Vol 7 No. 36 - May 30, 2007

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Musician loses home, instruments to fire

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper AMI a ‘top five’ travel destinations

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Building official retained

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Department head apologizes for destruction of trees, nests

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Top honors for Island officers

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Project would calm traffic on Marina Dr.

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Air beginning to clear at Cortez marina

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Commercial property limit 37 feet




Musician loses home,
instruments to fire

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – A fire in an elevated duplex at 6814 Palm Drive last Friday afternoon is being investigated by West Manatee Fire & Rescue Deputy Fire Marshall Kurt Lathrop and the state fire marshall’s office as an arson.

The fire was put out quickly, but the damage was costly to the local musician who lives there.

"It destroyed all my equipment, my guitars, everything," said Mark Pelham, guitarist for the group Bootleg. "I had everything in the room where the fire started because I had that room set up for recording."

The fire department estimates damage at around $50,000. The fire damage was confined to one unit of the duplex. The other side was unoccupied.

Pelham was busy Saturday afternoon underneath the elevated building sorting through everything could salvage from his. It was a good day to go to the beach, but the beach was the farthest thing from his mind.

"I don’t have a place to live," he said. "Everything I own is gone."

Among the items under the unit were a melted computer monitor, a charred speaker and a guitar.

Pelham was inside when the fire began shortly before 3 p.m.

"I woke up and there was smoke everywhere," he said. "At least I got my two dogs (boxers) out. They’re OK."

Pelham was transported to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. A total of 20 firefighters from West Manatee and Longboat Key Fire Department responded to the fire, according to the news release.

AMI a ‘top five’ travel destination

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Anna Maria Island has been chosen as one of the top five "hidden, affordable beach destinations" by SmarterTravel.com.

The Island is named on the website along with San Mateo County, Ca., Points East Coastal Drive, Prince Edward Island, east Hawaii and Gulf Shores, Ala. as an alternative to pricey, crowded destinations such as Martha's Vineyard and Maui.

The destinations were rated on cost, undeveloped character and opportunities for adventure, culture and good food.

Among the Island’s premiere activities, according to the website, "doing nothing" was ranked first, followed by snorkeling, kayaking, fishing and exploring Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria by trolley.

Calling it the "hidden beach destination Floridians escape to," the website reported that the Island has no condo towers, only three-story-tall buildings, no fast-food chains other than Subway, no amusement parks and no glitzy resorts.

It also noted affordable waterfront summer accommodations priced under $1,000 a week and affordable beachfront restaurants with seafood entrees under $15. Recommended restuarants included the Café on the Beach and Star Fish Co., and recommended accommodations included the Tradewinds Resort and Tortuga Inn Beach Resort.

January rates on Anna Maria Island averaged $150.90, down from $163.42 last year. February rates were $165.76, down from $176.63, and March rates were $176.10, down from $186.21, according to the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.<< Top

Building official retained

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Acting Building Official Stephen Gilbert can unpack his bags. He’ll likely be working at Bradenton Beach for as long as he wants, although he won’t be working for Bradenton Beach.

The city commission took Mayor John Chappie’s suggestion to "think outside the box"

seriously last Wednesday when it voted to have him negotiate with M.T. Causley for a contract to provide building department leadership as they have for the past two months.

M.T. Causely assigned Gilbert to Bradenton Beach when the city contracted with them. Gilbert has expanded his duties from normal building official assignments to also helping oversee the city pier construction project and looking at the city’s delayed update of its building code and future land use map.

In lieu of hiring any of the individuals who applied for the job, Causley will provide a building official, most likely Gilbert according to company owner Mike Causley, and any other help the department may need from a specialist to additional staffing.

Causley made his pitch two weeks earlier as several of the screened candidates also made theirs. At that time, he quoted the cost at $109,000 per year, which includes a full-time building official, his Social Security, taxes, insurance, retirement, vacation and sick leave, health insurance, phone, vehicle, education and uniforms.

The city would have to provide those necessities and amenities for whomever it hires, which would bring the annual expense to the city up to nearly that much. City Clerk Nora Idso made a chart of Causley’s expense compared to that of the other three candidates. Anna Maria Building Official Kevin Donohue would have cost the city $115,629 with an annual salary of $75,000, which he said would make him happy; Bradley Weigle would have cost $108,820 with an annual salary of $70,000; and Lawrence Nayman would have cost $103,646 at an annual salary of $66,000.

Chappie let his choice be known early in the meeting.

"We have someone who has worked with the city and is familiar with the land use plan, who works very well with citizens and we’ve gotten a lot of compliments, and works well with the builders," Chappie said. "If you look at the numbers, he’s very competitive.

"I know what we’ve done in the past and it hasn’t worked," he added. "We need to think outside the box."

Chappie reminded the commissioners that if it doesn’t work out, they can get out of the contract within a 30-day notice and they could shorten the hours he works, if there is another builder slowdown. He also spoke of Gilbert’s status as an employee of M.T. Causley.

"He’s removed from the politics of the city," Chappie said. "Yet, he still has a personal touch for the community."

Commissioner John Shaughnessy, who lives at Sandpiper Mobile Resort where there is a lot of refurbishment going on, said he has seen Gilbert operate.

"I like Steve, you can work with him," he said. "Instead of issuing stop work orders, he explains what you need to do to comply."

Commissioner bill Shearon asked where Gilbert would rank in relation to permits clerk Judy Pruitt, code enforcement officer Gail Garneau and code enforcement technician Wendy Chabot.

"Nora will remain in charge of the staff there," Chappie said. "He will be there to serve the building department and work with the code enforcement officer."
Chappie said that the city would continue to ask department heads to come up with figures during the budget cycle and other department heads such as Idso would be able to make a budget for the building department, since Gilbert would not be an official department head.

Then, the Mayor talked about Causley’s proposal.

"They seemed to leave the door open to negotiations if we seek a permanent, full-time person," he said. "I would like a motion to have me open negotiations with them,"

That’s what the commission voted on and he began negotiations the next day.


Department head apologizes
for destruction of trees, nests

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The removal of more than 60 Australian pine trees and stumps in Coquina Beach parking lot may have cost some birds their homes and offspring. Manatee County Parks and Recreation Director Cindy Turner told a group of tree and bird conservationists last Wednesday that if that’s the case, she is sorry and that’s not what they wanted to happen.

Turner and several parks and recreation decision-makers held a public meeting at their GT Bray Park office to explain what is going on there and ask for input on new trees that will replace the ones taken out.

The project at the parking lot is an attempt to give police more control over that area during times when the park is full. While the project has been in the planning stage for two years, according to project manager Tom Yarger, it was accelerated following the gang-related shooting of two people in the crowded parking lot on Easter.

Two weeks ago, crews converged on the parking lot and started taking down the Australian pines that separated the farthest west parking area and the one east of it. The plan was to configure the lot so that cars would park facing north and south, instead of east and west, to minimize cruising by gang members.

Yarger told the group that they took out 47 trees in the central area and minimized the number of trees taken out in the southern portion of the huge lot where they found nests in them. In total, they took down 65 trees and seven or eight stumps.

Barbara Hines, a bird lover and artist, who has photographed the trees to prepare for painting the area, came to the beach when the crews started taking down the trees and talked with Yarger.

"I told you there were bird nests there," she said. "It seems, at some point, that you had taken down many, many bird nests.

"There were active night heron nests there," she said. "I was crying and you told me not to cry. I stood there and watched you take down those nests until I could not watch anymore."

Hines told Turner that she was not at the park when they took down the night heron nests. She said she saw a raccoon take eggs from one of the nests because the parent birds had left when the machinery started shaking the ground. She handed over a stack of pictures she had taken of the nests before the project began.

"It seemed like an overnight deal," said Billie Martini, a member of Save Anna Maria (SAM). "We found out two days before and it seemed like it was something that you knew was going to be controversial."

Martini asked if they could have postponed the project and Yarger said no, that doing so would cost taxpayers money.

Turner said that her department did not intentionally plan to take down the trees.

"We are parks and recreation," she said. "We love trees. It was disturbing to see."

Hinds said she would not have been there if they had not been taking down bird nests.

"I am not a supporter of the trees," she said. "I am a bird lover."

Marilyn Shirley, whose husband symbolically tied her to a tree the morning the project started, said it was time to move forward.

"You should have a bird nest policy," she said.

"I agree with Marilyn, they should have a bird nest policy," said Mike Miller, a local expert on native trees. "I don’t think it’s fair, though, to say they killed all the birds in those nests. Some of the nests have been empty for four years."

He suggested that the parks and recreation officials admit they made a mistake and move forward.

"If we did kill any birds, we certainly did not mean to do this," Yarger said. "It started with 80 trees and we stopped short of that. Let’s look at new trees. We want to get new trees on the Island as fast as we can."

Turner agreed.

"If we removed trees that we should not have, we apologize to you," she said.

The meeting then proceeded to address the types of new trees that would go well in the parking lot.



Top honors for Island officers

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

Two police officers who teamed up to bring two men out of the truck they were in when it drove off the Anna Maria Bridge and into the bay have been honored as law enforcement officers of the year by the Manatee County One Hundred Club, a group that supports police officers.

Holmes Beach Police officer Mike Pilato and Bradenton Beach Police Sgt. Charles Sloan got Zane Zavadil and Ryan Costello out of their vehicle in April 2006. Zavadil died but Costello survived and continues to recover.

Both officers received praise from their chiefs following the incident. The Anna Maria Island Sun also praised them in an editorial on April 19, 2006.

"These men from different police departments on the same Island worked together as a team to haul first Costello, then Zavadil out, so that medical technicians could try to revive them," the editorial said.

Pilato also received praise for his quick response to a Christmas day robbery at the CVS Drug Store in Holmes Beach. Although off duty, Pilato aided other officers in apprehending the suspect. Police Chief Jay Romine praised Pilato for his diligence in pursuing the suspects after serving his shift and heading for home to be with his family on Christmas.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said the quick actions of the two officers were responsible for Costello coming out of the accident alive. He said Sgt. Sloan was a top-notch officer.

"We are proud to call him one of our own," he said.


Project would calm
traffic on Marina Dr.

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commissioners approved an engineer’s suggestions for a traffic calming project on Marina Drive from the traffic light at Marina and Gulf drives to city hall.

The project includes installing planters along Gulf Drive at S & S Plaza to keep drivers from pulling into traffic at the intersection and a 4-foot sidewalk from the corner at Wachovia Bank north to the trolley stop.

Some of the landscaped island in front of Jessie’s Island Store will be removed in order to lengthen the turn lane and all the narrow curbing the length of the project will be removed.

A 6-foot landscaped island will be installed in front of the former Ginny’s Antiques and Art and pavement will be added to both sides of the roadway from the Island Branch Library to city hall.

Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes said the original plan showed additional crosswalks at Tidemark and the library, and he asked if commissioners want to keep them in the plan.

"I’d like to see them eliminated," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said. "We are having problems with them (the brick-like crosswalks have been crumbling) and they are an added expense."

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said he is concerned about the safety of people crossing the street at the shopping center.

"We’re not doing anything in this plan to make that crosswalk better," he pointed out. "This whole project is going to make traffic flow through there smoother and faster.

"The one median in the middle of the crosswalk where people can stop is being taken out. When Tidemark is built, we’re going to have more pedestrian traffic there."

Commissioner Pat Morton agreed, however, Bohnenberger said the fact that vehicles that don’t stop for pedestrians at the crosswalk is an enforcement issue.

"There’s limited space at the crosswalk," Chris Bolyard, of Banks Engineering, responded. "We tried to make improvements to the crosswalks. At that spot if you add a bigger island, you’re hurting your traffic. When you reduce your amount of turn lane, then you have problems.”

Zaccagnino asked if there are any plans to improve parking on Marina Drive side of the shopping center. Bolyard said there is limited right of way and unless the shopping center owner would grant an easement to the city, it can’t be improved.



Air beginning to clear
at Cortez marina

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Three neighbors of Cortez Cove Marina are breathing easier now that work is nearly completed on a boat there.

Fiberglas dust and chemical fumes made life miserable for Chris Baatz, Laura Hull and Glen Moresco and their families while workers lengthened the hull of boat owner John Wimpy’s research vessel, according to complaints filed with the Manatee County Environmental Management Department.

"The Fiberglas comes through the windows," said Baatz, a 10-year Cortez resident. "We couldn’t even go out in the back yard to play with our daughter because everything was covered. I can put up with the noise and smell, but once Fiberglas gets on my daughter’s toys you’ve got to physically wash it off."

The marina is zoned light manufacturing, which allows repair and maintenance, Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said.

"Under the Cortez working waterfronts plan, they are legal," she said.

"It’s a boatyard," said Karen Bell, a co-owner of the marina. "There’s been Fiberglas done there for years. If you move into a working fishing village, what do you expect?"

But Manatee County Code Enforcement Officer John Andruzzi said the scope of the work technically went beyond what is allowed.

While no violation will be filed against the marina for this project, which is nearly complete, "If they try to do it on another boat, there may be a cease and desist order," he said, adding that work is judged on a case by case basis.

The problem was referred to Andruzzi by the county’s Environmental Management Department, which recommended ventilation and screening at the site.

Paul Panik, environmental manager over pollutant storage and hazardous waste, verified that the boat owner complied with recommendations to use fans to blow the odors away from the residences and hang tarps to contain Fiberglas dust.

"The owner cooperated and implemented the actions," he said.

Baatz acknowledged the tarps and fans, but said it wasn’t enough.

"No matter where the fans blow, it still depends on where the wind blows it."

Complaints also were made to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, but spokeswoman Pamela Vasquez said that the county had sufficiently addressed the problem.

"This may just be a consequence of poor historical zoning having manufacturing next to residential," Panik said.

"Tolerance is a word everyone needs to learn," Bell said.


Commercial property limit 37 feet

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Commercial property will be able be built up to 37 feet in height, just like every other structure in the Island’s northern-most city.
City commissioners had been set to limit the height of commercial structures to 27 feet, but a last-minute lobby turned the tide. They worked out the final details of the city’s revised comprehensive plan at a meeting May 22.

"I, along with many other residents in this city, believe that the proposed 27-foot height limit is blatantly discriminatory and punitive to commercial property owners," Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said.

Other commissioners agreed, but held fast to limiting the usable floors to two. So if a commercial building is built to 37 feet, only two of the possible three stories will be habitable. The ground level could be used for deliveries, storage and parking, for example.

The vote was 4-1 for the 37-foot height for all structures in the city. Commissioner Duke Miller cast the lone dissenting vote.

In two other contested issues, commissioners held the line on the property at the corner of Gulf Drive and Palmetto Avenue and will leave it in the residential district on the future land use map. Former City Commissioner Linda Cramer, the owner of that property, argued that her property should be in the ROR (residential/office/retail) district.

The vacant property at the northwest corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard across from the city pier will be shown as commercial on the future land use map. The owners and their attorney had lobbied to have the land zoned ROR, but Commissioner Dale Woodland argued that with only 3 percent of the land in the city commercial, he wasn’t about to support the removal of what amounted to 15 percent of that land from the commercial land use category. The other commissioners agreed.

With the May 22 meeting concluded, the comp plan is essentially done. All that remains is for the commission to approve the minutes of the meeting.
The plan then will be forwarded to the Department of Community Affairs in Tallahassee. DCA has 90 days to make comments and return the document to the city.

The city will address the comments, if any, at a public hearing, and resubmit the document. DCA then has 45 days to approve the document and the four-year quest to envision and plan for the next 10 to 20 years of city’s future will be concluded.



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