Vol 7 No. 31 - April 25, 2007

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Historical Society wins state award

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Tax proposals face off

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Peaceful holiday expected

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Plan for Coquina parking goes to county

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Siesta Key beach project impacts Anna Maria

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Lights out for sea turtles

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Nallys sue city second time over Sandbar

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Federal manatee protection may be reduced




Historical Society wins state award

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

The Anna Maria Island Historical Society has won an Outstanding Organizational Achievement award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation for it's and the community's efforts to save and restore Belle Haven Cottage.

"Many people do not know that when Belle Haven cottage was totally restored in 2006, it completed the city of Anna Maria Historic Park. It certainly is a treasure,'and I feel that the people who shared this dream and brought it to fruition deserve to be acknowledged," Sissy Quinn, executive adminisrator of the Historical Society, said.

"We need to thank all the volunteers, officers and members of the board of AMIHS; builders, painters, craftsperson's, landscapers and financial contributors, who participated with city officials of all three island cities to make Belle Haven what it is today – a gathering place for nostalgia and education. There has been greater interest from neighbors and visitors alike to bring friends and family to the site since its completion."

The award will be presented at the annual Preservation Awards program on Friday, May 18, at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Sarasota. A reception in Selby Gardens will follow the program.

According to the application, "The Organizational Achievement award recognizes outstanding achievement in preservation activities by a group, corporation, neighborhood or any other type of organization. The achievement can include any number of activities such as successful fundraising for preservation initiatives or projects, the creation of festivals or activities promoting the preservation of historic places, playing a major role in the creation and implementation of new preservation legislation or policies or increasing the community's awareness of preservation through new publications, events, festivals or promotional literature."

The application packet contained a narrative of the history of Belle Haven Cottage and the effort to preserve it, details of fund-raising efforts, newspaper articles, photos and letters of support from Carolyne Norwood, co-founder of the AMI Historical Society; Ed Chiles, of the Chiles Group; Mark Kimball, of Kimball Construction, who was instrumental in the building's restoration; SueLynn, former mayor of Anna Maria; and Dianne DeLong, Historical Society board member.

Tax proposals face off

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The Florida Senate and House each passed their respective versions of property tax reform last week, and are negotiating a compromise in the final days of the legislative session.

The House plan would give more relief to homeowners, while the Senate plan would spread tax relief more broadly to business owners and those owning more than one home.

The House proposed a state constitutional amendment that would eliminate taxes on homesteaded homes and substitute an increased sales tax as high as 8.5 percent, with food and medicine exempt.

The Senate plan, which has no such proposal, would give first-time home buyers a temporary $25,000 homestead exemption, a change from the current Save Our Homes law allowing all homesteaded homeowners to receive the exemption indefinitely. The Senate plan also gives business owners a $25,000 exemption on tangible personal property tax.

Both plans would roll back property taxes to previous years and cap taxes with some allowance for population growth.

Four Anna Maria Island residents attended a "Rally in Tally" last week with more than 20 people from Floridians for Property Tax Reform, which supports the House plan.

But the Island contingent has problems with both plans.

"There are problems in a number of areas with the House proposal," said Don Schroder of the Island-based Citizens Against Runaway Taxation (CART).

Primarily, it does not solve the inequity caused by the Save Our Homes amendment that shifts the property tax burden from homesteaded homeowners to owners of more than one home and business and rental unit owners.

"Replacing homestead tax with sales tax does not help non-homesteaded property owners and business who are suffering the most," he said.

The Senate proposal also has problems, he said; its rollback to 2005-06 would put taxes right back where they were at their highest in recent history.

"That's not really a cutback," he said. "You know that there's pain out there and that people can no longer live the way they're living."

Peaceful holiday expected

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Following the gang-related shooting of three people at Coquina Beach on Easter Sunday, there were worries that the next holiday might bring more violence, but police say they expect a relatively quiet Cinco de Mayo.

Bradenton Beach Police detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz said they don't think there will be any more beach shootings.

"We haven't heard of any retaliation threat," Diaz said. "We will have extra police out there, just as we have in the past."

Information from the inter-county gang enforcement unit and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office about the possibility of the retaliation shooting on Easter caused Bradenton Beach to ask for a show of force. They had more than 40 officers at the beach, but that did not stop the assailants from opening fire. Diaz said it was a matter of them making a statement and it was commendable that there wasn't more gunfire from either other gang members there or the police officers.

There had been speculation that the fact that Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday and that the shooters and victims in the Easter incident were Hispanics might be significant in the gang activities that day. Diaz said that would have no bearing on it and he pointed out one difference in the two holidays.

"Cinco de Mayo falls on a Saturday and a lot of Hispanics work Saturdays," he said.

Meanwhile, one of those accused in the shooting has made bond. Santiago Delgado, 22, of Plant City, was charged with carrying a concealed firearm, improper exhibition of a firearm and discharging a firearm in public. The other suspect, Rene Vasquez-Mendoza, 22, also of Plant City, remains behind bars.

Diaz said the investigation continues into the shooting. He said a regular beach-goer with a metal detector found a spent round and a couple of casings from the shooting and turned them in to the police.

Plan for Coquina parking goes to county

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – For years, families have come to Coquina Beach on weekends and holidays without fear of violence. A shooting on Easter put a dent in that notion, but it also put a plan to discourage troublemakers from coming to the beach on the front burner.

Following the incident, which police say was a reprisal for an earlier gang-related shooting, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie met with members of Manatee County government to push for a plan already on the drawing board that would put an end to cruising the parking lots by these gang members. The group agreed to push for implementation of the plan and met again last week in Bradenton Beach to put the final touches on it. The Manatee County Commission discussed the plan at their meeting yesterday.

Officials and staff members who worked on the plan included newly-appointed Sheriff Brad Steube, members of surrounding police forces, Island mayors and commissioners, staff members from the county emergency management, services and parks and recreation department.

The plan was drawn up by parks and recreation project planner Mike Sosadeeter, who also sits on the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway committee. It was previewed to that and the Waterfronts Florida committee known as WAVES. Sosadeeter also got input from Chappie and Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale.

The plan would divide the parking lot into several smaller ones. They would be connected by only one road, and there would be one way in and one way out to restrict circulation.

"I think it will work," Speciale said of the plan. "I don't believe it will stop gang activity at the beach at certain times, but it will curtail it because we will have more control."

Chappie, who has been calling for more control of the parking lot for years, said he is happy the county is considering a change in the layout, but he's sorry it took a shooting and the negative publicity it brought to get them off dead center.

"Over the years, the things they have tried have been Band Aids," he said. "They added bollards to direct the traffic and gates to the parking lot, which have added a little control. But now, the increase in people using the beaches has forced us to redesign the parking lot."

Speciale said the county needs to approve the parking lot plan or consider restricting access to the beaches.

"If they don't pass this, I would have to say they would need to go to paid parking," he said. "I don't like that idea, but that's what it would have to come to."



Siesta Key beach project impacts Anna Maria

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

Work on a completed Siesta Key beach restoration project is winding up operations off Anna Maria. Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials said the company stored the pipes needed for the dredging and renourishment activities on Siesta beach under the waters of Tampa Bay just off the area south of the Anna Maria City Pier and Bayfront Park.

"They are picking up the pipes and breaking them down at this point," said DEP Spokeswoman Pamala Vazquez. "We sent people out to check, and they are not doing anything illegal. The work does not require a DEP permit, and they aren't doing anything illegal."

Vazquez said there was a citizen complaint about the noise of the activity, but that is nothing DEP regulates. The project is expected to be finished by the end of April.

Two years ago, during the emergency beach renourishment project on the Island's Gulf beaches, a barge loaded with pipes broke loose twice from its mooring off Bayfront Park. Once it threatened the city pier. The other time it came close to crashing into the Rod and Reel Pier. No damage occurred to either pier, but city officials expressed concern to county officials about dredging operations occurring that close to the historic and fragile piers.

There were no reported incidents during Sunday's storm or during the high winds Monday.

Lights out for sea turtles

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

There shouldn't be any lights visible from the waterline at the beach. That's because in just a few days, the sea turtle nesting season will officially begin. It runs from May 1 to Oct. 1.

During those months, the mother turtles lumber ashore on the beaches of Anna Maria and other Gulf Coast islands and beaches.

"The Gulf Coast of Florida - right where we are - is the second largest concentration of loggerhead nesting in the world," Dr. Tony Tucker said Saturday at a sea turtle lighting workshop at Mote Marine Laboratory.

Lights that could easily be turned off or changed to turtle-friendly fixtures can cause these threatened marine reptiles to become disoriented. The lights may cause them to wander around the beach unable to find their way back to the sea. Sometimes they die from dehydration or exhaustion as they try to find their way back into the water.

Tucker spoke about the life cycle of sea turtles and the impact of lights on their survival. Turtle conservation experts spoke to beachfront property owners about what they can do to lessen the impact of their beachfront lighting on sea turtles.

Tucker noted that turtles are ancient creatures.

"They saw dinosaurs come and they saw dinosaurs go out," he said. "They've been here for 250 million years, so they must have something going for them. It's only the human impact that is causing them to decline."

Tucker said there are seven-to-eight species of sea turtles. Of these, five visit Florida waters - 99 percent of them loggerheads.

"All species of sea turtles are on the threatened or endangered and are protected by state and federal statutes," Tucker said.

Lighting poses a particular threat to both nesting females and their hatchlings, Tucker said.

"This is a battle we've been waging for 10 years. It will be won one light bulb at a time, one building at a time, one beach at a time, one year at a time," he said.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox spoke about the sea turtle conservation program here.

"We walk the beach every day at dawn, and I have to tell you, it's heartbreaking to see a turtle or a hatchling killed by illegal lighting,' she told the audience of more than 50 people.

Longboat Key Code Administrator Juan Florensa said that the battle has to be fought anew each and every year.

"Every year, there are changes," he said. "You have beach erosion. Vegetation is cleared by storms and now you can see streetlights from the beach.

“A building gets its lights in order and then it's sold and you have new owners. Renters don't know the rules."

The challenge and struggle of helping to insure the survival of these ancient marine reptiles takes place up and down our Gulf Coast.

"Everyone has the same problems, said Florensa. "We just keep working at it. The ones that are hardest are the repeat offenders. The ones that just won't comply."

It's not difficult to see which lights might be problematic to turtles, according to Fox.

"Just go down to the waterline, get down low and look back towards the land," she said. "If you can see a light, the turtles can see the light."

Some of the lights visible might be outdoor landscape lighting or lights left lit on a porch or a deck. It might be an indoor lamp that is too close to a window or in front of a window where there is no shade. All of these things can pose problems to turtles.

Streetlights can also be a problem, but fortunately there's help - at least in this area of the Gulf Coast.

"Don Sayre, of FPL, works very closely with us," Fox said. "He's helped each city change out some of the problem lights to something more turtle friendly. FPL turns problem lights off for nesting season, and that has really helped make our beaches better for the moms and babies."

Code officers up and down the Gulf Coast and in all three Island cities will be doing beach surveys the rest of this week during the hours of darkness to determine where there might be problems.

All of the code officers would rather work with the property owners and the renters to solve the problems, but they will resort to other enforcement measures in the case of repeat offenders or if problems aren't corrected.

Remember, nesting season officially begins May 1. That means that the sea turtle protection ordinances in Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach will all be in effect. All the ordinances mandate turtle friendly lighting.

Volunteer training

Anyone wanting to volunteer to walk the beaches to monitor for signs of nesting must attend a turtle volunteer training session at Holmes Beach City Hall on Thursday, April 26, at 6:30 p.m. Call Fox at 778-5638 for more information.



Nallys sue city second time over Sandbar

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA - William and Barbara Nally have lodged a second lawsuit against the city. The latest one again deals with issues at the Sandbar Restaurant. The Nally property abuts the restaurant property.

This time the suit alleges that the city commission approved special event permits for weddings at the Sandbar in a manner that is not allowed by the city code.

"In particular, the city and commission have ignored requirements, including mandatory application time limitations, application documentation requirements, indemnity agreements and required bonds," the lawsuit alleges. "Moreover, the city and commission voted upon, approved and issued numerous special event permit applications to be held upon property owned by W.E.L.D., Inc. proprietors of the Sandbar Restaurant, including a ‘special event' which occurred on Feb. 17, 2007, and which have occurred and are anticipated to occur on numerous dates during the period between March 23, 2007 and April 28, 2007."

The suit states that the waiver of the requirements dictated by the city's special events ordinance is adversely affecting the enjoyment of their property by the Nallys and surrounding neighbors.

Over the course of the past several months, the commission has approved a batch of special event permits to allow the Sandbar to erect temporary tents in its parking lot and across the alley running through the property. The special events are generally weddings and generally take place on weekend days.

There have been some complaints on the part of neighboring residents that sound from the weddings can be heard at their residences and adversely impacts their enjoyment of their property.

A large renovation and remodeling project at the restaurant was just completed. A permanent pavilion was built that Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, told commissioners would be constructed to contain the noise from public address systems on the property. This was during numerous meetings covering the restaurant's site plan application approval process.

However, since that time, one-to-two temporary tents are generally erected each weekend to house weddings.

The Sandbar and other Island businesses have formed a consortium to advertise wedding services to other areas of the country. The resulting business from that advertising is driving the need for the tents and the special events permits.

It's the location of and noise from those tents that the Nally suit contends is problematic and the approval of the permits in monthly batches is another problem for the Nallys and their attorneys, Lobeck and Hanson, P.A.

At the April 12 city commission workshop during a discussion of the problems with the special events ordinance, Planner Alan Garrett suggested that the way to deal with the Sandbar weddings is not through special event permits but through an amendment to the Sandbar's site plan.

"That way, you show where the parking will be, you show where the tents will be," Garrett said. "It's all clear and it's all to code."

The Nallys have another lawsuit pending against the city. This one deals with the way the city handled and approved the site plan that resulted in the permitting of the remodeling of the restaurant and its grounds. Oral arguments in that case have been heard, and a ruling from the judge is expected in several weeks.


Federal manatee protection may be reduced

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Manatees may lose their federal endangered status, based on a new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the federal Endangered Species Act.

Biologists concluded in a five-year study released last week that the West Indian manatee no longer fits the act's definition of endangered, and recommends that the species be reclassified to threatened.

The report was released just as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is finalizing its state manatee protection plan, which will result in reclassifying the manatee's statewide protection status from endangered to threatened if approved later this summer.

The federal Endangered Species Act defines endangered as "…in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range…" whereas threatened is defined as "…is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range."

"Based on the science, it is clear that manatees are no longer facing extinction in all or a significant portion of its range," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Jacksonville field supervisor Dave Hankla said in a press release. "However, because of the uncertainties surrounding threats that still exist, such as the loss of warm water sources and continued watercraft mortalities, it is also just as clear that the species' appropriate classification is threatened."

Downlisting a species is a sign that protection efforts are working, Hankla said.

But the Maitland, Florida-based Save the Manatee Club calls downlisting "premature," citing increasing threats to the long-term survival of manatees, including watercraft collisions, waterfront development and habitat destruction.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission statistics also dispute conclusions that the manatee is not endangered.

In Florida, more manatees died in 2006 than in the history of the state's survey program, with 416 dead. 2005 was the second-worst year for manatee mortality, with 396 deaths, according to the commission.

In addition, state synoptic surveys, or one-day counts of manatees, have steadily declined from an all-time high in 2001 of 3,300 to 3,143 in 2005, 3,116 in 2006, and 2,812 this year.

Changing the federal classification would require a proposed rulemaking process including public hearings and comment similar to the process in Florida.

Until the federal classification is changed, federal protections including speed restrictions and sanctuaries are still in effect, Hankla said.


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