The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 18 - January 21, 2009


Debate over Pine Ave. heats up
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Critics say this building at 315 Pine Ave.,
which is part of the project, is too big and doesn’t fit in with the area.

ANNA MARIA — A barrage of letters and e-mails are flooding into city hall. Some are in favor of the Pine Avenue Restoration Project (PAR) and a proposed inn on the northwest corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, some are opposed and some are vehemently opposed.

"Why do we need more inns, shops and restaurants when nearby Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and Bradenton are rife with them?" wrote Susan Willis in e-mail to the city.

"Hooray for the Pine Avenue Restoration Project!" wrote Candy Conte. "My husband and I are big supporters, and hope you will be too!"

There are more letters against the project than in favor, but Michael Coleman, the project’s managing partner, said he has a petition with more than 100 signatures of supporters.

The first two buildings of the project are nearing completion at the corner of Crescent and Pine.

"We could have built them up to 37-feet, but we thought we were honoring the wishes of the community by limiting the height," Coleman said. "We thought we were honoring the wishes of the community by putting in mixed-use buildings rather than houses, which would be easier to develop and sell."

The project is in the residential/office/retail district (ROR) of the city, a district that was designated more than a decade ago to attract mixed-use concerns to Pine Avenue.

"So far, my business is the only one in the ROR that is being used as a business and a residence," Sandy Mattick, owner of Pine Avenue General Store, said at a recent meeting.

Owner occupied

The mixed-use district never really took off, and the construction of several single-family homes, especially the three occupying the site of the old marina, raised concerns that the chance to create a mixed-use district was endangered.

The current code and the previous comprehensive code mandated that the owner of the business or an employee of the business should occupy the residential component of mixed-use structures. That requirement was eliminated by the city commission and the Florida Department of Community Affairs accepted the revised comp plan last year.

Now, with the knowledge that the residential units might be used as rentals, some members of the community have become alarmed and are urgently trying to block the deletion of the owner occupied clause in the land development regulations (LDR), which are being revised to reflect the changes to the comp plan.

"I was in favor of deleting the owner occupied requirement," City Commissioner Dale Woodland said during a public hearing earlier this month. "I must say I never envisioned that there would be short-term rentals there. I’d hate to see that."

There are no minimum rental restrictions in any districts in the city. Coleman said he was willing to stipulate that he’d include one-week minimum rentals of the residential units as deed restrictions.

The revision of the LDRs for the ROR district seems to have stalled over this point at both the planning and zoning level and at the city commission level.


Another issue that has riled residents is the possible construction of the guesthouse or inn on North Bay, an idea that has been tossed around for a couple of years.

"We live at the end of South Bay Boulevard," wrote Lenda and Bob Anderson in an e-mail to the mayor. "We do not want a motel at the end of the street where we live! That adds insult to injury."

Coleman and his partners, Ed Chiles and Ted LaRoche, have an option to purchase the six lots across Pine Avenue to the north of Bayview Plaza.

A discussion of the possibility of a special exception to allow construction of a 24-unit guesthouse on that property was on the agenda for this month’s commission work shop, but it was shut down when Commission Chair John Quam stated that he had been advised by the city attorney that the matter could not be discussed until there was a site plan to review.

"It’s a dead issue for us now," Coleman said last week. "Unless the city acts on that, we aren’t going to push it. We have an option on those lots contingent on our being able to use them as a guesthouse – a use that Commissioner Woodland suggested to us."

Coleman reiterated that for PAR, the guesthouse would not become reality unless the city commission takes the next step and votes to allow it.

Pending public hearings

Who occupies the residential units and how long of a stay will be allowed was to be discussed at a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 20. It will come up again at the continuation of the public hearing at the Jan. 29 city commission meeting.

Helen Hagen passes away at 79
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Helen and Rex Hagen

Long-time community donor and supporter, Helen Hagen, died Thursday, Jan. 15, in Indiana at the age of 79. Hagen, and her husband, Rex, lived in Holmes Beach before moving to Anna Maria a few years ago. They also had a home in Indiana.

"Ever since I’ve been in politics, they’ve been a fixture in Holmes Beach," Manatee County Commissioner and former Mayor Carol Whitmore said. "They paid for equipment for the skate park and bleaches for the ball field, among many other things. We had a very good friendship. She will be sorely missed."

Holmes Beach Treasurer Rick Ashley said over the years, the Hagens, through their Hagen Family Foundation, have donated thousands of dollars to the city for improvements to its recreational facilities, including the skate park, ball field and the new tot lot.

"They’ve given $10,000 a year for many years," he said.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens said the Hagens also adopted several spots in the city and helped fund the city’s Christmas decorations.

"They’ve been great with the city, even after they moved to Anna Maria," she said.

Island Community Center Executive Director Pierrette Kelly said the Hagens have been instrumental in keeping the Center’s tennis courts in operation.

"When I came here in 1989, there were big holes in the tennis courts. The Hagens said they would donate money to fix them, if we could raise matching funds," Kelly recalled.

"When we moved into the new building they helped get lights and fix the drainage on the tennis courts. That’s why they’re called the Hagen Tennis Courts."

Kelly said her husband, Paul, who has had a kidney transplant, stood by Helen’s side when she had her kidney transplant and helped her through the ordeal.

"We’ve always valued Helen as a good friend to the Center," Kelly said. "She was always bright and cheery. The Hagens are very special people. They came to our community and did wonderful things even though it was not their primary community."

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger lauded the Hagen’s generosity to the city and the Center.

"The contributions they’ve made have made a significant impact," he pointed out. "Much of the Holmes Beach park is a result of their contributions. They will be missed by all. Out thoughts and prayers are with Rex."

Hagen is survived by her husband, Rex, of Anna Maria and Indiana; daughter, Nancy Beth (Rich) Stage, of Big Sky, Mont.; son, Mark David (Jeanna) Hagen, of Cromwell, Ind.; five grandchildren, Cole Douglas and McKenzie Grace Stage and Katie Beth, Nick and Sam Hagen; three sisters and one brother.

A service was held Sunday in Ligonier, Ind., and memorials may be sent to the West Noble Food Pantry, 4156 West 10000 North, Ligonier, IN 46767. Condolences may be sent to Rex Hagen, P.O. Box 550, Ligonier, IN 46767. Online condolences may be sent to

Pipeline would plow more sea floor

ANNA MARIA – Port Dolphin’s newly proposed natural gas pipeline route would plow through more of the Gulf of Mexico’s sea floor off Anna Maria Island than its previously planned route, according to the company’s revised deepwater port license application.

While the new route is slightly shorter than the original 42-mile-long proposal, the disturbance to the sea floor would be greater because more of the pipeline would be buried. The new route goes through softer sea floor, the company said, allowing the pipe to be buried rather than simply covered with concrete or rocks.

After conducting extensive surveys of the sea floor late last year, Port Dolphin determined that 87 percent of the newly proposed pipeline route will be plowed, compared to 49 percent estimated in the original route.

"The only relevant impact factor is sea floor disturbance and turbidity," according to the application, which was filed in December with the U.S. Maritime Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard. Other than turbidity, the anticipated impacts on marine life are similar to those that the original pipeline route would have caused, the document states.

Port Dolphin Energy changed its original pipeline route to the north, away from underwater sand reserves off the north end of Anna Maria Island, in response to concerns from governmental agencies and environmental groups. The fine, white sand is used for beach renourishment on the Island and on Longboat Key.

The project

The Houston-based company, a subsidiary of a Norwegian shipping firm, plans to build two submersible mooring buoys about three miles apart, 28 miles west of the Island in 100 feet of water. Tankers would convert their cargoes of liquefied natural gas into vaporized natural gas at the floating port. The gas would then be pumped into the proposed pipeline, which would come ashore at Port Manatee to supply electric companies.

During the pipeline installation, a 67-foot wide trench would be dug in the sea floor and the pipe would be laid, then buried by backfilling, requiring three passes along the route by a barge, according to the application.

Where the Gulf bottom is too hard to plow, the pipeline cannot be buried, and would be covered on a fourth barge pass with concrete "mattresses" or rock "armoring."

According to the application, the first three passes would be done by a barge with 10 anchors, which would be set every 2,000 feet. Each anchor contact with the sea floor would affect an area of 360 square feet. The fourth pass would be done by a smaller barge with four smaller anchors, which would be reset every 1,000 feet, affecting 90 square feet.

Port Dolphin predicts that 27.5 acres of sea floor will be affected by the anchoring, with 67 percent of the total impacts in 18.6 acres of soft bottom habitats, and 33 percent in 8.99 acres of hard or live bottom habitats.

The pipeline installation is predicted to be more destructive than the anchors. Pipeline installation will injure both the structure and organisms on the live bottom and hard bottom communities, while the anchors will injure the organisms, but not the structure, according to the document.

Even more impacts would be caused by horizontal directional drilling in some areas, the document adds.

Effects on marine life

The application states that while the impacts to living creatures would increase, "the overall significance of the impacts remains negligible to minor. The sea floor disturbance represents a small percentage of the sea floor in the region, and the turbidity impacts will be transient. Due to the fast settling rates of the relatively coarse sediments along the pipeline route, suspended sediment plumes should be short-lived and remain fairly close to their source. The exposure of any given fish to turbidity from resuspended sediments would be short-lived (e.g., minutes to hours). Fish may temporarily avoid areas of turbidity and sea floor disturbance until the conditions return to background."

The company’s original application cited several factors that could affect marine mammals such as manatees and dolphins, including construction vessel traffic, turbidity and discharges, underwater noise, debris (entanglement/ingestion) and accidental spills. The revised application states that the new pipeline route would not significantly change those factors.

Factors potentially affecting sea turtles include construction vessel traffic, turbidity and discharges, entrainment/impingement during seawater intake, underwater noise, lighting, debris (entanglement/ingestion) and accidental spills.

Factors affecting birds include lighting on vessels during construction, operations and decommissioning, construction vessel traffic and debris (entanglement/ingestion).

"In addition, marine and coastal birds could be affected in the unlikely event of a minor hydrocarbon spill, LNG (liquefied natural gas) release, or natural gas release," the application states.

Near the mouth of Tampa Bay, the new pipeline route would pass between two National Wildlife Refuges that are bird sanctuaries; it would be slightly farther from Passage Key and closer to Egmont Key than the original route.

"The project is not near or expected to have any impact on Boca Ciega Bay, Cockroach Bay, or Pinellas County Aquatic Preserves," according to the application, but the new route parallels part of the Terra Ceia Bay Aquatic Preserve to the north of Anna Maria Island.

The U.S. Coast Guard will issue a revised Environmental Impact Statement based on the revised license application in the coming months, to be followed by public hearings and consideration by several local, state and federal permitting agencies.

Survey: tall bridge wins

A second attempt to get more people to give their opinions about the future of the Anna Maria Bridge fell short of expectations, but the responses showed few people have changed their mind.

At issue is whether the public wants to replace the drawbridge, which is now toward the end of a $10 million rehabilitation project, and if so, with what type of structure. The two FDOT surveys showed that the majority wants a tall, fix-span bridge.

The first survey issued in April and May 2008 drew 879 responses. This latest survey taken last month brought 57 responses. The Anna Maria Island Sun ran its own survey on bridge replacement preferences on its website for several weeks, and 118 people responded.

The latest FDOT survey’s first question was whether the bridge should be replaced and 44 people (77.2 percent) said yes to 13 (22.8 percent) who said no.

FDOT asked whether the replacement should be another low-level drawbridge, a mid-rise 45-foot-tall drawbridge or a high rise 65-foot-tall fixed span bridge and 56 people responded. Thirty-nine (69.6 percent) wanted the high-level bridge, 12 (21.4 percent) wanted the low-level drawbridge and two (3.6 percent) wanted the mid-level drawbridge. Three people (5.4 percent) had no preference.

The Sun survey showed 52 people (44 percent) wanted the high-level bridge, 48 (41 percent) wanted to rebuild the existing bridge, 13 (11 percent) wanted the 45-foot drawbridge and only five (four percent) wanted to replace the low drawbridge with a similar structure.

In FDOT’s original survey, 66 percent of the voters wanted a high-rise bridge, 11 percent of favored a mid-level drawbridge and nine percent wanted a low drawbridge to replace the current one.

Cost estimates provided by FDOT, including engineering expenses, showed a high-rise fixed span replacement would cost $78 million, a low-rise drawbridge $90 million and a medium-rise drawbridge $98 million.

This latest FDOT survey shows 43.9 percent of the respondents wanted the new bridge to align south of the current one and 29.8 percent wanted it to align north of the current bridge, which would be torn down after its replacement is finished.

FDOT also offered a choice of cross-section designs and 73.2 percent of the voters preferred a 10-foot sidewalk on each side of the roadway compared to 19.6 percent who wanted one 12-foot-wide sidewalk along the north side of the bridge.

FDOT has no funding committed to a replacement bridge and if all goes well, they say it would likely be between 10 and 20 years before it is built. This latest survey was part of a Project Development and Environment study FDOT is conducting. Officials said Tuesday that there likely will be a third survey and that a public hearing tentatively has been scheduled for March.

Vacation request requires public hearing
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND Public hearing notices were posted on
the front and back of the property prior to the city meeting.

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners got a second surprise at last week’s meeting when they learned that they must hold a public hearing on a request by Fred and Susan Bartizal to vacate a 10-foot alley.

Neighbors of the property at 2812 Avenue E had protested the request because they said it could set a precedent and result in the loss of sea turtle habitat and increased storm damage.

The property contains a one-story duplex and appears to be on the beach. However according to maps, there is a 10-foot platted unimproved alley and another lot owned by the Bartizals on the Gulf side of the duplex.

"It is basically beach," Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes said. "Some 18 feet from the alley is the erosion control line. Who knows what the future will bring, but for all practical purposes, it will never be useful to anybody."

"This house is for sale," Commissioner David Zaccagnino pointed out. "They want to build a pool. This gentleman owns 19 properties in the city.

"They’re argument is that it is going to increase the tax base. Our total tax benefit would be $69.91. It would increase their property by 5 percent. This is public property. We should deny it."

Commissioner John Monetti said it would open the door for the further removal of sand dunes and sea oats on the property, as is the case on other properties there.

"We’re not normally in the business of giving away public property," he stressed.

Commissioners Pat Morton and Pat Geyer agreed, but no vote was taken.

Then Derin Parks, an attorney for the Bartizals, told commissioners that the request was advertised as a public hearing. Both City Attorney Patricia Petruff and Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said they were unaware of that.

Petruff said they could open the public hearing and let Parks speak, then continue it to the next meeting and let his client and the neighbors speak.

Parks said that would not be valid because they already decided, but Petruff pointed out that they did not vote. They agreed to open the public hearing, hold a first reading and continue it to Jan. 27, and Parks said he would reserve his comments until that date.

Parking request denied due to code requirement

HOLMES BEACH – In a ruling that took everyone by surprise, City Attorney Patricia Petruff said at last week’s meting that the commission’s vote on a request for a special exception required a super majority and, therefore, the motion failed.

The special exception requested by John Agnelli to park construction equipment at Agnelli Group Professional Park, 6000 Marina Drive, first came to the commission in October. The city’s planning consultant and building official did not recommend granting it.

The commission again considered the request in December and told Petruff to draft a resolution with stipulations worked out between Agnelli’s attorney, Ricinda Perry; Bob Hendrickson, an attorney for neighbors, who opposed the request; and the building official.

The stipulations included installing a second handicap parking space; limiting the number, type, height and size of construction vehicles; limiting hours of operation; prohibiting outdoor storage of construction materials; providing an area for bicycles; installing a 6-foot high fence as buffer for neighbors and limiting the special exception to the applicant.

Commissioners voted 3/2 to approve the request, then Petruff said based on the city’s land development code, a super majority vote was required if the building official denied the application. In addition, the applicant could not re-file for a special exception for a year.

"I would say the motion failed," she said.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger asked if there is a provision for appeal and Petruff said an appeal would be to circuit court.

"It would not make sense to come back here," she pointed out.

Following the vote, Perry said, "I was quite surprised to learn about the special exception. We will still try to work with the city. The last thing we want to do is go to court."

Cumber denies probation violation

HOLMES BEACH – William Cumber has entered a plea of denial to a petition filed against him for violating his probation, waiving his arraignment and demanding a hearing.

Cumber, 39, may have been the last person to see Holmes Beach motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler, 49, before she disappeared on Nov. 4, 2008. He told police they argued at their home over his cigarette smoking.

Cumber was arrested in Marion County on Dec. 22 on a charge of driving with a suspended driver license, according to court records.

He had been scheduled for a Jan. 30 arraignment on the violation of probation petition, which charged him with leaving Manatee County without his probation officer’s consent and failing to remain at liberty without violating any law.

Cumber was on probation for an arson conviction; he was sentenced in 2006 to 42 months in prison and three years probation for setting fire to his ex-girlfriend’s house in 2005 and was released from prison on Sept. 13.

After a Nov. 16 fire that destroyed a duplex at Haley’s, police questioned Cumber extensively.

Cumber has told both police and the Sun that he has no idea where Musil-Buehler is and had nothing to do with her disappearance.

The missing woman’s blood was discovered in her car, which was found in the possession of another man, Robert Corona, who has not been charged in her disappearance. He was charged with grand theft auto, resisting, obstructing or opposing a law enforcement officer and no valid drivers license, and is scheduled for trial on March 23.

Relay for Life kicks off
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Larry Hibbs, owner of SERVPRO of Bradenton, receives the award for top
fundraising team from Kimberly Borsheim of the American Cancer Society,
staff partner of the 2008 Relay for Life of Anna Maria Island. His Home
Improvement team raised $10,341 for cancer research.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Ambrose

CORTEZ – The kickoff celebration for the 2009 Relay for Life of Anna Maria Island is officially underway, with several teams signing up for the event on Monday at Star Fish Co.

The annual event, scheduled for May 16-17, celebrates cancer survivorship and pays tribute to those who lost their battles with the disease. The fundraiser benefits research, education and support programs of the American Cancer Society.

The relay is an 18-hour overnight campout at Coquina Beach, representing the darkness of a cancer diagnosis followed by the dawn of hope.

At dusk, walkers make the Luminaria Lap, a silent, candlelit tribute to those who lost their battles with cancer and those who have survived. Then, at least one member of each team walks in a continuous, non-competitive relay around the track.

Inspirational and fun activities including concerts, meals, games and theme laps follow all night.

“The event is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do,” spokeswoman and nine-year cancer survivor Nancy Ambrose said.

Last year, 20 teams raised $33,000 for the American Cancer Society. This year’s goal is 25 teams and $40,000.

Those interested in joining the Relay for Life committee or starting an eight to 10 member relay team may call Kimberly Borsheim at 745-1214 ext. 5806 or Nancy Ambrose at 518-4431.

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