Vol 7 No. 34 - May 16, 2007


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper County to fell 80 pines at Coquina

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Center cell tower: If you build it, they will leave

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper More beach projects coming up

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Wedding procedures changing amid noise complaints

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper STOP pleads for city trees

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Boat ramp restrooms - annexation the only way to go

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Bistro treats farmers to harvest

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Bridge to get mechanical rehab




County to fell 80 pines at Coquina

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – As many as 80 Australian pines will fall at Coquina Beach during the parking lot safety program according to a May 10 memo from Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department Director Cindy Turner to the county commission.

The parking lot at Coquina Beach is being reconfigured into several smaller ones to reduce the possibility of cruising by gang members and to increase security during weekends and holiday.

In her memo, Turner said they would attempt to minimize tree removal where possibly by shifting parking areas, drive isles and parking islands without losing parking spaces.

"However, the removal of some trees will be required for construction of the parking areas and drive isles," the memo continued. "Our intent is to replace the removed trees with native species in median areas, around the proposed bus terminal and at other locations where appropriate."

According to Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, the parks and recreation department planner in charge of the project, Mike Sosadeeter, has met with Island native plant expert Mike Miller to look at the county’s options for native, salt and drought tolerant trees that provide good canopy and can withstand windstorms.

The bus terminal would be moved from the northern edge of the park to in front of the concession stand and the parking on either side would be changed from east-west to north-south to minimize interface between cars looking for a parking spot and people walking toward the sand.

The county ruffled the fur of activists opposed to cutting down the invasive trees last summer as a prelude to putting in the Coquina Beach Trail, a joint project of the county parks and recreation department and the city of Bradenton Beach. After the county chopped down several dozen of the trees, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection halted the project for unrelated reasons.

Regarding the additional tree removal planned for Coquina, concerned citizen Marsha Lindsey, who is a member of a group opposed to wholesale tree removal, said the government is not listening to the people.

"There is a much graver imminent issue at stake than the issue of removing an additional 80 Australian pines from the public area of Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach," she said. "This is the issue of government at all levels refusing to hear the voice of the citizens. It's just a few trees right? No. It is over 900 people, concerned enough about this issue to take time to sign petitions, send e-mails and write their officials. When did public sentiment lose it's value in our democratic system? And if not to the public, to whom do these public servants answer?"

Center cell tower: If you build it, they will leave

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Some of the Community Center’s major donors have asked the board of directors to hang up on the idea of pursuing a cell tower at the Center or they will no longer help fund the organization.

Last month, board members agreed to move forward with negotiations with Verizon for a cell tower on the site of their new building in Anna Maria.

"Some of our significant donors are not happy with the idea of the Center hosting the cell tower site," Chair Tom Breiter told board members last week. "They are donors who give us far more each year than the cell tower would create in revenue."

Board member Andy Price said at the April meeting that the 120-foot tower, which would look like a pole, would also hold the Center’s lights. All the antennas would be internal, and the diameter of the tower’s base, which would be on the ground at the corner of the concession stand dugout, would be 6 feet.

Executive Director Pierrette Kelly suggested that the board "step back and put it through our strategic planning process. If it negatively impacts our donors and they stop writing checks, I’m all for putting it off."

"Obviously, they don’t try to use their phones in Anna Maria," board member Carol Carter observed wryly.

"People are screaming for cell phone coverage on the north end of the Island," Price pointed out. "Somebody’s going to have to do it."

Anna Maria Commissioner Chris Tollette, the city’s liaison to the board, said according to Federal Communications Commission regulations, the city cannot exclude cell towers, but can designate where they can go. Areas designated in the city’s cell tower ordinance include city property, religious institutions, utility poles and rooftops.

"John Q Public will be mad no matter where it goes," board secretary John Horne said. "We have to worry about our donors."

Price said he would tell Verizon to hold on the plan and noted, "We said we would never do anything to jeopardize the building."

More beach projects coming up

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The groins along Coquina Beach, usually covered by sand, are now high and dry on the beach and Manatee County wants to rebury them with more sand.

On the north part of the Island, waves come almost up to back doors of some Gulf front properties in Anna Maria and the county wants to provide more sand to protect those structures, as well.

Although those two locations are not connected with each other, their renourishment projects might be, according to a consultant hired by the county to direct them.

Rick Spadoni, Senior Vice President and engineer for Coastal Planning and Engineering, the company hired by the county to coordinate renourishment projects, said the sand for Coquina would likely come from a dredging project at New Pass, between Longboat Key and St. Armands Circle.

"We originally wanted to get it from a dredging project at Longboat Pass and the county agreed to pay to have it brought up to Coquina," he said, "but the federal funding for the dredging fell through."

Last week, the Bradenton Beach City Commission gave the West Coast Inland Navigation District permission to bring sand from an emergency dredging on the east side of Jewfish Key onto the loading dock at Coquina Bayside for eventual placement at the FISH Preserve in Cortez. At that meeting, an engineer for WCIND’s consulting company offered to let the city have some of the sand for placement at Coquina Park, saying it was clean sand, but Spadoni said that won’t happen.

"They will be dredging a small amount of sand and it’s not the type we want on our beaches," he said. "It is not the white sand we have there now and it is not compatible with the beach."

Spadoni said there is a sizeable amount of sand to be dredged at New Pass and it is compatible with the beaches.

"We are in the permitting stage now," he said. "We expect to start next winter, maybe after the first of the year."

Spadoni said the county would pay for placing the sand at Coquina. The county is also planning the Anna Maria job, and Spadoni said timing is essential because the Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying 90 percent of the costs of that job.

"If we do the Anna Maria job first and then have the company move down to the Coquina Beach job, it would save a lot of money in staging for the two jobs," he said. "If we get everything in order, the job would go fairly fast. It would be finished within a couple of months of its start date."


Wedding procedures changing amid noise complaints

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — City commissioners have finally dropped trying to change their special events ordinance after months of debate. Instead, they will ask the owner of the Sandbar to apply for an amendment to the restaurant’s site plan.

"This has been extremely frustrating," said Mayor Fran Barford. "What triggered this are the weddings at The Sandbar. "We’ve been working and working here in the best interest of the city of Anna Maria and this not a situation that a special events ordinance can solve.

"The bottom line is the number of weddings in tents at the Sandbar," the mayor said. "There are 18 more weddings scheduled between July and December 31. We can’t take away business rights."

What that means is that Ed Chiles, whose company, WELD, Inc., owns and operates the Sandbar, will have to apply for a change to the site plan for the restaurant. The change to the original plan will have to include adequate parking, restrooms and seating for all wedding guests, as required by the city codes.

On the original site plan, which the city approved last year, there were just enough parking spaces and restroom facilities to accommodate the guests and the employees at the restaurant and the new pavilion. With a site plan amendment, Chiles will have to show he can accommodate the additional cars and guests generated by the weddings.

The effort to change the special event ordinance arose after the Sandbar began holding several weddings each weekend in a temporary tent on the property, triggering noise complaints from some neighbors.

Barford said the Sandbar will have to come to the city and apply to amend its site plan. What that means is that Chiles will have to come before the city commission and seek permission to hold the weddings on a regular basis. He will have to provide the number.

"They need to go through a site plan and get it out on the table," Barford said. "You take the Sandbar out of it (the special events ordinance) and keep the ordinance for things like the historical society and Bayfest."

Planner Alan Garrett, who has been working with the commission on the special events ordinance, said that a special event permit would be for an event that draws a large number of people.

"According to what the commission has said, you don’t want to amend the special events ordinance," Garrett said. "What is happening over and over and over again at the Sandbar should be codified and not governed by a special events ordinance."

Garrett said that the city has a right to place conditions on things like parking, restaurant seating and restrooms. We’re at a point where they need to come in with an amendment to their site plan."

Commissioner Duke Miller said he was all for it.

"This is just a useless piece of paper," said resident Janet Aubrey, waving the special events ordinance around. "You could drive trucks through it. I thank the mayor for laying it on the table. Tonight, we finally got to the bottom line. This is really embarrassing."

With that, months of sometimes acrimonious debate was laid to rest, the special events ordinance will stand as written and the Sandbar will be asked to make application for changes to its site plan.

During the interim between now and when the site plan changes are in place, the mayor urged the commission to work with the restaurant to make sure the weddings that have been planned can take place smoothly.



STOP pleads for city trees

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – Emotions ran high at the May 10 city commission work session, as members of a group committed to saving Australian pine trees pleaded with commissioners to keep five of the trees slated for removal in Gulffront Park.

"I believe it’s irresponsible to cut down these trees," said John Molyneux, one of the leaders of Stop Taking Our Pines (STOP). "Every tree matters. It’s just not a good use of funds when we need each tree to combat global warming."

Longtime Anna Maria resident Elizabeth Moss, who lives adjacent to Gulffront Park, told commissioners that her twin sons had transplanted Australian pine saplings from her yard to the park many years ago.

"They are of great benefit to property owners near Gulffront Park," she said.

The city has been inundated by letters from members of STOP lately, each pleading with commissioners to consider each tree before cutting it down. Because of the letters, the scheduled removal of the five trees in the park was placed on the agenda for the May work session.

Commission Chair John Quam opened the agenda item with a historical overview.

"We did a study three years ago of the health of the dune system in Gulffront Park," Quam recounted. "There was a pod of 12 large Australian pines that the study proposed to remove. We have money in this year’s budget to remove five of those trees."

Tim Eiseler, the chairman of the city’s Environmental Education and Enhancement Committee, contributed to the background of what led up to this point.

"The park was environmentally degraded with lots of illegal pruning, beach accesses every block, the illegal removal of cabbage palms and other problems," Eiseler said. "As a result of the study, we reduced the number of pathways to the beach and we removed all of the Brazilian peppers. It’s amazing what happens when you take out invasive species."

Eiseler said there has been a phased-in plan to remove some but not all of the Australian pines in the park.

"These five trees are really not accessible to people," he said. "They are surrounded by sea oats and other native vegetation. If you remember, we have left some trees in the picnic area where people actually use them for shade."

Commissioner Duke Miller expressed concern that the STOP group was suffering under a misperception.

"This group seems to think that we want to eradicate and get rid of Australian pines all up and down the city," Miller said. "We compromised in this park and left some of the trees and will now remove five. I just want to make sure that everybody understands this. It’s just these five trees."

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he thinks the decision to remove the five Australian pines is a good one.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick wanted to make sure that there would be replacement trees planted for any trees that are removed.

"We do replace the trees," Eiseler said. "There are some very good things to plant that will be food sources for the gopher tortoises in the park. This is a microclimate there. The beach is not traditionally a shaded environment."

Eiseler said it’s atypical that you would have shade trees on a dune system.
"They actually lead to the degradation of the dunes," he said.

Eiseler added that the problem is not so much that the trees are exotic, or not native, but that they are invasive and just proliferate to the point that you get a monoculture of Australian pines with native vegetation suppressed.

The STOP group was having none of that and said all anyone has to do is look under the trees and they’ll see plenty of native sea oats growing.

STOP member Marsha Lindsey, visibly angry and upset, said she didn’t think her group had been given a fair hearing. The commission had asked that only one member of the group act as a spokesperson. Molyneux filled that role, and Commission Chair John Quam asked that only people with something new to add be allowed to speak.

That angered Lindsey.

"There is strong public support for these trees," she said. "We should all be allowed to speak." She took exception with the amount of time allocated to the tree removal on the agenda.

"What do we have to do to bring this to a referendum?" she asked. "Your decision has already been made. You don’t listen to us. We feel a little passionate about this."

Mayor Fran Barford invited Lindsey to contact her and she’d get her the information on how to bring a referendum.

There was consensus among commissioners to go ahead and remove the five trees. The money was already allocated in this year’s budget.


Boat ramp restrooms - annexation the only way to go

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Speaking as a resident, a county official said the city of Holmes Beach should annex Kingfish boat ramp because county regulations will not permit the county to build a restroom there.

"Our FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) codes require the elevation to be 25 feet up," Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Director, told members of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Committee last week. "If the city would annex it, we could do it because they have their own flood codes."

Hunsicker said the county’s earlier concerns regarding annexation have disappeared due to the city’s cooperation with the county on its project to redesign the ramp area.

Until last fall, the city thought it owned the ramp area. City and county officials ordered surveys of the ramp after opposition arose to a county plan to increase the ramp’s parking area and remove the Brazilian peppers between the ramp and West Bay Cove.

After learning that the county owned the ramp area, the city asked county commissioners to consider a voluntary annexation of it. However, county commissioners said they were not interested in the proposal.

City and county officials and members of the condo association worked on plan to resolve their differences. The plan included removing the Brazilian peppers, reconfiguring the parking lot but not allowing parking beyond the welcome sign, planting native vegetation between the sign and the condo and adding a permanent restroom to replace the portables there.

"Serving our residents includes providing decent sanitation and attractive landscaping and law enforcement that can be responsive," Hunsicker said. "All of those things support a request for annexation.

"I’m not speaking as a county employee; I’m speaking as a resident. We should all evaluate the best deal for the residents and I think that is."

Holmes Beach Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens said she would speak with County Commissioners Carol Whitmore and Jane von Hahmann about the proposal.

Following the meeting, Ingrid McClellan, executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful, said she felt the discussion was inappropriate for the scenic highway meeting.

"There will be no further discussion on annexation at our meetings," she stressed. "It’s not what we’re about"



Bistro treats farmers to harvest

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Most of Anna Maria Elementary School’s fourth graders are probably not familiar with Simon and Garfunkel’s rendition of the old English ballad Scarborough Fair, but after several months of growing herbs, they’ve learned something about parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

A Manatee County Extension Service grant and Beach Bistro owner Sean Murphy’s donation of 10 Earth Boxes were all that the fourth-grade teachers needed to get started. Murphy made them a deal – he would supply the boxes if they would grow the herbs, which he would buy from them.

"We hope to continue this," AME Guidance Counselor Cindi Harrison said. "As these kids move into the fourth grade, we would like to see them give the money they made this year to a charitable effort."

To show the students what could be done with their crops, Murphy arranged a lunch last Wednesday at the Beach Bistro, complete with linen tablecloths and napkins and his renowned corps of waiters and kitchen staff. The fourth-grade teachers, Harrison and Principal Tom Levengood were also invited.

The menu said, "Beach Bistro welcomes Anna Maria Elementary School Incredible Edible Gardeners."

They started out with Herb Amusee with two mystery ice creams and shortbread. One of the ice creams had lemon and the other some green herbs.

Next came the Roma Tomato Salad and Bistro Herb Dressing. The huge tomato slices were topped with two types of basil. Each serving also had a smaller diameter tomato slice that the students had grown.

Before the main dish was served, Murphy got everyone’s attention by striking wineglasses and he spoke to them about good manners.

"You will need to have good manners when you get a job – and a job is like school only they pay you," he said "When one of our waiters serves you, use please and thank you. If you do that, you will get better service."

The entrée consisted of herb grilled chicken with lemon grass and lime dill butter served with pesto bow tie pasta and fried eggplant chips. It was a sophisticated meal for these young farmers, but many remarked on how they could taste the herbs.

Finally, dessert. Murphy’s wife, Susan Timmins, talked about that.

"I told our chef to make it fun and not serve ice cream with herbs," she said. "This is praline that is crushed and rolled with French vanilla ice cream."

Dessert went down quickly as the youngsters discovered the joys of pralines.

With any luck, this arrangement with the Beach Bistro will mean fresh herbs for the customers, a life experience for the fourth-graders and some money for a worthy charitab


Bridge to get mechanical rehab

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The Anna Maria Island Bridge will be refurbished next year, according to the Florida Department of Transportation, and there’s no possibility for now that the drawbridge will turn into a tall, fixed-span anytime soon.

The bridge was the subject of an Island-wide controversy back in 1993, when FDOT’s regional director, David May, said the drawbridge was going to be replaced with a 65-foot-tall, fixed span and that it was a “done deal.”

That statement infuriated residents who felt the drawbridge was more in keeping with the Island ambience and would remain open longer during storms.

They formed a group known as Save Anna Maria (SAM) and took FDOT to task and to court in a controversy that ended with a decision in favor of SAM and FDOT relenting, saying it would not seek to replace the 50-year-old structure.

In August 2002, FDOT refurbished the bridge pilings and overhauled the moveable bascule and the electrical service. The work cost $7.1 million.

The refurbishment recently announced by FDOT would cost $9 to $10 million and would include adding a sidewalk on the north side of State Road 64 and updating the mechanics and electronics of the bascule, according to spokesman William Thomas.

He said the plan did not include structural work. Nor would it include consideration of a new bridge.

"When it came time to redo the bridge (in the early 1990s), residents of the Island chose to keep the bridge," Thomas said. "Because of that, the bridge has historical significance."

When FDOT decided to refurbish the bridge in 2002, it was with the notion that the bridge would last another 20 years and that the highway department would begin the paperwork toward deciding whether to replace it 10 years before that or sometime in 2012.

Thomas said there was no reference to that in his file and that it appears this latest project would begin around 2007 or 2008. He said that FDOT would put the project up for bid in June to see what the cost would be realistically. He said once construction begins, it is estimated that it would last 400 days.



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