Vol 7 No. 9 - November 22, 2006


Opposition growing to pier parking plan

Insurance reforms offered

Panel responds on boat ramp

New day in city government

Christmas boat parade set for Dec. 9

Officials break ground at Community Center

Zach the turtle set free after beating red tide

Coast Guard seeks comment on bridge opening change




Opposition growing to pier parking plan

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH - Several business leaders on and around Bridge Street want to put the pier project into neutral until more parking spaces can be found and they put that desire into words last week at a Waterfronts Florida WAVES committee meeting.

The business owners are members of WAVES and they got a resolution passed calling for the city to address the parking problem before finishing the pier rehabilitation.

Old Bridge Village developer David Teitelbaum, BeachHouse restaurant owner Ed Chiles and BridgeWalk owner Barbara Rodocker all expressed concern over the parking situation. The problem is the number of seats at the restaurant that will be built on the pier versus the number of parking spaces available.

According to West Manatee Deputy Fire Marshall Kurt Lathrop, the new restaurant will be able to hold 122 seats in indoor and outdoor seating areas. That is reportedly more than the number of seats available in the previous restaurant at that location.

In addition, Building Official Ed McAdam has identified 22 parking spaces for the restaurant in the pier parking lot and with two spaces along the bay next to the parking lot.

According to Teitelbaum, who addressed the problem previously at Scenic Highway and Planning and Zoning Board meetings, part of the problem is the fact that the city set higher standards for private projects than for city projects.

"The city has a responsibility to treat themselves and they treat others," he said. "We need studies by a third party expert before we can determine how many parking spaces they need there."

Chiles said he supports the pier project, but not with the number of parking spaces currently listed.

"The best thing to do is to solve the parking situation and then do the project," he said.

The city commission will continue its hearing on the major-development, pier rehabilitation project on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 1 p.m.

Insurance reforms offered

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

To get affordable insurance, Floridians will have to build safer homes and businesses, according to a report released last week by the Governor's Property and Casualty Insurance Reform Committee.

The committee, created in June by Gov. Jeb Bush, made recommendations to reduce the cost of premiums, increase the availability of insurance and reduce risk to homeowners and businesses.

Florida is the highest-risk state in the country for catastrophe, according to the report, with eight hurricanes in 2004-2005 causing nearly $36 billion in estimated damage statewide.

With hurricane models predicting more frequent and expensive storms, several steps need to be taken, the committee concluded, beginning with policyholders themselves.

"Floridians must be educated to the fact that building safer structures and retrofitting existing ones will lower their insurance premiums," according to the report.

The committee also recommends expanding the hurricane mitigation program created this year, citing research that every dollar spent on mitigation translates to an average of $4 dollars in premium savings.

Another building-related recommendation would require a uniform statewide building code and encourage local government incentives for construction built stronger than code requirements.

Consumer-friendly changes also need to be made, according to the report. Insurance policies should be required to specifically list the dollar amount of potential premium mitigation discounts as well as agent's commissions and assessments made to fund Citizens Property Insurance Co., the state's carrier of last resort.

To repair the problems with Citizens, the committee recommends setting its rates regularly based on the highest approved rates in the voluntary market, rather than requiring Citizens to constantly reapply for rate hikes. It also advises the Legislature to eliminate the state's "antiquated" windstorm boundaries to allow Citizens to write a statewide policy, and supports new laws encouraging other insurers to take over Citizens policies.

Another recommendation is that Citizens eliminate the rate distinction between non-homestead and homestead property. Under current law, there is no rate distinction between the two, but beginning Mar. 1, 2007, non-homestead property will be eligible for Citizens coverage only if the property owner annually obtains three declinations of coverage from surplus lines insurers and one from an authorized insurer.

A special session of the Florida Legislature may meet as early as Dec. 1 to address the recommendations.

Panel responds on boat ramp

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH - Commissioners last week said public safety, not control, is the issue at Kingfish ramp.

City commissioners had asked Manatee County commissioners to consider a voluntary annexation of the ramp area. However, county commissioners said they were not interested in the proposal.

Until recently, the city thought it owned the ramp area and its officers patrolled it. City and county officials ordered surveys of the ramp after city commissioners and residents of Westbay Cove protested a county plan to increase the ramp's parking area and remove the Brazilian peppers between the ramp and the condo.

"I was at a county commission meeting and (County Commission Chairman) Joe McClash mentioned the letter from the city of Holmes Beach asking them to consider annexation. (County Commissioner) Jane von Hahmann said, ‘If we own it, why should we bother. Then we don't have to go through anybody regarding the boat ramp,'" Mayor Carol Whitmore told the board.

"I wanted to get up and say it's mainly for public safety. It's already happened. Now that we know it's not our property, we ‘re having to call MSO (Manatee Sheriff's Office) to come out to the Island to take care of something at the boat ramp."

Whitmore suggested they ask Police Chief Jay Romine to speak with Manatee County Commissioner Ron Getman, formerly of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), about the issue.

I had an extensive conversation with Jane von Hahmann today and they're totally not interested in allowing us in the area," Commissioner David Zaccagnino affirmed. "I think from the short letter they got from us, it was kind of a knee-jerk reaction. They didn't understand the reasons why we were requesting it."

Zaccagnino also pointed out that the city's interlocal agreement with the county regarding the ramp area is expired.

Lt. Dale Stephenson said the problem is that when there is a crime at the ramp, police dispatchers must notify MSO and when there is an accident, they must notify the FHP. Both units must come from Bradenton.

"Before, we patrolled to the foot of the bridge," Stephenson explained. "Now, if anything happens that's criminal, MSO has to send a deputy. We still patrol the area, and we can take care of the circumstance, but we have to wait for MSO to arrive to make an arrest."

Commissioners agreed with Whitmore's suggestion.

New day in city government

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — A new mayor, a new commissioner and a newly re-elected commissioner took their seats on the dais last week.

City Clerk Alice Baird administered the oath of office to Mayor Fran Barford and Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick and Duke Miller.

The new city officials were honored with a reception in the city commission chambers.

In an organizational meeting following the reception, commissioners chose John Quam to be the deputy mayor and commission chair. Chris Tollette is the new deputy chair of the commission.

All commissioners read and signed the code of ethics.

Committee assignments were made: Mattick will serve as liaison to the Historical Society, Miller to the environmental committee and the AMI Chamber of Commerce and Tollette will be the liaison to the Community Center.

Commissioner Dale Woodland will continue to work with the Capital Improvement Advisory Committee and Quam will be liaison to the Island Players.

In one of his first duties after his fellow commissioners selected him as commission chair, Quam thanked former Commissioner Linda Cramer for her six years of service.

She had some words of her own.

"I hope that you will move forward with good spirit and with civility," Cramer told commissioners. "I have my own issues like mold and a walkable community. I thank you all and wish you the best. If you need anything, call me."

Quam also thanked outgoing Mayor SueLynn for her service to the city. Quam noted that she chose not to attend the meeting, but he publicly thanked her for her four-plus years of service to the city.

"She initiated more projects than any other mayor, including the remodeling of city hall, the re-forming of the capital improvement advisory committee," Quam said. "She got the comp plan review underway and hired Planner Tony Arrant to help with that."

Quam thanked SueLynn for her service and said that a "sturdy oak tree" would be planted in her honor at the historical society complex

He showed a picture of how the oak was expected to look in 50 years.

The commission then proceeded to hold its regular meeting.



Christmas boat parade set for Dec. 9

Mark your calendar for Saturday, Dec. 9, when the Cortez Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade sets sail at dusk from the Seafood Shack marina in Cortez.

The parade, co-sponsored by The Island Sun, offers a touch of holiday cheer to the area as sailboats, power boats and even a dinghy or two are outfitted with colorful lights and festive decorations.

The route begins at the marina and travels south along the Intracoastal Waterway to Longboat Pass, then reverses course coming back up the ICW to end at the Seafood Shack.

There will be $1,000 in cash prizes awarded for the best-decorated boats in the following categories: power, sail, dinghy, 35 feet and under and over 35 feet.

Boat owner packets are still available at The Sun office in Island Sun Plaza, 9801 Gulf Drive in Anna Maria. Packets also are available at the West Marine Express Store in Holmes Beach.

Sponsors this year are The Sun, Gulf Auto Clinic of Bradenton and Cortez Yacht Sales. For more informationcall Chantelle or Louise at The Sun at 778-3986.

Officials break ground at Community Center

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Thursday was a happy day for Island Community Center officials and the board, the construction team, financiers and members of the community as they gathered to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new building.

"This is a great day," Executive Director Pierrette Kelly said. "I thank all of you for allowing me to work with you to make this happen."

"This has been a very long time coming," Andy Price, chairman of the board, said. "Back in the ‘60s, when my parents moved here, I was a very young child. The first place I came was the Community Center. It was the one before the one that was recently demolished.

"I grew up in that Community Center. It's where I learned how to swim, sail, play football, baseball, basketball, tennis, everything. That Community Center really formed my life. It taught me about community service because there was one employee and everybody else was a volunteer."

Price acknowledged board member Stuart Moon as the driving force behind the construction project and Kelly as the key to keeping the board focused.

Moon said the project was initiated four years ago and in that four-year period, "one hell of a lot happened. Construction prices went crazy. Our original $2.5 million went way up. FEMA came in and that added probably a $1 million to the cost

"We had one gym and one classroom. We had to go ahead; we had no choice. We made the monumental decision to bite the bullet and build a new Community Center."

Jeff Boyd, of Northern Trust Bank, which made the construction loan for the project, said the Center has been the cultural Mecca of the Island for 46 years, serving all ages from infants to senior citizens.

Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, who came to the Island at age 14, said she, like Price, grew up in the Community Center.

"The Youth Center was a very, very important part of my life," Whitmore said. "It's been a very important part of my daughter's life. I brought her here for preschool, after school, all through school because I worked full time. It was a wonderful place, and she's had a good foundation.

"I believe strongly that we have to give our kids some place to go and something to do or we're not going to have the end result that we really want. I believe this is going to be a wonderful thing, and they're going to offer a lot of things that have never been available on the Island."

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said city officials are proud to have the Community Center in the city, and "It's a wonderful anchor and a wonderful opportunity to serve the community."

Construction on the new building began shortly after the old building's demolition in September. Foundation work is underway and walls will begin rising in December.

The exterior of the building should be completed by the end of February, and then interior work will begin. Completion is expected at the end of June 2007.


Zach the turtle set free after beating red tide

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA - An adult male loggerhead sea turtle named Zach was released into the Gulf of Mexico on Friday.

He was carried across the beach on a canvas stretcher to a foam pad waiting just above the surf line. The turtle was a muddy brown with lighter marks on his skin.

Zach crawled a few steps and then hesitated. Male sea turtles normally spend their entire lives at sea. The only time they ever touch sand is when they hatch from their eggs and scramble across the beach and into the water.

Finally, a wave broke over the loggerhead's shell. The muddy brown became shiny and showed lines of yellow. The turtle's head and front flippers became colorful and lined with bright black and yellow lines in the tan skin.

Slowly, Zach entered the water, letting a few waves break over him before heading out.

His head appeared once above the surface to take a breath, and then he was gone.

The turtle is one of three adult males equipped with a satellite-tracking device to be released in the last several days.

He was found on the beach in Boca Grande on Sept. 8 of this year. He was extremely lethargic, but somewhat responsive.

Dr. Charles Manire, Mote's chief veterinarian, suspected the turtle was suffering from red tide toxicosis. Tests later confirmed that diagnosis.

The turtle, which was named for one of the people who found him, was treated and recovered quickly.

He was released from the end of Magnolia Avenue in Anna Maria with a satellite tracker attached to his back.

"Very little is known about adult male turtles," Manire said. "We know a little about the females because we are able to attach trackers to them when they come ashore to nest, but we haven't been able to learn much about the males so far."

Manire said with the recovery of Zach and two other turtles that were sickened by red tide, there was a unique opportunity to learn more about the adult male loggerheads.

Zach and the other two loggerheads' satellite antennas will send a signal to a satellite each time they surface for air.

If the antennas hold up, scientists should be able to track the turtles' movements for up to two years.

"That's if we're lucky," Manire said. "They tend to rub against rocks and other things, so the antennas may be damaged or come loose, but we're hoping for the best."

So far, Zach appears to be heading south. There is still red tide in the areas south of Anna Maria Island, which is why the adult male was released from here rather than from Boca Grande where he was found.

Chilly Willy

Chilly Willy, a juvenile green turtle that was released from the same location during the late summer, continues to do well.

The Sun helped Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch raise funds to outfit Willy with a tracking device.

He was first found floating off the bay side of the Island on Valentine's Day of this year.

AMI Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox got a call about the turtle, got him and took him to Mote where it was discovered that he was suffering from cold shock.

As Willy recovered, Turtle Watch was collecting funds to outfit him with the tracker.

The device itself costs $2,000, and satellite time is another $1,000.

With the funds raised, Willy became the first juvenile green turtle to be tracked from this coast.

Manire said scientists have learned a lot from Willy.

"We always suspected that turtles would try to avoid red tide if they could, and that appears to be what happened," Manire said.

"At first Willy headed south toward the red tide, but then he made a big circle and headed north. He's hanging around a grassy bed to the north."

Willy's satellite signal is coming from the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Willy appears to be doing well.

How to check in on the turtles

Citizen scientists can check on any sea turtle outfitted with a tracker. Log onto seaturtle.org. In the menu on the left hand side of the screen, you'll find a listing called "animal finder." There's a box to enter the name of the animal you're tracking. Enter the name and click on "go." That will tell you the turtle's last known location.



Coast Guard seeks comment on bridge opening change

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Residents have until Dec. 8 to send their comments to the Coast Guard regarding the change in bridge openings from every 20 minutes to every 30 minutes for the Island's two drawbridges.

The change, which was to begin Jan.15, may be delayed due to a problem with the Coast Guard's notice requirements. Implementation of 30-minute openings should take place by the end of January

Once implemented, the schedule will be in place from Jan. 15 to May 15 between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. each year. There will be 20-minute openings the remainder of the year.

The issue began in 2005, when the Island's mayors asked the Coast Guard to review the existing regulations regarding drawbridge openings. The Coast Guard published a notice of the proposed change and took public comments. In addition, it held a public meeting in Holmes Beach in March 2006.

The Coast Guard received a total of 45 comments. Eighteen were in favor of the proposal, six were against nighttime closures, seven were against the curfew hours (the original plan called for no openings between 7:35 and 8:29 a.m. and 4:35 and 5:29 p.m.), two requested staggered hours between the two bridges rather than both opening on the same schedule, six favored the change only during the season and nine were against the proposal.

Comments can be sent to Commander (dpb), Seventh Coast Guard District, 909 SE First Avenue, Room 432, Miami FL 33131-3050. Comments must include the docket number, CGD07-05-097.

For further information, contact Michael Lieberum at (305) 415-6744.


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