loan, requiring payment plus interest when the property is sold or redeveloped for another use.

Property owners have until Jan. 31 to fill out an application for the deferral for the 2006 tax year.

"We recognize it as being a stop-gap program, but it’s all that’s available to us until the state changes the law," said Don Schroder, president of the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation (CART), which contends that sharply rising taxes are forcing both accommodations and other tourism-related businesses to sell, crippling the tourism industry.

"This is not the panacea for anything," Commissioner Pat Glass said. "It’s like a life boat, a lifesaver right now."

Griffith-Cline put up for sale

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

They say the only things in life that are inevitable are death and taxes.

Rising taxes and insurance premiums are causing the owners of the Island’s only funeral home, to put it on the market.

Ken Griffith, owner of Griffith-Cline Funeral Homes, is listing its Island Chapel, at 6000 Marina Drive in Holmes Beach, with Wedebrock Real Estate.

According to Ken Griffith, the insurance company cancelled their coverage and replacement coverage would likely cost considerably more. In addition, he said their tax bill went up nearly 50 percent. He said they decided to sell the Island property to keep the overall business, which includes three funeral homes in Bradenton and one in Ellenton, from going into the red.

"We’re a locally owned mom and pop type of business," he said. "The chapel on the Island doesn’t bring in the revenue to justify the expense."

Griffith said it was a very emotional decision, but one that had to be made.

"My father was the one who put the deal together to purchase the property in 1961," he said. "When we first opened it, there wasn’t anything out there but an air strip."

The property is zoned commercial, according to listing agent Michael Grice, who said he is looking for the right buyer.

"It would make a great location for a doctor’s office, a professional or a contractor," he said. "We want to find a buyer who could put it to good use."

Grice said that anyone looking to develop condominiums on the property would have to get it rezoned.

"As soft as the condo market is, I think the best use for it would be as a professional office," he said. "We’ll find a good buyer for it."

Two arrested in Cortez drug bust

ByCindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ - Steven R. Fine, 50, and John Robin Kight, 51, were arrested on Oct. 5 at 4408 123rd St. Court W., according to Sgt. Robert Mealy of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Division.

Fine was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine and paraphernalia, and Kight was arrested on an outstanding warrant and charged with possession of paraphernalia.

The same day, deputies attempted unsuccessfully to serve a search warrant at another home at 12116 45th Ave. W. in Cortez, which had been temporarily vacated, he said.

The sting was part of a crackdown on drug activity in the historic fishing village, said Mealy, who plans to speak at a community meeting on the topic scheduled for Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez.

Neighbors fed up with drug activity at a homeless camp in Cortez raised funds this summer to clear the area behind the Seafood Shack billboard on Cortez Road of vegetation, making it easier for law enforcement officers to spot criminal activity. Many have reported drug activity at a pay telephone outside the Cortez post office after hours.



City approves sign ordinance � finally

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — After months of wrangling, discussion, listening to public input and hemming and hawing, the city has finally nailed down the provisions and verbiage in a new sign ordinance, which was undertaken to reduce visual clutter.

"Our initial meeting on signs was Jan. 12, Commission Chairman John Quam pointed out. "This is our 10th meeting. This is totally ridiculous."

But when all was said and done, the 10th meeting resulted in a unanimous vote for a sign ordinance that restricts each residence to one sign.

"So you mean if I have a beware of the dog sign, I can’t have a for sale sign," Commissioner Chris Tollette asked the city’s planner, Alan Garrett.

"That’s correct, Commissioner Tollette," Garrett replied. "If you want to put up a for sale sign, you have to take down your beware of dog sign. One sign and one sign only per residential property."

Realtor Don Schroder objected to the one sign provision of the ordinance.

"There are 98 single family homes on the market on the Island today," he said. "Homes are on the market an average of 119 days. We need those signs."

Schroder also argued against the requirement that the maximum size allowed for a sign in the residential districts was four square feet. And he wanted at least two signs on each property. He argued that when a home is both for sale and for rent, two signs should be allowed.

"You are taking away the ability of these folks to generate income while they are trying to sell their homes," he noted.

Any signs that are currently on commercial property that don’t conform to the new ordinance can remain where they are until December 2011, when they must be replaced with signage that complies with the codes.

All three Island cities are in the process of drafting and adopting sign ordinances. Anna Maria’s process began out of frustration by commissioners and residents with the proliferation of signs springing up like weeds on properties in the city.

In Anna Maria, Garrett started the process with a series of meetings with the business community. Simple sandwhich boards or menu boards attached to the building are now allowed in the city. A multi-business building can have one sign listing each business. There can be a sign at each entrance to a business with more than one entrance, such as the retail shops in Bayfront Plaza in Anna Maria.

Always, the issue of free speech remained as a potential legal problem. Anna Maria hired special legal counsel, Michael Connolly to advise the commission when the regular city attorney, Jim Dye, announced he had a conflict of interest since he owns rental property in the city.

Connolly is a well versed in the free speech issue.

A city can regulate sign size, the number of signs allowed on a property, the location of those signs and little else. For example, a sign ordinance would be subject to legal challenge if it had separate regulations for real estate signage. The new ordinance regulates all signs in the residential districts, for example, to one sign that cannot exceed four square feet.The new ordinance becomes law in 30 days.

Habitat for Humanity: Building dreams, one house at a time

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Members of Island Baptist Church have been raising the roof… and the walls and the windows and the doors.

About 40 members of the church have joined Manatee County Habitat for Humanity building a development of 34 homes in the Village of the Palms subdivision at the corner of Fifth Avenue West and 11th Street Drive West in Palmetto. Fifteen homes have been completed.

"We have two church campuses, one on the Island and one in Parrish, and I was looking for something both could work on without having to raise money for airfare or travel too far," Associate Pastor Sean Murphy explained. "This project is equidistant from both campuses."

The group made its first trip to Palmetto on July 29 working from 7:30 a.m. to noon in the intense summer sun.

"It’s a long half day," Irv Bobbitt acknowledged. "We work on a few houses at the same time. There’s something for all skills and skill levels."

Murphy said on the first visit, some members worked on exterior framing, while others planted shrubs and others installed interior insulation.

"It’s a great feeling to start with a slab, a bucket of nails and a pile of plywood and end up with two walls," he said. He also praised Ed Schultz, a member of the group who is in the construction business, for bringing his skills to the project, noting, ‘He can do anything."

"All that hammering sounds like a symphony," Bobbitt added.

"And nobody hollers at you if you put the nail in wrong," Laurie Adams said with a laugh.

In addition, once a month the group supplies drinks and snacks for all the volunteers. John Adams said Publix and Winn Dixie have donated drinks and snacks to the group and Island Lumber has donated building materials.

A committee selects the future homeowners, Murphy explained. They receive instruction in budgeting and money management and the Habitat organization provides interest-free mortgages. Each home costs about $70,000 excluding labor.

Laurie Adams explained that the future homeowners work alongside the volunteers and must put in 300 hours of "sweat equity" on their own or another home and noted, "It’s a wonderful example of how people can work together."

"I’ve been impressed with the homeowners that I’ve met," John Adams said. ‘They are all willing to work. They are people you know will do a good job for the house and their kids. They have a mission and we’re helping with that mission. It’s been a great experience for me."

Bobbitt pointed out that many are single mothers with several children.

"It’s unbelievable how nice the people are," Holmes Beach Commissioner Pat Morton said.

Bobbitt said in the future, the group plans to take the church’s youth with them. Youths must be at least 16 years old to work with Habitat.

"A lot of kids have had things just handed to them," Murphy explained. "This gives them a different perspective on life."

Bobbitt said the group also is "trying to get up our nerve to sponsor a home. We’d have to raise $20,000, but I think it’s doable."

Others in the group include Ed Schultz, Eloise Bobbitt, Jack and Janet Ray, Susie and Carl Jones, Sally Rebisz, David Billings, Bill Meier, Judi Church and Christine Galanopoulos.

Anyone who would like to join the group can call Murphy at 448-4661.


Red tide not as deadly this year

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Red tide continues to be a killer of marine life, but the numbers are down significantly compared to last year. The red tide bloom, which decimated fish populations in the Gulf last year, is not nearly as widespread as it was in 2005 and primarily is confined to small patches very close to the Gulf shore. Offshore, red tide virtually has disappeared from southwest Florida waters, according to reports from researchers and both commercial and sport fishermen.

The following is the latest available information on the effect of red tide on marine life this year.

This year, 16 manatee deaths, including one in Manatee County, have been attributed to red tide within the bloom area – from Pinellas to Collier counties – since July, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Red tide headed the list of causes of death for manatees last year, contributing to 81 manatee deaths in the state. Last year, five manatees died in Manatee County from natural causes, which include red tide.

This year’s red tide in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico began in July. Last year’s lasted 11 months, from January to November.

The worst red tide year on record for manatees was 1996, with 151 manatee deaths attributed to red tide, according to the institute.

Manatees inhale red tide toxins and ingest them by eating seagrass coated with the organism.

Sea turtles
Red tide is the probable cause of death of 86 sea turtles, mostly loggerheads, in Manatee and Sarasota counties so far this year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, with 21 in Manatee County and 65 in Sarasota County. Last year’s total was 143, with 101 in Manatee County and 42 in Sarasota County.

Red tide is the probable cause of death of 128 sea turtles in the red tide bloom area so far this year, according to Mote Marine Laboratory, with 48 last month alone. Last year, red tide was blamed for 176 turtle deaths.

Turtles inhale red tide toxin and ingest them by eating tainted fish.

The effect of red tide on dolphins is being studied. The death of 107 dolphins in the Florida panhandle in March and April of 2004 led researchers to the conclusion that red tide may poison dolphins through the tainted fish eaten by the marine mammals. Dolphins also inhale red tide toxins.

The worst year on record for red tide-related dolphin deaths was 1987-88, when 740 bottlenose dolphins stranded along the Atlantic coast due to suspected red tide poisoning, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Birds that die of red tide exposure are not tracked because no level of the toxin has been established as lethal for the different bird species, said Nancy Douglass, regional nongame wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Birds inhale the red tide toxin or ingest it by eating fish that have been exposed to it.



City�s comp plan ready for hearing

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — The city’s new comprehensive plan is ready for public hearing.

The plan, which is mandated by the state, will replace the 1992 version and will guide the way the city develops over the next 10 to 20 years.

"Remember, we are charged with thinking about how the city will look well into the future,” Commission Chair John Quam kept reminding his fellow commissioners. “We are not looking at individual properties."

Part of the comp plan is the Future Land Use Map, or FLUM. That map will guide the zoning regulations, which will be developed from it. The map proved to be a controversial element of the plan.

Commissioner Linda Cramer, who lives on Gulf Drive near Palmetto Avenue, contended her property should be zoned commercial.

"This property has always been commercial," she said. "It was commercial when I bought the property. I have an ordinance that shows that it was a scrivener’s error that it was wrong on the Future Land Use Map. The city intended to change my property to commercial. That was the clear intent."

Commissioner Chris Tollette moved that the commission study the issue with Cramer’s property, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Commissioners voted to move the FLUM to public hearing. The vote was 3-2 with Commissioners Cramer and Tollette voting no.

Cramer then asked commissioners to listen to long-time resident and Realtor Marie Franklin.

"She knows about this property," Cramer said. "Let me just have her tell you."

But the commission refused to take comment on a topic that was not being discussed as a formal motion, as is their regular practice.

Cramer indicated she’s not done with her efforts to get her property "returned to commercial zoning."

An ad hoc committee reviewed the comp plan over the course of a little over a year. Then it went before the planning and zoning board, which also serves as the LDA, or local planning agency.

Both the ad hoc committee and LPA made changes. The LPA held public hearings and then passed the document on to the commission.

The commission will now hold a public hearing, and anyone wanting to question or challenge anything in the proposed plan should submit their views in writing or in person at the public hearing to have their input become part of the official record.

People who previously raised objections must do so again if they want to be part of the record and be in a position to legally make a challenge at some point in the future.

After the public hearing, the city commission will make final changes to the plan and submit it to the Florida Department of Community Affairs in Tallahassee, where the plan will be accepted in part or returned to the city for changes.

Tony Arrant, the city’s consultant for the plan, said that process would take at least a year.

The public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. in Anna Maria City Hall.


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