The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 4 - October 21, 2009


Port Dolphin clears major hurdle

ANNA MARIA – The U.S. Maritime Administration signed a document on Monday that clears the decks for a license to be issued for Port Dolphin’s liquefied natural gas port, planned 28 miles off Anna Maria.

Port Dolphin officials attended the signing ceremony in Washington, D.C. and have organized a reception at the Bradenton Yacht Club on Nov. 5. to celebrate the watershed event.

The document, called a “record of decision,” codifies the Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, a two-volume study of the expected impacts of the offshore port and its 42-mile-long pipeline to Port Manatee, Port Dolphin spokesman Wayne Hopkins said.

The document drew sharp criticism from environmental groups including ManaSota-88, charging that anticipated environmental impacts of the project on wetlands, navigation, fisheries, marine mammals and sea turtles were understated.

“We filed objections in August and are waiting to hear a response from Port Dolphin,” said ManaSota-88 Director Glenn Compton, adding that the group is entitled to a response as a party in the licensing process.

The town of Longboat Key criticized the project, citing errors in the environmental impact statement and objecting to the proposed underwater pipeline path, which was slated to traverse the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve, then was relocated to a site where it would have crossed beach renourishment sand reserves, making them inaccessible.

An agreement between Port Dolphin, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission requires Port Dolphin to pay Manatee County and Longboat Key up to $5.5 million each to fund the removal of sand from the pipeline path prior to June 2012, when construction is anticipated.

The state environmental permitting process is next on the Norwegian shipping firm’s agenda, which could take a year, Hopkins said. Operations are expected to begin in 2013.

The submersible port will have two docking stations that can be raised to meet tankers that will convert their cargoes of liquefied gas to vapor and offload it into the pipeline for delivery to Port Manatee for shipment over land to energy suppliers.

Port Dolphin predicts a $150 million direct economic impact to Port Manatee and Manatee County over the next 20 years.

Fishing ban partially lifted
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Fishing boats have been idle at the dock in Cortez
during the longline ban, which has been partially
and temporarily lifted. SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE

CORTEZ – Some commercial longline fishermen are headed back out to the Gulf for grouper after regulators partially and temporarily lifted the five-month-old emergency ban on longline fishing.

The ban, which has kept fishermen from using their gear in shallow water since May and in deep water since June, has been replaced by an interim rule allowing longline fishing in water 35 fathoms or more with 750 rigged hooks until a long-term rule is implemented this spring.

Longline gear is used to catch reef fish, including grouper and occasionally snares threatened loggerhead sea turtles, sometimes drowning them. Fisheries regulators, responding to a lawsuit filed under the Endangered Species Act, implemented the ban to minimize accidental interactions with turtles.

The modification of the ban does fishermen little good, said Glen Brooks, of the Gulf Fisherman’s Association, who sent one boat in his Cortez fleet out longlining last week.

“We harvest most all our fish between 20 and 30 fathoms,” while the new interim rule only allows fishing in 35 fathoms or more, he said. “A couple boats may get two or three trips out of it. But something is better than nothing.”

Some, who were fishing in the Gulf with less effective gear when the new rule took effect, will likely go back out with their longlines after they return to the dock, said Karen Bell of A.P. Bell Fish Co. in Cortez, which she said was in danger of closing if the emergency ban had remained in effect.

A long-term rule containing more provisions than the interim rule is expected to be implemented next spring, probably limiting longline endorsements to 61 commercial vessels using 750 hooks in 35 fathoms or more during June, July and August, and in 20 fathoms or more the rest of the year, Brooks said.

If the regulatory process stalls, as is often the case, “We may not be going back to work until September,” he said.

Meanwhile, regulators are working on a new project to reduce commercial quotas on red and gag grouper, he said, adding that the longline ban has dramatically reduced the number of grouper caught so far this year.

Gulf drilling foes unite

The three Anna Maria Island cities and Manatee County have joined other municipalities in west central Florida that are uniting in their opposition to oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

While local governments have little jurisdiction in the Gulf, a united front among cities and counties could sway state and federal representatives leaning towards oil activities, according to local government officials.

The Manatee County Commission voted unanimously 7-0 last Tuesday to oppose oil activities in state waters in the Gulf, which extend to nine nautical miles from shore, the state/federal boundary, still visible from the beach.

“We can’t stop this train,” Commissioner Joe McClash said. “The negotiating I see is in federal waters. It’s stronger going to the federal table when you have an ‘absolutely no’ policy in state waters.”

County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore urged representatives from other governments at the Council of Governments meeting in Bradenton on Wednesday to sign a letter patterned after one signed by all four Sarasota County municipalities.

“I think we should be in step with our surrounding communities,” she said, announcing that Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach officials expressed opposition to oil activities in the Gulf at a meeting of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials earlier that day. “We need to send a message to the legislators.”

Officials in the cities of Longboat Key, Venice and North Port and Sarasota County previously signed a letter opposing oil activities, Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis told the group.

With oil supporters publicizing drilling as the answer to energy self-sufficiency and lower prices, “It will be very hard to fight the momentum,” he predicted.

To drill or not to drill?

“To drill or not to drill?” is not really the question, Dr. Frank Alcock, director of the Marine Policy Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory, told Manatee County commissioners last week.

The existing buffer zone, 225 miles from shore in some places, is not politically viable, he said, urging commissioners to involve themselves in negotiations about how, when and where to grant access for oil and gas exploration and drilling.

Officials also should determine how to minimize risk and maximize rewards in future oil leases, such as supporting a process to get credible answers through peer reviews or assessment panels, requiring assurance bonds in case of environmental damage and negotiating royalty rates on leases, which vary from 12.5 percent to 18.5 percent, he said.

Marine-based management plans, similar to municipal comprehensive plans, also could be effective ways to manage oil activities, he suggested.

With so much at stake, quick action is necessary, Alcock said.

“Tourism dwarfs everything in the state of Florida,” said Alcock, a professor of political science at New College and a former economist.

Risks to the environment and the tourism economy that relies on it are greater in Florida than in Texas, where an oil group supporting drilling off Florida is based, he said.

“You have a lot more to lose on this part of the west Florida shelf” than Texas beach communities would lose in an oil spill, he said, pointing out the difference in Florida’s white sand and the darker sand of South Padre Island.

Other voices

Other groups also are joining forces against oil.

Members of the Surfrider Foundation, which has a local chapter in Sarasota, attended a Florida House of Representatives Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday in Tallahassee to give legislators reasons to oppose opening Florida waters to drilling, including the potential to ruin water sports, such as surfing, in the event of a spill.

Environmental group ManaSota-88 presented its 10-point opposition plan to the Rotary Club in Bradenton Beach on Monday, with Director Glenn Compton boiling it down to “Not here. Not now. Now ever.”

Onshore leases are not depleted yet, hurricanes like Katrina and Rita pose too much of a threat, and air and water quality would be impacted, he said.

The argument that fish attracted to oil rigs provide good fishing grounds does not account for toxins the fish absorb from rig operation, he said.

Offshore oil revenues would be a drop in the ocean compared to a $65 billion tourism economy, Compton said. With the state’s tourism based on clean beaches, two months of oil still spilling from a rig off Australia should be enough evidence for any Floridian that the risk is too great, he said, adding that 50 years from now, oil companies may have a better safety record.

“And I’m willing to wait,” he said.

Owners to meet over boat thefts

A recent rash of boat thefts has prompted one local boat dealer to try and help its customers avoid becoming the next victim.

Cannons Marina's Benny Parrish sent a letter to customers regarding the thefts and inviting them to a meeting at the marina on Longboat Key.

“We want to inform our owners that there is something going on out there and they should take precautions,” Parrish said. “We figure the more our customers know about this, the more roadblocks we can put to stop these people from stealing our boats.”

In his letter to customers, Parrish notes that according to law enforcement agencies, there is a large criminal ring working the entire state of Florida stealing high-end, well-equipped boats. The ring is targeting a variety of different brands, including the popular Grady White boats that Cannons sells. Three of these have been stolen from the marina.

Parrish said that the theives are casing areas looking for boats to target, and when they find one of interest, they monitor the activity of the location until they are ready to make their move. They usually select a number of boats in a location and will hit the softest target.

One 30-foot Grady White was stolen from an owner's dock in Anna Maria on Oct. 17 but was recovered after a high speed boat chase in Tampa Bay. Information provided by the Federal Department of Law Enforcement enabled authorities to find the boat while the thieves were still in it and to shoot out one of the motors during the chaser. The suspects jumped from the boat at full-throttle and have not been seen since.

Cannons also has invited a local law enforcement official that has been working on this case to speak about what owners can do to protect their boats. To RSVP, call Kristine McWilliams at 383-1311 or e-mail

In Anna Maria, meanwhile, law enforcement officials had a few tips to help boat owners keep their boats safe.

“First of all, people need to take their keys with them when they’re not using their boats,” said Sgt. Dave Turner, of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “And you should remove all valuables from the boat.”

Another suggestion Turner had is to cut off the electricity to boat lifts when they’re not in use.

“And it’s really important to not confront the thieves,” he warned. “If you hear a noise or notice anything suspicious, do not go outside to confront anyone. We don’t need anyone hurt.”

Turner said it’s always best to just call 911 and let the professionals take care of it.

“Boats are expensive pieces of equipment,” he said. “Many people out here own boats valued at well over $100,000. It just makes sense to do what you can to keep your boat from getting stolen.”

FDLE spokesman Mike Morrison said the Anna Maria caase is actively being investigated and they cannot release any further information. A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard base in Cortez said that the boat is no longer being stored there, but would not disclose where it had been moved.

Sun reporter Laurie Krosney contributed to this story.

Roser honored at commission meeting
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Members of the Anna Maria citizen recognition committee presented
a plaque to Roser Memorial Community Church at the October city
commission meeting. From left, committee members Margaret Jenkins,
Betty Yanger, Sandy Mattick, Jane Coleman and Chair Linda Scott,
look on as Mayor Fran Fran Barford congratulates Congregation
President Ron Vandeman and Pastor Gary Batey.

ANNA MARIA — Roser Memorial Community Church was celebrated and honored as the Anna Maria Citizen/organization of the year at the October city commission meeting last week.

In accepting a plaque honoring the church, Pastor Gary Batey noted the historic interconnections between the church and the city.

“The chapel was once in the care and keeping of the city of Anna Maria,” he said. “Our history and that of Anna Maria have been intertwined.”

Batey mentioned the hundreds of people who are a part of Roser and its mission in the community, including the Roser Food Bank and other outreach programs.

‘We’re supported in the Food Bank by the other churches and other citizens to be a conduit of civic pride and compassion for a lot of people beyond our congregation.”

On behalf of the Roser community, Batey thanked the city and said he was grateful for the recognition.

The name of Roser Memorial Community Church will join that of other recipients of the citizen of the year award on a plaque that hangs in the city commission chambers.

Some of those past recipients include Ernie Cagnina, Ellen Marshall, Ted Tripp, George O’Connor, Ed Callen, Ray Simches, Mary Ross, Carolyne Norwood, Mike Miller, George Norwood, Gene and Elizabeth Moss, the Environmental Education and Enhancement Committee, Sinclair and Martha Stewart and The Anna Maria Island Sun.

Members of this year’s selection committee were Jane Coleman, Chris Collins, Margaret Jenkins, Sandy Mattick, Chair Linda Scott and Betty Yanger.

Civility reigns at Anna Maria candidates’ forum

ANNA MARIA – Despite concerns that the gloves could come off, candidates were on their best behavior in The Sun’s forum last week at the Island Community Center.

Incumbents Christine Tollette, John Quam and Dale Woodland joined challengers David Gryboski and Harry Stoltzfus on the Center’s stage to answer questions submitted by residents in advance. Candidate profiles appeared in last week’s Sun.

Opening statements

Gryboski: I’ve noticed an unnecessary focus on residents versus businesses. We’re a community with a well-defined business district and we need to support it. Instead of focusing on that, I want to focus on issues that are important to all of us.

Quam: I’ve been a commissioner for seven years and I have worked with many dedicated commissioners to preserve the Anna Maria we all moved here for. I’m committed to maintaining the integrity and quality of life of the residential neighborhoods and the business district.

Stolozfus: I will do everything I can to ensure Anna Maria maintains the single-family residential character, which our comp plan declares is our aim. Now more than ever, our commission needs another voice that speaks for our businesses and our residents but against unchecked, irrational, too rapid development.

Tollette: I promise to preserve and protect the comprehensive plan, to continue to advocate for residential property rights, insist that the business district remain within the bounds of ROR and commercial districts and vigorously oppose any encroachment into residential districts and any efforts to increase building heights.

Woodland: I read the profiles in The Sun and if they didn’t have pictures with them I would have trouble picking out who was who. We all love the comp plan, support the infrastructure and are fiscally responsible. All of us want to protect the character and quality of life in the residential neighborhoods and support business.


Q: There seems to be a hysteria regarding business owners versus residents in the community. Why and how would you bring the two together?

Quam: It is the case, and I think it has been brought out by the business group. They have designated who they are going to back and circulated various documents. It’s very clear to the majority of the residents. I don’t think it’s right, but I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.

Stoltzfus: Some of what has been going on is horrible. I’m taking the high road every time there is a chance. I had a conversation with someone who said as the election gets closer, it will get worse. I don’t think denigrating your opponents adds anything to the conversation.

Tollette: All of us all feel passionate about the city and the residents. We understand the importance of having a community. The definition of a community is having a vital residential component and a business component. That’s what we have here and that’s what I’m fighting to protect.

Woodland: I’m one of those passionate people, too, but it’s a negative thing I’ve seen here lately. I’m disappointed to see the city so polarized. There are things we all agree on like the jewel we have here. We need to work on those and have legitimate discourse.

Gryboski: We’re a community. We have the elementary school, the library, the Community Center. Every community has a business district. Ours happens to be much smaller than others. I’m going to focus my efforts on things that are important to all of us.

Q: Would you allow a motel at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard?

A: All said they would not.

Q: How do you feel about the Angler’s Inn being put in a special zoning district and used as a community gathering place?

Stoltzfus: If it comes to the commission, I’ll be looking very closely because I’m not sure I trust these people (Pine Avenue developers) yet.

Tollette: It’s wonderful historic building but it’s in a residential area. You could move it and there are areas on Pine Avenue where you could do that.

Woodland: I agree with Christine.

Gryboski: I applaud the efforts to restore and preserve it, however, I’m not for encroaching into that residential district.

Quam: How do we know that a new owner would not renovate it? Also I’ve suggested that the developer move it.

Q: Should there be limits on residential rentals?

A: All candidates said no.

Q: What ways would you improve how the city budgets its money?

Gryboski: I plan to take a closer look at the budget and eliminate as much waste as possible.

Quam: We are near a bare bones budget this year. The only area we could work on would be the consultants.

Stoltzfus: There are two ways to deal with the deficit – there’s the cowardly way to do an across the board percentage cut or looking for areas to save money.

Tollette: We will comb through it and find ways to save money while continuing to protect and serve our constituents.

Woodland: The problem with government budgets is that they match the revenue to their spending. They should be matching the spending to the revenue that’s available.

Q: Should city support increase or decrease for the Community Center?

Stoltzfus: As far as I know, it’s doing fine financially.

Tollette: They have a financial problem because they are getting less donors and have more people to serve. We need to find some partnerships outside the Island.

Woodland: Our revenues decreased approximately10 percent and so did our contribution to the Center. I support their efforts to find all different sources of funding.

Gryboski: The three cities need to support it as much as we can. We need to come up with creative ways to do that.

Quam: We have been decreasing our donation due to less ad valorem revenue. We are giving our fair share.

Closing statements

Tollette: I want to be your commissioner and continue to help make this the city that we’re proud of and continue to live in.

Woodland: You can count on the fact that I’ll be the same guy I’ve always been.

Gryboski: I will focus on issues important to all of us and help bring the community together.

Quam: I have the experience and commitment to perform to the best interest of the city’s residents and I hope you vote to maintain the integrity and quality of life for the residents while supporting the business district.

Stoltzfus: What’s being proposed for Pine Avenue is not a small wave. It’s a tsunami and if we allow it to go unchecked, the Anna Maria you know will never be the same. I intend to fight. I’d like your support.

Residents question candidates in Holmes Beach

HOLMES BEACH – Candidates for three commission seats responded to questions on a variety of issues posed by about 50 residents at city hall last week.

Incumbents Pat Geyer, Pat Morton and David Zaccagnino are being challenged by Al Robinson and Andy Sheridan. Candidate profiles appeared in last week’s Sun.

Opening statements

Geyer: I’ve owned a house on the Island since 1954 and moved here in 1961, so I’ve watched the Island grow from gravel roads to paved roads. I love this Island and want to keep the paradise it is.

Sheridan: I’ve been coming to the commission meetings since February participating and staying on top of the issues. I love living here in our little piece of paradise, and I’m looking to try to keep the balance and not go overboard with development.

Morton: I’ve been on the commission for six years and I’ve enjoyed working with the citizens. A lot of people bring up the tax issue, but 85 to 90 percent of the people are not dissatisfied with what we’re doing for the city.

Robinson: I came here and listened to the reading of the budget and four out of five commissioners think there’s no way to cut. This is home for me, so I don’t want to change anything, but I’m here to run this place like a business.

Zaccagnino: I’m on about 12 boards and organizations and I go to the county commission and School Board meetings and when there are issues, I’m out there addressing our concerns. I’d like to see the other commissioners join me in becoming more involved in the community.


Q: How can the city keep its finances in check?

Sheridan: I’ve spoken up at the budget meetings and asked about the fleet of vehicles, if the department heads could reduce their budgets and about the $500 raise every employee got. I did not get satisfactory answers to any of those questions.

Morton: We dropped our (salary) step program, we reduced the number of vehicles we purchase; we’ve pulled back a lot to keep our services the way the public wants. Yes, we have a surplus, but if we have a disaster, we’ll have the funds to bring our city back.

Robinson: You won’t get reductions if you don’t ask for them. We’ve got vehicles that go 120 miles an hour, big gas-guzzlers, flashy vehicles. You don’t need all this icing on the cake. I’m a businessman and I’ll see that this is run like a business.

Zaccagnino: One way I would like to see some decrease in spending is economies of scale. We have three cities and we have the same accountant and three garbage services. Think we can get a better deal if we all ask together? This needs to be explored.

Geyer: You pay very little to Holmes Beach for services you get. Our money goes to the county and the School Board. The people I talk to are happy with the taxes and what they get from Holmes Beach.

Q: What percent of the budget should be set aside for emergencies?

The incumbents said 3 to 5 percent per year. Robinson said he has no expertise with the issue, and Sheridan said his concern is not with the rainy day fund, but with cutting wasteful spending.

Q: What would you do differently that is not being done today?

Robinson: I would pay more attention to the budget and sit down with the department heads and go line by line.

Zaccagnino: We’re adding extra layers of government and trying to legislate everything. I would like to see a lot less ordinances.

Geyer: The city is run well. Our police department needs good vehicles. We don’t trade them in, we just hand the down. I like it the way it is.

Sheridan: I’d like to see more participation from the public at the commission meetings. We need to encourage our neighbors to come and learn more about what’s happening here on a weekly basis.

Morton: I agree; we’d love to have a crowd like this on commission nights. And I would like to see us enforce our codes and ordinances. People come in and want to change them. We’re destroying what we love.

Q: Would you review consolidating city services?

All said they would.

Q: Should the building height of 36 feet be put in the comp plan?

All said they had no problem with doing that.

Q: Should Island elected officials be doing more to oppose oil drilling in the Gulf and what should they be doing?

Morton: We should be very involved with it. We should call and write our legislators.

Robinson: I don’t see any problem with rigs 75 miles offshore. We have more of a hazard moving oil around by tankers coming in and out of Tampa Bay. That’s where the spill happens. I don’t want to look at oil rigs, but you have to do the prudent thing sometimes.

Zaccagnino: We could have a referendum. We can have close connections to our county representatives to let them know how we feel about offshore drilling. We should look at alternative energy.

Geyer: I’m against drilling offshore. I’ve written to Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep, Bill Galvano, and the commission could pass a resolution.

Sheridan: The county commission passed a resolution today to oppose offshore oil drilling, and it was suggested that all elected officials along the Gulf coast of Florida should sign a resolution. I’ve e-mailed representatives and will continue to do so.

Closing statements

Geyer: My experience is the main thing. I like the way the Island has progressed and I want to keep it our little heaven.

Sheridan: I have been encouraged by commissioners to participate and get involved and speak out on issues. I will continue to come to the meetings even if I’m not elected.

Morton: I’m working for our citizens and I feel that I’m a voice for them. I will speak up if I see a wrong and continue to serve the city as I have.

Robinson: I will work hard to make this city efficient. My vote will be to lower costs.

Zaccagnino: I ran four years ago because I had a child and felt the shop wasn’t being watched. I have the background to address some issues, and I have ties with the organizations in town like the county commission and the School Board to get your voice heard.

Ghosts and monsters to invade school
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT From left to right: Jane Coleman,
Rich Bell, Lori Schlossberg and Julie Krokroskia (behind the mask)
hard at work on the haunted house.

HOLMES BEACH – Be forewarned, all sorts of monsters will assemble in the parking lot of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce on Saturday morning, Oct. 31, around 10 a.m. Shortly after that, judges will determine the scariest of the lot and then they will march in waves on Anna Maria Elementary School for Fall Fest.

The PTO moms, teachers and students have all outdone themselves this year to make this the best Fall Fest ever. There will be games for the kids with tickets redeemable for prizes for the winners. There will be drawings for prizes from the business community and families. There will be an auction for meals prepared by the teachers just ready to be warmed up.

In addition, they will have food and refreshments and their annual bake sale. The class that provides the most items for the bake sale will win a pizza and cupcake lunch.

In addition, Chris Grumley will DJ the event and the Island Rockers, the new kid sensation band, will perform.

The haunted house is coming together as well. The parents have started transforming it into a maize of terror, but the smaller kids also will get to see it without nightmares. The parents promise that they will announce once or twice when the youngsters will be welcome. They will turn on the lights and the scary creatures inside won’t be so scary.

Here’s a schedule of events:

  • 10:15 a.m., costume contest at the Chamber of Commerce followed by the parade to the school;
  • 11 a.m., haunted house open with lights on for mini-goblins;
  • 11:30 a.m., haunted house lights off for the brave
  • Noon, prize drawing begins;
  • 2 p.m., Island Rockers perform.

The moms are working up to the deadline to make this a profitable fund-raiser, too. Businesses that want to make donations for the drawing can bring them to the school or call Lori Schlossberg at 778-1564. Schlossberg said that they appreciate the support of those donors who help make the drawing a success.

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