Vol 7 No. 32 - May 2, 2007


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Coquina to get more police this weekend

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Island property sales jump

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper City, GSR hash out problems

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Holmes Beach police say public beach is safe

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Mrs. Haisley’s bus rides to end

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Vacation rental signs a vexing issue

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Pier team to revisit restaurant design

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Resident questions pine removal on Causeway




Coquina to get more police this weekend

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – While police don’t expect a replay of the Easter Sunday gang-related shooting during the Cinco de Mayo holiday this coming Saturday, they do want to make their presence known at Coquina Park.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said a meeting Monday between the mayors, Island police departments, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and county parks and recreation officials centered mainly on reaction to the county commission’s approval of a new parking plan for the beach. He said the changes planned for the parking lot won’t take place until after this weekend.

"They said they would get started on it when they can," he said. "They said there wouldn’t be any barricades or other devices to restrict cruising in the parking lot this weekend."

Speciale said their intelligence still indicates the chances for another incident this Saturday are very low, but the sheriff’s department will be ready to assist.

Saturday are very low, but the sheriff’s department will be ready to assist.

"They said they would have more officers assigned there," he said. "We expect to have as many officers at the park as we did on Easter"

Manatee County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Kenney, who heads up law enforcement for the city of Anna Maria, said he doesn’t expect trouble this weekend.

"But just in case, the sheriff’s office is sending out extra deputies who will be patrolling around the Bayfront Park area."

Kenney said there really hasn’t been a gang problem in the park.

"We have a lot of Hispanic families using that park, but we have no trouble," he said. "They’re just families out to enjoy the water for the day. There’s no gang problem there."

Kenney said his deputies occasionally make an alcohol-related arrest at Bayfront Park, but even that doesn’t occur very often.

"We will be making sure the parking doesn’t get out of hand," he said. "This is a residential area, and parking is very, very limited."

Holmes Beach resident and Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said everyone at the county level is aware that there is the potential that problems could spread northward up the Island as the Coquina Beach area gets better controlled.

"We know the problems could bleed north up to the Manatee Public Beach and Bayfront Park," she said. "But we have law enforcement working together on this. We have a lot of support from other agencies."

Last week, Manatee County Commission approved spending up to $650,000 to enact a plan that would consolidate the massive parking facilities at the beach into five smaller lots. Those lots would be gated and connected only by one road. The money would also allow the county to pay three off-duty Bradenton Beach police officers to patrol over the weekends.

The plan is the first of three phases planned to give police more control of the park during holidays when the crowds can be overwhelming and to make the beach safer for the families that visit it. Proposed emergency regulations from the county to ban food, drinks and car stereo music from the parking lots were rejected by the commissioners, who expressed fear that the ordinance went too far in restricting people’s rights. The restrictions would have prevented people from staying indefinitely in parking lots, either inside or outside their cars.

The commissioners decided to enact the plan as the first stage of fixing the problem and if it works, they would reassess the subsequent phases.

Phase two calls for dedicating three to five police officers to the beaches, installing a law enforcement substation at Coquina and putting an enhanced bus-trolley terminal in front of the beach café at a cost of $2.5 million.

Phase three would also cost $2.5 million and involve improvements to playgrounds, restrooms, the concession area, pavilions and landscaping.

During his presentation last week, Speciale talked about how the gangs took over areas families normally use at the beach.

"In the past we asked Parks and Recreation to put up gates so we could divide the lot into three areas and it worked very well," Speciale said. "Families stayed by the concession stand, but now the gangs are going down south where the pavilions are. If they saw people there who had reserved a pavilion, they went upwind of the pavilion and sprayed pepper spray into the air, forcing those people to leave."

Parks and Recreation Department planner Mike Sosadeeter presented the parking lot plan he had been working on since his and other county departments first met with Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, Speciale and other city department heads to discuss potential problems there. That was shortly after the police department found out that a group promoting hip-hop music was planning a beach bash without county or city permission.
Under the county’s agreement with the city, groups planning events at county owned facilities must get permission from Bradenton Beach.

The commissioners approved Sosadeeter’s design, which had already been presented to the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway Committee. Complaints included too many gates that would require police officers to regulate. Joe McClash said he favored ejecting troublemakers from the beach and onto the mainland.

"I would like to see the cities take action so that if people are ejected from a beach, they would be ejected from the whole darned Island," he said. "I am not satisfied with the level of detail, though, as to how the plan will be handled."

County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said he would put the plan into writing and present it to commissioners.

When Whitmore asked if they could institute the plan before Cinco de Mayo, Parks and Recreation Planner Tom Yarger said it would take time to get the bollards and shell for paving the roads. He said that the Southwest Florida Water Management District told him they would have no problem with the plan and would not need to issue a permit. He said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection assured him they could issue field permits for the project, which would eliminate delays. He said it could be finished within 60 to 90 days, but could not guaranty when it would start.

Island property sales jump

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

By all measures, the real estate market has been in a slump for at least the past two to three years, but it looks like the slump may have bottomed out, according to one local source. And if the average sales price continues to drop, it would indicate that this is the place to be if you’re an investor.

The region's sales were up 19 percent over the same period last year, according to the Multi-List figures, but Anna Maria Island was where most of the recovery took place.

Since Feb. 1, there have been 57 new property sales valued at more than $34.4 million. That equates to a 63 percent increase compared to the same period in 2006, according to Barry and Dantia Gould, who publish the Anna Maria Island Property Sales Report. Barry is a licensed real estate professional with Island Vacation Sales, LLC, of Holmes Beach.

The number of properties newly under sales contract shows the trend is continuing. There are 37 recent pending sales contracts with a value of more than $27.7 million.

Gould analyzed the sales figures for the period between Feb. 1 and April 27 to get a profile of what was selling.

Single family residences were the most popular with 32 sales valued at an average of $672,670. The average sale price of the 18 single-family residences sold during the same period in 2006 was $1,262,528, almost twice the value of the 2007 sales. The price per square foot nose-dived from $747 in 2006 to $429 in 2007.

Meanwhile, the sales price per square foot for the 18 condos sold was $454, close to the 2006 figure of $484 and higher than the single-family residence figure. The average sale prices for the condos dropped from $705,136 to $496,661.

Four duplexes sold for $677,500 on average in 2007 compared to $626,667 in 2006 – the only category that actually increased.

Three lots sold since Feb. 1, 2007 equal to the same period of 2006.

According to Gould, the data suggests that:

• People are buying smaller houses and larger condos.

• Most buyers plan to use the properties themselves.

• Properties that sell are priced right and not based on the crazy spike in prices of 2004 and 2005. The return to normalcy has taken root and the new normal is being established.

• Correctly priced properties are not staying on the market very long. Six of the 57 sales sold in less than 10 days and 16 sold in less than a month.

• There are still more than 800 island properties on the market and as the word spread that sales are increasing, more may be listed by sellers waiting for positive signs.

• Sellers are accepting lower offers than last year. Last year the percentage of the asking price averaged 92.4 percent. This year it is averaging 90.8 percent.

• The increase in tourism is helping. New visitors are falling in love with the island and deciding to buy while we are in a buyers market.

City, GSR hash out problems

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The city of Bradenton Beach asked GSR Development to play nice last week before the city starts to play hardball, imposing penalties that range from fines to tearing down a non-conforming building.

Conditions at three properties owned by the company are causing serious concern among emergency management and city officials.

There’s not much GSR can do, responded William Maloney, restructuring manager for the company, which is being liquidated under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.

"One of the problems GSR has is we don’t have any money," Maloney said.

The most pressing problems are at Rosa del Mar, 2508-2516 Gulf Drive N., where an artificially-created sand dune towers over the property threatening to blow onto Gulf Drive while residents evacuate before a hurricane.

Police Lt. John Cosby, disaster coordinator for Bradenton Beach, told GSR representatives and city building officials on Thursday that if the sand doesn’t block the road, it will blow onto the public beach, where it will have to be removed at taxpayer expense because the sand is contaminated from being on a construction site.

The site also lacks "no trespassing" signs, creating a liability because of sharp rebar sticking out of the ground and uncapped utility lines, said Steve Gilbert, the city’s interim building official.

A sign advertising the project on the property also is in violation of city codes, accruing fines, city attorney Ricinda Perry said.

"Every day the sign is out there it costs you money," she said.

The company will install "no trespassing" signs and check into removing the project sign if it doesn’t create a legal problem for GSR, Maloney said.

GSR attorney Richard Prosser added that he will investigate the cost of leveling the sand.

The property is scheduled for sale, probably at auction, within the next 90 days, Maloney said.

If the company fails to take action, the city can do the work, fine GSR and put a lien on the property, making it less attractive to buyers, Perry said.

Another property at 110 Seventh St. S., #1 and #2, poses both legal and safety issues, Perry said, primarily stemming from the absence of a stormwater management plan.

The property was zoned as a planned unit development, which requires a stormwater plan, but two residences were built on it that are now owned by two different owners - one of which is GSR - who have not agreed on a plan.

A hearing will be scheduled before the city commission to determine whether the property can remain a planned unit development under the circumstances, Perry said.

A seawall owned by both property owners also is in need of repair, Gilbert said.

Owners will not receive certificates of occupancy from the city until the problems are addressed, Perry said.

"Unless the bank wants to advance funds, we can’t do anything," other than to advise prospective buyers of the requirements for the certificate of occupancy, Maloney said.

At 109 Fifth St. S., another GSR property lies entangled in a legal quagmire. Although it was approved for a duplex, four single-family attached residences have been built there, Gilbert said, one of which is occupied.

Setback problems, stormwater management issues and the amount of impervious ground cover leave the city with two choices, Perry said – to grant a variance due to a hardship, which she said would be nearly impossible for GSR to prove, or to force GSR to tear down the building.

At least three previous city building officials worked on the plan, said Gilbert, who is still investigating how GSR got a certificate of occupancy for a building that is in violation of so many codes.

"I don’t know if it’s fixable," he said.

If the building is torn down instead of sold, creditors will get back even less of their more than $35 million in claims.

"This is a $4 million mistake," Maloney said. "We’ve been in bankruptcy a year. We’re in our end game, and we’ve got to move these properties out."

Holmes Beach police say public beach is safe

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Although some residents have expressed concerns that the gang problems at Coquina Beach could move to the Manatee County Public Beach, police said they are not concerned.

At Coquina Beach, three people were shot and seriously wounded by two suspected gang members on Easter Sunday.

"We don’t feel that will happen because Manatee Beach is so small and compact compared to Coquina Beach," Lt. Dale Stephenson explained. "They can’t cruise there and we have a small picnic area that’s not conducive for that kind of element."

Stephenson said the changes suggested for the Coquina Beach parking lot, which would make smaller separate parking lots, reflect the parking situation at Manatee Beach.

As for the fears about violence erupting on upcoming Cinco de Mayo holiday May 5, Stephenson said, "We’ll have our overtime shifts and auxiliary officers on duty like any holiday, but we’re not expecting anything out of the ordinary."

Stephenson said his officers would be ready to respond to any call for mutual aid from Bradenton Beach, should there be a need.

"We would be the first to respond to Coquina for mutual aid, but we don’t go down there to act as security for them," he said. "The Manatee Sheriff’s Office takes care of that."



Mrs. Haisley’s bus rides to end

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – For 10 years, Sandra Haisley has piloted a big, yellow school bus through the streets of Anna Maria Island six times a day carrying children to and from school.

Monday began as her last day and she was torn emotionally between taking a promotion and saying goodbye to the parents and children whose lives she had touched.

"There have been some tears," she said after she dropped off the children at Anna Maria Elementary Monday morning. "I wanted to do this for 30 years and retire and I could have, but this opportunity came along."

The opportunity she was talking about was taking a new position with the Manatee School District as router for the school buses.

In honor of her last day, Dr. Scott Kosfeld and other parents put up a sign at Kingfish Boat Ramp. Her runs to and from Anna Maria Elementary School, King Middle School and Manatee High School were punctuated by parents and teachers sticking their heads into her bus to wish her well.

However, when she returned to pick up the kids bound for home Monday afternoon, her smile was back.

"I begged with them not to let it end today," she said, "I asked to let me drive the little ones at least."

They said yes, and she will continue her route, which picks up and drops off kids on the Island north of the school until May 24, the last day of school.

Teacher’s aide Meghan Donato, hugged her after giving her a going away card and then learning of her reprieve.

How did she earn the respect of all the parents and teachers with whom she came in contact? The answer could be love.

"I have two children and when the kids get on my bus, I tell them you’re mine, and I’m going to treat you like you’re my children," she said.

"She’s really loved by the parents," said Principal Tom Levengood. "She going to be missed."

Haisley said she has loved every minute of her job and she feels the students and their parents are extraordinary. When the time comes to leave, she will remember the Island route.

"My heart will always be here."

Vacation rental signs a vexing issue

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commissioners revised some provisions of the city’s proposed sign ordinance, but left others to be decided at the next work session in May.

The lengthiest discussion focused on vacation rental signs. According to the proposed ordinance, a vacation rental sign of 18 inches may be located on the building or accessory building. However, if it is located in the yard, it is considered one of the two allowable real estate signs and must be removed when the property is rented.

"We have 250 rentals," Barry Gould, of Island Vacation Properties, pointed out. "We would have to have a huge staff to take down and put up signs."

Frank Davis, of Island Real Estate, said people come all year ’round and while they are here, they look for rentals for the next year. He noted that in some cases, the agents that are selling and renting the property are from two different real estate companies.

Davis also took issue with attaching the rental sign to the house and stressed, "If you have a $1.5 million house, you don’t want a sign on it."

Another problem area was flags on residences. At the last work session, commissioners agreed to allow three flags per residential property without a permit.

City planning consultant Bill Brisson said people are putting the flags in the ground at an angle, so the flags can be read, which makes them signs not flags. He said he would research the issue of when a flag becomes a sign and report at the next work session.

Commissioner Pat Morton asked if condominiums are allowed to have one for sale sign per owner and noted, "I’m seeing condos with four or five different real estate agents in one complex and each one has their sign out."

"My guess is that most of those signs are in the common area of the condominium and they should not be on that property," City Attorney Patricia Petruff replied. "It’s a tricky enforcement issue."

She said the condo associations should have rules regarding signs.

Commissioners clarified the language limiting real estate signs to one per yard except corner and waterfront yards.



Pier team to revisit restaurant design

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – When they finish the historic Bridge Street Pier renovation, Mayor John Chappie wants to make sure it still looks historic.

Chappie said he was comparing renderings of the main building housing the restaurant when he noticed some details in the original drawings were not there. He told the members of the pier team, meeting at Tingley Memorial Library last Friday, that with the walls and roof going up right now, he wanted to make sure they were still in the plan.

"The original plans showed dormers to match the ones out on the gazebo at the end of the pier," he said. "They’re not on this later drawing, and I don’t remember those changes being brought before the city commission for its approval."

Architect Tom O’Brien said some of the changes were the result of specific comments. He said some of the gabled dormers were deleted to add structures to support signs and lighting.

O’Brien said one dormer was deleted because it would have been a hazard during high winds. He said changes in restaurant plans resulted in the loss of some of the detail.

"The roof evolved with the addition of attic storage," he said.

O’Brien said he could put back one gable, but that it would not be cheap to do.

"We never wanted to undo it," Chappie argued. "The contractor’s bid was based on the details in the drawings."

O’Brien said one main gable was lost when they redesigned the west side of the restaurant. The team decided to extend the main roof over that entrance instead of it having its own. He said they could put that back, but not until they get other items out of the way.

The team also looked at some of the change orders, which became controversial when a series of them added almost 10 percent to the total cost of the project. These change orders were for smaller amounts, however, and some of them were for the city’s policy of using environmentally responsible materials. One such product is insulating foam. One product, soy-based BioBase 501 insulating foam, performed better in different ways than the petroleum based Icynene foam. BioBase will cost $150 more than Icynene, but O’Brien and Tom Edwards, with contractor Southern Cross Contracting Inc., agreed to try to get Icynene’s supplier to lower his price, since he would likely advertise to prospective customers that it is being used at the pier.

They saved $2,200 by deleting protective pilings south of the bait shop, dockmaster/bathhouse building because any boat headed toward those building would ground itself on the rip rap before it would reach the building.


Resident questions pine removal on Causeway

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

BRADENTON — Holmes Beach resident John Molyneux questioned members of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Committee about why they plan to remove Australian pines on the northeast side of the Causeway.

"We ‘re replacing them with native species," Ingrid McClellan, executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful, replied. "The removal will be phased."

She said the committee removed three Australian pines from the southwest side of the Causeway and planted 75 trees.

"You have a collection of thousands of acres natural conserved land easily within the tidal flowways of those trees," Max Dersch, liaison with the Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Department, explained.

"All of those seeds drop down and flow down in a high tide back in our mangroves and our conservation lands. The next thing you know, you’ve got tons of Australian pines that we have to go in and remove, otherwise we have no mangroves."

"These trees are nice to look at and they’re providing shade," Mike Meehan, of northwest Bradenton, said. "If you’re worried about the seeds getting into the preserve, then put a crew out there once a year and pull out the seedlings."

Molyneux said the group is leaving pines on the other side of the Causeway and on the north east side and noted, "If your argument holds water, then take the whole lot down," Molyneux suggested.

Dersch said if it were up to his department, they would all come down.

"This is our way of addressing this issue in a phased process with a tree replacement policy," Kathy King said. "It’s not native versus exotics; it’s invasive exotics.

"In order to appease people who would go ballistic at a complete removal, which was the original recommendation, we’re leaving some to bridge the gap to allow for that phased process."

Molyneux said he surveyed people on the Causeway and three out of four preferred the areas where there are pines.

“You are all responsible for the best use of taxpayers’ money," Molyneux said. “You are also responsible for doing what the general pubic wants. You are rubbing against the general public’s wishes."

"We are looking at taxpayers’ concerns," Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore pointed out. "We just spent $10 million buying 487 acres and made it into a natural preserve, and those Australian pines will cost taxpayers more money."

Holmes Beach Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens said the committee held a series of public workshops and "this is what people told us they wanted."

Sidewalks and landscaping

Manon Lavoie, the group’s liaison for the Florida Department of Transportation, reported that the DOT plans to construct a sidewalk on the north side of Manatee Avenue from the west side of the Anna Maria Bridge to East Bay Drive in 2008.

King said for safety reasons, the sidewalk should go under the bridge and along the south side of Manatee Avenue, but Lavoie said the engineering plans are completed and it’s too late to change them.

Bob Herrington, senior planner for the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Agency, suggested that a group of citizens approach Manatee County Commissioners and ask them to seek funding for an additional sidewalk on the south side.

Members learned that the end point of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway is East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach. At a previous meeting, they questioned why it did not go the to Manatee County Public Beach.

"It stops there because we were going to link it to the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway, but the city commission didn’t want to do it," Haas-Martens explained.

Holmes Beach Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes said he had applied for a grant to landscape from East Bay Drive to the beach, but it was denied.

Herrington suggested applying for a grant through the Island Transportation Planning Organization.

Herrington reported that there has been some confusion regarding the makeup of the committee and which government entity is its lead agency. He said he would have a report at the next meeting.

He also reported that the 2008 Florida Scenic Highway Conference is planned for Sarasota during the first week of May. He said 100 to 150 people would attend the two-day event and he would be seeking help from members of the local scenic highway committees to plan activities.



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