Vol 7 No. 27 - March 28, 2007

Cortez Trailer Park fights back

D Coy Ducks to change hands

Accidents mar Sunday fun

Price designated chief fire officer

Further delay for Coquina Beach Trail

Exotic removal to start at Kingfish ramp

Request to remove pavers refused

Pete Lannon's finances running low




Cortez Trailer Park fights back

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Cortez residents circled the wagons Thursday night against a developer’s $10.8 million proposal to buy the Cortez Trailer Park.

Developer Carlos Beruff, president of Bradenton-based Medallion Homes Gulf Coast Inc., made the offer last month for the 5-acre property, which borders the Intracoastal Waterway and includes 79 trailers, cottages, a marina, a restaurant and a historic community center dating to the 1890s.

The park’s 79-member association, whose members lease their lots, offered the same amount to park owner Butch Howey, but he refused to accept it, association President Bob Coulter said.

"Butch Howey must be a stone wall," Coulter said, visibly distressed over the prospect that he and his neighbors – mostly senior citizens – might lose their homes.

Cortez village residents offered to help "stonewall" Beruff’s purchase offer at the crowded community meeting.

"Let’s build it high, wide, thick and deep so he can’t get over, under, around or through," Coulter said to cheers.

Villagers applauded when Cortez Village Historical Society member Linda Molto announced that journals dating back to the 1930s had recently surfaced, showing that the trailer park’s residents and the residents of the Cortez fishing village are intertwined like the fibers in a mullet net.

Cortezians take pride in pulling together against a common enemy, whether it’s a hurricane, a proposal to ban gill nets, or a developer.

Piero Rivolta tried to build a waterfront "boatel" – a boat/hotel development – with four buildings containing 20 units in the historic fishing village in 2004, but overwhelming opposition forced him to abandon his plans.

"Nothing is a done deal when we, the people, get together," Cortez resident Mary Fulford Green said.

More questions than answers

Residents invited Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann and county planner Carol Clarke to the meeting to answer questions, but there were many more questions than answers.

Some neighboring residents were concerned about high-rise condos replacing the trailer park.

While the current land use designation for the site is a trailer park, the future land use designation is for light industrial use, which does not allow residences, von Hahmann said.

For a developer to change that designation to allow condos would require a change in the county’s comprehensive plan, Clarke said.

"That’s not something that’s done lightly," von Hahmann said.

But Beruff may not be planning to build condos. VonHahmann said that he told her he was considering building a marina storage facility similar to the one at the west end of the Cortez bridge.

The Cortez Vision Plan does not allow enclosed boat storage on the trailer park site, she said, adding that anyone can petition the county commission to change existing rules.

"Whether they would be successful or not depends on what the board is willing to give to them," she said.

Beruff did not respond to telephone inquiries about his plans.

"Whatever it is, it’s not good for Cortez Trailer Park or Cortez Village," said an emotional Harry Howey, 86, who operated the park from 1959 until he sold it to his son, the current owner. He and wife still reside in the park.

"It’s his decision," the elder Howey said simply of his son’s choice to sell to the developer.

The family does not know why Butch Howey refuses to sell to the residents, said his sister, Linda Johnston, who is concerned about her parents relocating, especially her wheelchair-bound mother.

"They wanted to live the rest of their lives here," she said.

Butch Howey did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Residents gather ammunition

Several options are being discussed as methods to prevent development.

The park lies within Manatee County’s Cortez Historical Boundary Overlay District, but is not within the National Register of Historic Places’ Cortez Historic District, which would affect how the property can be used. The Cortez Village Historical society hopes the presence of the 1890s community center on the property could serve as ammunition for residents to prevent development.

There are also flood zone considerations, since the park lies on the Intracoastal Waterway.

The mobile homes in the park could be improved by no more than 50 percent of fair market value under current regulations, Manatee County Building Official George Devenport said. If the park’s use changes, new structures would have to be built to current standards on piling systems with breakaway walls a minimum of 30 feet from the water, with any living areas beginning at 12 to 15 feet high, he said.

But the residents’ most promising strategy may be to claim a right of first refusal, Coulter said.

Two years ago, Butch Howey put the park on the market for $14.75 million, giving the association the first option to buy it. Their counteroffer was not answered, said Doug Morgan, co-chairman of the purchase committee for the association.

Some say the right extends to the current purchase offer.

"I think they have standing to pursue the right of first refusal issue," von Hahmann said. But while the two monetary offers are the same, Beruff claims his offer differs from the residents’ offer because theirs is contingent on obtaining financing, while his ability to pay cash is not in question, she said.

Beruff is a principal in more than 50 Florida corporations, according to Florida Division of Corporations records.

"This may belong in a court of law to decide what rights people have on leased land after so long a time," von Hahmann said.

"It looks to me and to our purchase committee that we will wind up in court," Coulter agreed.

"The best possible use of that real estate is what is happening right now," said Allen Garner, president of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH).

“Beruff) may be facing a very big battle," he said. "It’s not a battle that a reasonable person would take on.”

D Coy Ducks to change hands

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — An Island institution will soon have a new owner.

Mondher Kobrosly, who owns Time Saver Food and Wine Store, Jessie’s Island Store and Island Gourmet Pizza and Wine, confirmed that he is buying D Coy Ducks. In addition, he is buying the liquor license from Anna Maria Island Liquor. Both sales are slated to close on April 1.

Al Robinson, who bought D Coy Ducks four years ago, said he gave Kobrosly the first right of refusal to purchase the business three years ago.

"I told him at the time that if he ever got sick of the business, he should talk to me," Kobrosly confirmed.

In the four years he has owned the Duck, Robinson has reduced the size of the kitchen, installed a pool table, added package sales, sound proofed the room and increased the capacity of the air conditioning. The smoking bar offers a limited menu, music four to five days a week, poker games and other activities.

Kobrosly said he would not change a thing, noting, "I’ll keep it the same, just like I did when I took over Jessie’s. I’ll keep the same staff, but I’ll put someone in charge. You won’t see me behind the bar."

"I’m very pleased that the employees will be retained," Robinson said. "I have really enjoyed doing something with that place and giving people a nice family-oriented establishment. The people appreciate what’s happened there."

As for the liquor license, Kobrosly said he plans to transfer it to Time Saver. There he will expand the wine selection and add discounted liquor and gourmet items such as cheeses, olives and caviar. All the food and snack items will be moved to Jessie’s. He plans to continue his popular Friday wine tasting events.

Accidents mar Sunday fun

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

Beautiful weather brought people to the beach last weekend, but accidents caused two people to leave the Island via Bayflight.

The first involved 42-year-old Karen Mischra, of Tampa, who was injured when an RV may have brushed her as it passed her on her bicycle in the 5900 block of Marina Drive shortly after 9 a.m. on Sunday. She was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center. Her parents live in Holmes Beach.

The second incident occurred around 10:48 p.m. on Sunday when a vehicle, driven by 28-year-old Ronald J. Landon, of Bradenton, failed to make the turn while going south on Gulf Drive at the Manatee County Beach, in Holmes Beach.

Landon was airlifted to Bayfront Hospital where he was listed in critical, but stable condition. A passenger in the vehicle was not injured.

Witnesses told the officer that the vehicle was speeding as it entered the curve. The investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed at this time.

Price designated chief fire officer

Fire Chief Kenneth A. Price, of the West Manatee Fire & Rescue District, has successfully completed the process that awards him the professional designation of Chief Fire Officer (CFO). Price is one of only 506 CFOs worldwide.

The Chief Fire Officer designation program is a voluntary program designed to recognize individuals who demonstrate their excellence in seven measured components including experience, education, professional development, professional contributions, association membership, community involvement and technical competencies.

Those candidates exhibiting extensive experience and or educational backgrounds are eligible for exemption from certain components. All applicants are required to identify a future professional development plan and provide a letter of support from their supervisor.

Price has been a member of the district for 25 years and currently resides in Holmes Beach.



Further delay for Coquina Beach Trail

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – A joint project between Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department and the city of Bradenton Beach remains stalled and construction might not begin until May or June.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) initially gave the go-ahead to the Coquina Beach Trail, a ribbon of asphalt that would run a little more than a mile from Fifth Street South to just short of the Longboat Pass Bridge between the parking areas and beach.

The contractor, Billy Hay Excavating, set up boundaries for the trail and cleared brush and trees from the path in hopes of beginning the project around the first of this month and finishing in 30 days or so.

All of a sudden, however, the FDEP told the county that it wanted to see the plans, according to Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department Project Manager Tom Yarger. The contractor took down the forms that outlined the path because they represented a safety hazard to beach-goers, according to Yarger. He said FDEP promised it would speed up the process.
f all had gone as planned, there might have been progress this week, but this is not a perfect world, and Yarger said FDEP recently asked for more information on the $400,000 project. He said his department mailed the information to the state agency last Friday, hoping it would honor its promise to hurry the process, but he said they are making contingency plans just in case.

The project is paid for in part by a Florida Land and Water Conservation Fund grant administered by the same FDEP that is looking over the plans. There is a deadline of April 31 to complete the project.
I am applying for an extension of the grant," Yarger said last Friday. "I would like to extend it through the end of August, just in case."

Hopefully the state agency will grant the delay on one hand and approve the project on the other.
However, as noted, this is not a perfect world.

Exotic removal to start at Kingfish ramp

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Manatee County plans to begin removing Brazilian peppers at Kingfish ramp this week and continue the effort across the Palma Sola Causeway.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore made the announcement at a recent Palma Sola Scenic Highway meeting. Whitmore, the group’s new liaison, took over the duties from Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann.

"We’ll spend the first month in Holmes Beach," Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County’s Conservation Lands Management Department, explained. "The equipment we are renting will only remove the Brazilian peppers, not the Australian pines.

"We’ll clear all the peppers and then stand back and look at the Australian pines. Our employees are not comfortable removing the pines, so we’ll have to hire a tree company."

Pines tagged for removal

Ingrid McClellan, executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful, said she and Beverly Burdette, who designed the plantings for the Causeway, tagged the Australian pines on the Causeway that are to be removed. Groupings of pines by the picnic tables and on the southeast side will remain intact, she said.

Hunsicker said the county plans to erect a 4- by 8-foot sign to alert people about the exotic removal so they won’t think the county is removing mangroves.

"When we do the Australian pines, we’ll do another sign," Hunsicker said. "What phone number can I put on the sign for people to call?

"I say this because of the resistance that we’ve received in having cut the Australian pines for the trail in Bradenton Beach. People will be upset."

McClellan said they could call Keep Manatee Beautiful.

Bridge rehab and sidewalk

In response to a question asked at a previous meeting about a sidewalk from the Anna Maria Bridge to the public beach, Whitmore said its part of the planned bridge rehabilitation.

"The rehab includes a sidewalk to hook up to East Bay Drive," she said.

Hunsicker said he thought the county was responsible for the sidewalk at Kingfish ramp.

"I’ll check on the status of the sidewalk," Manon Lavoie, of the Florida Department of Transportation, told the group. "It starts at the bridge, but I don’t know where it ends. I’ll find out when the rehab is planned."

Molly McCarthy, of West Bay Cove, asked if the power lines at Kingfish ramp could be relocated underground.

Lavoie said it would be cost prohibitive. She said the cost for 1/2 mile on dry land is $1 million and suggested that the group approach local elected officials about relocating the power lines as related to hurricane evacuation and safety.


Request to remove pavers refused

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – The Florida Department of Transportation has refused the request of about 150 frustrated villagers to remove noisy brick pavers installed last year on Cortez Road.

Resident Zach Zacharias, who spearheaded the petition drive, received a letter on Mar. 20 denying the request.

"The textured pavement serves as a traffic calming measure which was specifically requested in writing by the Cortez Waterfronts Florida," wrote Lance Grace, an engineer with FDOT in Sarasota.

The written request appeared in a July, 2000 letter from Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, then serving as the chairman of the Cortez Waterfronts Florida Committee (CWFC), to FDOT director Chuck Lovell. She wrote that more than 25 people at a July 20, 2000 CWFC meeting unanimously requested "traffic calming methods to slow the speed of cars passing through Cortez." Traffic calming features ranked second of nine in the order of the number of endorsements by people attending the meeting, according to the letter.

"It hasn’t calmed anything," Zacharias said, explaining that when cars and trucks drive over the pavers, the noise can be heard all the way to Sarasota Bay several blocks away.

The pavers are not the width of the typical crosswalk, he said, adding that at least one "pedestrian oasis" is about 80 feet wide.

It’s a case of "Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it," Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said.

Samples of the material were presented to residents, but people probably didn’t think about the rough texture creating noise when tires roll over it, she said, adding that she didn’t anticipate the problem, either.

"Nobody hears it more than me. I’m on the corner of Cortez Road."

In the future, von Hahmann said she may recommend that residents considering the pavers actually visit a site where they have been installed before deciding.

The pavers were among several improvements including a new traffic light at Cortez Road and 119th Street West a few yards west of an existing light, and a dual left turn lane and median in the center of the road running from the bridge to 119th Street West.

A survey of Cortezians taken by FDOT after the improvements were completed cites opposition to the pavers and to the right turn prohibition at the red light controlling traffic from 119th Street West onto Cortez Road. Von Hahmann said she will follow up on the survey.

The city of Holmes Beach is considering removing similar pavers installed as narrow crosswalks last year because they have begun to crumble, posing a hazard to pedestrians.

If that happens in Cortez, the pavers would likely be removed, von Hahmann said.


Pete Lannon�s finances running low

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – As fifth graders at Anna Maria Elementary School enjoy spring break, their resource officer wishes he could return to work.

Holmes Beach Police officer Pete Lannon remains on leave nearly a year since he started taking sick leave for what was suspected to be a bad back. In late September last year, it was diagnosed as pancreatic cancer.

He was given emergency treatment for his very painful condition and when the public learned that he was in financial straits, they responded by organizing fund-raisers and giving money freely. Two funds were set up, one through the school and another through the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

Lannon said last week that the funds are running low and he’s running into financial difficulty. He has two houses and has been trying to sell one of them since the cancer was diagnosed, but the housing market is slow and there are few lookers.

The treatments slowed and eventually halted the cancer’s progress and a new treatment alleviated the pain, and as the Island got involved in another season, "Officer Pete," as his students call him, retreated to his east Manatee County home to recuperate and hopefully return to work. But his condition is just stable.

It’s still being treated and there’s no new growth," he said from his home. "I’m skinny, down to 159 pounds, although I have a good appetite."

Lannon said the chemotherapy has had an effect on him.

"My hair is white and it’s falling out," he said with a laugh. "They recently cut back on the chemotherapy from three times a month with one week off to two times a month with two weeks off."

Lannon said his energy level remains low, but he doesn’t spend his time sleeping.

"I get up and about," he said. "I get out of bed a watch the news and try to keep up on things, but I miss my friends on the Island and at the school."

Lannon said he would come out and visit, if he could, but he can’t risk exposing himself to a lot of people because the chemotherapy compromises his immune system. He said he feels sorry that the fifth graders did not go through the anti-drug, tobacco and alcohol course he taught. He was named the top DARE (Drug Awareness Resistance Education) administrator in the country a few years ago. He was also named the Anna Maria Island Sun’s Person of the Year two years ago.

He says for now, he just takes his treatments and dreams of the day when he might be able to return to work.


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