The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 23 - March 3, 2010


Elephant returns for parade

HOLMES BEACH – The St. Patrick’s Day Parade, sponsored by Beach Bistro, returns to the Island on Sunday, March 14, which also happens to be the end of Daylight Savings Time. That means you set your watches and clocks forward an hour to get there on time.

This year, the parade starts in the parking lot of the Mainsail project, formerly TideMark, at the corner of Gulf Drive and Marina Drive. It will go north on Marina Drive to 81st Street, where it will disband.

Participants are asked to show up at 3 p.m.

Parade organizer Sean Murphy said that Judy, the elephant, that was in last year’s parade, would be back and that there would be a “surprise animal,” although he would not elaborate. For more information, call the Beach Bistro at 778-6444.
Crowds love Island Wedding Fest

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Adrienne Merritt walks down the aisle
Sunday evening at a mock wedding at the Sandbar restaurant
during the Island Wedding Festival.


HOLMES BEACH – The volunteers taking money to register brides, grooms and their families for the Third Annual Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Wedding Festival last Sunday knew they were on a roll. Some 550 registrations had been made in advance, more than all of last year’s event, and they knew that they were breaking the record.

When the applications were counted, 332 more people had signed up making the total 832, a record for this young event. Not bad considering the cold and wet weather the day before.

The Chamber parking lot was full of people going from vendor to vendor. One of the two large tents housed some of the 80 vendors who signed up offering all sorts of services. Kerri Alderson, from the Manatee County Convention and Visitors Center, was showing the advantages of a wedding at the Powell Crosley Museum to Bonnie Kirstein and Chuck Lambert. They had driven from their home in Tampa to see what Anna Maria Island and Manatee County has to offer.

“We drove two hours for this,” Kirstein said.

Joe Yeckley and Kristen Sullivan came in from St. Petersburg. They got engaged last December.

“We plan on getting married in May 2011,” Yeckley said. “We’re shopping around today.”

Asked if they were considering a beach wedding, they both agreed they would love to have one.

The first big event was the fashion show in the other large tent. Model after model walked the runway showing various styles. Some were for brides, some were for grooms and there were styles for moms as well. Toward the end, bride and groom models came out together and then they all came out to the roars of applause from the audience.

One lady approached Amy Welch, the owner of Aqua Aveda Salon, which put on the show, and bought one of the dresses that her daughter modeled. It was delivered to her Monday.

After that, the attendees headed to the west side of the parking lot to board the chartered trolleys and limousines that were waiting to whisk them to other stops on the Island. Those stops included the BeachHouse, which had hosted a brunch for the attendees earlier, the Tortuga Inn, where the floating chapel was docked, the Island Sun Plaza and the Sandbar, where the mock wedding would be held to end the day.

At the Sun Plaza, Goldie Rohlfe and David Garza, from Tampa, were talking with the vendors. They found out about Anna Maria Island from a relative, Candy Shields, a former Anna Maria Elementary School secretary who lives here. They were hoping to have a beach wedding.

“We loved the view of the Gulfside,” Goldie said. “We would definitely get married here.”

A lot of vendors were located inside the Anna Maria Island Community Center. The Center also housed the Grooms' Zone with things for the men to do while their brides-to-be looked at flowers, plates and dresses. Outside the Center, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a pitching cage setup.

Dan Darren, of Punta Gorda, pitched a few balls and then talked about his upcoming wedding. “We’re getting married next year,” he said. “We’re looking at a lot of places and this Island has the best.”

Tiffany Blevins and her fiancé, Tyler Branscombe, threw some pitches. They were there with Tiffany’s mother, Melinda. They live in Bradenton and know about the Island and will be getting married on the beach.

Inside the Grooms' Zone, the men were preparing to watch the men’s hockey game between the US and Canada. There was a putting green supplied by the Fish Hole mini-golf course, of Bradenton Beach, and a beanbag pitching game. In one corner, Ryan Dennis, of YoLo Parasail, and charter fishing Capt. Scott Green were talking with prospective customers.

Simply gourmet served food to the attendees inside the Community Center gym. One of those in line was Travis Hurley, of New Port Richey, who said he came to the festival because his brother got married on Anna Maria Island last year and recommended it. Hurley plans on getting married July 10.

The day ended at the Sandbar where two sets of brides and grooms said “I do” in a mock ceremony, giving all who were there an idea of what it’s all about – a ceremony of a lifetime in a naturally beautiful setting.

The Chamber will turn this event into a two-day Island showcase next year, but intends to hold it in an off-season month to help area resorts and hotels accommodate weekend stays and to infuse much needed off-season income into businesses’ bottom lines during slow months, festival organizer and Chiles Group Marketing Director Caryn Hodge said. She was elated with this year’s results.

“The positive economic impact is limitless and will be a great source of revenue for area businesses for years to come,” she said. “Couples may only get married once, or maybe twice, but they come back for their anniversaries, vacations and to bring their families.”

Pine Ave. site plan squeaks by

ANNA MARIA — Plans for a two-building, two-story mixed-use project at 216 Pine Avenue were approved by a 4-3 vote at the Planning and Zoning Board last week.

This was the second time the members of the city’s P&Z heard the site plan application. The project is being constructed on two lots. Last month, the plans showed the two buildings joined across the middle property line. Under city code, when a building straddles the line between two properties, the side setbacks have to be adjusted.

Rather than make that adjustment, Pine Avenue Restoration, Inc., opted to construct two mixed-use buildings with space in between them. Board member Frank Pytel questioned City Attorney Jim Dye, Planner Alan Garrett and Building Official Bob Welch.

“Does this site plan meet with all the city codes?” Pytel asked.

All three said it does, with the caveat that the plan is in compliance with existing city codes.

The codes and ordinances governing the city’s residential/office/retail district are being revised.

At this point, a site plan application in the ROR district is reviewed by staff and then sent on to the P&Z Board where, if approved, the owner moves forward with the project.

If it had been denied, the owner could appeal the P&Z Board decision to the City Commission.

The site plan application approval process ordinance is being revised with all final approvals soon to come under authority of the City Commission. That ordinance is in the works, but it’s not yet law.

“I think we should deny this since we’re the final authority now and the site plan approval process and parking regulations are changing,” Pytel said. “That way, it can go to the city commission and they can decide.”

Dye advised that the approval or denial had to be based on the application and not on pending legislation.

Jeremy Anderson, an attorney with Lobeck and Hanson, represents Anna Maria property owners William and Barbara Nally at most city meetings. He contended that the application doesn’t meet city codes.

“This doesn’t meet the density requirements spelled out in the comprehensive plan,” Anderson said. “You can’t allow more than six units per gross acre.”

Anderson also took exception with the parking on the plan. He said there have to be driveways and curb cuts to direct traffic onto the property.

Dye said his interpretation of the comp plan, with which Garrett agreed, is that the density requirements apply to the entire district and not to individual lots.

Anderson’s firm has lodged a legal challenge on behalf of Bob and Nicky Hunt and the Muzzys concerning the density question lodged against the city with the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

Two attorneys, Ricinda Perry and Valerie Fernandez and Engineer Lynn Townsend Burnett, represented PAR. All three testified that the site plan met city codes. Townsend pointed out that in many ways, the plans exceed codes.

Perry said the buildings would be 27 feet high, when the code would allow them to be 37 feet high. She added they would be built with a 30 percent lot coverage, which is significantly less than allowed under the codes.

In making his summation statements, Micheal Coleman, PAR’s managing partner, said he had talked to each member of the board, and all had said they favored the project.

That could be a violation of Florida’s open government laws, which prompted Dye to poll the members of the board. Under the Sunshine Laws, members of boards and committees may not have conversation with each other outside of a public meeting. The site plan approval process is a little more formal and it’s considered quasi-judicial. That means that board members may not discuss the matter before them with anyone unless they reveal that the conversations had taken place and they reveal the content of those conversations.

Coleman clarified his statement, saying he had talked to the board members before PAR had any specific projects in mind, which at the time, Dye told him was OK.

Board member Margaret Jenkins said she had talked to her neighbors.

“But they don’t know anything,” she said. “They ask me things. They want to know what’s going on up there at city hall.”

Dye said that was a fine answer.

However, during a break in the proceedings, Jenkins had private conversation with fellow board members Randall Stover and Frank Pytel. She also had a private conversation with Tom Turner, a resident. (See related story.)

In the end, the vote was 4-3. Stover, Bob Barlow, Sandy Mattick and Mike Yetter voted in favor of the approval. Jim Conoly, Jenkins and Pytel voted against.

Haley’s owners in foreclosure

HOLMES BEACH – Citing his wife’s status as a missing person and a fire that claimed part of Haley’s Motel shortly after her disappearance, motel owner Thomas Buehler has requested relief from foreclosure in Manatee County Circuit Court.

BankUnited sued Buehler, his missing wife, Sabine Musil-Buehler, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, nominee for Countrywide Home Loans, and two unknown tenants for foreclosure, claiming the Buehlers owe $574,293 on non-motel property at 512 72nd St. in Holmes Beach.

In court documents filed by his attorney, Michael Wyckoff, Buehler claims that the bank is not the mortgage holder, BankUnited FSB, which has closed. BankUnited has not shown proper documentation that it took over the loan from the closed bank, according to the documents.

He also claims the bank refused to work with him on a modification of the loan that he requested due to the hardship caused by his wife’s disappearance and a subsequent fire in a building on the motel grounds that was used primarily as an office and for storage. While admitting that he is in default on the loan, Buehler denies that it is due, claiming that the bank illegally inflated the amount of the loan.

He also claims that his wife’s ownership of the motel is unclear due to her missing status.

Buehler reported his wife missing on Nov. 6, 2008, two days after she was last seen by her boyfriend, William Cumber, who told investigators they had an argument on Nov. 4. The latest search of the beach near the motel concluded last month with no results.

City passes on land purchase

BRADENTON BEACH – City commissioners passed last week on a chance to purchase prime beachfront property at a low price with easy terms for one reason – it is unbuildable.

The offer, which originally came from Island, Inc. and Beach Development, was to sell the land to the city for $600,000, giving the city up to 10 years to pay for it. When the city balked, the developers offered it at the same price, but giving the city 20 years to pay for it with interest.

Commissioners met on Thursday, Feb. 18, to discuss the new offer. Their conclusion was to not give a formal answer to the developers and see what happens.

The half-acre of land was originally bought by the developers as part of a 2.4-acre parcel that became Bermuda Bay condominiums east of Gulf Drive. When the developers approached former building official Bill Sanders about constructing two duplexes on the beach, Sanders indicated the preservation zoning may not be correct and that there was a chance they could do it. When another person took over as building official, he said no, setting off a debate that ended up in court before a ruling was made that no construction could be allowed on the beach there.

In making the offer to sell the land to the city, the developers indicated that they would indemnify the city against legal action from anybody who might have put money down on one of the duplex units. Acting City Attorney Greg Hootman told the commissioners that there were two such parties who had put down payments on the project.

In discussing the offer in January, the commissioners asked for an appraisal. Hootman told them that an appraisal of the entire 2.4 acres in 1996 was $720,000, or $138,461 for the beach portion and in 1998 for $1.25 million or $271,153 for the beach property.

“That was during the boom, when property was worth more,” he added.

Commissioner Bob Bartelt asked if they could make an offer for the land based on its taxable value.

“The land was never platted,” Hootman answered. “The city might not be able to purchase land that’s never been platted.”

When asked what would happen if the city did not respond to this latest offer, Hootman said they could apply for a building permit and start the whole process again and if the city denies them again, they could sue.

“This property was preservation when they bought it,” he added.

Commissioner Gay Breuer suggested the city wait until the people with contracts on the non-existent duplexes take legal action against the developers. When asked how much the city has spent defending its decision so far, Hootman estimated around $100,000. Then, former commissioner Bill Shearon spoke.

“The city fought for preservation, it’s always going to be preservation, so I don’t know why we would pay one dollar for the land,” Shearon said. “If they want to do this, they will have to get a comprehensive plan amendment. Send it to the DCA (Florida Department of Community Affairs) and they will reject it.

In the end, the commissioners said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and they will wait to see what happens next.

Island Heritage Day celebrates history
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN FILE PHOTO Judy Lynn joins Bill Bowdish and
Ted Young, of the Gulf Drive Band, to perform
standards of the 20s through the 40s and pop
music of the 50s through the 80s.

The Anna Maria Island Historical Society is holding it’s annual Island Heritage Day Festival on Saturday, March 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Island Historical Museum complex, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria. Admission is free.

Stroll the museum gardens and browse for antiques and arts and crafts, purchase Early Settler’s Bread, watch palm frond and pine needle basket weaving demonstrations by Betsy Smith and delight in clowns Snowbird and Sparky as they make colorful balloon animals.

You can learn about ancient artifacts from DeSoto National Memorial Park rangers, dine at a variety of food booths and purchase raffle tickets to win a basket with more than $200 in gifts from Island restaurants, businesses and the museum shop.

When you are ready for a rest, sit and enjoy a selection of music offered throughout the day including the Gulf Drive Band from 10 a.m. to noon, Tanya McCormick from noon to 1 p.m., Tom Benjamin from 1 to 2 p.m. and the Gulf Drive Band from 2 to 4 p.m.

For more information call Melissa Williams at (941) 779-9108 or e-mail her at

Rotary Casino Night raises the odds
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO PROVIDED Club member Barry Gould shows the
Rotary Wheel of Hope. On Casino Night, the owner
of the winning space will receive a vacation
in the Florida Keys.

The Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island holds its eighth annual Casino Night and Benefit at the St. Bernard Church and Activity Center, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, on Friday, March 12, starting at 6 p.m.

This year's theme is Casino Royale. Each year, the Rotary Club returns tens of thousands of dollars to a variety of community organizations and other projects that provide basic human needs both locally and internationally. Funds raised at Casino Night also go to Anna Maria Elementary School to encourage literacy and character building.

The Rotary Club understands that times are hard so it has reduced the ticket price from $65 to $50 per person this year for delicious appetizers donated by the Sandbar restaurant followed by an outstanding Italian meal from Mazzaro's of St. Petersburg. Also included is an open bar, professional casino-style action, dancing to the music of local disc jockey Chris Grumly and bargains galore at a live and silent auction. This is always a fun evening and only 250 tickets can be sold.

Some lucky attendee will win the great door prize of a two-night stay in a direct beachfront one-bedroom suite at the Beach House Resort in Bradenton Beach.

The live auction features several outstanding items including a seven-day cruise on a Holland America ship with a choice of several destinations including the Caribbean, Mexico, and New England/Canada; the use of a vacation home in the Bahamas; and a three bedroom beachfront house right here on Anna Maria Island.

To further enhance the excitement and fun, the Rotary Wheel of Hope will be front and center again this year. This is similar to the "Wheel of Fortune" game show on TV. There are 48 spaces on the wheel. Each space is being sold for $50. At Casino Royale, the wheel will be spun and the owner of the winning space will win a seven-night stay at a two-bedroom waterfront vacation home in the Florida Keys, not far from Key West.

An anonymous donor has graciously agreed to match all proceeds from the Wheel game and wants the matching funds to be used to provide packaged meals to those devastated by the earthquake in Haiti through a program called Kids Against Hunger ( Last year, this game was especially popular for those who could not attend the event, but wanted to support and participate in the fundraiser. Attendance is not required to win.

Steve and Pamela Schlueter, both past presidents of the Rotary Club, are the co-chairs of this year's Casino Royale. Current club president Judy Rup is in charge of decorating St. Bernard's activity center; Tom and Rosann Creed are handling ticket sales; Michael Northfield is coordinating donation items for the auctions; and Melissa Williams is the public relations chair. Club member Ed Rup is coordinating food and beverages.

The Rotary Club thanks all the local businesses and individuals who have made generous cash donations to help offset the costs of the event. The club also appreciates the donations of auction items, including fine art, home accessories, vacation accommodations and many other attractive items that will be auctioned.

Rotary Casino Night and Benefit is one of Anna Maria Island's most popular social events of the year. Tickets are available from any AMI Rotary Club member, online at or by calling Tom and Rosann Creed at941-778-2636. The Island Florist is also selling tickets in the Island Shopping Center, 5312 Marina Drive in Holmes Beach.

The Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island helps support over two dozen area entities. In recent years, proceeds from Casino Night have benefited Rotary's Camp Florida, a lakeside camp in Brandon for seriously ill children; the American Association of University Women Scholarship; American Cancer Society Relay for Life; Anna Maria Island Community Center; Anna Maria Elementary School (Rotary Reader Patch, Club tutoring, Peace Pole project, Service Above Self graduating fifth-grade student award, and Christmas assistance and field trip funds); Anna Maria Island Young Professionals; Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra; Anna Maria Island Players; Anna Maria Art League; Audubon Society (local); Better Manatee Day; Anna Maria Island Business Person of the Year; Children's Academy of Southwest Florida; Club scholarship for college student; dictionaries for third graders at Anna Maria Elementary and three schools in Bradenton; Habitat for Humanity; Holmes Beach Butterfly Garden; Manatee Players Capital Building Campaign; Matching grant with Rotary International and the Rotary Club of Lagos-West in Nigeria for eight clean water wells to serve approximately 70,000 people; Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee Food Bank; Mote Marine Aquarium and Laboratory for Red Tide research; National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Manatee County; Special Olympics, Manatee County; Rotary International Humanitarian Projects; the Rotary Wheelchair Foundation for disabled in 163 countries; ShelterBox USA for Haitian Earthquake relief and other disaster areas; The Women's Resource Center for two women to attend their Life Launch Program; Toys or Tots; "Welcome to Anna Maria Island" sign on SR64/Manatee Ave.; West Manatee Fire & Rescue Distroct.

‘Click it or ticket’ under way

Law enforcement agencies on Anna Maria Island are joining hundreds of other law enforcement agencies across Florida in observing the annual “Click it or Ticket” campaign to emphasize the safety aspects of using your seat belt when you drive.

The campaign, which began March 1, runs through March 15 and police will make a concerted effort to enforce the Florida seat belt law. If you are not using one, you could get a ticket.

Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson said that according to 2008 data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 2,983 people were killed in motor vehicle related crashes. Of that number, 1,795 individuals were riding in seat belt equipped vehicles and of those, 60 percent or 1,085 were not using seat belts.

“The unbuckled rate is especially high and the fatal crash rate increases significantly at night, so look for us to be out on the streets both day and night in March making sure everyone is buckled up,” Stephenson said.

Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby said that seat belt laws have changed now and you can be stopped for not wearing one.

“It used to be we had to stop you for something else before we could enforce the seat belt law,” Cosby said. “Now we can stop you just for not wearing your seat belt, so be prepared by buckling up, or we will stop you.”

Research has shown that lap and shoulder belts, when used properly, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers by 45 percent and reduce the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent. According to the data, safety belts are 80-percent effective in reducing fatalities in light trucks and sport utility vehicles during rollover crashes. They help prevent people from being ejected from their vehicles during an accident.

Dave Bristow, of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said that the deputies at District 5 in Anna Maria would also participate, as would deputies all over Manatee County.

City panel addresses Sunshine Law snafu

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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