Vol. 8 No. 32 - April 30, 2008

headlines


Residents to buy trailer park
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Harry Howey and his daughter, Kathie Harris,
celebrate with Cortez Trailer Park residents on Saturday after Butch Howey,
Harry’s son, agreed to sell the park to the residents.

CORTEZ – "Hello, it’s happy Harry!"

That’s how Harry Howey answered the phone an hour after the news that a deal had been struck between his son, Butch Howey, owner of the Cortez Trailer Park, and the homeowner’s association to sell the park to the residents.

Residents plan to form a co-op, which would allow them to buy shares in the five-acre park at the eastern end of the Cortez bridge, which includes a marina and restaurant, said Donna Stoutin, President of Cortez Park Homeowners Inc.

"We are excited," she said, adding that board members and the seller plan to meet with an attorney this week to discuss the details.

"No one else can buy it out from under us and decide to do something different," she said. "A lot of people are going to stay because of this." Neighbors in the close-knit, 79-lot park have been living in fear of losing their homes since 2005, when the owner put the park on the market for $14.75 million. He gave the association the first option to buy it, but their counteroffer was not accepted.

Last year, worries increased when the owner received an offer from developer Carlos Beruff to buy the park for $10.8 million. Since residents own their trailers but not the land, they would have been forced to leave their homes.

A majority of the homeowner’s association voted to offer the owner the same amount of money that the developer did, but to their surprise, the owner refused. Neighbors, some who have lived in the park for 50 years, protested along Cortez Road for several weeks with friends from the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and the Cortez Village Historical Society.

The deal with the developer was scrapped and the owner agreed to sell to the residents if they could raise the purchase price.

Since then, residents have been working to come up with the money and form a co-op, and the owner agreed on Saturday to an undisclosed down payment, according to Doug Morgan, co-chairman of the purchase committee for the homeowner’s association.

"Half of us are crying from happiness the other half are smiling," Harry Howey said shortly after hearing the news. "A lot of us didn’t get to sleep last night."

Harry Howey pulled into the park in a 1955 Chevy in August, 1959 with his wife, Dottie, their three kids, a dog and a U-Haul trailer. The couple ran the park for the next 30 years and still live there.

The park is one of oldest in Manatee County and perhaps the state of Florida, he said, dating back to 1935. The park’s community center is more than 100 years old, and was once the detached kitchen of the Fulford Hotel in the 1880s, he added.

"I fought to stay here. I live on the waterfront with a million dollar view of God’s creation right here," said Howey, 86. "We’re preserving a way of life."

Gas pipeline, port hearing set for May 6
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

GRAPHIC/HOEGH LNG

The public will have a chance to comment at a public hearing May 6 on an offshore natural gas port proposed for 28 miles west of Anna Maria Island in the Gulf.

The Port Dolphin Energy Liquefied Natural Gas Deepwater Port would consist of two submersible mooring buoys about three miles apart, each anchored to piles driven in the seabed 100 feet deep by eight mooring lines of wire rope and chain.

Tankers called shuttle and regasification vessels that convert liquefied natural gas into natural gas would moor at the port for four to eight days, pumping the natural gas to Port Manatee through an underwater pipeline.

Between moorings, the buoys could be submerged 60-70 feet, but the system would allow two vessels to be moored simultaneously with the objective of continuously offloading natural gas, according to project particulars published in the Federal Register.

On reaching Port Manatee, the fuel would be piped east about four miles over land to the Gulfstream Natural Gas System and Tampa Electric Co. Port Dolphin applied last year to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the land-based portion of the natural gas pipeline.

Port Dolphin would not be visible from shore, according to Houston-based Port Dolphin Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Oslo, Norway-based Hoegh LNG, which applied to the U.S. Maritime Administration for permission to build the submersible port.

The U.S. Coast Guard has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, triggering a public hearing scheduled on May 6 from 5-7 p.m. with an open house from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Manatee Convention Center, One Haben Blvd. in Palmetto.

The environmental study and other documentation is available for review at the Federal Docket Management System web site at http://www.regulations.gov under docket number USCG-2007-28532.

The public is invited to comment at the hearing, or to contact the Federal Docket Management Facility before June 2 by one of the following methods:

- Mail or delivery to the Federal Docket Management Facility, Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. 20590. Phone: 202-366-9329.

- Fax to the Federal Docket Management Facility at 202-493-2251.

- Email the Federal Docket Management System at www.regulations.gov.

Submissions should include name, address and docket number USCG–2007–28532.

Faxed or hand-delivered submissions must be unbound, no larger than 81⁄2 by 11 inches and suitable for copying and electronic scanning.

All submissions will be posted without changes at www.regulations.gov and will include all personal information provided.

The project also requires permits under the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Clean Air Act administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Flaws found in drainage project

ANNA MARIA — Citizen complaints have forced the city to acknowledge problems with a drainage project already in the ground and also to re-think a project poised for permitting.

"Finally, they’ve listened," said resident Jim Conoly, who along with Tom Turner and Richard DeFrank have been complaining about faulty filter boxes in the North Shore/Gladiolus project completed last year and the upcoming project that was due to start in February.

Conoly, Turner and DeFrank questioned the quality of filter boxes in the North Shore area, which are supposed to filter pollutants out of stormwater runoff before it gets into the canals and bay.

"These boxes aren’t right," Turner said. "The straps that hold them in the ground and the nuts and bolts and rivets are all rusted out. They’re a mess."

The three met with Commissioner Dale Woodland, who has worked closely with the Southwest Florida Water Management District on city drainage projects.

"That was the first I heard of it," Woodland said at last week’s city commission. "They are absolutely right. Those boxes aren’t good."

Woodland said early investigation of the problems indicates that DeJonge, the contractor on the project, was responsible for ordering the filter boxes.

"Apparently, DeJonge ordered from the manufacturer," Woodland said. "They got a product that is designed to operate in fresh water. If they had ordered from the distributor, they would have known that you have to use salt water equipment in this environment."

Mayor Fran Barford said the administration is looking into the problems.

"We’ve just begun our investigation," she said. "I think the fault lies with the contractor, but bottom line, perhaps responsibility lies with the engineer."

Tom Wilcox of HDR, the city’s consulting engineer, designed the project. His firm was paid to inspect the project as it went into the ground.

"Someone should have caught this before it went in," Turner said. "I think someone should sit that engineer down and have a good talking to him. We can’t let this happen again."

Barford said there are four of the faulty filter boxes still sitting on the shelf, which the city ordered to have in case one in the ground needed to be replaced.

"We are negotiating with the company to see if we can exchange things and to see if they’ll make this good," Barford said.

Neither Barford nor Woodland could speculate on what a retrofit on the completed drainage project might ultimately cost the city.

"It’s still too early, and we are hopeful that the company will make it good," Barford said.

The three whistle blowers also had questions about several areas on North Shore where the drainage swales simply stop and then start up again. They also expressed concerns about a large banyan tree in the swale that they say was supposed to be removed.

Complaints to SWFMD about the problems with the Phase A drainage project and with the design of Phase I, which was to begin in February, have apparently stalled the permitting for Phase I permitting.

"Fortunately, we haven’t begun Phase I, so we can get this problem sorted out," Barford said.

The city has contacted the contractor retained to install Phase I to see if he would be willing to postpone work until the end of the rainy season. He hasn’t made a decision to date.

"This may ultimately work in our favor," Woodland said. "I hear that most of the contractors are hungry for work and have actually come down on their prices, because there’s not much work out there."

Woodland said that he’s talked to officials in Sarasota County who told him that on projects where they usually get eight or nine bids, they are now getting up to 20.

"That makes for a more competitive environment," he said.

Both Barford and Woodland said they feel that the earlier project can be fixed and that the Phase I and subsequent drainage projects in the long range planning pipeline are good for the city and will ultimately get built.

Voters to decide on super majority for comp plan changes
Four property tax reforms to hit ballot

Four proposed property tax reforms are now up to Florida voters to decide in November.

The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission voted last week to place the Constitutional amendment proposals on the November 2008 presidential ballot.

The most controversial would replace property taxes allocated to schools with an increase in the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. It passed the commission 18-7, one vote more than required to make the ballot.

The proposal could keep budget conscious tourists from visiting Anna Maria Island, according to Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Ann Brockman.

But proponents, including commission member John McKay, a former Senate president from Bradenton, said the plan will boost the economy, especially in housing, home financing and construction.

A second amendment would require that commercial fishing facilities, marinas, boat storage and launch facilities and marine manufacturing plants be assessed on their use instead of their potential market value.

A third would allow the Legislature to reduce property taxes for homeowners who make home improvements that increase storm resistance or use renewable energy.

Another would exempt private land held in perpetuity for conservation purposes from property taxes.

60 percent of voters are required to pass amendments in November.

The commission was created to meet this year, then every 20 years to reform the state’s tax and budget laws.

Threatened bird family makes Island home
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE A snowy plover, a threatened species,
guards its nest on a sandspur plant on Anna Maria Island. She and
her mate are one of only 45 pairs on Florida’s southwest coast,
wildlife officials say. They hatched two chicks in April.

ANNA MARIA – Two threatened snowy plover chicks newly hatched on Anna Maria Island have more than just their parents watching out for them – and they need every friend they can get.

The snowy plover parents are one of only about 45 pairs on the southwest Florida coast. The species, whose nesting season begins in early February, is listed as threatened in the state, one notch under endangered.

Least terns, also threatened, and black skimmers, a species of special concern, began nesting in early April on the Island.

"The is one of the rarest sights in Florida," whispers Nancy Douglass, a regional non-game wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, as she stakes out the nesting area to keep people away.

A bird lover has already made a fence of sticks and rocks around the nest to alert people to avoid the area, but the fence is far too small, she says, and may actually alert predators to the nest. The birds need more space between them and people because once spooked, the parents do not return to hatch their eggs, and after hatching, the chicks can easily be trampled by beachgoers.

Life is not easy for these tiny birds, which blend into the sand so well you can’t see them unless they move.

They nest right on the ground - in this case, on a sandspur plant, possibly a defense mechanism – and must contend not only with people, but with predators of their own kind, especially black crows, seagulls and herons.

Plover ploy

As Douglass stakes out the area, a pair of great blue herons swoops down, casting a large shadow over the nest. The parents immediately put a classic plover ploy into action.

One races away from the nest on foot towards the Gulf of Mexico to lure a heron away, its parental instinct overcoming its survival instinct as it ventures from relative safety among the sea oats to vulnerability on the open beach.

Douglass stands by, prepared to jump in and scare the herons. Herons have to eat, too, but after all, they aren’t threatened, and they aren’t babies.

Going the opposite direction, the other parent is staging an Oscar-winning performance.

Pretending to have a broken wing, it drags itself along the sand away from the nest, stopping every so often to flail around as if in distress, an exhibition sure to catch the eye of the hungry heron.

The team effort works. The herons fly away without eating either chicks or parents.

"It takes so much energy for the parents to do that," Douglass says, adding that they’re already tired from hatching the chicks and finding food.

So anything people can do to make it easier on the birds is much appreciated.

How to help

Lots of people are watching out for birds’ nests on the beach.

Sometimes it’s hard, searching for sandy areas that have been scratched, or eggs that blend in with the sand. Sometimes it’s easy, when the birds "poop and swoop" on people who get too close to the nests.

Birdwatchers from the Audubon Society and volunteers from the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch also look for bird nests, helping to stake them out, since Douglass’ office has only two people to cover 13 counties.

The beach raker has been notified to stop temporarily to avoid accidentally running over nests and hatchlings.

Most importantly, people should steer clear of the posted areas and avoid chasing the birds that venture outside the nesting areas, or risk violating state and federal laws, she says.

And please report any problems, she requests, adding that two years ago, vandals removed the twine roping off the nesting area, entangling two black skimmers that later died. A different material is being used to reduce the possibility of tampering.

To report nesting activity or problems at nesting sites, call Douglass at 863-648-3200 or email her at shorebird@myfwc.com.

City to seek alley, drainage funding
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT This alley between Avenues B and C looking
south from 23rd Street in Bradenton Beach has a boat on a trailer parked in it.

BRADENTON BEACH – For years, the city’s alleys have shrunk as people extended landscaping and other structures into the rights of way behind their homes.

This drew the attention of city officials who met last Thursday to discuss the future of those alleys. The answer may lead to an extensive project that will take care of some of the drainage problems that plague the residential areas in the northern section of this city.

City commissioners voted to have the public works director begin to develop a plan leading to a request for proposals to improve the alleys, in hopes that it would attract grants to concurrently fix the drainage problems.

Building official Stephen Gilbert prepared the commissioners with a compilation of previous studies and recommendations regarding the alleys, which were originally set aside in the plat maps that originated the Ilexhurst subdivision at the beginning of the 20th century. They are not easements for utilities, as some studies hinted. They were not designed as public streets or thoroughfares. Only 10 feet was allowed for the width of they alleys.

According to Gilbert, they were intended for private use by the landowners adjacent to them. However, over time, they were used as paths for utilities, garbage pickup and limited parking. Most are shelled, but at least one is paved. There was also a question about Canasta, which physically resembles an alley because it runs behind homes that front the bay, but it was given a name and the other alleys were not.

Gilbert pointed out that the city’s land development code and federal guidelines for emergency services dictate how they may be used. The adjacent residences must have addresses and entrances on the street side, not entirely on the alley side. They may not be used for emergency ingress and egress. Garbage cannot be picked up from alleys. In the past, the crews have done damage to trucks and residences trying to enter and exit the alleys.

Gilbert pointed out, however, that some properties facing Gulf Drive, a state highway, require property owners to back onto the highway with their cars and could benefit from using the alley for parking. Gilbert recommended designating alleys immediately east of Gulf Drive as primary alternate vehicular access for rear-loaded parking for those properties fronting Gulf Drive.

Options, according to Gilbert, include calling the alleys public ways and opening them to all traffic or calling them private access for limited secondary access by property owners only with utility placement. He said they could call the alleys stormwater improvement features and drew a map showing how if they get a surveyor to mark the middle of each alley at both ends of the block, they could incorporate stormwater management features.

The commissioners liked that idea, opting to start work on surveying the alleys and seeking stormwater improvement grants, which are more plentiful, to improve drainage.

A ribbon for the causeway
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Enhancements to the Palma Sola Scenic Highway
were celebrated with a ribbon cutting and tree planting ceremony on Friday
under the shade of an Australian pine tree.

BRADENTON – The Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity celebrated National Arbor Day on Friday with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the causeway pavilion and the planting of four sabal palms.

The event marked the completion of beautification efforts along the 4.5-mile corridor that included planting native trees and removing most non-native trees, including Australian pines and Brazilian peppers, painting a rest room and trash cans and installing a modular newsrack.

Two final improvements are nearly completed - installing a public boat ramp on the southwest corner of the Palma Sola Causeway and completing the installation of bollards to separate vehicles from people. The causeway is a popular place for sunbathing and enjoying personal watercraft, and allows dogs.

Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity members past and present were recognized for their contributions, including Mark Alderson, Ken Crayton, Michael Doll, Joe Duennes, Joan Dunn, Barbara Elliott, Rick Fawley, Gene Gallo, Michael Guy, Sandy Haas-Martens, Jane von Hahmann, Bob Herrington, Michael Howe, Kathleen King, Seth Kohn, Susan King, Manon Lavoie, Darenda Marvin, Molly McCartney, Ingrid McClellan, John Ormando, RS&H Project Managers, Carmen Chronister and Myra Monreal.

Also recognized for their roles in management, beach renourishment, exotic species removal, landscaping and bollards, environmental murals, boat ramp construction, a modular newsrack, pet waste stations and two bus shelters were Keep Manatee Beautiful, the City of Bradenton, Manatee County, the Florida Department of Transportation, Earthworks Land Development, Foristall Enterprises, Woodruff and Sons, Florida Power and Light, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, WilsonMiller, Balfour Beatty Construction, Bongo’s, Burdette and Associates, the Florida Division of Forestry, J.C. Tree and Landscape, Turner Tree and Landscape, Marina Adair, Art Target, the Art Council of Manatee, Faith Keller, Kiwanis Club of Bradenton, Manatee School for the Arts, Jon Odon, Sherwin-Williams, The Trophy Case, Seaway Marine Contractors, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Manatee County Area Transit and The Anna Maria Island Sun.


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