The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 8 No. 43 - July 16, 2008

headlines


Illegal dumping suspected
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TROY MORGAN The south side of Leffis Key is a popular
boat anchorage and snorkeling and dive spot. Divers say they have seen
toilet paper in the water there, and law enforcement officers will be
inspecting boats for marine sanitation devices.

BRADENTON BEACH – Divers who say they saw toilet paper draped on coral growing on an underwater ledge off Leffis Key suspect that boats are dumping sewage there.

"We’re calling it ‘TP reef,’ " said one of the divers, who spotted the trash while diving recently with his son in a training class with Aqua Pros Divers of Cortez.

The divers, who asked to remain anonymous, said the water quality was poor on their last two dives. Water quality around the man-made preserve has been so good in recent years that bay scallops have been seen there; scallops are one of the first species to die in contaminated water.

"In these cases, it’s usually a liveaboard or somebody dumping before they get to the boat ramp," said Capt. Jim Ramer, of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The ledge, which is near a public boat ramp, lies between the Intracoastal Waterway and a seagrass bed that borders the south side of Leffis Key. The area is a popular spot for boats to anchor, said Mike Hayes, of Aqua Pros Divers.

"It’s getting crowded over there," he said.

"Those are navigable waters, so as long as boaters follow the proper anchoring procedure, they can legally anchor there," Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said.

Officials can’t prosecute a litter violation without someone actually seeing a boater dumping something into the water, he said. However, he added, if a boat does not have the required Marine Sanitation Device (MSD) on board, it is a violation of U.S. Coast Guard boating laws, and the city has legal jurisdiction to enforce city, county, state and federal laws in waters 500 feet into the water from city boundaries.

Law enforcement officials were in the process of organizing a three-agency inspection team consisting of the Bradenton Beach Police Department, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in Tampa when the divers reported the problem to The Sun last week, said Terry Noll with FWC.

"We will work together to inspect boats for valves that close and lock," he said, referring to the following Coast Guard regulations:

"All recreational boats with installed toilet facilities must have an operable marine sanitation device (MSD) on board. Vessels 65 feet and under may use a Type I, II or III MSD. Vessels over 65 feet must install a Type II or III MSD. All installed MSDs must be Coast Guard certified. When operating a vessel on a body of water where the discharge of treated or untreated sewage is prohibited the operator must secure the device in a manner which prevents any discharge. Some acceptable methods are: padlocking overboard discharge valves in the closed position, using non-releasable wire ties to hold overboard discharge valves in the closed position, closing overboard discharge valves and removing the handle, locking the door with padlock or keylock to the space enclosing the toilets."

Scallop count to launch Sarasota Bay Watch

LONGBOAT KEY – A new, local environmental group will get its feet wet – literally – at its inaugural event on Aug. 23, the first Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search.

Sarasota Bay Watch, inspired by the successful (sea) grass roots group Tampa Bay Watch, will sponsor hands-on activities to monitor, preserve and restore the bay, including the scallop count and seagrass planting, according to the group’s president, Sun Outdoors Editor Rusty Chinnis.

"A lot of what we are is through Tampa Bay Watch’s inspiration and START’s seed money," Chinnis said, referring to $20,000 pledged by Solutions To Avoid Red Tide, whose chairman, Sandy Gilbert, and former chairman, Ed Chiles, encouraged Chinnis to organize the group.

Other funds have been pledged by the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation and Cannon’s Marina in Longboat Key, he said.

The not-for-profit organization’s founding directors are Chinnis, Ryan Denton, Sandy Gilbert and John Ryan, who are Sandy Gilbert and John Ryan, who are joined on the board by Lowe Morrison, Captain Jonnie Walker and Charlotte Richardson.

"This is an independent group that can partner with Mote Marine, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, START and other groups," Chinnis said.

"Unless there’s enough people who care about the bay, we’ll never have a big enough effect."

The organization’s range extends from Anna Maria Sound south to Venice.

The scallop event was also inspired by Tampa Bay Watch, which has monitored scallop populations in Tampa Bay since 1996.

"Scallops are the canary in the coal mine for water quality," Chinnis said, adding that bay scallops were once widespread in Sarasota Bay, and appear to be making a comeback.

The event is limited to 30 boats and crews, who will snorkel for scallops and count them, not harvest them. Recreational bay scallop harvesting is prohibited south of the Pasco-Hernando county line.

For more information about the event and Sarasota Bay Watch, visit sarasotabaywatch.org.

Second site plan approved for Pine Avenue Restoration

ANNA MARIA — The Pine Avenue Restoration project has secured a second site plan approval from the city’s Planning and Zoning Board.

The design for the building and grounds, which will be located at the corner of Pine Avenue and Crescent Street, will be a mirror image of the project just across Crescent that was approved several weeks ago.

"The site combines two lots into one parcel with upper residential and lower retail units," City Planner Alan Garrett told members of the P&Z Board.

The on-going discussion the city is having about whether or not to allow two separate buildings side by side with no space between them – called zero lot line – was again raised.

"It’s common in planning to allow two buildings to be side by side, and it’s OK if they want to pull back from each other as long as they meet the fire code," Garrett said.

The P&Z Board and the city commission have spent hours discussing the side by side building issue and actually passed an ordinance allowing such structures with zero lot lines. Some commissioners and some residents maintain that such a structure is a duplex – a use that is not allowed in the ROR (residential/office/retail) district along Pine Avenue. Under the new comprehensive plan, duplexes are not allowed anywhere in the city.

"In land planning, you always protect single family residences – always. It’s the most important rule to follow," Garrett said.

The planner also said the proposed structure met the intent of the code and the comp plan.

"We do not want to have a strip mall; we want more of a cottage effect," Garrett noted.

The site plan was approved with several stipulations, including the requirement that a six-foot fence be erected on the rear of the property, that there be a sign designating the loading area, that pedestrian access not be obstructed by landscape elements and that the term "crushed shell" be removed from the site plan. There was further discussion about whether or not filter mix, a sand-like substance, met requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The final vote was 5-2 with Chair Doug Copeland and Jim Conoly casting the dissenting votes.

Copeland said he voted no because he’s not certain that the side by side building is an allowed use under the present code.

Island arts and cultural groups unite
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND Members of Cultural Connections meet to plan
for artsHOP, from left, back, Joan Voyles, Dantia Gould, Sissy Quinn,
Nancy Colcord, Nancy Minshall, Betty Yanger, Dolores Harrell, Rhea Chiles and,
front, Shirley Rush Dean, Marlane Wurzbach and Jeanie Pickwick.

Finding strength in numbers, nine groups have formed an umbrella organization to pool their resources and promote the Island as a destination for art and culture.

The organization is named Cultural Connections of Anna Maria Island and includes the AMI Art League, Artists’ Guild of AMI, Island Gallery West, The Studio at Gulf and Pine, AMI Historical Society, AMI Community Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO), Island Players, Offstage Ladies and Gulf Coast Writers. It was the creation of Joyce Karp, director of the AMI Art League, and Joan Voyles, president of the Artists Guild of AMI.

“Joyce and I were talking about how to make our programs more effective,” Voyles explained. “She had the idea to get the groups together and I had the experience of what to do.”

“Joan has spearheaded this and did the bulk of the work in terms of leadership,” Karp added. “It’s a good time for the art on the Island to work together.”

Creating excitement

Representatives of the groups have been meeting weekly since March.

“Everybody is so energized,” Karp said. “We’ve all gotten to know each other and what our goals are. The whole can work together better than the parts.

“We can create wonderful celebrations of the arts and culture for everybody to enjoy. We can generate excitement and bring some fun to the Island.”

“We felt invisible and had little money for advertising or promotion,” Voyles said, “and we’re hoping to make each group more effective and more visible.”

“Everyone was so agreeable to do this,” artist Shirley Rush Dean said. “We’re all pleased at how we’re all working together.”

“It’s a very active, very involved group,” Dantia Gould, of AMICCO said. “I’m very excited. Everyone’s on the same page and it’s a pleasure to work with them.”

Members of the group agreed to not to elect officers, but let members who have expertise in a particular area volunteer for tasks. They also have invited speakers to their meetings.

“We have had people come and talk to us so we can learn firsthand about things that are going on,” Voyles explained. “For example, Ed Chiles came and spoke about the Pine Avenue project. We have been working with the Chamber because there’s a mutual benefit in understanding each other’s goals.”

One of the group’s hopes is to make the Island a destination for art and cultural activities.

“It’s unusual for a place this size to have such wonderful amenities such as a historical museum, a playhouse, an orchestra and chorus,” Gould pointed out. “This will help promote the Island and bring visitors here.”

“We have such unique groups and a unique community,” Voyles agreed.

“We have this gorgeous paradise of an Island, but there’s more than the beach,” Karp said. “We want to scream. ‘Look at what we have to offer here.’ ”

artsHOP

Members will present their first joint effort, artsHOP on the Island, the weekend of Nov. 14 through 16. The schedule includes the following events:

• Friday, Nov. 14, 5:30 p.m. music and open house celebrations at Island Gallery West with a raffle and works of Barbara Orear; AMI Art League with Florida wildlife-themed art and a raffle to benefit Wildlife Inc. in Bradenton Beach; Artists Guild Gallery with a raffle, a community art project and the works of Cheryl Jorgenson; and The Studio at Gulf and Pine with a women’s contemporary art exhibit. The AMI Historical Museum will feature an exhibit of Seminole Indian clothing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Saturday, Nov. 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., arts and crafts show at the Holmes Beach field to benefit the AMI Butterfly Park; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Bridge Street Market in Bradenton Beach; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., exhibit of Seminole Indian clothing at AMI Historical Museum; and a live evening performance at the Island Playhouse with time to be announced.

• Sunday, Nov. 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., arts and crafts show at the Holmes Beach field to benefit the AMI Butterfly Park and an afternoon concert by AMICCO at CrossPointe Fellowship.

Youngster bags shark and more
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY DAVID STONE Will Flowers, of
Shreveport, La., shows the black tip shark he caught in
Terra Ceia Bay last month.

An 11-year-old boy from Shreveport, La., caught a blacktip shark in Terra Ceia Bay last month that had a surprise inside.

Will Flowers caught the shark while visiting his grandparents, David and Sissy Stone, of Pine Bay Forest. He went with his grandfather, his brother, Nick, and a friend for a day of fishing with Captain Gary Huffman. They caught 15 sharks, including two black tips that they boated. One was a five-foot-long shark that had a transmitter inside its body when they cut into it.

Will called Mote Marine, which was responsible for planting the transmitter in the animal. In fact, the circumstances surrounding the shark’s capture are very unusual, according to John Tyninski, senior biologist for Mote’s Center on Shark Research.

"The transmitter was surgically implanted into that shark on June 4, 2001, in the north side of Terra Ceia Bay," Tyninski said. "The shark was caught almost seven years to the day and in the same area where it was born."

Tyninski said the transmitters were planted into newborn sharks in a study of their mating patterns. He said each transmitter gives off a separate code that is picked up by receivers planted in Terra Ceia Bay and surrounding waters. He said that the bay is a good home for sharks.

"When sharks are young, their main concern is to avoid predators," he said. "Terra Ceia’s shallows are far enough away from the main bay so that a lot of predators stay away, plus there is plenty of food for the young sharks."

Tyninski said that 20 percent of the sharks that had transmitters implanted were subsequently caught by anglers and some of the units are sent back to Mote. He said getting this unit back will be a special treat.

"It is the oldest transmitter we have gotten by far," he said. "The sharks are usually caught within the first year. The batteries are only supposed to last two years."

Tyninski said he contacted the scientist in charge of the original study, Michelle Heupel, who was very excited. He will send the transmitter to her.

As for the fisherman who landed the shark, "He was excited to have out-fished his older brother and bring the fish in by himself," David Stone said.

Will also gets a couple of items to remember his unusual catch. Mote will send him a history of the shark and a Mote Marine cap or T-shirt.

Way cleared for lane extension
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Engineers and state officials walked Gulf Drive
last Friday in preparation for extending the left turn lane onto Cortez Road
before the Anna Maria Bridge closure.

BRADENTON BEACH – Motorists waiting to turn left onto Cortez Road from Gulf Drive would have easily spotted the orange-vested road specialists near the intersection shortly before noon last Friday.

They were making plans to lengthen the left turn lane for the southbound traffic there in anticipation of the long lines of motorists trying to get off the Island when the Anna Maria Island Bridge is shut down for six weeks starting Sept. 29 for rehabilitation.

Ajax Paving is set to start the project the first week of August and has 30 days to finish it, according to Florida Department of Transportation Engineer Mike Piazza.

The project was put together in a hurry to ease the expected congestion to use the only other link to the mainland, the Cortez Bridge. It took less than three months to get the permitting, breakneck speed considering the fact that the work is being done within the coastal construction zone.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Beaches and Shores specialist Steve West briefed the engineers and construction managers on the need to protect the beach nearby. He said that they need to make a barrier to keep out construction debris. He said they could erect a silk fence as long as it was kept in good shape.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce was also present as the group met and walked the 150 feet that the lane would be extended. It will end just south of the Gulf Drive Café.

Pierce said he was impressed that the wheels of government could move so quickly after agreeing to the extension. An extension of the sidewalk on the east side of Gulf Drive from the intersection of Cortez Road to the parking lot across the street from the BeachHouse restaurant is not a part of this project, according to Piazza. Originally requested by former Mayor John Chappie, he said the most urgent need was the turn lane extension and that the highway department would deal with the sidewalk at a later date.

Garbage schedule could change

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners plan to allow Waste Management to collect garbage earlier and later when the Anna Maria Island Bridge is closed in the fall if necessary.

"The bridge closing will have somewhat of an impact and rather than be reactive, we want to be proactive and make sure we can get all the garbage off the Island," Frank Brunner, of Waste Management, told commissioners last week. "Right now the service times are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and we’re thinking of an hour to an hour and a half only while the bridge is closed."

Commissioner David Zaccagnino asked how changing the hours would help.

"By being able to get an earlier start, we can beat the rush of traffic," Brunner responded. "You have a lot of arterial streets that are difficult to get out of especially if you have bumper-to-bumper traffic. Also being able to get that first load, get off the Island and to the landfill and back to the Island for another pick up if we have to."

He said the trucks normally go to the landfill via Manatee Avenue, but that route will have to be altered, adding time to the trip.

Commissioner John Monetti asked if it is normal to have multiple runs, and David Smith, of Waste Management, said they try to maximize the trucks’ capacity and keep the trucks to one load, but sometimes that’s not possible.

Chair Sandy Haas-Martens asked if the company could add a truck.

Smith said it could if necessary and added, "We’re trying to cover our bases until we see what happens with the traffic patterns. We’re all trying to anticipate that, but nobody can tell you that for sure."

Monetti, who lives on the southernmost street in the city where Waste Management begins its pick up, said the garbage truck wakes up his family on Mondays and Thursdays. He asked that the company keep the same schedule and only make the change if it is necessary.

"We’ll start at 7 and see how it goes," Smith replied. "We’ll quickly know if it works. We’re here to try to minimize the impact.”

Commissioners agreed to a 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. pickup schedule if needed. Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he would find out if the change must be made by ordinance or resolution and have the document for the next work session on July 22.

Brunner said two other issues that must be addressed are the anticipated congestion at the intersection of Cortez Road and Gulf Drive and the right turn from Cortez Road onto Gulf Drive.

"Coming from Cortez Road and making a right hand turn onto Gulf Drive is a very tight turn," he explained. "The traffic where it’s stopped at that red light doesn’t allow for a lot of radius for any type of large vehicle – school buses, transit buses, delivery trucks."

Bohnenberger said he contacted Mike Howe, executive director of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Agency, regarding the tight turn issue.

Commissioner meets with constituents
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Jane von Hahmann

ANNA MARIA – Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann met with constituents last week at Ginny’s and Jane E’s to talk about county issues and answer questions.

"I wanted to just enlighten you," she said. "We just finished our budget work sessions and held our first public hearing, which really turned out great. I think we had enough participation at the work sessions by key players in the budgeting arena.

"The process was more open and detailed than any of the eight years I’ve been in office. I totally applaud the new county administrator. Ernie’s (former County Administrator Ernie Padgett) leaving opened the door for us to get somebody in that place that needed to be there because of where we are today."

She said county officials cut the budget by $44 million, eliminated some open positions, shifted other positions and eliminated the environmental management department (EMD).

"We asked our county administrator who’s now doing the jobs that the EMD did," she said. "I know that we’re turning air quality monitoring over to the state, but if they can’t do it to the level that I’m willing to accept and my citizens are willing to accept, I’ll be out there fighting to have a person in our county monitoring that."

The Island’s voice was heard regarding a cut in library hours, she said, and commissioners agreed to let Island Branch Library officials determine where to reduce hours.

Beaches and bridges

She also said that although Port Dolphin has agreed to move the planned gas pipeline out of the area where the county gets its sand for beach renourishment, there are still health and safety issues to be addressed.

Von Hahmann, who is the county’s representative on the Peace River Water Management Authority, pointed out that the Peace River would be the county’s source of water in the future. Due to excellent planning in the past, the county currently has excess water, which it sells to Sarasota County, but by 2017, it will have to purchase water to fill its needs.

She praised Island business owners for taking the initiative to offset the closing of the Anna Maria Island Bridge by planning a series of events called Bridging the Gap, which is sponsored by The Sun. She said any discussion of a new bridge must take into account the ambiance of the Island.

Questions

Von Hahmann also responded to questions from constituents.

Q: How does the county think or talk about alternative energy?
A: From a local government standpoint, we’re not big on getting involved in alternative energy use on the large scale. What we can do as a board of county commissioners is do what we can to incentivize use of green energy in new homes or remodeling. The cost in new construction is only around $3,000 to $4,000 to do significant things to improve efficiency. We’re switching over to hybrid vehicles where we can, moving toward alternative fuel systems for buses, asking our employees to turn off their computer screens and turning up the thermostat in the administrative building.

Q: What about hurricane evacuation when the Anna Maria Island Bridge is closed for 45 days?
A: The contractor has assured us that the bridge could be operational in a matter of hours.

Q: How can we on the Island get more of our fair share of tax dollars? The county gets 46 percent, the School Board gets 43 percent and the city gets 10 percent.
A: You are donor communities to our tax pool because there’s no way to distribute taxes as they are provided to us.

Q: The budget for public transportation will be cut in half in the next three fiscal years. How can we keep the trolley free?
A: When you say cut in half that means we are going to be out of the grant dollars that we now enjoy. We have to find way to expand it, so we can go after expansion grant dollars. It’s an excellent economic engine for the whole community and it keeps traffic off the road. We need to build a better system to bring people out from the mainland.


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