Vol 8 No. 13 - December 19, 2007


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Pine Ave. project takes giant step

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Commissioner seeks help from First Lady

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Chief reports to board on homicide, shooting

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Bids in, special meeting called to contract for drainage project

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Tourism focus may shift to shopping

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Island churches offer Christmas services

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Doors opening for hometown author

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Scientists are finding sharks on drugs




Pine Ave. project takes giant step

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – The first closing on a targeted property and the city commission’s decision to zone six lots on North Bay Boulevard ROR instead of commercial represents a huge step forward for the Pine Avenue Restoration Project.

"It was a big first step," said Michael Coleman, who is spearheading the 21-lot retail, office, and residential project on the city’s main east-west thoroughfare. "I’m relieved and it’s a good beginning. Getting the six lots on the bay into ROR on the Future Land Use Map is huge."

The city commission voted 3-2 at its Dec. 11 meeting to take the recommendation of the planning and zoning board and put those six lots on the northeast corner of Pine and South Bay Boulevard into the ROR district. Coleman and his partners have a contract to purchase those lots.

Commissioners Duke Miller and Dale Woodland voted against changing the designation from commercial to ROR.

Also last week, Pine Avenue Restoration Project, LLC closed on their first piece of property.

The double lot at 315 Pine Avenue, which is on the southwest corner of Pine and Crescent, is now in the hands of the project’s developers.

Closing was Friday, Dec. 14. Coleman declined to disclose the price he paid for the property.

The second closing is scheduled for this week. It’s another double lot, this one at 503 Pine. A third parcel at 401 Pine Ave. comprised of three conforming lots, is scheduled to close on January 15.

"Those are critical properties as we’ve envisioned the project," Coleman said earlier. "That’s everything on the south side of Pine that we need."

Coleman said all the funding is in place for part of the project that will be located on the south side of Pine Avenue.

The properties in the south side make up Phase One of the project planned for Pine Avenue.

"Our next step will be to closely follow the process of the development of the Land Development Regulations," he said.

The LDR’s will grow out of the comprehensive plan that the city commission voted last week to transmit to the Florida Department of Community Affairs for approval.

The Pine Avenue Restoration Project is envisioned as "Gulf Coast cracker" shops, offices and living quarters.

Commissioner seeks help from First Lady

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — City Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick ran up against a brick wall when she was researching ways to get some recognition and funding for the AMI Historical Society’s projects.

She was looking at the Preserve America initiative as a way to bring attention to what’s been done with the museum, with the preservation of Belle Haven Cottage and with the grounds of the Historic Park on Pine Avenue.

She quickly found that the city’s size disqualifies it, so she wrote to First Lady Laura Bush, the honorary chair of Preserve America.

"I am the commission liaison to the Anna Maria Island Historical Society and this seemed a perfect fit for our community, as we had recently completed a historic preservation project for Belle Haven, a two room cracker style structure that was built at the end of our City Pier in 1920," Mattick wrote in her letter to the First Lady.

Mattick went on to say that she thinks that the work the Historical Society has accomplished should qualify it for a Preserve America Community. That designation recognizes and designates communities that protect and celebrate their heritage, use their historic assets for economic development and community revitalization, and encourage people to experience and appreciate local historic resources through education and heritage tourism programs.

Benefits of the designation include White House recognition and eligibility to apply for Preserve America grants, among other things.

Mattick thought the Preserve American would be a good thing for the city. Then she hit that brick wall.

"Unfortunately, on further review of the application instructions, I learned that a city must have a population of over 200,000 in order to apply, and thus our small Island city of approximately 1,850 residents would be unable to meet this criterion," Mattick said in her letter.

"It is impossible for a small city to compete with larger metropolitan areas either historically or financially," she maintained.

Mattick said she thinks it’s clear that members of the Advisory Council on Historic preservation agree it’s important for all communities, regardless of size, to be proactive in the preservation of historic buildings of local significance without regard of their ability to qualify for placement on either the state or federal historic registers.

Mattick has asked the First Lady and the Preserve America organization to consider the possibility of having a special category permitting smaller communities to apply.

The letter was sent December 11, so there is not yet a reply.

Chief reports to board on homicide, shooting

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Police Chief Jay Romine reported to commissioners on the city’s recent homicide and shooting, noting the city’s unusual series of events in the past couple of weeks.

"We are working on the Carla Beard homicide, but obviously, I can’t say too much. We have had great cooperation from the press. We have $6,000 in reward money. We still feel like we’ve got somebody out there that knows what happened or saw it."

He said police are trying to establish a timeline of Beard’s last days and are still waiting for results of medical tests.

Regarding the shooting of businesswoman Sue Normand, Romine said police still don’t know why Mark Koenigs shot Normand because he refuses to talk to police.

"I just want to publicly say what a great cooperative effort it was," he said. "Within a matter of minutes all the agencies – our agency, the Bradenton Beach Police Department and the Sheriffs Office – were there. I’ve never seen a coordinated effort come together so fast."

He said prior to the shooting, several people had seen Koenigs acting suspiciously at the shopping center and stressed, "If you see something out of the ordinary that makes you uncomfortable, pick up the phone and call us. That’s what we’re here for."

He said there is nothing to indicate any connection between the two incidents.


Bids in, special meeting called
to contract for drainage project

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Bids are in, a special meeting is set for Dec. 20 to select a contractor and work on the Phase One drainage project is set to begin early in 2008.

Bids from contractors were opened Friday, Dec. 14 with Adkins Contracting, Inc. submitting the lowest bid at $629,982.68. The next lowest bid was $684,220.43, which came from Kuxhausen Construction, Inc. DeJonge Excavating Contractors, the firm that did the Gladiolus basin drainage project came in third with a bid of $855,402.

Seven firms submitted bids, which ranged from Adkins’ low to a high of $1,448,358 submitted by Pipeline Utilities.

The city commission will meet in special session Thursday to select a contractor and to authorize the mayor to sign the contract for the work slated to begin as early as January.

Half of the $539,000 set aside for the project will come from the city. The other half is being funded by grants from Southwest Florida Water Management District and by a state program called Stormwater Improvement Management Project.

City Commissioner Dale Woodland worked hard to secure the funding for both the Gladiolus Basin project and for this latest initiative.

"We know we’re going to get flooding," he said. "This is a barrier Island. We can make the water go away a little faster, and we can prevent some of the pooling on the streets where the wake from cars washes onto people’s properties and, in some cases, into people’s houses."

The drainage project will use the existing alleyways, for the most part. There will be wide, shallow swales through the alleys, which will allow the stormwater to percolate down through the soil. This will clean the water before it gets into the aquifer or into the Gulf or bay.

The design also includes removal of much of the asphalt that covers the city hall parking lot that fronts on Pine Avenue. That asphalt will be replaced with a material that will allow the stormwater to percolate, rather than running off onto neighboring properties.

Where there are actual outfalls into the canals or the bays, special filter systems will work to remove heavy metals and other pollutants from the stormwater before it gets discharged into the bay or canal.

The project will run from just west of Gulf Drive all the way east to South Bay Boulevard. Pine Avenue is roughly the northern boundary of the project. Along Gulf Drive, it will go as far south as Maple.

At one city-sponsored neighborhood informational meeting about the project, shouting and turmoil erupted, but was quickly contained by a sheriff’s deputy. It appeared that the cause of the excitement was the result of misinformation. Subsequent meetings on the drainage project were calmer and more orderly.



Tourism focus may shift to shopping

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – A new tourism promotion may be in the works, focused on shopping in the sunshine.

Responding to reports of falling hotel and motel occupancy rates during the first quarter of Manatee County’s fiscal year, Kent Davis, of the the county’s Tourist Development Council, suggested the idea Monday.

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau statistics show that while Anna Maria Island occupancy was up in both October and November, it was down in the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key and overall in Manatee County from last year.

In October, 47 percent of the rooms surveyed countywide were occupied, down from 49.5 percent last October, and in November, 50.4 percent were occupied, down from 54.3 percent last November.

On Anna Maria Island, 40.9 percent of rooms were filled in October, up from 35.6 percent last October. In November, 40.5 percent of rooms were filled, up from 37.3 percent last November.

"The numbers are slightly off for the beginning of our fiscal year," CVB Director Larry White said, adding that the downturn could be on paper only, due to hotel owners delaying payment of their resort taxes.

But whatever the reason, the favorable exchange rate between the dollar and the euro is too strong for visitors to ignore, he said, citing a sandwich and beer lunch he recently enjoyed at Harrod’s department store in London that costs twice its price in pounds versus dollars.

To take advantage of the economisc conditions, Davis suggested a shopping marketing campaign, similar to the sports marketing provided by the Florida Gulf Coast Sports Commission.

"People are buying golf clubs at Wal-Mart," he said, paying the same price for a whole set that they’d pay for a single driver in France.

"When you hit the right side of a currency exchange, it makes you dizzy, it’s so good," he said. "Why not characterize ourselves as a shopping destination?"

"We can make an effort to feature unique retail in the area," CVB Marketing Director Susan Estler said, coining the phrase, "Do your shopping in the sunshine."

But she cautioned that international travelers, especially in the United Kingdom, have been warned away from the U.S. by bad press overseas about immigration hassles.

In other business, council member Tom Jung questioned why the Island seems to get more promotional attention than mainland accommodations.

The two destinations are unique and are marketed differently, Estler said.

"It’s a different product," said White, adding that marketing efforts geared towards sports, the convention center and the Crosley estate are primarily focused on mainland accommodations.


Island churches offer Christmas services

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

Whether you’re a resident or a visitor to the Island, chances are you’re thinking of spending some time at church during Christmas Eve or Day. Most of the churches on Anna Maria Island are prepared to accommodate you so you can avoid the bridges and have more time for family and walking the beach. Here’s a list of what churches are doing Monday and Tuesday.

•Crosspointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Dive, Anna Maria, 778-0719: A candlelight service at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

• Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, 4408 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-1638: A service at 5 and a candlelight service at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve and one at 10 a.m. on Christmas Day.

• Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-1813: Candlelight services at 7 and 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve and 9:30 a.m. on Christmas Day.

• Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., 778-0414: The regular 10 a.m. service on Sunday, Dec. 23; services at 5:30 and 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve; and communion in the Chapel from 10 to 11 p.m.

• St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-4769: A children’s Mass at 4 p.m. and a midnight Mass at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve and Masses at 8 and 10 a.m. on Christmas Day.



Doors opening for hometown author

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Kathleen Flinn is a food and wine connoisseur who studied abroad and is right at home in the kitchen or the wine cellar. That’s why she chose to attend a special wine tasting at one of the Island’s top wine outlets, Time Saver Food and Wine at 5353 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.
After losing her job several years ago, up-and-coming businesswoman Flinn took her savings and her future in a different direction. The former journalist and writer went to France to study food preparation at world famous Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts school.

After graduating, she combined her experience at the school with her experience writing to publish "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry."

The book has become a success, and has been selected by the creators of Beard on Books, named after the late chef and author James Beard.

Flinn said culinary arts has been made more popular in the media by The Food Channel and The Travel Channel.

"Most of the people who would read my book are ‘foodies’ or people who want to make a change in their lives," she said. "People like reading about those things."

Flinn finds that her book is opening new doors for her in the world of culinary arts.

"AAA Signatours selected my book as the basis for a very special tour of Paris in May 2008," she said. "I'll be helping to host the tour and so I've worked with their travel planners to help design it."

Flinn is also promoting the book with a contest.

"Women and Wine along with Sofitel Hotels and American Airlines are giving away a trip to Paris as a promotion for my book," she said. "This marks the launch of Women and Wine's Reading Glasses Events. My book is their first title."

Meanwhile, Flinn enjoyed sitting at a table, talking with the guests at Time Saver and signing copies of her book that were being sold there.

It’s not the first time she’s been to a wine tasting at Time Saver. Her parents bought a second home in Holmes Beach in the 1970s and her father was diagnosed with cancer shortly after that. They moved to Holmes Beach where he later died, and she grew up there. She still calls the Island home and she comes to the wine tastings whenever she’s there.

With a new book, which is the subject of rave reviews, she might miss a few of those wine tastings in 2008.


Scientists are finding sharks on drugs

Coastlines By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Sharks Anonymous

The film "Finding Nemo" may have been on the right track when it pictured sharks sharing their struggles at a Sharks Anonymous meeting.

Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory are drug-testing bull sharks in the Myakka and Caloosahatchee Rivers for Prozac and other antidepressants, for Lipitor, a cholesterol medication, and Viagra.

The fear is that drugs travel from human patients to sewage systems to wastewater treatment plants to local waterways and into sharks.

Scientists are tagging the sharks with devices that absorb drugs dissolved in the water. When the tags are recovered and blood samples are taken, researchers compare the two to see if the sharks are absorbing drugs found in the water they swim in.

One shark in a group of 10 tested last year had low levels of six different antidepressants in its system. Nine of the 10 tested positive for the antidepressant Zoloft.

And while Zoloft might make it easier for a shark to think, "Fish are friends, not food," like the shark in the film, it doesn’t bode well for the species’ ability to survive.

Studies show that antidepressants trigger premature spawning in zebra mussels and delay a tadpole’s metamorphosis into a frog.

Evidence also exists that contraceptives have made it into the minnow population, causing reproductive abnormalities.

If you catch a tagged shark, keep the tag and call 388-4441, ext. 576.

Cuban refugee boat under restoration in Cortez

Cortez and Cuba have a shared history, as Cuban fishermen fished the Kitchen, the name Cortezians gave to Sarasota Bay for its seafood bounty, with some settling in the Cortez fishing village five generations ago.

Now, boatbuilders at the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez are keeping the connection alive, restoring a boat that brought Cuban refugees to the Florida Keys in 1990.

The 15-foot sailboat was used as a lawn ornament for an Islamorada fishing cottage until the owner, a cousin of museum boatbuilder Bob Pitt, donated it to the museum.

The boat’s original builders have earned the respect of the Cortez restorationists, who think that the wood was reused from other boats, docks or buildings, and that some of the nails could have once attached horseshoes to hooves.

Ingenuity - another tie linking Cubans and Cortezians.

Red tide tracking system on drawing board

Scientists in the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico are working together to coordinate their efforts to identify, track and predict red tide blooms.

The Integrated Ocean Observing System for Harmful Algae Blooms in the Gulf of Mexico will include data from buoys, satellites, unmanned submarines and new technologies as they are developed and used by all the Gulf states.

At a November workshop in New Orleans, researchers from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas met to work on the plan, whose goal is to manage and reduce the detrimental effects of red tide on people and marine life, and also mitigate its effects on tourism in coastal communities, according to Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START), which supports its development.

Many researchers think that red tide blooms originate offshore in deep water before wind and tides move them to the coast, where they affect residents, tourists, fish, shellfish, turtles


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