The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 20 - February 10, 2010


Clues scarce in Sabine mystery

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT A Manatee County Sheriff's Office
crime scene investigator checks out a pair of flip flops
found in about a foot of sand on the beach where they
are looking for clues or possibly a body in the
disappearance of Sabine Musil-Buehler.


ANNA MARIA – After a week of digging on the beachatMagnolia Avenue, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office homicide investigators and crime scene specialists are no closer to solving the mystery of Sabine Musil Buehler’s disappearance.

The department brought out two front-end loaders to dig 3 to 4 feet deep in the sand from the Magnolia Avenue entrance to the beach north 200 feet. The only thing they found was a pair of flip-flops buried about a foot down. Homicide Detective John Kenney said they are looking for a possible link to the missing motel owner who disappeared Nov. 4, 2008. He would not say whether they feel she might have been wearing flip flops when she disappeared.

This week, the search changed location to the beach south of Magnolia, along Gulf Boulevard, a one-block-long street from Magnolia to Palm Avenue. The digging will become slower because of rock groins that run out from the beach to the water. The groins were exposed until they were buried by a renourishment project a few years ago.

Kenney said they would have to dig with shovels, since a front-end loader would not be able to take out the rocks due to their weight.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is treating Musil-Buehler’s disappearance as a possible homicide and that if she was killed, her body might have been buried in that portion of the beach, which is about a block from where she shared an apartment with her boyfriend, William Cumber. Authorities have named Cumber as a person of interest in the case.

The mystery began when Musil-Buehler’s estranged husband and business partner, Tom 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 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.

Cumber told investigators that Musil-Buehler left their apartment Nov. 4 after they had gotten into an argument. Her car was later seen parked overnight a block away on Gulf Boulevard and a deputy issued a parking ticket. Cumber is serving a 13-year prison term for his conviction on charges of violating his parole, after serving time for setting fire to a house.

Meanwhile, the detectives and investigators continue to look for clues or her body where they used cadaver dogs and radar recently to try to find her body.

“The Sheriff’s Office is doing all it can to find her,” Kenney said. “She’s been missing for more than a year, but we haven’t given up.”

Preserve expansion gains support
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is
visible in the distance from the observation tower at
Robinson Preserve, which could be enlarged by 200 acres.

Manatee County commissioners reached an informal consensus last week to proceed with negotiations to purchase a 200-acre parcel adjoining the 487-acre Robinson Preserve.

“If we can find the money somehow, it’s a tremendous opportunity (to enlarge the preserve)," Commissioner John Chappie said. “I’m hopeful.”

So far, no funding source has been identified, Commissioner Carol Whitmore said.

Developer Bill Robinson, who has obtained approval for an 18-hole golf course with clubhouse, pool and recreational fields on the 200 acres, has expressed an interest in negotiating a sale, according to Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Natural Resources Department. The 20 planned home sites adjoining the property also have been approved, and would not be part of the purchase.

The county purchased Robinson Preserve from Robinson for $16.4 million in 2003, but paid only $3.9 million after a $6.4 million discount from the seller and a $6.1 million grant from the Florida Communities Trust.

The former farm was transformed into a preserve with an additional $6 million in grants, and opened in 2008 to enthusiastic hikers, kayakers, bikers, rollerbladers, walkers and anglers.

Residents campaign for boardwalk

ANNA MARIA —The pending city pier improvement project that a committee has spent three years designing is beginning to draw broad-based support from the community.

The committee has designed a boardwalk that would run at the base of the city pier on Tampa Bay from the Lake LaVista Inlet to the north and approximately the south end of Bayview Plaza at the other end.

It includes benches for people to sit and look out the bay as well as a covered shelter where people can wait for the next trolley to arrive.

The project concept was presented to the city commission a year ago, and then again last month. It was at last month’s meeting that opposition arose from commissioners.

Commission Chair John Quam said at that meeting that he had problems with the parking incorporated into the project. He also said he has concerns about a loading zone. He made those points again in response to a letter supporting the project written by resident Joan Sackett.

“I am for the project also, but am concerned with removing the sidewalk along North Bay, the loading zone area and the number of spaces on the northerly side and the 12-foot wide boardwalk on the southerly side which pushes parking too close to South Bay, increasing the safety backing out onto South Bay,” Quam wrote.

The project would be covered by a nearly $900,000 grant from the federal government administered through the Florida Department of Transportation.

Sackett said she especially liked the fact that the pier project would be paid for entirely by grant funding.

And Virginia Peppard had this to say:

“This would be a great benefit to me as a senior citizen with infirmities as it would enable me to sit on the boardwalk and enjoy the natural beauty of the bayside,” Peppard wrote. “I can also picture young families enjoying something like this as well.”

Another letter, this one from John and Barbara Bacich, was also sent to city hall.

“As a 40 year resident of this community, I have spent many hours out on the city pier,” Bacich wrote. “Unfortunately, I have not been able to do so for the last five years due to health reasons. The planned boardwalk with benches, picnic tables and shade trees would allow us to once again have an opportunity to enjoy something that has meant so much to us over the years.”

Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus said he had concerns about the design/build contract that FDOT plans for the project. A design/build project is one where there is one bid awarded for both the design of the project and its construction.

“I’ve had experience with design/build projects,” Stoltzfus said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

Commissioner JoAnn Mattick, who wrote the original grant for the project and chairs the committee that has been working on the project, said she thinks the design/build aspect of the plan can be handled.

“I believe the key to ending up with a successful project is in large part our responsibility – as the saying goes in the computer world, 'Garbage in, garbage out.'"

Mattick said her committee and FDOT had a joint meeting during which the committee submitted a detailed list of its specifications.

The committee will meet with FDOT again on Feb. 16 at 4 p.m. All of the committee’s meetings have been advertised and open to the public. The next meeting is open to the public as well.

Drilling foes to rally Saturday

Protestors will draw a human line in the sand at Manatee Public Beach on Feb. 13 to challenge oil exploration and drilling off Florida’s coast.

A proposal during the 2009 Florida legislative session to allow drilling as close as 3 to 10 miles from shore prompted the statewide Hands Across the Sand event, sponsored locally by the Sierra Conservation Committee of Manatee County. The proposal is expected to resurface when the 2010 session begins on March 2.

The public is invited to join the protest from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday south of the Manatee Public Beach pavilion.

Participants are asked to dress in black, symbolizing that black oil does not mix with white sand beaches, and use only approved beach accesses and parking areas, demonstrating courtesy and respect toward those who disagree.

The event will be held rain or shine.

City attorney awaits direction on comp plan challenge

ANNA MARIA – City commissioners didn’t conclusively give City Attorney Jim Dye direction on how to proceed with a legal challenge that Robert and Nicky Hunt and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Muzzy have issued to the city.

Land use attorney Dan Lobeck, who was hired by the Hunts and Muzzys to represent them in this matter, says the city is violating the terms of its comprehensive plan, which limits the residential density in the city to a maximum of six units per acre.

Lobeck sent a letter to the city on Dec. 23 maintaining that allowing construction of mixed-use structures on 50- by 100-foot lots in the city’s residential/office/retail district would “clearly permit a higher density of residential units to be constructed per gross acre in the ROR district.”

Lobeck’s letter gave the city 30 days to respond or his clients would file an administrative action with the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

“It’s my view of his challenge that he’s calculating (the density) on a lot by lot basis,” Dye said. “If you do that, you end up with more residential units than are allowed.”

Dye said the more usual way to calculate is to look at the overall district and calculate from there. He also said that in his view, the 50 by 100 foot lots are grandfathered.

“Those lots predate the comprehensive plan by several generations,” Dye said. “And since the comp plan protects grandfathered uses, I don’t agree with his approach.”

Dye responded with just those points in a letter dated Jan. 13.

Dye told commissioners that it was his understanding that Lobeck and his clients were not satisfied with the points outlined in the letter, and they planned to go forward with a formal petition to DCA.

There is no time limit for the next step, according to Dye.

He also noted that if the Lobeck lot-by-lot formula were to be applied to the ROR district, it would also have to be applied to the residential district, which would create numerous unbuildable lots there, since many lots in that district were also platted around 1920.

At that point, Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus had a comment.

“I’d like to go on the record that they are right and that if they proceed with this (the challenge), we’re going to end up with egg on our faces.”

Dye again pointed out that if the lot-by-lot, rather than the district-wide calculation, were to be applied to the ROR district, it would also have to be applied to the residential district.

“If you can’t build on a 5,000 square foot lot in the residential district, you can’t build anything,” Stoltzfus replied. “If it’s too dense to build in the ROR, it’s too dense to build in the residential.”

Commissioner JoAnn Mattick said she didn’t think the city should waste taxpayer dollars on the matter.

Dye was left without an answer on how commissioners wanted him to proceed.

The next step will be taken by Lobeck and his clients. If they decide further action is warranted, they will forward the matter to DCA, and then the city will have to respond.

Be wary of phony service people

The Bradenton Police Department has issued an alert for people posing as Bright House Networks employees who knock on the door and say they are conducting a quality service call following two incidents in different areas of the city.

The first occurred at the Perico Apartments, 11000 Manatee Ave. W., on Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 9 p.m. when a white male described as being in his 20s, 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet inches tall, approximately 150 to 170 pounds, black hair (short on the sides and back, thicker on top), wearing a dark blue zip-up jacket and blue jeans knocked on the apartment door and stated that he was from Bright House and was there to conduct quality service.

The vigilant resident, speaking through the door and observing through the peephole, requested to see the suspect’s identification. He quickly turned and walked away. She confirmed then with Bright House Network that they had sent no technician to her apartment. They told her to contact the police.

The second incident occurred at a residence in the 6900 block of Heritage Lane on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m. when a black male (no further description) knocked on the door and told the female resident that he was with Bright House and was there for a service call. He quickly fled when the resident told him that they did not have Bright House Network service at the residence.

It is apparent that the two men were attempting to enter these homes under false pretences for reasons that are unknown, however likely to be criminal in nature.

Bradenton police urge all citizens to use simple precautions to safe guard their lives and property. Converse with unknown visitors through a closed door or window. Demand to be shown official identification, which includes a photo of the person. Contact the company or business represented by the person for verification of the visit.

If you encounter anyone posing as a Bright House employee or any other type of service provider who flees when confronted with identifying themselves, call 911 immediately. Without opening your door, try to get the best description possible and a direction and method of travel.

Anyone having information with regard to these incidents is asked to call Bradenton Police Department, Det. Nasario Camacho at 941-932-9312, the Bradenton Police Department at 941-932-9300 or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000, call Crime Stoppers (toll free) at 1-866-634-8477 (TIPS) or send an anonymous eTip through the Web at

Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on its way
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Seafood is king at the Cortez
Commercial Fishing Festival.

Get the Adobe Free Reader View the PDF

BRADENTON BEACH – The Scenic Waves Partnership Parking Subcommittee met on Wednesday, Jan. 27, to address the possibility of additional funding to help solve the city’s lack of parking spaces during season and holidays.

The group, which worked out plans to use parking spaces at Cortez and Coquina beaches and shuttle employees of city businesses and shoppers from their parking spaces to the city’s commercial district with electric shuttles, reinforced their support for those plans at the meeting.

When the group originally worked out details of the plan several years ago, the idea was shelved due to the downturn in the economy and new laws limiting how much money the city could collect in property taxes. In other words, the money ran out, but with a new round of economic recovery funds possibly becoming available, the group was called back into action.

Bradenton Beach Projects and Programs Manager Lisa Marie Phillips said that the original plan was to create a safe parking spot for employees of businesses along and near Bridge Street with a shuttle to run along Gulf Drive to take them to and from their vehicles. Because some of the employees work later than the 10:30 p.m. shutoff time for the Island trolley system, the shuttle became a necessity.

BeachHouse restaurant owner Ed Chiles said he could foresee the shuttle serving as a jitney for the downtown area for shoppers as well as employees.

Manon LaVoie, liaison from the Florida Department of Transportation, spoke about the possibility of adding a shuttle to the mixture.

“If the city applies for the shuttle, which we refer to as rolling stock, who is going to maintain it,” she said. “Also, you will need a driver who will need a special license.”

LaVoie said that the other part of the project would be construction of a shelter at the park and ride.

“That would make a good design-build project, which would cut down the expense of a designer,” she said. “If MCAT (Manatee County Area Transit) is the agency that handles the money, it would be better because the county has the authority to let design-build projects.”

The committee finally agreed to see if the county might be open to the administration of the project. Phillips suggested the city agree to house the shuttle vehicle near the public works department. Mayor Michael Pierce, who attended the meeting, suggested the city might agree to that.

The next step is to draw up the plans and secure agreement from the county so that the city and county are ready for more stimulus money, if and when it comes.

Island Tour of Homes set for March 20
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO/ANDY LITTLE At left front, Jane Coleman and Joan Pettigrew,
and back, Marcia Powers, Judy Bennett and Mary Jo Gaspari and at
right front, Penny Reinholtz and back, Betsy Smith, Dolores Harrell
and Ann Horne are the Eyeland Needlers, which makes a quilt for
the tour each year. This year's quilt is titled "Wish You Were Here."

Distinctive architecture, elegant interiors and stunning waterfront views will be showcased at the 17th Annual Anna Maria Island Tour of Homes on Saturday, March 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Acclaimed each year by professional decorators and past attendees from throughout the Tampa Bay area, the tour will include select Island properties in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach. The homes reflect various styles of Island living and provide participants with ideas for interior decorating and entertainment.

Tickets for the tour are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the tour. Tickets will be traded in at tour homes for the official Tour of Homes program.

To finish off the tour, stop by the boutique offering original arts and crafts and culinary delights. For a $10 donation, wine tasting and delicious bites will take place at the Waterfront restaurant, 111 South Bay Blvd, Anna Maria. The restaurant offers breathtaking views of the Tampa Bay in a beautiful cottage setting.

A drawing for an Island-themed, handmade quilt titled "Wish You Were Here" will be held on the day of the Tour. Tickets are $1 per each or six for $5. Quilt tickets will be available after Feb. 10 at the Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

All proceeds benefit the Community Center, which services over 5,000 children, families and seniors of this community with programs and services that otherwise would not be available.

For more information, call the Center at 941-778-1908, ext 9204.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper