The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 21 - February 17, 2010


Committee asks about purchasing Perico

BRADENTON – The Palma Sola Scenic Highway Committee asked Bradenton officials and Manatee County commissioners to contact Minto Communities to inquire about purchasing its Perico property.

Last fall, Minto Communities, a subsidiary of the Canadian Minto Group, purchased St. Joe’s Perico property and the Perico Harbor Marina. St. Joe suspended sales on its high-rise condominium development in 2007.

“Has anybody asked about Perico?” Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie asked the committee. “It doesn’t hurt to say, ‘Do you want this? And if you don’t want it, what kind of deal can be worked?’”

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said the committee should ask county commissioners to contact Minto and ask if the property is for sale.

Keith Bettcher, of Manatee County’s Natural Resources Department, said representatives of Minto “were inquiring with us how they could tie in the recreational amenities they have with Perico (Preserve).”

Seth Kohn, of the city of Bradenton, said Minto has a conceptual plan and has hired an engineer.

Extending the highway

Members approved a letter to the Florida Scenic Highway program coordinator asking to have the scenic highway extended into Holmes Beach. Currently the highway begins at 75th Street West in Bradenton and ends at East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach.

The extension would include Manatee Avenue from East Bay Drive to the Manatee County Public Beach, East Bay and Gulf drives from Manatee Avenue to the city limits of Bradenton Beach and Old Gulf Drive from Manatee Avenue to East Bay Drive.

Whitmore asked about the status of a sidewalk along Manatee Avenue from East Bay Drive to the public beach.

“The city of Holmes Beach requested a sidewalk on the south side,” responded Manon Lavoie, of the Florida Department of Transportation. “We’re processing it as a project and doing cost estimates. I’m really working on it.”

Other business

• Manatee County has requested funding from the DOT for the underpass from the overflow parking lot on the south side of the Perico Bayou Bridge to a boardwalk on the north side of the bridge that will tie in to Robinson Preserve.
• Keep Manatee Beautiful has applied for a grant from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Project to plant grasses along the sidewalk in front of Kingfish boat ramp.
• Manatee County commissioners requested that RCND, which manages Geraldson’s Community Farm, place a produce stand at the Perico Preserve.
• Chappie said county commissioners ruled that the town of Longboat Key would be the first to get sand dredged from the Intracoastal Waterway near Jewfish Key for its critically eroded north end.

Peaceful oil drilling protest held at beach
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE About 180 participants and a few
spectators turned out on a chilly Saturday at Manatee
Beach to protest oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

View More Photos

HOLMES BEACH – About 180 people braved 47-degree temperatures and brisk 17-mile-per-hour winds Saturday afternoon to peacefully protest proposed oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Most wearing black, to represent the color of oil, they lined up on Manatee Beach and held hands for about 45 minutes, briefly chanted “no drilling” and sang the national anthem.

One of several “Hands Across the Sand” events around the state, the Manatee protest hit a glitch earlier this week when its local sponsor, the Sierra Conservation Committee of Manatee County, dropped its sponsorship after learning about a county permit requirement. The county requires a permit, and a fee, for demonstrations in county parks, including public beaches.

Still, people came to draw a line in the sand against oil and gas exploration and drilling closer than 10 miles from shore, a proposal that was narrowly defeated in last year’s Florida legislative session, and one expected to resurface in the session that begins on March 2.

In the parking lot on Saturday, retiree Bill McGrath held up a sign saying “Why do we have to pay for free speech in Manatee?” Another sign, proclaiming “No oil on beach,” was displayed by Kenny Aitchison, of Scotland, where, he said, oil is a constant problem on the beaches near Aberdeen.

Jay Moyles, chief of the Marine Rescue Division of the Manatee County Public Safety Department, was on hand during the event, as were two Holmes Beach police officers, but no incidents were reported.

Fest offers education, seafood

CORTEZ – The 28th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival this weekend offers much more than the food and fun it’s famous for.

Marine life lovers will find lots of learning opportunities, with informational booths on everything from sea turtles to scallops.

Last summer, three bay scallop searches in Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor resulted in good news, said John M. Stevely, one of the festival’s original organizers, a speaker at the festival and Florida Sea Grant’s local marine extension agent.

Tampa Bay Watch searchers counted a record 674 scallops, Charlotte County’s search uncovered 94 scallops and the Sarasota Bay Watch search revealed 131 scallops.

A routine cleanup effort by the Sarasota Bay Buddies and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee County first uncovered the fact that scallops had returned to Sarasota Bay in July 2007, near Emerson Point at the mouth of the Manatee River. Scientists called it the largest population of scallops found in the region in the previous 25 years.

Efforts to clean up the bay, including restoring the 95-acre FISH (Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage) Preserve in Cortez, have resulted in the scallops’ return, according to Stevely.

It’s fitting that the proceeds from the $2 festival admission go to the restoration and expansion of the FISH Preserve on Sarasota Bay, known as the "kitchen” to generations of Cortezians who have found food there, he said.

More information about scallops will be available at the festival at the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program booth in the community center. Look for the scallop shell on the logo.

Other family-oriented activities at the festival include Stevely’s talks on the docks at Star Fish Co., boat tours of the village’s shoreline, marine life displays, live music, clogging, kids’ games, nautical arts and crafts and the seafood that made Cortez famous.

The event, which draws more than 20,000 visitors a year to the picturesque historic fishing village, will be Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20 and 21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This year’s theme is “White Boot Ready,” a reference to the boots worn by commercial fishermen. The theme will be pictured on the 2010 festival T-shirt, available near the main stage. The Cortez Village Historical Society also will unveil its new memorial T-shirt featuring a photo of Cortez gill netter Vernon Mora, who died last year.

Entertainers will include the Richard Culbreath Group, Sunshine Express Cloggers, the Crackerbillys, Soul R Coaster, the Triad Folk Band, the Manatee River Bluegrass Band and the Wheedles.

Raffle tickets for a 1986 Com-Pac 19-foot sailboat will be on sale at the festival for $5 each or five for $20.

Parking is available east of Cortez village off Cortez Road. Remote parking is available in the Cortez Commons shopping mall parking lot at the corner of Cortez Road and 59th Street West at 5584 Cortez Road, and at Coquina Beach Bayside. Shuttle buses to Cortez cost $2 per round trip.

Admission is $2, with kids under 12 free. For more information, visit

Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival entertainment schedule

Saturday, Feb. 20

10 – 10:45 a.m.
Richard Culbreath Group
10:45 – 11 a.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
11 – 11:45 a.m.
The Crackerbillys
11:45 – noon
Sunshine Express Cloggers
Noon – 12:30 p.m.
Blessing of the Fleet /
Awards Ceremony
12:30 – 12:45 p.m.
Richard Culbreath Group
12:45 – 1 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
1 - 1:45 p.m.
The Crackerbillys
1:45 – 2 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
2 - 2:45 p.m.
Soul R Coaster
2:45 – 3 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
3 - 3:45 p.m.
Richard Culbreath Group
3:45 – 4 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
4 - 4:45 p.m.
Soul R Coaster
4:45 – 5 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
5 - 5:45 p.m.
Richard Culbreath Group
5:45 – 6 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers

Sunday, Feb. 21

10 – 10:55 a.m.
Triad Folk Band
11 – 11:45 a.m.
Manatee River Bluegrass Band
11:45 – Noon
Sunshine Express Cloggers
Noon – 12:45 p.m.
Richard Culbreath Group
12:45 – 1 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
1 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
Manatee River Bluegrass Band
1:45 – 2 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
2 - 2:45 p.m.
The Wheedles
2:45 – 3 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
3 - 3:45 p.m.
Richard Culbreath Group
3:45 – 4 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
4 - 4:45 p.m.
The Wheedles
4:45 – 5 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers
5 - 5:45 p.m.
Richard Culbreath Group
5:45 – 6 p.m.
Sunshine Express Cloggers

Fridays are for celebrating

ANNA MARIA – All together now, “Thank goodness it’s Friday!”

The Island Music Festival, sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and the AMI Sun, kicks off another season this Friday, Feb. 19, from 3 to 10 p.m. at the field at the corner of Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria. Electric service is provided by Miller Electric.

Get in the mood with live music, food, refreshments and a chance to shop for the unique and unusual.

This festival has become a local favorite, offering residents and visitors a chance to morph into a weekend frame of mind.

The Island Rockers, all students of Anna Maria Elementary School who are mastering the ways of rock and roll, kick off the live music from 4 to 4:30 p.m. Local favorite FireDoor plays from 4:45 to 5:15 p.m., Koko Ray and the Soul Providers get down from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and Bootleg, which starts its first tour after this gig, finishes off from 7:15 to 10 p.m. Island DJ Chris Grumley will fill in the blanks and act as emcee. BOP Productions provides the sound equipment.

Bring an appetite because there’s a great lineup of food vendors:

• Paradise Café & Catering with hot dogs, chips, Jackie’s chili, New England fish chowder, coffee and dessert;
• Waterfront restaurant serving fish tacos;
• A & D Good Eats offering British style fish and chips, gyros, chicken tikka;
• Tiki’s BBQ featuring barbecue sandwich plate, ribs, chicken wings;
• Cheryl’s Concessions with spiral potatoes and Zepoli’s fried dough;
• Philly’s Finest Bakers serving stuffed breads, soft pretzels, cinnamon buns;
• Miller Snack Foods offering beef jerky, water ice, popcorn, variety of nuts;
• Three Cows & A Cone featuring ice cream;
• Kentucky Kettle Corn with kettle cooked popcorn.

Beverages include beer, wine, rum drinks, soda, lemonade, coffee and water.

Other vendors include:

• Pier Gear selling jewelry, shark teeth, fossils and crystals;
• Geinevieve’s Designs with island clothing, tees, hats, hoodies and totes;
• Shabby Caterpillar featuring hand painted tiles and art;
• Rhonda K with her folk art, mermaids and funny bar signs;
• Hula Hula offering tropical retail items of Hawaiian theme;
• Nilsen Jewelry selling brass, copper, silver, glass and shell jewelry;
• Beads of Luv’s beaded jewelry designs;
• Tide and the Moon’s jewelry and miscellaneous retail items;
• Philip Nilsen featuring sunglasses and nostalgic signs;
• Crystal Gordon‘s light-up novelties;
• Quin-Bare’s crafts and night lights;
• Maria Lynn offering jewelry, cigars and chessboards;
• Todd Whinton featuring handmade wood furniture;
• Coolblue Mind with ocean inspired T-shirts.

The non-profit vendors include the American Cancer Society, Manatee Operation Troop Support and Friendship Centers.

For vendor information for future Island Music Festivals, contact festival chair Cindy Thompson at or call Chamber President Mary Ann Brockman at 779-9412.

Buehler to move forward with Haley’s plans
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

given Tom Buehler the ability to
proceed with plans to rebuild a
burned-out building at Haley’s
Motel in Holmes Beach.

HOLMES BEACH – Tom Buehler received the green light on Friday to move forward with his plans to rebuild a burned-out building at Haley’s Motel as a wedding destination.

Manatee Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas issued a declaratory judgment on Friday that Buehler is a corporate officer of Haley’s, and has legal authority to act on behalf of the corporation.

According to his motion, Buehler requested the judgment to gain access to property insurance proceeds and obtain the authority required by a lender to take out a loan on the motel, which he operated with his wife, Sabine Musil-Buehler, whom he reported missing on Nov. 6, 2008.

Her fate remains unknown, and law enforcement investigators continue to work on the mystery.

The couple filed incorporation documents in 2002 without an attorney that named her as an officer and named him as the registered agent, which he mistakenly thought was an officer position, Buehler testified, adding that he had formed corporations before and thought the paperwork was simple.

“It didn’t turn out to be that way,” he said.

After a three-year lease option period, they purchased the motel in 2005. In September, 2008, two months before Sabine’s disappearance, a lender advised him to become a corporate officer and the couple held a shareholder’s meeting, electing her as president and secretary and electing him as vice president and treasurer, but they never filed the results with the state, Buehler testified.

Two weeks after she was reported missing, a fire destroyed a building at the motel that contained nearly all the motel’s legal documents, including signed originals of those records, he said, adding that he found a computer copy several months later.

Less than a month after his wife’s disappearance, Buehler held a meeting in which he elected himself president, secretary and treasurer of the corporation.

Buehler has been in a hurry to rebuild, he said, as Haley’s has lost business due to the burned-out building, which carries a mortgage and property taxes, but produces no income.

Because he successfully received a judgment in his favor, Buehler withdrew a motion to appoint a receiver for Haley’s.

A foreclosure suit filed by BankUnited FSB against Buehler and Musil-Buehler for $588,102 owed on 512 72nd St. in Holmes Beach is scheduled for a hearing later this month.

A hearing on Buehler’s request to have his wife declared dead is scheduled for March 4. The request was prompted by a $300,000 life insurance policy that Great American Life Insurance Co. refused to pay.

January tourism not chilled by cold

Despite record cold weather, January tourism on Anna Maria Island was up compared to last year, while the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key saw a steep decline, according to the latest statistics from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The cold did not chill hotel occupancy on Anna Maria Island, which reached 51 percent, up from 44.2 percent in January 2009, while on Longboat Key, occupancy was 49.5 percent, down significantly from 63.9 percent last January.

Nightly room rates were up on both islands compared to last January. Anna Maria Island rates averaged $142.65 a night, up from $141.58 in January 2009. Rates on Longboat Key averaged $157.34 a night, up from $150.25.

The weather did cool business at the Chiles Group of restaurants, which relies heavily on outdoor Gulffront dining at the Sandbar and Beach House on Anna Maria Island and on outdoor bayfront dining at Mar Vista on Longboat Key.

Compared to last year’s numbers, when the weather was good, January was down, said Ed Chiles, restaurant owner and Manatee County Tourist Development Council member.

“We’re a victim of the great weather that we had last year,” he said. “We get more than our share on pretty days, but people don’t spend as much time on the Island when the weather’s bad.”

Still, optimistic visitors say the weather is better on the beaches than at home.

Cold or not, if history is any indication, tourist activity should be at its peak in two weeks: The busiest month of last year was March, with Anna Maria Island at 82.7 percent occupancy and Longboat Key at 85.7 percent occupancy.

Wedding festival coming together

CORTEZ – The annual Island-wide festival is on track to be bigger and better than last year, thanks to a lot of volunteers.

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Wedding Festival Planning Committee met on Tuesday, Feb. 8, at the Weddings on Water floating chapel docked at the Seafood Shack and it was “all systems go” for the event on Sunday, Feb. 28.

Chapel owners Jill Fisher and her husband, Captain Orca, welcomed the group with snacks and some bubbly and showed them around the only floating chapel in the United States. More than 40 people sat in the chapel’s oak pews with room for more. The cozy craft kept the cold wind at bay.

There were new wedding vendors to introduce, including IMG Sports and Siesta Trolleys. Organizer Caryn Hodge, of the Chiles Group, talked about the advertising that they hope will attract more prospective brides and grooms and wedding organizers than before. She said that ads would start appearing shortly on Bright House Network’s cable TV stations. She said they were also e-mailing people who had signed up with the Chamber Web site and mailing people on a list from the Bradenton Herald.

“The county tourism board voted to give us money because they thought we would be able to bring in people who would get married here,” she said. “We’re spending some of that money to reach people most likely to come.”

The highlight of the event will be the sunset finale at the Sandbar restaurant with a mock wedding. Janice Bergbom, of the Chiles Group, said that they had made orange boutonnieres for vendors so that visitors would recognize them to ask questions. She said this year, vendors would be part of the finale.

“At 5:20, Mile Sales will invite you all to be seated,” she said. “The people in the audience will be the vendors.”

The Billy Rice Band, a popular local group, will play on the deck at the Sandbar after the mock wedding. One of the members, Jack Elka, was a founder of the Chamber Wedding Group that puts on the festivals.

Budweiser gave the festival a boost, according to Chuck and Dara Caudill, who are in charge of signage. The beer company, which will also provide refreshments in the Groom Zone, has agreed to pay for all the signage, which is a necessity since visitors will be touring the Island in trolleys and limousines during the day, stopping to visit with vendors.

They still need vendors for the Groom Zone at the Anna Maria Island Community Center. Future grooms and groomsmen are welcome to stay there while the ladies check out some of the offerings that may be lost on men.

“The cost is only $50 and you get a small table, so if you have something of interest for men, this is a real bargain,” Hodge said. “Simply Gourmet will provide the food.”

Chuck Weirich, in charge of the Web site, said that the event was now linked to several wedding sites including Perfect Wedding, SRQ Magazine,, and wedding wire. The group's Facebook page now has 17 vendors.

As for wedding vendors, there are 100 and they have closed out, according to Katy Demick.

Transportation has been increased to handle expected attendance, Hodge told the organizers. There will be three trolleys and seven limos with more seating capacity. Committee members also have taken steps to make sure everybody can get transportation back to their vehicles.

“We are asking some of the trolleys and limos to stick around after the Billy Rice Band finishes at 8 p.m.,” she said. “If people miss that, they will still be able to take the Island trolley.”

Mote dolphin program turns 40
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTOS/CINDY LANE Above, Mote staff prepares to
load Ginger onto a stretcher before her release
a year ago into Sarasota Bay.

CITY ISLAND – This is the 40th year that Dr. Randall Wells, manager of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, has been hanging out with dolphins in Sarasota Bay.

But there’s another local resident who’s been at it even longer.

Nicklo, a 60-year-old female dolphin, is the oldest dolphin identified in the program, which is a collaboration between Mote and the Chicago Zoological Society.

A tooth taken from Nicklo several years ago was used to determine her age, Wells told a packed house of dolphin lovers last week at Mote. Since then, she’s had four calves, which also have been carefully tracked.

The program is the world's longest-running study of a wild dolphin population, focusing on about 150 dolphins that live year around in Sarasota Bay.

Wells and his staff have studied five generations of the bay's dolphins, including three generations of a family that produced Ginger.

Success story

Ginger, a 4.5-year-old bottlenose dolphin, stranded in December 2008 off Siesta Key and was treated for pneumonia, dehydration and gastrointestinal problems for two months at Mote.

A year ago, she was returned to Sarasota Bay and has since been spotted 55 times by researchers who say she looks healthy and strong.

Ginger has been seen occasionally with her mother and her mother's newest calf and is giving researchers a look at how dolphins re-adapt to life in the wild after undergoing rehabilitation, according to Wells.

Scientists tracked her almost daily after the release using a radio transmitter which came off her fin, as planned, last April.

Photographs now identify Ginger, along with the bay’s other dolphins, whose dorsal fins have nicks and notches that serve as identifiers.

I love you, man

Scientists have learned much from the bay’s dolphins.

For example, males often choose a lifelong buddy of similar age to roam with and chase females, unusual in the animal kingdom, Wells said, adding that males range twice as far as females, and don’t live as long.

Dolphins don’t mate for life or form permanent families, he said. If two dolphins are seen with a calf, it’s probably not mom, dad and the baby – it’s more likely two females and the offspring of one of them. Females, including Nicklo, give birth into their late 40s, and moms often hang out together, as do single females, he said.

Dolphins have signature whistles that act as names, and they repeat their names with different pitches to communicate fear and other states.

Research has also shown that 25 percent of dolphin deaths are caused by humans, including boat traffic, fishing, human feeding of wild dolphins and man-made environmental contaminants, Wells said.

Dolphin fatalities have occurred from the marine mammals swallowing fishing lures, becoming entangled in commercial and recreational nets, lines and traps and being hit by boats, he said, adding that boats pass within 100 meters of a dolphin in the bay once every six minutes on average.

Another Mote program, Dolphin SMART, identifies responsible viewing practices designed to prevent behavior changes in wild dolphins caused by human interactions, while providing business marketing incentives for participants. For more information, visit and

Holiday Cove wins national recognition
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Holiday Cove RV Resort, located
on Cortez Road, was rated in the top 4 percent of 8,000
private RV parks and campgrounds in the country
by two leading directories.

CORTEZ - Holiday Cove RV Resort is rated in the top 4 percent of 8,000 private RV parks and campgrounds in the country by two leading directories, according to Best Parks in America.

The group of independently-owned and operated RV parks, resorts and campgrounds says the park earned top ratings in Woodall’s Campground Directory for both facilities and recreation and earned the Best of the Best Top 100 rating in the Good Sam Club Trailer Life RV Parks and Campgrounds Directory.

“We are delighted to be recognized as one of the highest rated parks in North America and in Florida. Our team works hard to provide a laid-back resort experience complemented by lush surroundings, friendly, helpful staff, and attention to detail,” owner Ed Rymer said. “We are fortunate to be one of the unique RV resorts that is able to offer RVers the ability to enjoy our slice of paradise all year long. We have a robust summer program as well as a dedicated snowbird following.”

The 97-site resort at 11900 Cortez Road W. opened in 1974 and was renovated in 2008 with upgraded electrical, water and sewer systems and reconfigured lots to accommodate today’s larger recreational vehicles.

With 34 boat slips and a boat launch on a canal connecting to the Intracoastal Waterway, the park offers access to the Gulf of Mexico, dockside fishing, a salt-purified heated pool and a clubhouse. Sites feature patios, cable TV and complimentary wi-fi.

Guests can rent daily, weekly, monthly or seasonally or purchase RV sites.

Heron chick dead in weekend tree cutting
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

An adult heron, stands guard near a felled Australian pine
containing a heron's nest and three chicks at Kingfish boat
ramp. One of the chicks later died. SUN PHOTOS/TOM VAUGHT

HOLMES BEACH – Manatee County officials are investigating why a crew contracted by a seawall contractor cut down an Australian pine at Kingfish boat ramp with a heron’s nest in it on Sunday, Feb. 14, killing one of three chicks in the nest.

According to Holmes Beach City Commissioner David Zaccagnino, residents of West Bay Cove alerted police Sunday morning that somebody was cutting pines at the boat ramp and that one tree that was felled had a nest in it.

When police arrived, the crew was gone and they found the nest inside the branches of the tree. Zaccagnino was also there.

“We called Wildlife Rescue.” He said. “There were two chicks in good shape and one that was in not so good shape.

“We talked to (Manatee County Natural Resources Director) Charlie Hunsicker and he said he was not aware of anybody cutting down Australian pines there,” Zaccagnino added. “Later, I caught the people, there were three individuals who said that they had been contracted by the dock and seawall company to cut the trees down.”

Monday, a plywood sign at the boat ramp parking lot read, “Trees cut down. Nests destroyed. Baby herons dead."

A lone heron, presumably a parent of the chicks, stood guard Monday over the branches of the tree that once held the nest.

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