Officials blast state tax reform plan
Horror flick to be shot in Cortez
City to seek cleanup costs
Mayor urges residents to oppose property tax proposal
Teens pitch in with Leffis cleanup
costs prompt site plan extension request
Commissioner introduces county administrator
favors expanding parking areas
state tax reform plan
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
A proposal by Florida House Republican leaders to
eliminate property taxes on homesteaded properties,
reduce taxes except to the School Board on all properties
and raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 8.5
percent has Island mayors seeing red.
"On the surface, it looks like mom and apple
pie, but its a Trojan horse," Holmes Beach
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger stressed at a meeting of Island
mayors and AMI Chamber of Commerce officials Friday.
"We would have to dismantle the cities. This
is a big issue that needs to be addressed right now,
"The governor thinks were awash in money
and we need to curb our spending. How can we curb
our spending when we only have 20 percent thats
not dedicated to salaries and benefits? The way this
is being proposed, we would be limited to a millage
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said he attended
a tax seminar for elected officials and "everybody
was complaining about local government, that theyre
spending like crazy.
"They have no idea what cities are going through.
Citizens are going to have to take a hard look at
the services they want and now expect."
Bohnenberger urged the Chamber and the mayors to join
together to fight the proposal and said that 60 days
is not enough time for the legislature to resolve
such a complex issue.
"What can we do to get our voice heard?"
Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford asked.
Bohnenberger suggested that the mayors and the Chamber
host an Island-wide town hall meeting on the issue.
He said residents and business owners should e-mail
their elected officials.
Chamber Board of Directors Chairman Mark Davis said
they should invite an expert on the issue to be the
moderator. He also suggested that the Chamber use
its Web site to tell people where to get information
on the issue.
In a meeting on Thursday with constituents of Manatee
County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, County Administrator
Ed Hunzeker expressed similar sentiments.
"Pay attention about this discussion the states
having about reducing your property taxes," he
cautioned. "What Im talking about is what
were going have to do when that happens.
"The state lives on sales tax; local government
lives on property taxes. Theyre appealing to
the voters about a revenue that wont impact
their operations at all, but it will absolutely cripple
He said the proposal could cut revenue to the county
government by $50 to $90 million, and the first things
that would get cut from the budget are the quality
of life items such as the parks, the purchase of environmental
lands, child care and elder care.
"We should be spending time on community issues,
but were spending every day watching the legislature
attack local government as if were criminals,"
he concluded. "How can reasonable human beings
with three digits in their IQs come up with some of
Horror flick to
be shot in Cortez
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
CORTEZ If you see a giant horseshoe crab in
Sarasota Bay thats as big as the boat thats
towing it, dont get the idea that crabber Mark
Ibasfalean has found the mother lode.
Its only the local fisherman/film producers
"Its a documentary inside a horror movie,"
said Ibasfalean, whose recent credits include acting
in the film Vampire Biker Babes and co-producing
the cable television series Captain Kims
Adventures, starring his wife, Kim, who worked
on the 2003 movie Out of Time, filmed
partly in Cortez.
The new project hasnt been named yet, but Ibasfalean
is thinking about something with blue blood
in the title.
The prehistoric horseshoe crab has blue blood, you
see, one of the many things that viewers of the film
will learn about the lowly crab, which is really not
a crab at all, but a member of the spider family.
For example, a special substance in horseshoe crab
blood is used to test for bacterial contamination
in drugs, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission. And the material that makes
up the animals exoskeleton is used to make contact
lenses, skin cream and hair spray.
But not as scary as the film.
Without giving away the plot, an earthquake or similar
natural disaster will be staged and the crabs will
invade Cortez, or a village that looks uncannily like
While no horseshoe crabs will be harmed in the making
of the film, dead ones may be piled on a dock with
a few live ones to make the crab invasion look vast,
In a close-up without stage makeup, the crabs can
look pretty menacing, but in real life, theyre
docile. Their tails, which are often mistaken as stingers
similar to a stingrays, are really only used
to flip themselves over when theyre washed upside
Like all marine life, horseshoe crabs are threatened
by natural occurrences such as red tide and by manmade
threats, so much so that in an effort to preserve
them, the state sponsors a toll free horseshoe crab
hotline to call if you see them mating 1-866-252-9326.
But if you see a 20-foot horseshoe crab in the bay
that isnt being towed by a film crews
boat, better call the marine patrol.
City to seek
By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA Construction Attorney Mark Nelson
has been hired to represent the city as it seeks to
recover expenses caused by leaks that occurred while
a new roof was being installed.
Nelson will seek to recover the money the city will
have to pay to remove mold caused by the leak, to
remove asbestos discovered while the mold damage was
being assessed, to pay for reconstruction costs after
the mold and asbestos problems are fixed and to pay
for the costs of relocating city hall operations to
the Island Baptist Church while the whole project
is taking place.
Mayor Fran Barford has asked the church for an extension
of the seven weeks that the city originally planned
to occupy temporary quarters there.
"Its just going to take longer, now that
we know theres asbestos there as well as mold,"
Barford said. "In some places, theres mold
growing on the asbestos. Can you imagine? You would
think the asbestos would kill the mold."
While the mold removal protocol and survey was being
done, asbestos was discovered in the building.
"We have to deal with the asbestos before we
can deal with the mold," Barford said.
Late last week, the city received the asbestos survey.
The next step is to go out for bids so a contract
can be signed with an asbestos removal company.
Once that step is accomplished, the asbestos that
will be disturbed during mold clean up will be removed.
Asbestos that wont be disturbed can be left
in place without health consequences to people who
use the building.
Then the mold will be removed. Following that, reconstruction
of all the areas destroyed by the mold removal will
be done. New carpeting and some new furniture will
have to be installed as well.
The mold damage was the result of a flood in the building
last August while Roof USA was installing a new roof.
Several other leaks occurred both during and after
the re-roofing project.
"We have to get it right this time," Barford
said. "We just have to get it right."
residents to oppose property tax proposal
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH Calling it a "train wreck,"
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger blasted the property tax proposal
being touted by Florida House Republican leaders (See
related story on Page 1) at Saturdays civic
"If this proposal becomes law, our milage would
go from 1.8 to .93, we could pay only 50 percent of
our employees, wed have to change from a 10-year
to a 20- or 25-year paving program and there would
be no money to support the Community Center or for
beautification or drainage projects."
Bohnenberger said the property tax crisis was created
by the constitutional amendment that capped the yearly
increase for homesteaded properties to 3 percent.
"We have a gross inequity in the taxing structure
in the state of Florida," he explained. "What
causes it is Amendment 10, which put a cap on our
properties. It created a total imbalance, and the
taxes on commercial, rental and part-time residents
have shot up dramatically.
He said if the proposal were enacted, the state would
have the highest sales tax in the nation, which would
discourage tourism because tourists would also have
to pay the hotel tax, which could be 20 percent in
some areas of the state.
He made a four-part suggestion for state legislators
Place a 3 percent cap on all property taxes
to "stop the bleeding" and give them time
to study the issue;
Look at a proposal by former Sen. John McKay,
which would require legislators to review the states
sales tax exemptions every five years;
Change the law allowing people who move in
to a home after the first of January to be exempt
from property taxes until the following January;
Review the requirements for appraising property.
"The state government cant run local government,"
he stressed. "You elect the people you want to
represent you and if you dont trust them, get
rid of them. People in Tallahassee are too far removed
from reality as far as what we have to deal with day
He urged people to contact their local legislative
delegation about the issue.
in with Leffis cleanup
By Hannah Eddy
special to the sun
Last Monday, Feb.19, many teens thought to spend
their day sitting around the television. However,
a select few, working with the Anna Maria Island Community
Centers Teen Program, decided to help the Manatee
County Conservation Lands Management Department (CLM)
clean up the mangroves at Leffis Key. Under the guidance
of the departments education coordinator, Melissa
Cain, and two interns, Amanda Croteau and Charissa
Jones, the teens, along with Center Teen Director
Jeff Darwin, cleaned up the litter that had washed
up along the shore from the bay.
The teens who decided that it was a good idea to help
clean the mangroves were Rainia Lardas, Chelsea Crowton,
Joey Tilelli, Mackenzie Kosfeld, Christopher Mundell,
Katie Hunt, Allison Luktisch and Sage Geeraerts. All
of the teens were interested in why we should protect
our environment and enthusiastically asked a lot of
"It was pretty cool," Tilelli said, after
the cleanup. "We learned a lot about protecting
The Teen Program and CLM are looking forward to cleaning
up another one of Manatees many mangrove habitats.
The next date is set for March 17.
If you are a teen and are interested in helping clean
up the environment, or just want to know what the
teens are doing any night of the week, call Jeff Darwin
at the Anna Maria Island Community Center at 778-1908.
At the Teen Program, something is always going on.
prompt site plan extension request
By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA The owners of a property on Pine
Avenue have been granted a three-month extension to
their site plan.
Robert and Nicky Hunt, the owners of the property
at 303 Pine Avenue, will have at least three months
more to apply for permits to build the three-story
structure they plan.
The property was embroiled in a court case for several
months when the city commission turned down their
initial application. The commission ruled that there
could not be three occupied floors.
The Hunts appealed the city commission ruling and
prevailed. The Circuit Court judge found that three
usable floors are allowed in the ROR (residential/office/retail)
district under the citys land use codes.
Hunt now wants to extend the time limits on the final
site plan, citing the property market, construction
costs and the expense and difficulty of getting insurance.
"We purchased the property in October 2003 to
be our home and run our business from," Hunt
said. "At that time we should have been able
to apply for a permit and begin construction of our
home. Most unfortunately, within three weeks of purchasing
the land, a moratorium had been placed on all commercial
building, which was not lifted for several months."
Hunt reminded commissioners that when the moratorium
was lifted, there was a lengthy site plan procedure
"In line with this procedure, we submitted a
plan that was checked to be in code by outside consultants,
the building inspector and further confirmed by the
city attorney," Hunt said. "Unfortunately,
the commission voted not to take the advice of the
professionals that had been employed and voted against
In court, the Hunts prevailed.
During the ensuing years, circumstances have changed
to the extent that the Hunts feel they must delay
This process took two years during which building
costs soared, insurance coverage stopped and ultimately
the real estate market went over the top," he
said. It would not be an understatement to say that
the decision taken by the commission to turn down
our application cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars,
not to mention the enormous stress and worry."
The real estate market is still depressed, building
costs are high but coming down and the insurance market
is still an unknown, according to Hunt.
He asked commissioners to extend his site plan for
a year to give the market a chance to settle out.
There was some question of whether or not the code
would allow it, so in the interim, Hunt has been granted
a three-month extension while the city explores ways
to work with him on getting the extension he needs.
introduces county administrator
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann brought
a special guest to her monthly district meeting to
meet her constituents new County Administrator
"He actually came to work for us in October of
last year without pay for three months," von
Hahmann explained. "Then he came on board full
time the second week of January."
Hunzeker showed his sense of humor when he told the
group that his name was Ed and that "Mr. Hunzeker"
was his 97-year old father.
"Hes still Big Ed, no matter how old and
frail he gets and Im still Little Ed, no matter
how big and fat I get," he said to the delight
of the group.
Hunzeker said he has been in the business for 39 years
and first started in the health department in St.
Louis County, Mo., while in college. After graduation,
he worked as a health department accountant, a county
auditor, a hospital administrator and a chief financial
"Then I got tired of winter," he said. "I
was down here visiting and got the typical Yankee
sunburn. I went back and there was one of those freak
late March snowstorms, and I was shoveling snow with
a sunburn and I said, Thats it."
He worked in Tampa for 15 years and Osceola County
for three years, Then he heard that County Administrator
Ernie Padgett was going to retire and applied for
"In my experience with government, we are truly
a fountain of worthless information everything
from how to run a dog pound to trimming trees to building
roads and water and sewer plants," he said. "I
know enough about any one of those things to be dangerous.
Its interesting and its challenging."
He said he is hired by the county commission, the
legislative branch of government, to run the administrative
branch and is in charge of a half-billion dollar budget
and 1,900 employees.
When asked what point should constituents call his
office to resolve a problem, he replied, "Anytime,
but youre better off calling the person in charge
of that department or your county commissioner."
The phone number of the county administrators
office is 745-3798.
expanding parking areas
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
BRADENTON BEACH Short term solutions to the
parking shortage in the city were the subject of the
latest town hall meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 21, and
the best solutions appeared to be already available.
A group of nearly two dozen residents, business leaders
and elected officials showed up to formulate a list
of short-term fixes. The three most popular were putting
a two-hour limit on parking in the citys lot
behind BridgeWalk, reserving spaces along the beach
south of the southernmost residence for employees
of businesses in the city and turning the area next
to the BeachHouse volleyball courts into a parking
The fact that the city needs to let people know where
to park with better signage was also mentioned.
The Island trolley played a prominent part of the
discussion with somebody suggesting they work on getting
people to "trolley up," or make more use
of the free service. Meeting facilitator Alan Garrett
said the citys businesses and resorts need to
better publicize the fact that it is free.
"Information on the trolley should be in every
resort room," he said. "They need to use
that magic word, free, liberally."
Garrett asked Building Official Ed McAdam if Manatee
County Area Transit had decided to run a trolley down
Bridge Street and McAdam said they had, but it would
not start until after construction on the pier ended.
Other suggestions included turning side streets adjacent
to Bridge Street into a one-way street with parking
along one side or leaving them two-way but allowing
parking on one side after hours when the restaurant
traffic is highest.
BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles suggested back-in parking
to shorten the requirement for space to pull out,
allowing employees-only parking south of the last
residence along the beach and building the parking
lot next to his volleyball courts on the beach. He
said they could get as many as 40 parking spaces in
that lot, if they allow double rows and the city allows
it to be built into beach access right-of-way south
of his land.
Another way to save spaces would be to allow more
than one motorcycle to park in a space.
Chiles mentioned the park and ride facility the city
wants to build on bayfront land near the northernmost
boat launch ramp at Coquina Bayside Park. Mayor John
Chappie said that those plans are still intact, but
the city cant do anything until they figure
out if the spoil taken from a canal dredging project
in the city is clean enough to go there. The city
needs a low cost way of getting rid of the spoil and
if it is clean enough, it would be used as a base
for the parking lot. He said that it could add 200