The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 8 No. 50 - September 3, 2008

headlines


Surf City
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Crowds gathered over the weekend at Manatee County Public beach
to watch surfers ride the huge storm surf. SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD

The waves broke long and smooth off the Island’s west shore Sunday and Monday, drawing surfers from around the state.

Every beach access street was full of their trucks, cars and SUVs.

Eight or nine surfers topped each wave crest. Rides were good and rides were long.

"This is good surf," said Will Bouzianne, as he stood on the shoreline assessing the waves with his brother Cory and Justin Moore – all Island boys born and bred.

At each street end, you’d see a clump of surfers staring out at the waves. Some had their arms crossed; some had their hands on their hips. All were staring intently at the waves.

"They’re assessing the direction and size of the waves," said Jim Hathaway, of Holmes Beach.

"You always want to check out the conditions."

The surf was up most of the day, and it was up again at dawn. So were the surfers.

"With the Internet and all the surfer Web sites and cell phones," Hathaway said, "everyone knows where the surf’s going to be."

Hathaway grew up in the Jacksonville Beach area and took to surfing 48 years ago when he was 9 as a result of seeing the movie, Gidget.

"So you know the surf is better on the East Coast, but when we get it on the West Coast, we get good surf. The secret is out."

Jason Suzor, of Holmes Beach, caught some good rides.

"It’s good, but the wind’s weird," he said. "It’s breaking up the sets a little."

David Moffitt and Dean Hewitt, veterans of 35 years of surfing, had driven over from Orlando on Sunday to meet up with their friend Pat Francis, who lives in Flamingo Cay. They were planning to spend the night, if the waves were good.

"It’s the mantra of surfers; you have to be flexible," Moffitt said. "If the waves are good, we’ll stay."

Moffitt advised that he was going to be changing into his swimsuit and advised that it might be time for reporters to put the camera away.

"Oh no," Francis said. "This will be good. A moon in The Sun."

Good for business

The surf traffic plus the Labor Day weekend traffic was a boon to local businesses.

"Yesterday and today it was amazing" at the West Coast Surf Shop, said Ronee Brady.

"I sold over two cases of wax, and there’s 100 in a case," she said, adding that with four staffers and her husband, they still needed more help. People bought big-ticket items too, mainly higher-end boogie boards and surfboards.

Surfers from Florida’s east coast watched Hurricane Gustav for days before heading to the Island on Labor Day weekend.

Many stayed overnight, but not all in motel rooms. Nick from Daytona Beach said four friends of his rented a motel room but he and two other friends slept in the car, everyone taking turns using the shower.

Leo from Boca Raton, a serious surfer with a shaved head and tattoos, said he was watching the Weather Channel in between surfing to see when the next hurricane was due to pass by Miami. He figured he would leave the Island Tuesday to get there in time.

Sunday’s monster surf was "fun" to him, but too much for some locals, who were happier on Monday when the 25-knot wind had died down to a breeze and the rip current had faded to a gentle flow.

Persistent overhead waves continued to bring surfers out in droves on Monday, but there were plenty of waves for everyone, with no one having to jockey for a good position – they were all good positions.

"Living the dream," said Dale, from Bradenton, to no one in particular.

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Storms impact Island holiday

Two hurricanes left their marks on the Island during the Labor Day weekend.

Gulf waters breached the seawalls and flooded some of the homes along North Shore Drive in Anna Maria and the beaches were eroded up to the rocks around the outdoor eating area of the BeachHouse restaurant in Bradenton Beach.

The high water on the beaches also washed out some sea turtle nests that held eggs that were to hatch soon.

"It usually takes a couple of weeks before we can tell how much erosion there was,"

said BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles Monday. "We’ll cross our fingers and be thankful we have had beach renourishments so that what happened didn’t cause any damage."

There were more surfers than swimmers Sunday, thanks to big waves generated by Gustav making its way toward Louisiana. Lifeguards said jellyfish stings were a problem all weekend thanks to Fay, which made its way through the Gulf a week earlier. One person had to be taken to the hospital Sunday due to shock stemming from one such sting.

"We also had a couple of reports of people stepping on stingrays," said Capt. Joe Westermann, lifeguard for the Manatee County Department of Safety. "We had a lot more jellyfish stings, however."

The sewer line to the Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria broke Sunday. Crews repaired it and the restaurant on the pier was open by Monday. The high waters caused some flood damage to homes along North Shore and beachgoers reported a seawall appeared to be damaged. Beaches in some areas were eroded.

Surfing injuries

The waves brought out the surfers Sunday as Gustav’s churn caused monster swells in some areas. With the high winds and surf, there were some incidents.

"On Saturday, a seven-year-old fell at the beach, suffered a traumatic head injury and was taken to Blake Hospital," said Capt. Larry Leinhauser, spokesman for the Manatee Department of Public Safety. "On Sunday, we had a near-drowning in the surf in Anna Maria and the victim was pulled from the water by others on the beach. A boater almost drowned around 11:30 a.m. at the Bradenton Beach Pier when his boat overturned and he was rescued by people on the pier."

Chris Nickelson, 46, of Apollo Beach, was injured about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday by a lightning strike when he parked his Bayliner boat under the Cortez bridge while a rainstorm passed.

He said he was not hit directly, but he felt it and the strike started a small electrical fire on the boat, according to West Manatee Fire Rescue Fire Marshall Kurt Lathrop. Nickelson was on deck steering the boat when the lightning hit. He had burns on his body, Lathrop said. Four people were aboard the boat, but Nickelson was the only one injured. He was taken to Blake Medical Center.

Stormwater fees fraw protest petition
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Anna Maria resident Alice Newlon tells the city commission
that the fee is actually a tax and should be labeled as one. SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY

ANNA MARIA — A small group of protesters showed up at the Aug.28 city commission meeting. They were caught by surprise and upset when they got their tax notices showing a new storm water utility fee added to their overall tax burden.

"I’m presenting a petition with the signatures of 150 citizens and property owners who’d like the funding to come through existing taxes," resident Alice Newlon said as she handed the petition to the city clerk.

Protesters maintained that it would be cheaper to collect the money through existing funding mechanisms and the fee approach opens the door to special fees in the future. The fee, which some residents also argued is a tax, has been in the works for about three years. It will be used exclusively to maintain the drainage system jointly funded by the city and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Commissioners defended it and voted unanimously to stand by it.

"May 10, 2007 we had our first meeting on this issue," said Commission Chair John Quam. "This is the 10th public meeting on this issue. We’ve invested considerable money and time in this process."

Quam outlined the way the fee is assessed using a state-mandated ESU, or equivalent stormwater unit, which is based on the amount of impervious surface on each property parcel.

Commissioner Dale Woodland, who has been working on the utility fee for over three years, defended it.

"Practically speaking, this is an increase in your tax," he said. "We call it a fee for legal reasons."

Woodland said he began working on the issue as a way of generating a dedicated source of funding that would only be used to maintain stormwater drainage systems in place in the city.

By state statute, the money, which is collected through the county tax assessor’s office, cannot be used for anything but stormwater maintenance.

Tom Peters, who lives on Magnolia Avenue, told commissioners he had written a blistering letter protesting the fees.

"This is a tax, it is not a fee," he said. "We can’t take it off our federal tax."

Peters complained that the state and counties are not listening to the people who want the brakes put on the ever-increasing cost of living.

"I view this as a grab for more money that will never be accounted for, nor justified, nor ever go away or go down, " he said.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick defended the fee on the grounds that the stormwater runoff systems being put in place must be maintained.

"This is cleaning up the water we discharge into the canals and the bay," she said. "The EPA will be putting standards in place, and we don’t want to have to borrow more money to play catch-up."

Commissioners approved a fee schedule that is set at $50 per ESU, while pointing out that the other Island cities have had a stormwater utility fee in place for several years, and that the cities have put the money to good use.

The commission also voted to set the fee for a resident to appeal the ESU assessed on his or her property at $0 for the first year.

"That should give everyone a chance to come in and work it out," Quam said.

He pointed out that several appeals have already been resolved.

Beach Inn to hold grand opening
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

This beachside building of the Beach Inn includes two- and three-bedroom units.
Room service will be provided by the Beach Bistro next door.
PHOTO PROVIDED

HOLMES BEACH – The public is invited to a grand opening at the Beach Inn, 101 66th Street, on Wednesday, Sept. 10, from 12:30 p.m. to sunset.

The Beach Inn is part of the Tidemark Beach and Marina Residence Club, which includes the Tidemark residences and marina at 5325 Marina Drive. The combined projects, valued at $85 million, include 14 beach residences and 16 marina residences plus a 62-slip marina with boats and fishing guides and a 24-unit lodge with a 80- to 100-seat restaurant and lounge.

"The units at the Beach Inn are simple Florida beach residences," said Lance McNeill, general partner of Lakeland-based Reliance Realty Partners, the project’s developer. "They are timeless and traditional – simple old Florida with 1920s construction."

The two completed buildings at the Beach Inn include two- and three-bedroom units priced from $190,000 to $280,000. A third building on the street side will include a beach club with an adult game room with computer stations, couches and pool tables and an exercise room and one or two residences.

The Beach Bistro, next door to the project, will be providing regular room service as well as course-by-course room service from the Bistro’s menu. It will also provide poolside service from a special menu and provisioning, or stocking the refrigerators of residents who call ahead.

Tidemark

The Tidemark project, in its seventh year, is currently being redesigned, but developers are not announcing a timetable for construction at this time.

"We’re reducing the density and opening the site," McNeill explained. "Instead of the original 30 residences, there will be 16. The lodge will be raised and there will be a verandah all the way around. We’re adding more open space, places for people to gather and landscaping."

An open-air gazebo with a grill area and a spa will replace some of the originally planned residences. The plan also includes improvements such as a game room and 15-seat theater to the Tidemark Resorts Shoppes on Gulf Drive.

"We will change the architectural look of the Shoppes to match the lodge," McNeill said.

Other amenities that will be available to residents in both projects are membership in the Bradenton Country Club with full privileges for golf, tennis, swimming and dining; transportation service for shopping, dining and the airport; and concierge and daily maid service.

All units in both projects will be sold as fractional ownership, a form of real estate in which the buyer purchases a fraction of ownership. Each unit will be sold to eight different owners and each owner has unrestricted use with the exception of availability.

Bridging the Gap celebrates music and real estate

While they don’t appear to be related, music and real estate are two subjects that are always popular on Anna Maria Island. Two events scheduled during Bridging the Gap will bring them to the forefront.

Concert in the Park will be held from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4, at Holmes Beach City Park, north of city hall, featuring food, refreshment, music and fun. Bring your lawn chairs or blankets for music from KoKo Ray, Eric von Hahmann, Yesterdayze, the Dr. Dave Band and the Billy Rice Band.

Enjoy flavors of local cuisine offered by some of our Island’s favrite restaurants including th waterfront, Sandbar, Sign of the Mermaid, Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Island Gourmet Deli, Jose’s Cuban Restaurant and others. The Privateers will be there featuring Big John’s Barbecue.

Check out the Body & Sol spa and wellness booth for an on-the-spot massage and don’t forget to purchase a Bridging the Gap T-shirt to show the world how you survived the six-week closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge for rehabilitation.

Organizers Mark Kimball and Steve Bark give a special thanks to all the sponsors, whose generosity makes it all happen.

Booth space is still available. Call Kimball at 518-6329 or Bark at 720-3200.

The Progressive Island Realtor Tour is scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15, near the anticipated end of the Anna Maria Island Bridge closure.

Real estate sales professionals and agencies are invited to put their featured listings on the map that organizer Sandy Rich will print for homebuyers to use. They will be invited to take the free Anna Maria Island trolleys to each property, walk through, take notes and possibly find that home they have been wanting.

Contractors, home décor shops and related suppliers are also invited to participate. Agents manning their properties are invited to provide snacks or refreshments for the shoppers.

To sign up or for more information, call Sandy Rich at 376-6077. Contractors and home improvement stores can call Karen LaPensee at 778-3572.

Bridging the Gap is a grassroots project by Anna Maria Island businesses to draw people to the Island on weekends while the Anna Maria Island Bridge is closed six weeks for rehabilitation. The plan is to hold festivals and fun events in hopes that some of the visitors will rent rooms and make it a weekend at the beach.

Bridging the Gap was the result of a conversation between Ginny Dutton, owner of Ginny’s and Jane E’s, and Anna Maria Island Sun Sales Manager Chantelle Lewin. The Sun will advertise a list of events every week for those wanting to come out and enjoy what the Island has to offer both on and off the beaches.

Bridging the Gap events

• Bayfest and music festivals, Cindy Thompson, 761-4766
• Tennis tournament, Kip Lalosh, 778-5446
• Realtor progressive open house, Sandy Rich, 778-0426
• Dog costume contest, The Sun newspaper, 778-3986
• Sandcastle tournament, Pam Fortenberry, 778-0436
• Skim Board Bash, Ronee Brady, 778-1001
• ArtsHOP Weekend, Joyce Karp, 778-2099
• Fishing tournament, Jake Spooner and Dana Snell, 778-3400
• Mini-golf tournament, Jake Spooner and Dana Snell, 778-3400
• Progressive raffle, Sandy Rich, 778-0426
• Trolley scavenger hunt, Linda Haack, 779-2545, ext. 1130, and Caryn Hodge, 778-8705
• Key Royale Golf Tournament, Tom Tollette, 779-1888
• Motorcycle run, Laura McAdams, 792-6366
• Open air market, Ginny Dutton, 778-7370
• Concert in the Park, Mark Kimball, 518-6329 and Steve Bark, 720-3200
• Haleyween party, Sabine Musil, 778-5405
• Pickleball, Robert Taylor, 778-6465
• Wing eating contest and karaoke contest, Tom Siwa, 419-341-1035.
• Softball tournament, Jeff Levine, 744-6883.
• Kayak tournament, Lauren Sato, 352-514-6545.
• Pot luck dinner and movie, AMI Community Center, Sandy Pruett, 778-1908.
• Bridge Street Market, Nancy Ambrose, 518-4431.

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Reading program goes to the dogs
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Drew Rowell, a second grader
at Anna Maria Elementary School, reads to Rolo,
a three-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel,
who goes to school with owner Kadee ten Haaf.

"Reading is fun. Reading to a dog is more fun."

Judging by the smiling faces when a dog walks into the library, Anna Maria Island Elementary School kids agree with the motto on the sticker they wear after they read to a dog in the Reading Fur Fun program.

Sponsored by the Humane Society of Sarasota County, the program has placed volunteer teams of owners and dogs in about a dozen schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties, according to the society’s education director, Kate Franklin. Teams spend 10 to 15 minutes with one or two children at a time, who take turns reading to the dog.

The program earned the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Civic Partner of the Year award in May.

"We get wonderful feedback from teachers," Franklin said. "They think it makes the kids not fearful of reading. And teachers themselves enjoy having the pets there. It brightens up everyone’s day."

"It’s a good way for kids to feel comfortable reading," said Lynne McDonough, media specialist with Anna Maria Elementary School. "It’s a relaxed atmosphere, so it gives them a secure feeling."

Teresa Ginaven and Makena, a seven-year-old greyhound adopted from a racing dog rescue program, have been a reading team for about a year and a half and visit Anna Maria Elementary School once a week.

"Dogs are not critical," said Ginaven, a Longboat Key resident who also volunteers at Palma Sola and Virgil Mills elementary schools. "I think the children are able to read to the dogs and not worry so much about making mistakes. It definitely gives them more confidence. It makes them better readers."

If readers get stuck on a word, they ask the dog handler for help.

"But their focus is on the dogs," Ginaven said. "They pet the dogs as they’re reading; they show illustrations to the dogs. It’s heartwarming."

Many children choose books with animal themes, probably because they hope the dogs will enjoy it, she said.

"My dog lays down and she will look at the book occasionally," she said. "It’s delightful for the children, and it delights me."

Anna Maria Island resident Sue Cary and her four-year-old cockapoo, Lucy, started their volunteer partnership three and a half years ago at area nursing homes and Blake Hospital, and expanded to the reading program at Anna Maria Elementary School last year.

"I retired and wanted to so dome volunteer work," said Cary, who also volunteers at Palma Sola and Virgil Mills elementary schools. "Lucy loves kids more than anything, and I thought she would enjoy it."

Children’s reading improves because, like training a dog with a treat, they have to do their reading homework to be able to read to the dogs, she said.

Kadee ten Haaf, 16, takes Rolo, a three-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, to the school twice a week, and also worked with children at Palma Sola and Virgil Mills last year.

"He loves kids," she said, which is why they chose the reading program instead of visiting nursing homes and hospitals as a therapy pet team.

"It gives children a reason to practice the books, and gives them a non-threatening environment in which to read," said Susan Smith, who takes Gracie, a nine-year-old golden retriever, to Anna Maria and Palma Sola elementary schools and to Manatee Memorial Hospital.

"The dog’s not correcting them," she said. "The dog’s not waiting for the next word."

Often children will talk about their pets, or pets they used to have or wish they had, she said.

"By the end of the year, you’ve really bonded with these kids."

For more information on the program, call the Humane Society of Sarasota County at 955-4131 ext. 113.

Fire facilities committee continues study

HOLMES BEACH – At its second meeting, the West Manatee Fire Facilities Review Committee learned about standards that deal with fire station design and firefighter safety and training.

The committee’s goal is to determine if there is community support to upgrade the district’s three aging and overcrowded stations – Station 4 in Bradenton, Station 2 in Cortez and Station 1 in Holmes Beach.

"I wanted you to understand some of the requirements we’re under," Fire Chief Andy Price explained. "If we were to build new buildings, they would fall under the International Building Code. Any building that is considered an essential building has to build to a higher standard."

In addition, the National Fire Protection Agency has standards that address health and safety, infection control and decontamination, deployment and training, facility safety, staffing and response time.

"If it’s a recommended standard, we don’t have to follow it unless another agency requires it," Price explained. "If we build a building, it has to be done to accommodate the required standards."

"The two areas that really need attention are administration and living space for firefighters. We have to do something with those even if we don’t build buildings."

Price said the district is required to provide training because of the health and safety standards adopted by the state. Another standard is the 2 in 2 out rule, in which there must be two firefighters outside before two can enter a burning building. In this district, with only three paid firefighters on a truck, the district’s reserve program helps meet that standard.

Funding sources

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford asked about the district’s funding sources and ways to increase revenue.

"The cities have ad valorem taxes and get increases without raising millage rates because of increased property values," Price replied. "We have assessment. The only way to get an increase is to build more buildings, but our district is almost built out."

With assessment, the district charges a fee based on building type and square footage. The district’s enabling act establishes a cap on assessments, but once it reaches that cap, which this district has done, it can only increase the yearly assessment by the percentage of Florida personal income growth, which this year is 6.35 percent.

"We do not receive any state or federal funding except grants for things like shutters, generators and lap top computers," Price continued. "In order to increase our fire assessment fees, it would require a referendum."

To fund major improvements to the stations, the district would have to seek a bond. Price felt people would be more likely to support a bond because it’s for a specific time period and to do specific things.

A third method is to increase the line item on debt in the budget.

"In our operating budget we have a line item to pay off debt,’ Price explained. "Our debt is buying fire trucks. Rather than have an amount in there that’s only what our debt is, we budget a little more than that so we can borrow on it if we need to. If we can’t get a bond, we may have enough to do one building."

Barford asked about the district’s timeline. Price said if the committee recommends that the district proceed, it would hire a firm to perform a needs assessment and evaluation of the existing buildings, present a plan with costs and develop a referendum.

Chappie hits the ground running
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

John Chappie

BRADENTON BEACH – In the week after winning his bid for a seat on the Manatee County Commission, John Chappie has been busy making contact with many community and neighborhood groups in his district, and he’s looking for more.

For a man whose stints as city commissioner and mayor of Bradenton Beach included getting people involved in their government, it’s not surprising.

Chappie was an original member of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency in the early 1990s, helping plan the improvements to Bridge Street that came as a result of a state grant. It became a trademark of his political life, to get citizens involved in the decision-making process. He hopes to use that philosophy at the county level.

"I’ve already tentatively scheduled a couple of meetings with homeowners’ associations and I’m getting involved with the communities," Chappie said last Saturday. "I’m also setting up appointments with department heads, learning who’s who in the county government."

Chappie, whose territory covers all or part of five of the six incorporated cities in Manatee County, said he wants to hear from the communities, get on e-mail and fax mailing lists to keep abreast of what’s happening and when those groups hold meetings.

"I want to let them know they have representation," he said. "I want to be involved in the neighborhoods."

Chappie said his territory is pretty well built out and some of the neighborhoods may see some deterioration due to the economy.

"There’s a potential for an increase in crime," he said. "We need to learn what we can do to preserve and protect the neighborhoods."

Chappie said like the three cities on Anna Maria Island, there are communities both in and outside incorporated cities that have their own characteristics.

"We need to encourage them to grow a sense of community if they don’t already have one," he said. "One thing that should also be encouraged is to get business owners involved too, even if they don’t live in those communities. Everyone has to have a voice. It’s a team effort."

Chappie has been described as a new breed of commissioner who will favor more growth along with former Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore. He said that some of that talk was the result of politics preceding the election.

"As to the articles about that, we haven’t communicated," he said. "You work together and come to a conclusion on making sustainable communities.

"I was accused of letting the density increase in Bradenton Beach, but that’s not true," he said. "The density decreased while I was mayor and those changes were the result of what the people want, not what one elected official can do."

Chappie said he is for growth when it leads to sustainable communities.

"It gets into smart growth, smart planning," he said. "I want the environment and growth to be equal."

Chappie said his record shows he works with people and governments and he wants people living in his district to know they can come to him, but he will also be making an effort to come to them.

"I’m just a phone call away," he said.


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