The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 13 - December 23, 2009


Tricky balance evolves in parking dilemma

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY For years, cars have been allowed
to cross sidewalks to park perpendicular to businesses on
Pine Avenue in Anna Maria. Critics say the practice is dangerous.

ANNA MARIA — Finding a balance between pedestrian and bicyclist safety and fulfilling the parking needs of the property owners in the residential/office/retail district is the charge of a newly formed committee set to meet early in January.

Staff members are trying to schedule the first committee meeting for Jan. 8.

As it stands today, motorists who want to park at Pine Avenue businesses must cross the sidewalk to pull into a parking place.

“That’s an accident waiting to happen,” said City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus. “It’s unsafe.”

The newly erected Pine Avenue Restoration Project buildings have become a target. In the initial phases of the development of PAR’s properties at the corner of Pine Avenue and Crescent Drive, the site plan showed parking in the rear of the properties with a driveway in and a driveway out.

But an outcry from residents on Spring Avenue behind the properties brought a compromise offer from PAR’s Managing Partner, Micheal Coleman. That resulted in the present parking configuration, with vehicles pulling across the sidewalk in front to enter and leave parking spaces.

Each member of the commission, plus the mayor, named a person to serve on the committee.

Mayor Fran Barford named Mike Pescitilli, JoAnn Mattick’s choice was Gene Aubrey, John Quam named Tom Aposporos, Harry Stoltzfus named Terry Schaefer, Chuck Webb chose Coleman and Dale Woodland selected Larry Albert.

Controversy swirled earlier in December when Stoltzfus, then newly elected, appointed a committee of his own and held a first meeting before bowing to the conventional way of committee formation in the city. Stoltzfus had made the district's parking situation a cornerstone of his campaign for the commission.

The usual way committees are formed is by each commissioner and the mayor naming someone to the committee and then getting approval of the full commission.

City Clerk Alice Baird said the tentative date for the first meeting of the committee is January 8.

“But that could change,” she said. “With the holidays, we haven’t been able to reach everyone yet to see if they can come that day.”

Stoltzfus said the committee is unnecessary, since he plans to make suggestions for bringing the land development regulations into agreement with the comprehensive plan.

The city commission and the planning and zoning board have scheduled a joint meeting to discuss the parking safety issue on Thursday, Jan. 14, at 6 p.m.

Legal petition opposes project

ANNA MARIA — Several Anna Maria property owners have filed a petition against the city, challenging land development regulations in the community’s residential/office/retail district.

Robert and Nicky Hunt, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Muzzy and Pineapple Corner, LLC, the owner of 303 Pine Avenue, served the city with the petition on Dec. 23.

Land use attorney Dan Lobeck wrote the administrative petition challenging the consistency of the land development regulations with the comprehensive plan.

“My clients assert that section 114-282 of the code is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan because it would permit a person owning property in the ROR district to have a residential density which exceeds six (6) residential units per gross acre,” Lobeck wrote in his petition.

The comp plan limits residential density to no more than six units per acre.

Lobeck and his clients claim that allowing construction of a resident/office/retail structure on a 5,000 square foot lot would be “inconsistent with stated densities.”

“Under Policy 1.2.1 of the comprehensive plan, a property owner would be required to have a minimum lot size of at least 7,260 square feet to ensure that no more than six (6) residential units would be constructed per gross acre as required by the comprehensive plan,” the petition states.

Under state law, the comprehensive plan is the governing document for a city, and the land development regulations must be consistent with it.

The Hunt/Muzzy document demands that a pending site plan for a project on a 5,000 square foot lot should be denied because the proposed project would exceed the maximum density for the ROR district.

Currently, the only site plan for a 5,000 square foot lot in the ROR district is for the property at 216 Pine Ave. That’s the property that Janae Rudicille, the daughter of Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, inherited from her father.

She has sold the lot to Pine Avenue Restoration and plans to open a store there. Potentially, two more PAR projects on the drawing board could be impacted should the petition get a favorable ruling.

Filing a petition of this nature is a first step in the procedural process that can lead to a challenge before the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

The city has 30 days to respond to the petition.

“Please be advised that due to the simplicity of this matter, my clients are unwilling to provide any extension to this deadline,” Lobeck’s petition states.

The Hunt/Muzzy attorney also wrote that his clients “have indicated a resolve to take additional action in this matter as provided by Section 163.3213 of Florida Statues, should the city refuse to correct this inconsistency as required by law.”

Lobeck wrote that he hopes the city will realize its legal duties and not waste taxpayer funds in defending a clearly inconsistent land development regulation.

Mayor Fran Barford said she hadn’t had a chance to talk to the city attorney yet, so she couldn’t comment on the petition.

Segways, scooters gain in popularity

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Visitors are having
fun renting various types of electric vehicles,
including these Segways.

ANNA MARIA – Personal electric transportation devices, such as the two-wheel Segway and motorized three-wheeled scooters, are the new rage for residents and visitors who want to get a closer look at the Island.

However, some of those riders are not using them safely, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Dave Turner, who heads the Anna Maria substation.

“We are receiving more and more complaints about safety violations,” he said. “Riders 16 years of age and younger need to wear a helmet and we will ticket them if they don’t. Also, we’re getting complaints about people going onto driveways and doing donuts and that’s not allowed and we will enforce it.”

Turner said Segway and motorized three-wheeler riders are allowed on the sidewalk and on the side of the streets in Anna Maria, but they need to ride carefully.

In Holmes Beach, the low-speed vehicles are allowed on bicycle paths and on roads where the speed limit is 25 mph or less, according to Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson. He said they are also allowed on sidewalks.

“We would prefer that they use the sidewalks than bike paths, but they need to remember that pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks,” Stephenson said.

Like Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach allows Segways under Florida Statute 316.2068. That means they can be driven in bicycle lanes and on roads where the speed limit is 25 mph or less. Riders 16 or younger must wear a helmet.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said they can also be operated on sidewalks there, but that pedestrians again have the right of way..

Judge lets Buehler request stand

A judge has denied a motion to throw out Thomas Buehler’s request to have his estranged wife declared dead.

Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas ruled Tuesday against Great American Life Insurance’s request, agreeing with Buehler’s attorney’s assertion that law enforcement authorities are treating Sabine Musil-Buehler’s disappearance as a homicide.

Buehler is trying to speed the procedure to have her declared dead so he can collect on a $300,000 life insurance policy in her name.

American Life attorney Kathy Massing told Nicholas that state law requires a person to be missing five years before being declared dead, but Buehler’s attorney, William Meeks, Jr., pointed out that the law allows a presumptive death certificate if there is evidence that the person was exposed to a specific peril of death.

Because of Nicholas’ ruling, there will be another hearing to have her declared dead at an unspecified date in the future.

Musil-Buehler, who owns Haley’s Motel in Holmes Beach with Buehler, disappeared Nov. 4, 2008, when her boyfriend, William Cumber III, told authorities she left the Anna Maria apartment they shared after an argument over his smoking. Buehler reported her missing two days later after police pulled over a man driving her white Pontiac Sunbird convertible in Bradenton. The man, Robert Corona, first told detectives that he had partied with her the night before, but he later recanted and said that he stole the car when he found the keys in the ignition. He is now serving a four-year prison sentence for the theft.

Police have said that they consider Cumber the prime suspect in Musil-Buehler’s disappearance. Following her disappearance, a building at Haley’s Motel was destroyed in a fire that authorities say was arson. Cumber, who was convicted of setting fire to a former girlfriend’s house, claims the fire was a setup to frame him. Cumber is currently serving 13 years in prison for violating his probation.

Police have scoured a portion of the beach along Gulf Boulevard where they feel Musil-Buehler was buried. They used cadaver dogs the first time and a portable radar unit the second, but come up with nothing.

Island contractor rides the wind
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Pam Geyer holds the front tire
while Herschberger with back to camera and Howard Pence
check out the sound of the motor.

The bike, a racing Harley, is sleek and clean. There’s not a spot of dust or oil on it. Wheelie bars, secured to the bike, jut out from the rear to grab the ground when the bike takes off.

It’s that powerful. Were it not for the wheelie bars, the bike would flip over from the thrust and power of the engine.

It’s the Saturday before Christmas, and Willie Herschberger has agreed to show his bike.

“You have to see and hear it for yourself,’ he said. “No one can imagine it. There really aren’t words.”

So Herschberger and two members of his crew, his fiancé, Pam Geyer and Howard Pence have come along to help out.

“In these conditions, we wouldn’t run the bike because of the temperature,” Herschberger says. “With the fuel, which is nitro methane, you need it to be a little warmer.”

Pence rolls a starter cart up to the side of the bike and purges the engine. Fuel is put in.

“Are you ready?” asks Herschberger.

With that, he fires up the bike with a sound that shakes the solid ground. It’s painful to the ear.

With a twist of the throttle on the handlebar, Herschberger gives it more fuel.

The sound is overwhelming, closing out thought and almost closing out sight.

“Now imagine multiplying that by 10 or 20 with bikes racing on several tracks at several events and guys getting their bikes ready to race,” Herschberger said. “It’s such an adrenaline rush.”

The motorcycle has a built-in computer that is programmed to run the fuel and clutch system before the race. The data is downloaded from the laptop, analyzed and tweaked after each race. Geyer programs the laptop.

Herschberger’s been around motorcycles since he built his first Harley in 1979. That wasn’t too long after he left the Amish community in which he was raised.

He started drag racing in 1999, formed Dragmasters and went on tour beginning in 2000.

Herschberger was the track champion in 2001 and the national champ in 2003. He has 11 national records.

Herschberger and his crew travel to tracks around the country during the season. They normally hit about 12 states in nine months, covering some 40,000 miles.

“Usually, the crew drives the motor home and the bikes on ahead for west Coast races, and I fly to meet them,” Herschberger said. “We don’t make a lot of money racing. But if you want cover the expenses of your hobby, you’re happy. If you want to make a million dollars drag racing, you better start with 10 million.”

With the exception of last year, Herschberger and his crew have been on the circuit each year. The economy threw a wrench into the works last year. This year, a few sponsors have withdrawn, so Herschberger could use a few new ones.

And to cover his other expenses, Herschberger runs his own company, Herschberger Construction. He and his crew do framing, working exclusively for Whitehead Construction at this point.

“We’ve done so many houses on Anna Maria and Longboat,” Herschberger said.

“Willie’s the best,” Neil Young, a Whitehead manager, said. “You can always count on him to do the job right the first time.”

And come November, Herschberger and Geyer will be married. She is the daughter of Pat Geyer, a former Holmes Beach mayor and city commissioner and the owner of an Island landmark, Duffy’s Tavern. Pat has been recovering from knee replacement surgery and a subsequent infection.

Why the wait?

“I want mom to be able to dance at my wedding,” Geyer said.

Herschberger put his hand gently on her shoulder and smiled.

Marty Noble’s artwork on display at The Studio
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

ARTWORK BY MARTY NOBLE A limited edition plate
designed by Noble for the Franklin Mint.

ANNA MARIA – To say art is in her genes is probably an understatement when you’re talking about Marty Noble.

“All four of my grandparents met while attending the Cleveland School of Art,” she explained. “I was encouraged from an early age. Ever since I was a child, I just wanted to do my art.”

Noble said her mother’s father was well known commercial artist George C. Harper, who did work for Ford Motors, and her mother, Helen Noble, was a printmaker.

“My father’s father, Morton Noble, did incredible pencil portraits and his mother, Pansy Noble, made me unique and artistic story books that included family adventures,” she recalled.

Noble said after she graduated from high school in Santa Barbara, Calif., she dropped out to pursue art, first in the form of crafts such as making candles, jewelry and crochet. Then she discovered batik, the art of hand painting a fabric by covering parts that will not be dyed with removable wax.

“Batik set me on fire,” she said. “I loved the technique. There’s a lot of magic and surprises in batik. I started out traditional, but developed a painterly technique.“Over time it grew in detail and refinement to the point where it wasn’t recognizably batik. When they grew in size and detail, I started showing my work in galleries.”

By then she was living in the artists’ community of Ojai, Calif., where people encouraged her to get in to illustration. She began to submit her work to companies, which licensed her art for use on greeting cards and posters.

“They asked me to start doing watercolor because it would reproduce better, so I switched,” she said. “All my work from there became commission work.”

Her work included a series of angels used on calendars, greeting cards, puzzles and mouse pads; a series of Asian floral maidens that were made into limited edition plates by the Franklin Mint and also used on other products; a four-panel ceramic screen for the Franklin Mint; and a series of Christmas angels used on cards, gift wrap and bags.

She also began working with Dover Publications, producing art for coloring and activity books, including a stained glass coloring book in which the pages are velum and once painted can be put up to a window and look like stained glass.

“One of the things I really enjoy about working for Dover is that they allow me to come up with a lot of my own projects,” she explained. “My favorites are patterns and designs from different cultures.

‘My work has a strong Asian influence because they have wonderful design work and it has been easy to incorporate it into my composition. When I lived in California, I took many trips to Mexico and Guatemala, which inspired my work.”

Three years ago, Noble and her partner, Bruce Matlack, moved to Anna Maria to be near the water and family. She said she has been so busy marketing her work that she hasn’t had time to paint new work, but that is about to change, as the local flora and fauna have inspired her.

You can find Noble’s matted photo art prints at Island shops such as Ginny’s and Jane E’s at the Old IGA, Beach Bums, The Color of Coconut and Vitamin Sea. You can see her intricate colorful watercolors at The Studio at Gulf and Pine, 10101 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, or check The Studio’s Web site at

A 20-year passion for orchids
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Two of Betty and William Yanger's
61 orchids, both phaleonopsis specimens, bloom profusely.

ANNA MARIA — A love of orchids has become passion for an Anna Maria resident.

Betty Yanger, who has been coming to the Island since she was a little girl visiting her grandparents, has created an orchid wonderland in her back yard.

Yanger’s love of the flowering plants grew from a gift someone gave her in 1990 while she was still living in Tampa and would come to the Island just for weekends.

“My dad passed away, and someone gave us an orchid,” she said. “That orchid bloomed for a year-and-a-half. We had three when we moved here from Tampa,”

Now there are 61.

“They’re just so beautiful,” she said. “They’re such a good symbol of rebirth.”

Yanger’s husband, William, says he serves as her assistant. She says he is the chief landscaper.

Whatever their titles, they have created a beautiful back yard sanctuary where the orchids rest between bloomings on shelving or hanging on trees. The names of the different kinds of orchid – vanna, phaleonopsis, and cattleya – roll off Yangers tongue with the familiarity the names of longtime friends.

“They’re dormant a good part of the year, and then all of a sudden one day you see a bit of color, and then the whole bloom emerges,” William noted. “Sometimes there are two or three stalks of blooms.”

When the orchids are in full bloom, the Yangers move them closer to the house where they can be seen through a window.

“We just enjoy watching them so much,” Betty said, gesturing to two phaleonopsis plants with huge blooms. One plant sports yellow blossoms with just a touch of a vibrant purple near it’s throat; the other is a pink with yellow accents and the same purple color in splashes near the center of the bloom.

Even on a foggy day last week, the color of the orchids was breathtaking.

Both Yangers say they enjoy growing and observing the orchids all year long — until a winter cold snap threatens.

“Orchids don’t do well in the cold,” William noted. “You have to protect them if it’s 45 degrees or below.”

So if a cold front is forecast, the two form a team.

“I carry all the plants to the garage and set them down,” Betty said. “Then he puts them into the garage where they’ll be protected.”

Last winter, the orchids stayed in the garage for three straight weeks, but they fared well and emerged healthy, according to the Yangers.

The yard is also secret garden for birds. There has been a pair of cardinals taht have visited the bird feeder for several years, and a flock of doves waits for the birdseed every day.

“We have to watch out for a hawk that lives here, though,” Betty said.

The secluded yard may soon be home to a rose garden as well. William has been a rose enthusiast since a neighbor introduced him to the plants when he was eight years old.

“I’m going to try them here in the yard and see how they do,” he said. “It’s pretty shady, but I’d like to try it.”

City saves money on drain cleaning

BRADENTON BEACH – City commissioners smiled recently as they approved a $3,034 payment for cleaning storm drain catch basins and pipes.

The bill was a lot smaller than last year’s, thanks to the efforts of the city’s public works department.

According to public works director Tom Woodard, his crews inspected the catch basins and took care of some of the small problems and the result was that the company that did the work had less work to do.

Woodard also disclosed he is working on a filter to capture large items that can clog up drain basins but could easily be cleaned out by city crews. He said it is the same type of filter as those found in swimming pool systems that sit inside a housing and can be lifted out and cleaned.

Woodward said the city has more than 100 basins that need to be cleaned regularly. The basins channel rainwater toward the bay. The water is usually filtered to remove chemicals such as automobile lubricants, pesticides and fertilizers before it goes into the ba

Last year, the city paid more than $7,000 for the same services.

In other action, the city commission approved a special event request from the Drift In for a fundraiser to benefit Captain Bob Fazioli on Jan. 9, from noon to 6 p.m. Fazioli has lung cancer and was just awarded custody of his three grandchildren. He faces a long road to recovery with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

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