Agreement close on LBK trolley extension
RoseBay to sell GSR properties
New bridge schedule begins Feb. 21
End is near for mystery boat
Tax relief next on agenda
seeks to land property
Roser Cottage OK to become real estate office
rates ordered lower
on LBK trolley extension
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
BRADENTON BEACH The Sarasota County Area Transit
(SCAT) bus that now comes as far north as the Coquina
Beach turnaround is a new sight to the Island, but
it may soon be replaced by a sight that will be new
to Sarasota County.
According to Manatee County Community Affairs Director
Fred Loveland, the transit agencies of both counties
have agreed on a formula to finance an extension of
the trolleys south to Sarasota and are under the gun
to proceed with a grant application.
"There is a state grant available for $370,000
and they have until Feb. 15 to apply," he said.
"SCAT officials are going to their county commission
(this) week to ask if they want to apply for the grant
and MCAT (Manatee County Area Transit) officials will
do the same with their county commission. If both
commissions agree, they will go ahead with the application."
The transit agencies reportedly agreed on a formula
for financing the extended service, estimated to cost
$1,270,000. The grant would pay $370,000 of that and
Loveland said Manatee County would pay 38 percent
of the rest with Sarasota picking up the remainder.
"It will run 30-minute headway from Coquina to
Lemon Avenue (in Sarasota) with service to Bay Isles
and City Isle (on Longboat Key)," he said. "There
would be three trolleys in service at any time."
Loveland said if the county commissions approve the
extension, the grant would be available for three
Both transit agencies have been talking about extending
the service for two years, since Longboat Key elected
officials told members of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan
Planning Agency that their constituents expressed
a desire to have trolley service. Thats a turnaround
from 14 years ago when former Longboat Key Councilman
Ray Metz was pulled from a committee asking for trolley
service because the Longboat Key Commission decided
it did not want the service on the island. After Metz,
the committees chairman, left, former Holmes
Beach City Commissioner Carol Whitmore assumed the
chairmanship. She took a proposal to the Manatee County
Commission, which rejected it unless the three Island
cities paid a share. The trolley issue died, but a
private service began operating. It lasted a few years
until it lost sponsorship.
Five years ago, Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash
brought it back and after MCAT worked out a financing
proposal, the county got grants to purchase the trolleys
and operated them from its budget. It has been termed
a huge success with an average daily ridership of
RoseBay to sell
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH RoseBay Real Estate is opening
a new Island office this week to handle sales of properties
owned by GSR Development LLC, AMI Development LLC,
and their principals.
The new branch at 5508 Marina Drive in the Nica Rose
bead shop is staffed by three sales associates, said
Lynn Parker, broker for RoseBays Manatee office,
who will manage the Island office. Hours will be Monday
through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A Tampa bankruptcy court approved RoseBay last week
as the exclusive sales broker for 11 Anna Maria Island
properties that the court values at nearly $9.3 million,
whose proceeds are slated to repay creditors. GSR,
AMI and their principals, Robert Byrne and Steven
Noriega, owe more than 20 creditors more than $30
million, according to court records.
GSRs other Island properties, the vacant Rosa
del Mar property in Bradenton Beach and nearly-vacant
Villa Rosa in Anna Maria Island, are being marketed
separately under the supervision of William Maloney,
GSRs chief restructuring manager in the Chapter
11 bankruptcy proceeding, she said.
The court has set "buy it now" prices for
the properties, but lower offers will be accepted
as sealed bids, Parker said, adding that Maloney will
open the bids on March 15 and negotiate sales subject
to court approval.
Parker said that the properties, which range from
$499,000 to nearly $1.5 million, are good values if
Island real estate prices increase even modestly each
"It will be driven by the market," she said,
adding if they do not sell by March 15, the court
will consider another marketing plan.
RoseBay will earn a 6 percent commission on sales,
with the possibility of a 1 percent bonus for sales
contracts submitted before March 15, according to
Founded in 1983, RoseBay has 65 realtors in three
offices in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
New bridge schedule
begins Feb. 21
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
At long last, the change to half-hour openings for
the three Island bridges is set to begin on Wednesday,
Feb. 21, announced Mike Howe, executive director of
the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Agency
The bridges will open for boats every half-hour instead
of every 20 minutes between the hours of 6 a.m. and
7 p.m. from now until May 15. After May 15, the bridge
schedule will revert to 20-minute openings. After
this year, the half-hour schedule will be in place
every year between Jan. 15 and May 15.
Boaters can receive notice of the change on line,
Michael Lieberum, Coast Guard spokesman said. The
information can be accessed at www.navcen.uscg.gov.
Once there, click on Local Notice to Mariners on the
left side and then click on the Seventh Coast Guard
District on the map.
The process has taken two years to complete. In 2004
the Island mayors began lobbying for the rule change.
After going through the process with publication in
the Federal Register and a public meeting for comment
in April, the Coast Guard agreed to the change for
five months each year.
However, in November, officials learned that the proposed
rule change was different than the notice of proposed
rule change that led to the public hearing. Coast
Guard officials said this necessitated a new notice
of proposed rule change prior to publication of a
That process began in November and the rule was published
in the Federal Register on Jan. 21. The process is
complete 30 days after the publication, or Feb. 21.
End is near
for mystery boat
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
CORTEZ The orphaned riverboat that sits on
the shallow bottom of Sarasota Bay off Cortez will
be dismantled and hauled to the county landfill this
week, unless Cortez historians can act fast to save
In its prime, the Henry M. Flagler was powered by
paddlewheels on both sides and carried passengers
who sat on barstools once owned by Chicago mobster
"Machine Gun" Kelly. Built from antique
wood, it served as a houseboat until it was abandoned
to the elements and left to rust and decay.
Its sad to see the once-grand vessel meet such
a fate, especially within sight of the historic fishing
village of Cortez, which loves nothing better than
to preserve maritime artifacts.
But it seems that one arm of the county the
clerks office, in charge of historic preservation
didnt know what another arm of the county
the conservation lands management department
was planning, until the latter sent a press
release to The Sun.
Roger Allen, site coordinator for the Florida Maritime
Museum, a cooperative venture of the county clerks
office and the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage,
was surprised to hear of the demolition plans on Friday,
and immediately began investigating.
The Manatee County Conservation Lands Management team
says the 30-by-60-foot vessel, whose metal hull is
dangerously rusted, is a hazard to navigation and
is killing seagrass beds every time it shifts on the
shallow bottom. But they werent able to find
the owner to force him to remove it.
Theyre not the only ones. Other agencies have
tried and failed to tackle the mystery of the Flaglers
ownership, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida
Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The Sun discovered in 2004 that local mariner Bob
Pillsbury once owned the riverboat and traced sales
to "Cowboy" of Cowboys Party Bus and
Limos on Anna Maria Island, who told The Sun that
he had sold it in 2002 to someone who worked for John
And the trail ended there.
Even the clues on a sign posted on the boat didnt
The Henry M. Flagler was built in 1977 primarily
from antique woods and fittings from Northern Florida.
Three Flagler Beach artists purchased the steel hull
from a sightseeing company and commenced construction.
Among elements are external tongue and groove siding,
front doors, internal ceilings and floors and a medicine
cabinet, all from the Glenwood Hospital, razed from
its 100-year-old site in Palatka, Florida; sliding
doors and four barstools from the Ortega, Florida
home of Chicagos "Machine Gun" Kelly,
and various doors, windows and hardware from buildings
in and around Jacksonville and Daytona Beach. Today
it serves as the administrative offices for Brandy
Marine of Sarasota Inc., the marine concession at
the Harbourside Moorings.
Harbourside Moorings is now Longboat Key Moorings,
but no one there seems to know anything about the
boats ownership, either.
Why all the fuss about the owner?
Because without one, we taxpayers have to pay $26,000
for the boats removal.
While other agencies have no funds to remove derelict
vessels, Manatee County does, under its Lost and Abandoned
And while its good news that one of the many
agencies involved is finally moving the Flagler off
the seagrass beds, its sad news that no one
called the cavalry of Cortez maritime preservationists
until the eleventh hour.
Tax relief next
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
With the ink still wet on the new property insurance
reform law, Gov. Charlie Crist already is working
on his next agenda item - support of a statewide special
election later this year on property taxes.
Crist announced last week that he supports the Legislatures
plan to put a constitutional amendment before voters
to double the homestead exemption from $25,000 to
$50,000 and make the Save Our Homes annual 3 percent
tax limit portable. Both issues were key components
of his gubernatorial campaign.
In addition to expanding the laws to benefit homeowners,
new statewide property tax legislation could extend
those protections to non-homesteaded homeowners, landlords
and business owners.
Legislators plan to begin drafting tax legislation
after getting citizen input from eight town hall meetings
in January and February. The Tampa Bay hearing is
scheduled on Feb. 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Hillsborough
Community College in Tampa. Comments are also accepted
at the property tax section of the Florida Senate's
Manatee County commissioners passed a local tax relief
bill last fall aimed at helping tourist accommodations
owners. It allows owners of certain properties, including
public lodging establishments on Anna Maria Island
and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key, to
defer paying the county portion of their property
taxes until they sell their property or change its
Critics, including Manatee County Tax Collector Ken
Burton Jr., said the new law offers only limited assistance
for a limited number of taxpayers.
FISH seeks to
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
CORTEZ The Florida Institute for Saltwater
Heritage is seeking to land a piece of property that
will help make its FISH Preserve complete.
The FISH board voted last week to begin negotiations
to buy the property at 4435 114th St. W., the last
interior parcel in the preserve that the not-for-profit
preservation group does not own.
FISH has been acquiring property for the 95-acre preserve
for several years using proceeds from its main fundraiser,
the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, which
will host its 25th "silver mullet" anniversary
festival the weekend of Feb. 17-18. So far, it has
spent about $530,000 on land purchases, according
to Roger Allen, site coordinator for the Florida Maritime
Museum, located on the western edge of the preserve.
Owner Iris LeMasters is listed on the Manatee County
Property Appraisers Office website as having
purchased the half-acre property in 1997 for $3,000.
The appraised value is listed as $22,620. The parcel
was advertised for sale during the 2005 real estate
boom at $1.2 million.
Duncan Real Estate advertised the lot as follows:
Build your Florida dream home on this one-of-a-kind,
half-acre bayfront lot completely surrounded by preserve.
But according to Allen, the dream is not likely to
come true. The property has no road, water, sewer,
electric or cable lines leading to it, which could
cost a half million dollars to build, he said.
In addition, because of the lands low elevation,
most of the property would likely be required to be
a retention pond, leaving little room for a home,
he said, adding that the property owner has no access
to Sarasota Bay, since the preserves bay frontage
is lined with a protected mangrove fringe.
FISH is clearing non-native vegetation on the preserve
and installing walkways to make the park more accessible
to the public.
The preserve is the largest project of the group,
established in 1991 to acquire a museum site in Cortez.
The FISH mission also includes collecting, researching,
interpreting and conserving the historic resources
of Florida commercial fisheries and the material culture
and folklife of traditional fishing communities, and
enhancing public awareness and support for the protection
of Floridas marine resources and the fisheries
OK to become real estate office
By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA With a unanimous vote, the city
commission gave the go ahead to turn Roser Cottage
into a real estate office.
"Im so relieved," said Barbara Sato,
who plans to open the office. "Ive never
seen so many people rush forward to try to help me.
Everyone in the city administration has just been
so helpful, especially the new mayor and Diane Sacca
in the building department.
The cottage, located at 519 Pine Ave., is the oldest
existing house on the Island. Jake Martin purchased
it last fall. Barbara Sato was set to open Sato Real
Estate there, when she discovered that she would have
to go through a months-long major site plan process.
The development plan was required because of a change
in use from residential to office.
A major site plan review is a lengthy and expensive
process. The Island Community Center and The Sandbar
restaurant plans were held up for months going through
the hoops required to gain approval to begin construction.
Those were major construction projects.
Roser Cottage is in the ROR (residential/office/retail)
district, and all Sato needed to do to the property
physically was to add a handicapped access ramp and
a handicapped parking space. But because of an oversight
in drafting the site plan ordinance, the project had
to jump through all the hoops required of a major
In record time, the city led Sato and her project
through the complicated steps required to clear the
preliminary and final site plan approval process.
On Jan. 22, the planning and zoning board gave unanimous
approval to the preliminary site plan.
On Jan. 24, the city commission approved the preliminary
and final site plans and granted a variance to allow
the handicapped access ramp to intrude 2.9 feet into
"This construction is consistent with your comprehensive
plan which encourages the city to support adaptive
re-use of buildings like this," Scott Rudicille,
Satos attorney, said to commissioners.
Sato said as soon as her building permit is approved,
she expects the actual construction to just take a
The city is working to make changes to the site plan
ordinance so that people embarking on minor projects,
such as the one at Roser Cottage, dont have
to spend the time and money to make a few changes.
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
Some customers of Florida Peninsula Insurance Company
are entitled to rebate checks or credits toward future
premiums, according to the Florida Insurance Commission.
Commissioner Kevin McCarty ordered the company to
reduce its rates because it began imposing higher
rates prior to obtaining approval from the Office
of Insurance Regulation for its April, 2006 rate increase
request. The request would have raised Peninsulas
rates statewide by an average of 91 percent, effectively
doubling its policyholders current rates, according
to the Florida Insurance Commission.
Florida Peninsula offers wind-only property insurance
policies that originally were written by Citizens
Property Insurance Corporation.
"I am ordering Florida Peninsula to reduce its
rates to no more than 25 percent above Citizens rates,"
McCarty said in the order. "The dramatic price
hikes in the global reinsurance markets have hit Floridians
very hard, but to expect policyholders to shoulder
this type of an increase is unsustainable."
Florida Peninsula must pay policyholders the difference,
if any, between the amount paid by each policyholder
since June 15, 2006, and the rate mandated by the
order, plus interest, on the policy renewal date.
The payments can consist of a credit toward the renewal
premium for any policyholder whose policy renewed
after Oct. 11, 2006, but for policyholders who cancel
or fail to renew their policy after that date, the
refund must be made by check.
McCarty also issued an order allowing all Floridians
who were being charged unapproved rates, including
Florida Peninsula policyholders, to seek coverage
from Citizens. Under the order, any Florida Peninsula
customers who pursued this option between Oct. 11
and 31 may reinstate their coverage with Florida Peninsula.