Pine Ave. project submits first site plan
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Pine Avenue Project building.

ANNA MARIA — The official site plan for first building in the Pine Avenue Restoration project has been submitted to the city.

The plan for the property at 315 Pine Avenue was given to the building department last week and is another significant step in the ambitious renovation project, which is a vision to turn Pine Avenue into Florida cracker-style shops and offices on the ground floor with living spaces upstairs.

Project developer Michael Coleman said he had told the city he would limit the building to only two stories, which will keep it proportional to the other structures along Pine Avenue. "We could have maximized the space by adding another floor, but as promised, we will only do two floors," he said.

The property is a double lot and is one of three on the south side of Pine that has already purchased for the project. Contracts also are in place for several other properties on the north side of Pine.

"We are working closely with the city," Coleman said. "It’s been a good process. The planner (Alan Garrett) and the building department (Building Official Steve Gilbert and Clerk Diane Sacca) are great to work with."

The site plan will now go before the city’s planning and zoning board for a hearing. The P&Z board will recommend approval, denial or approval with conditions and then forward the plan for a hearing before the city commission, where the final decision will be made.

The entire process will take several months.

"Then, as soon as the final approval comes in, we’ll break ground and begin construction," Coleman said.

‘Best ever’ Island Heritage Day delights huge crowd

The sun shone brightly as crowds of visitors wandered through the grounds of the Island Historical Museum during Saturday’s Heritage Day festival.

"Heritage Day was the best ever," Sissy Quinn. Executive administrator of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, exclaimed.

Historical Society President Thea Kelley agreed noting, "It was a great day, great weather, great music, great vendors and a great crowd."

Visitors stopped to shop for antiques and handmade items, watch crafts demonstrations and buy autographed books. They succumbed to the powerful aroma of barbecue that wafted over the grounds from the Three Brothers BBQ.

They learned about Island history during tours of the museum and Belle Haven Cottage. They rocked to the sounds of the Gulf Drive Band and Friends and clowned around with Snow Bird.

Al and Jane Meier, of Cape Cod, Mass., won a raffle basket of goodies valued at more than $600 and including two nights at the Tortuga Inn, dinner for two at the Sandbar restaurant, champagne and Historical Society gift shop merchandise.

The Historical Society made $3,225 from vendors, donations and sales of bread, raffle tickets, antiques, CDs, drinks and memberships.

City approves Causeway boat ramp

HOLMES BEACH – Holmes Beach Police are warning restaurant owners and caterers to be on the lookout for a con man who orders a large amount of food, overpays with a cashier’s check and gets away with the change before the restaurant finds out the check is bad.

Jackie Estes, owner of Paradise Café and Catering, 3210 East Bay Drive, Holmes Beach, knows only too well. She’s out $167, but considered herself lucky because she found out it was a hoax before she filled the suspect’s order, which would have cost him $1,833.

Estes said it all began on Monday, Feb. 25, while it was real busy.

"He was a very nice guy between 30 and 40 and nicely dressed," she said. "He said he needed to order for an event at ReMax Realtors and I had catered for them before so I thought nothing about it."

Estes said the man ordered 200 sandwiches and some potato salad while she continued to serve her lunch crowd customers. He bill at first came to just under $2,000 and he pretended to make a call on his cell phone and lowered the order to $1,833. He produced a cashier’s check for $2,000 and she gave him $167 in change.

"I think he wanted to keep the change under $200, to keep it a misdemeanor," she said. "Later, when I tried to cash the check, they told me it was a fake."

Holmes Beach Police Det. Sgt. Teri Davis said the suspect, who appears to be the same person, has been successful with a couple of restaurants each in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Davis said restaurant owners should be on the lookout for anyone trying the same thing. She warned them not to give the suspect any money and to make sure that the check he issues is good.

Estes said she thinks it would be a good idea if police would send out information on scams like this that are happening on the mainland so they would know what to look for.

The scheme is similar to one that has been pulled on rental managers. In those cases, the criminals reserve rental units and send checks for more than the rent or down payment. They ask the agents to send them the difference.

Island warned of scam artist

The Bradenton City Council approved an agreement with Manatee County to construct the small boat ramp on the south side of the Palma Sola Causeway despite opposition from neighbors. On Feb. 20, the city’s planning commission recommended approval and last month county commissioners approved the agreement.

The $64,000 project will include a 15-by-60-foot concrete ramp and a 60-foot dock that is 7  feet wide. It will replace a makeshift ramp on the northeast side of the Causeway. The parking lot will have 11 trailer and four passenger vehicle spaces.

Ramp construction near the location of the former Bongos’ restaurant is planned for March 5 through 7 due to the winter tides. The county will maintain the ramp and the city will maintain the parking lot.

Island to ‘chill out outside’

ANNA MARIA – If Bradenton can "get down downtown," the Island can "chill out outside."

That’s what’s in store for those who want to kick back and start the weekend on Pine Ave. in Anna Maria near the city pier from 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday, March 7. Officially called the Friday Fest, it’s hosted by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by The Anna Maria Island Sun.

Mike Sales DJs from 5 to 6 p.m. The band Bootleg provides the live music from 6 to 10 p.m. Food from local outlets will be on sale as well as beer, wine soda and water. Some of the food vendors include Paradise Café and Catering, Skinny’s and Brass Bell Catering. There also will be beef jerky and kettle corn vendors. There will be unique Island art, craft and retail booths selling jewelry, paintings, tiles and more. The Anna Maria Island Community Center will sell soda and water.

Chamber Chairman of the Board-Elect Cindy Thompson, known for her expertise in arranging festivals and events, is behind this endeavor and she said she would see what kind of turnout they get for this and two more Friday Festivals planned for April and May. Proceeds go to the Chamber’s Scholarship Fund.

For vendor space, sponsorship or general information on Friday Festival, call the Chamber at 779-9412 or Cindy Thompson at 761-4766.

Otherwise, see you Friday evening.

Planners tackle comp plan revisions

HOLMES BEACH – Planning commissioners discussed establishing a mixed use area, requiring all homes to hook up to the county sewer system and providing affordable housing during a review of the comp plan last week.

Planning consultant Bill Brisson told the board that the city should restrict its mixed-use area because the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which reviews the comp plan, would consider it as increasing density.

He suggested a mixed use overlay in the area of the shopping centers at Gulf and Marina drives and continuing that north on the west side of Marina Drive to 61st Street. Chair Sue Normand said planners had hoped to include the Anna Maria Island Centre area on East Bay Drive.

"I suggest you not do that," Brisson cautioned. "DCA won’t approve. It doesn’t lend itself to mixed use as much as the area near ‘downtown.’ Let’s get this done and see how it works and then we may be able to do the other area later."

Planners discussed a provision urging all property owners to hook up to the county’s sanitary sewer system, and some were surprised that there are some properties in the city that still have septic tanks.

Normand said there are some on Avenue C and possibly Avenue B. She recommended getting the exact number from the public works department.

"Why can’t the city require properties in the city to be connected to the sanitary sewer system?" Gary Hickerson asked.

Brisson said he didn’t know if it could require that, and planners also questioned the cost of doing so. Michael Snyder said it would be much more costly if the line has not been run down the street.

"If the line is available and the cost is reasonable, it’s good public policy to have everybody on the sewer," Hickerson said.

Affordable housing

The DCA’s requirement that all cities provide for affordable housing is particularly difficult for all the barrier island cities, Brisson pointed out. The cost of housing and the cost of living are higher and there are fewer services available.

"The state wants everybody to do their share with low income housing," he said.

According to the Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing, housing costs should not exceed 30 percent of a household’s income in order to be considered affordable.

Brisson said in 2005, the average single-family home in the city was valued at $549,201 or 2 1/2 times that of the state as a whole. The average sales price for a single-family home was $746,482. The lowest priced single-family unit to be built in the city as $250,000, but figuring land costs, that figure jumps to $350,000.

"Using the lowest priced home of about $350,000 and assuming a 30-year, 90 percent loan at 6 percent, the principal and interest alone would amount to $1,890 per month, thereby requiring an annual income of $75,600," he explained.

"By the time taxes, mortgage insurance, property and flood insurance and utilities are added, the required monthly cost could approach $2,400, indicating the need for an annual income in excess of $95,000."

Brisson said he added policies that he hopes would satisfy DCA including encouraging private sector participation, working with the county to identify and pursue revenue sources for use by eligible families and exploring the possibility of charging residential and commercial development an affordable housing fee to be deposited in a trust fund.

In another policy, the city would consider allowing one accessory dwelling unit on oversized lots in the low density residential land use category for occupancy by lower income relatives of the property owner or for lower income households with a member employed by a business in the city.

Normand said the city has a problem with enforcing its rental codes and this could create a problem by opening the door to unqualified people to rent the units.

"There’s some potential that some of these things might not work, but you’re showing an effort," Brisson pointed out.

Planners will continue their discussion on the comp plan at 7 p.m. on March 27.

Coast Guard to unveil boat schedule for bridge project

United States Coast Guard Bridge Management Specialist Michael Lieberum is expected to release a report on boat traffic closures at the next meeting of the Island Transportation Planning Organization at 3 p.m. on Monday, March 17, at Bradenton Beach City Hall. That’s the word from Audrey Clarke, public information officer for the project.

Lieberum attended an earlier meeting with Island officials who asked him to make sure the Cortez drawbridge stays down for automobile and pedestrian traffic during heavy traffic periods in the daytime while the Anna Maria Island Bridge is closed to traffic for up to 45 days starting Sept. 29.

Meanwhile, Quinn Construction has brought in signage and equipment in preparation for the project that officially began last month. There is a dumpster off Manatee Avenue West on the eastern approach to the bridge and the north sidewalk is closed so that workers can take out bad sections, according to Clarke. A flagging operation will be used as needed to get some of the supplies and equipment to the site. The contractor has until March 10, 2009, to finish the job.

Two meetings will be held to inform the public about the project. Clarke said the first  meeting is being scheduled for June or July and the second for September for those who cannot attend the first.

The rehabilitation includes repairing and resurfacing concrete decks, repairing railings, piles and seawall, rebalancing the span, cleaning and painting steel including lead abatement, renovating the control house, reconditioning drive machinery, replacing the electrical power and control system.

A Web site, www.amibridgerehab.com, offers updated information on the project. Check the "Weekly Update" link for additional updates.

Bingo brings bucks for Sue

Bingo and sales of food and refreshments at Annie Silver Community Center on Thursday, Feb. 29, raised $500 for Sue Normand, but that’s not all.

According to Judy Pruitt, a board member of the center, Joe and JoAnne Spallino, owners of Joe’s Eats and Sweets in Bradenton Beach, donated $100 and Whistle Stop in Holmes Beach donated $50.

Pruitt said that they auctioned off two $25 gift certificates from Whistle Stop and one $25 gift certificate each from The Gathering Place restaurant and Café on the Beach to help get the $500.

The money will go to Sue Normand, owner of Island Mail and More, who was shot in the abdomen on Dec. 5 by an assailant in her store. She did not have any health insurance and needs help paying her medical expenses. She also had to install and $21,000 elevator in her house because she cannot climb stairs. Her house is elevated as required by the building code. Anybody interested in donating to her cause can log on to www.supportsue.com.

The man suspected of shooting Normand, Mark Keonigs, was confronted on the beach during an Island-wide manhunt. He was shot when he raised his pistol at two Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies and has since recovered. He is in jail awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on law enforcement officers and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. His bail is set at $2.4 million.

Fire commissioners identify priorities for station fixes

HOLMES BEACH – West Manatee fire commissioners established six priorities to address problems with aging and overcrowded fire stations.

In a three-hour work session last week, commissioners identified strengths, weaknesses, threats and critical issues before listing priorities. Fire Chief Andy Price said commissioners should consider two issues that will affect the district’s facilities in the future – the lack of growth and the possibility of countywide consolidation.

"We don’t have a lot of growth potential left in the district," he explained. "Even though we have a big project coming in at Cortez, once that’s done, any growth we have will be tear down and rebuild and about 600 lots."

Price said they also should consider the possibility of consolidation and plan accordingly, so they don’t build something that won’t be useful in the future.

Regarding priorities, Price said, "These are the things we want to accomplish and then we can decide what we want to do and develop a plan to do the things that we agree on."

Priorities included consolidating the administration, expanding fire station facilities, building new facilities, increasing storage capabilities, finding funding sources, working toward countywide consolidation and fostering public support.

Commissioners then listed possibilities under each priority. These included:

• Consolidating the administration: rent, build or add to existing facilities; move administration into town because the Island is an evacuation zone and buy a new building.

Commissioner Larry Tyler said administrative personnel should submit the exact square footage space needs for each department.

• Expanding fire station facilities: build a new building, relocate a station, add on to existing buildings, create storage space and consolidate maintenance services.

• Building new facilities included Station 4 and an administration and storage/maintenance buildings.

• Increasing storage capabilities: establish square footage needs, reorganize existing storage, establish the type and location of storage and investigate storage rental.

 • Finding funding sources: a bond, assessment, ad valorem taxes, donations, loans, selling existing property, county/state grants and municipal leasing.

• Consolidating county fire districts: develop support from the public, county commissioners, other fire districts and chiefs, firefighters, city governments and state legislators and establish and sponsor and independent study of consolidation by a cross section of the community or by an independent consultant.

• Fostering public support: establish a blue ribbon committee, educate people to the space needs of the district, encourage press coverage, develop a PR campaign and offer public tours and open houses at the fire stations so people can see the crowed conditions.

At their next meeting on March 27, fire commissioners will set another work session to rank priorities and develop a plan.

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