The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 22 - February 24, 2010


Halt to site plans sought

ANNA MARIA — Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus again has called for a moratorium on site plan approvals and this time he will at least get his proposal on a meeting agenda.

The freshman commissioner, who has been a vocal critic of the way the Pine Avenue business area is evolving, got his wish last week at the close of a meeting dealing with site plans and parking in the city’s ROR (residential/office/retail) district.

The proposed moratorium will be discussed by city commissioners at a special meeting on March 4, when they will also revisit the issue of parking in the ROR district, which runs the length of Pine Avenue and includes parts of Gulf Drive south of Pine and parts of South and North Bay boulevards adjacent to Pine.

“Legally, you need an immediate threat to health, safety or welfare to impose a moratorium,” Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said after the meeting. “We don’t have that here.”

Stoltzfus objects to the current situation in which cars must cross sidewalks to enter and exit parking places — a situation he believes to be an immediate safety threat.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Turner, the chief law enforcement officer in Anna Maria, said there’s no immediate safety issue with the current parking situation, and there have been no accidents caused by the parking the city has on Pine Avenue today.

A committee formed to study the current parking issue and come up with ways to eliminate the necessity for vehicles to cross the sidewalks voted unanimously that they didn’t believe there was an immediate safety issue.

Stoltzfus has singled out projects of the Pine Avenue Restoration Project (PAR), the most active developer in the district, in his statements about safety.

And PAR, for its part, has hired a court reporter who makes a verbatim transcript of each meeting.

Mike Coleman, PAR’s managing partner, said his group wants to be part of the solution.

“If it’s possible to get to a better result, and if that’s the desire of the city at large, then we want to participate in that. If we can come up with something that’s practical, aesthetically pleasing and protective of people’s property rights, then that’s fine.”

Mayor Fran Barford said she also feels there is no immediate threat.

“Could it be better?” she asked. “Yes. It could be better, and the commission and the p&z board are working their way through the process of tightening up the ordinance to get it where they want it to be. We know that we can’t leave a lot to interpretation.”

Barford also said she believes a lot of the reason the discussions keep bogging down is that the process is being politically driven to a certain extent.

The city has fought round after round in discussions on how the parking in the ROR district — particularly along Pine Avenue — should be handled.

Late last week, Gene Aubry, a resident of the city who is a retired architect with an international reputation, created a drawing of how parking along the entire length of Pine Avenue might be handled in what he called a rational way.

“We have a chance here to make something beautiful and cohesive for our city,” Aubry said. “Years ago, it was decided that we should have a business district along Pine Avenue. The city fathers laid out 29 feet of right of way on one side of the street and 35 feet on the other side. That was great for Model T’s and buggies. You can see that in historic photos. But it doesn’t work today.”

Aubry said the way the city was laid out is what the city has to deal with today.

When all the parking is contained on site, as Stoltzfus and some residents say the code should be interpreted, then the city will end up with strip centers, according to Aubry.

“We can sit in our little box and not get anywhere, or we can take a look at the district as a whole and really work on how we want our street to look,” Aubry said. “As the cities grow up, cities change and we have to deal with automobiles as they are today.”

Aubry said not a lot of people understand how cars work.

“You can’t get a car to do what it can’t do just because you wish it would behave in a certain way.”

Aubry drew two versions of his plan — one’s about the length of two cars and the smaller version is the length of one car. Both are available for viewing at city hall.

“Gene’s drawings solve my only problem,” Commission Chair John Quam said. “My only objection all along has been that I don’t think cars should cross the sidewalk. This takes care of that. It looks like a real street.”

Quam said he also likes the idea of looking at the district as a whole and not as isolated pieces of land.

“Remember, this is a concept — an overall concept,” he said. “The actual details can be worked out.”

The actual details will be addressed at the March 4 meeting at 6 p.m.

Site plan ordinance

At that same meeting last week, commissioners were to hear the second reading of an ordinance that would return the way site plan applications are handled to the way things worked a couple of years ago.

The ordinance was tweaked at that time and some minor site plans were approved by city staff, some got final approval at the planning and zoning board, and some needed to come to the full commission.

Under the new rules that are being proposed, staff would evaluate site plans. Then they would be presented to the p&z board. The p&z board would make a recommendation to the city commission, and the city commission would have the final say.

The second reading of that ordinance will also be heard at that special meeting on March 4.

Concession bids vary widely

BRADENTON - Bids received by Manatee County for the concessions at Manatee and Coquina public beaches are as varied as their bidders.

For Manatee Public Beach, there were four – Café on the Beach/P.S. Beach Associates; Blue Wave, a division of Sunrise Sunset Concessions; United Park Services; and Loggerheads LLC at Holmes Beach. For Coquina Beach, there were three – all of the above with the exception of Café on the Beach/P.S. Beach Associates.

Café on the Beach/P.S. Beach Associates has operated both beach concessions since 1992 and the Beach Shop since 1989. Currently, Dee Percifield Schaefer and her husband, Gene, of P.S. Beach Associates, lease out the concessions to Tom Vayias and John Menihtas, of Café on the Beach.

Café on the Beach

The four made a proposal for Manatee Public Beach only. In the current proposal, Vayias and Menihtas would operate the concession, while the Schaefers would operate the beach shop.

They proposed to keep the hours (7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the concession, with extended hours in the summer for sunsets, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the Beach Shop), menu with all you can eat specials and live music offerings the same. They also can sell beer and wine. They said they do not plan to add rentals of chairs, umbrellas, beach bicycles and kayaks.

Proposed capital improvements in the first two years exceed $100,000 and include adding eco-friendly lighting to the patio area, renovating the pancake house, installing a bench around the sea grape at the patio’s north end, expanding the patio, adding decorative flower pots and planters on the patio, renovating the awnings, replacing the signage and painting the building.

Their offer is to pay a gross annual fee of $326,400 in advance monthly installments of $27,200 plus a percentage of the total gross sales of alcoholic beverages for the five-year term of the contract. They asked for an option to extend the contract for an additional five years.

They also made another proposal if the county would approve the contract for 20 years – an additional $250,000 in building renovations, including reducing the Beach Shop space and expanding the concession by 1,000 square feet in order to add new menu items.

The payment offer for 20 years is one to five years, $338,400 per year; six to 10 years, $350,400 per year; 11 to 15 years, $384,000 per year; and 15 to 20 years, $420,000 per year.

Blue Wave

This company headquartered in Nokomis names its president as Peder M. Jansson and lists four existing concession contracts – Siesta Key Beach, a 10-year contract since 1999; Snook Haven restaurant in Venice, a 15-year contract since 2006; the Manatee County Golf Course, a five-year contract since 2009; and the Buffalo Creek Golf Course, a five-year contract since 2009.

Its plans for Manatee Public Beach include adding new signage, an ice cream parlor, hair wraps, temporary face and body painting and rentals of sports equipment and creating a Key West theme.

Other plans are to present weekly music performances, concerts by local high school bands and orchestras, performances by the Sailor Circus on weekends and environmental education seminars.

Proposed hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. with later hours in season for the concessions, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for the Beach Shop, late morning to 8 p.m. for the ice cream parlor and mid-morning to 5 or 5:30 p.m. for the rentals.

Its offer is $276,000 the first year, $286,080 the second year, $296,520 the third year, $307,420 the fourth year and $316,956 the fifth year.

It offered capital improvements of $75,000 with a five-year contract and $150,000 with a 10-year contract. It also offered to take responsibility for cleaning and maintaining the restrooms.

At Coquina Beach, it offered two payment options because of the county’s planned capital improvements that will take place in 2010 and affect the concession operations.

Option I – post construction: $22,500, year one; $23,628 year two; $24,804, year three; $26,040, year four; and $27,348, year five; and pre-construction: $500 per month until construction is completed, estimated at four months.

Option II – A flat fee of 8 percent of the gross after sales tax.

For capital improvements, it offered three phases with Phase I to bring it up to the level of its other facilities by focusing on kitchen equipment needs; Phase II to install new signage and Phase III to replace and add seating. It also offered to take responsibility for the vending, boat ramp and fishing areas.

United Park Service

This company headquartered in Tampa names Alan Kahana as president and said it provides concessions to Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County. It plans promoting a Key West theme.

At Manatee Public Beach, it proposed $450,000 in capital improvements including adding a rental kiosk with ocean kayaks, bicycles and scooters, renovating the gift shop; adding an ice cream and coffee café and a tropical beverage tiki hut; and installing a new awning or shutters, tropical foliage, a new sign with changeable information and a wedding pavilion.

It also proposed adding unique menu items, souvenir cups, youth environmental education programs and a Friends organization; presenting a sunset festival, a sun splash music festival, sports events and sand castle contests; creating a frequent customer value card offering discounts, painting a mural on the front exterior of the gift shop and hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Its offer was a monthly base payment of $15,000, 15 percent of the total gross sales of alcoholic beverages, a percentage of other sales up to $1,000,000 and a percentage of other sales over $1,000,000.

At Coquina Beach, it proposed new signs, new kitchen equipment, gift shop improvements, an upgrade of the outdoor seating, new rental equipment, a wedding pavilion, in addition to adding youth environmental education programs, eco tours, ferry service, a dolphin and manatee watch, a wedding pavilion, eco lodge cottages, sailboat rentals and a roaming cart offering beach supplies.

Its offer is a base monthly payment of $3,000, 15 percent of the gross sales of alcoholic beverages and a percentage of other sales up to $1,000,000 and a percentage of other sales over $1,000,000.


This proposal, submitted by Dogology, Inc., of Bradenton, lists its president as Robert Kline. It does not list any current contracts.

At Manatee Public Beach, it proposes capital improvements in three phases. Phase I at $187,000 calls for paint, a new sign, a tropical hut to replace the pancake house and a buffet line. Phase II at $67,500 calls for installing a thatch roof, a stage for entertainment, totem poles, tiki tables with thatch roofs and a tiki hut for rental equipment. Phase III at $70,000 calls for tropical decorations and a children’s water park and play area.

Proposed promotions include monthly events such as a polar plunge, a Turtle Watch charity event, Mardi Gras, a kite day, volleyball tournaments, laser shows, water shows and a movie night and holiday events such as a New Year’s Eve party, a valentine sunset dinner and a Halloween party. It proposed hours of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. It offered a monthly base payment of $17,904.26, 4 percent of the gross sales of alcoholic beverages and a percentage of the gross sales above the base to be negotiated.

At Coquina Beach, it proposed the same types pf promotions as Manatee Public Beach plus capital improvements including new tables, chairs and umbrellas; landscaping; gift shop renovation; a new kiosk for rentals; and audio, lighting and décor improvements.

It offered a monthly base payment of $1,067 plus a percentage of the gross sales of alcoholic beverages to be negotiated and 6 percent of the gross sales above the base.

Melissa Assha, of Manatee County, said she plans to convene a selection committee the first week of March to review the proposals and make a recommendation.

Beach search ends

ANNA MARIA – The front-end loaders have been pulled off the beach and the search for clues in the disappearance of motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler will go in a new direction, according to investigators.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Investigator John Kenney brought the front end loaders to the beach several weeks ago the beach between Palm Avenue and Magnolia Avenue next to Gulf Boulevard. The beach at that location is within two blocks of where Musil-Buehler lived with her boyfriend, William Cumber, whom she had befriended while he was in prison for an arson conviction.

“We haven’t stopped investigating the case,” Kenney said. “We’re going to look at some other evidence.”

Kenney said he would not rule out looking for her body elsewhere on the beach.

The mystery began when Musil-Buehler’s estranged husband, Tom Buehler, reported her missing two days 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 probation, after serving time for setting fire to a house.

Kenney searched the beach last year using cadaver dogs and later using radar. No clues were found.

Oil issue beginning to rise
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Demonstrators protested oil drilling
off Florida’s coast on Feb. 13 at Manatee public beach
during the Hands Across the Sand statewide event.

Oil opponents and supporters alike will be watching the Florida Legislature beginning March 2 for an anticipated proposal to allow oil and natural gas exploration and drilling in Florida state waters.

Last year’s proposal was voted down in the last days of the session after surprising lawmakers, who responded by commissioning the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee to review the implications of drilling.

The committee is working with other groups to gather facts, including the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida.

The commission, a 15-member group created by the Legislature in 2005 to develop long-term policies for Florida’s future, has released its first recommendation to lawmakers.

“To be sustainable is to ensure economic prosperity within environmental limits to improve the quality of life of those in our community,” the commission wrote in its annual report.

A fact finding process should be convened, engaging all interested stakeholders to discuss the potential impacts of oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, the commission recommends.

The process should be fact driven, with no presumed outcome, and should allow the opportunity for all interested parties to participate and provide input on data collected without limitations, according to the report.

Stakeholders should include representatives from the environmental industry, the oil and gas industry, the tourism and cruise industry, the marine and ports industry, technical experts, regulatory and government representation, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Geological Service, energy experts, citizen activists and the military.

The process will identify the significant issues and questions surrounding drilling in an unbiased manner, and develop answers that will be presented to lawmakers, according to the commission.

The commission is working with an advisory committee that includes the Marine Policy Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Sciences, the St. Petersburg Oceans Team and the Florida State University Institute of Energy Systems, Economics and Sustainability.

The groups will generate findings on potential oil and gas resources, their quantities and locations, probable environmental impacts, environmental permitting, emergency management analyses, potential economic contributions to the state, leasing, drilling and decommissioning regulations and best management practices in the industry.

The energy industry maintains that exploration and drilling will boost the state’s economy with license fees for drilling rights and help the country move toward energy independence.

Environmental groups and Florida’s tourism industry say that the risk of oil spills and the economic and ecological disaster that would follow is too great to justify any rewards.

Island gets top tourism billing

Anna Maria Island has top billing in the updated Manatee County tourism logo, which emphasizes the county’s island appeal.

The new logo reads: "Anna Maria Island & Longboat Key, florida’s gulf islands, and on the mainland, Bradenton & Lakewood Ranch,” revising the former logo that emphasized “florida’s gulf islands” followed by the four destinations, leading some to the mistaken conclusion that Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch are islands.

Along with the new look comes new leadership, with Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash named as the chairman of the Tourist Development Council (TDC), taking over from Commissioner Carol Whitmore. Bradenton Beach businessman David Teitelbaum was re-elected as vice chairman on Monday. McClash has previously served as TDC chairman.

The council learned on Monday that the Island got some northern exposure on an electronic billboard in Times Square in New York City from Dec. 23 to Jan. 23. Southern exposure is expected in April when Southern Living magazine is planning to feature the Gulf Drive Café, now under renovation in Bradenton Beach, according to Jessica Grace of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

International exposure for Manatee and Sarasota counties is expected for the second annual Ringling International Arts Festival, which should spin off 50 to 100 smaller events capitalizing on the anticipated crowds, she said.

The Manatee County Commission drew criticism when it voted in December to give $250,000 to the festival, which will take place primarily in Sarasota County.

Startup events will have to comply with the CVB’s guidelines in the future, which require the events to be held in Manatee County, said Larry White, executive director of the CVB.

Holding up a bottomless metal bucket with the word “myth” printed on it, White told the council that the economic reality is that there are not unlimited funds for tourism promotions.

He asked De Soto Heritage Festival representative Gus Sokos to cut back the festival’s request for $25,000 to $10,000, scheduled for consideration at the Tuesday Feb. 23 Manatee County Commission meeting. The internationally-renowned festival should be included in each year’s tourism budget, White suggested.

Despite record cold weather, January tourism on Anna Maria Island was up from last year with 51 percent occupancy, compared to 44.2 percent in January 2009, while the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key saw a steep decline, according to the CVB.

Pier boardwalk project gaining favor

ANNA MARIA — With four of the five city commissioners on hand at a meeting about technical drawings for the boardwalk at the city pier, it appears that some of the questions about the grant-funded project are getting answered.

“I think that everyone could see that we really can put the project there,” said City Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, who chairs the transportation enhancement grant committee. “There were questions about whether the boardwalk would fit there, and I think with the overlay drawings, everyone could see that this could work out.”

Mattick, who wrote the original grant proposal for the project, has chaired the committee as it met over the past two years planning how best to spend the federal funds that were awarded to enhance the transportation corridor in the residential/office/retail district in the city.

Recently, money was freed up from other projects, and the city’s original piece of the pie grew from about $300,000 to almost $1 million.

“One hitch we just learned about and can overcome is that we need to make a part of the boardwalk moveable or hinged so that the equipment for the regular Lake LaVista Inlet dredging can get in and out,” Mattick said. “But that’s not insurmountable.”

The committee is now working on specifications for the request for proposals (RFP’s), which will go out from the Florida Department of Transportation in next month.

Bids will be opened in June, and final design work on the project will then begin.

The project will be awarded on a design/build basis, which means that one company will do the design work and the construction.

“That’s why we need to have every possible aspect of the design specified in the RFP,” Mattick said. “That way we have the maximum amount of control possible.”

Some commissioners believed that the project might result in a reduction of the parking spaces at the city pier. However, when Jacobs Engineering did the overlay design, it was discovered that the boardwalk project would actually result in an increase in parking spaces from 22 plus two handicapped spaces to 25 parking plus the two handicapped spots.

The project, if approved by the city commission, will ultimately result in a low-to-the-ground boardwalk along the base of the pier that will run from the Lake LaVista Inlet to about the end of Bayview Plaza to the south.

There will be benches along the boardwalk where people can sit to look out over the bay as well as a trolley shelter close to the pier.

The project’s overlook is Old Florida.

“We want it to blend in with what’s already there,” Mattick said. “It’ll be a very low profile with all native plantings.” Public support for the project has been growing with many emails and letters of support flowing into city hall.

The committee will meet on Tuesday, February 23 at 4 p.m. to do a final tightening of the specifications, which will be turned into FDOT for the final RFP.

Cool time at first Friday Fest
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Fish tacos from the Waterfront
restaurant proved to be a popular snack.

ANNA MARIA – It was a good time at the first Friday Music Festival of the season on Friday, Feb. 19. There were booths of arts and crafts, local food vendors, refreshment of all types and live music. The only thing out of character was the large number of people wearing their coats in the open-air festival.

Crowds of people started streaming in as the festival opened at 3 p.m. Island D.J. Chris Grumley introduced the first act, the Island Rockers, who immediately got the crowd’s attention. These pint-sized rock stars are the talk of the Island and their appointment book is filling fast. They have already played at the Manatee County Fair and various events on Anna Maria Island.

FireDoor took over around 4:45 p.m. with their eclectic fusion of rock, jazz and blues. As they played, a lot of working class people arrived and the food started selling. The fish tacos at Waterfront were a hot item as were the fresh potato chip ribbons from Cheryl’s Concessions. As the temperature started to drop, hot dishes gained in popularity. The fish chowder at Paradise Café and Catering was a hot item, both figuratively and literally. In all, it was a diverse and tasty ensemble of offerings for foodies.

Koko Ray and the Soul Providers took the stage at 5:30 p.m. with popular music from the past enhanced by Koko Ray’s talents on the flute, saxophone and other horns. There weren’t many people dancing, although some form of exercise would have helped people trying to stay warm. Bootleg closed the festival, their last gig before they go on tour.

The Friday Music Festival is hosted by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Sun with electrical service provided by Miller Electric and a sound system by BOP Productions.

County says contractor should have looked for nests
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The two surviving heron chicks.

Agents from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) are looking at the killing of a young heron chick who was in a nest in an Australian pine that was cut down as part of a county seawall project at Kingfish Boat Ramp.

The incident happened on Sunday, Feb. 14, according to Manatee County Communications Officer Nick Azzara.

“The county contracted Wood Dock and Seawall in November to fix a seawall there,” Azzara said. “Two trees were removed by Dependable Tree Service, which is owned by Mike Burton and is fully licensed and insured.”

Azzara said it is up to the contractor to make sure there are no bird’s nests in trees that are to be cut down.

“We feel the county has been indemnified,” Azzara said.

The two FWC agents talked with Ed Straight of Wildlife, Inc. Education and Rehabilitation Center, who took the carcass of the dead chick and two others in the nest who survived. Straight led them to the chicks. They took the carcass with them.

“These herons are going to be with us for a long time before they will be released back into the wild,” Straight said. “We’ll be spending a lot of money feeding them.”

There was no information from the FWC as of press time as to whether charges might be filed in this case.

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