The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 35 - June 2, 2010


Pierce resigns as mayor

BRADENTON BEACH – Michael Pierce shocked those attending the regular monthly meeting of the city commission last night by resigning, turning over his office to vice-mayor Bob Bartelt and having the city commission appoint Janet Vosburgh, who recently served on the city’s Charter Review Commission, to replace Bartelt as fourth ward city commissioner.

Pierce had city clerk Nora Idso read his letter of resignation, dated June 3.

“While I had hoped to continue to serve out my term as Mayor, recent family needs have arisen that require my personal attention, time and focus,” the letter read. Pierce would not specify those family needs, but he said that it had nothing to do with his wife, Diane’s, health or his.

Bartelt, who was facing re-election this year, said he would now seek election in November to his first full term as mayor. He had said earlier that he would run for re-election to the city commission. He now says he will seek his first elected term as mayor.

Bartelt served on the city’s WAVES committee before running for city commission in 2008. He defeated Bill Shearon, who had run earlier against John Chappie as mayor. Chappie is now a Manatee County Commissioner.

Pierce defeated Shearon in 2009 for the seat he was appointed to in 2008 when Shearon quit to run against Chappie.

Vosburgh served at least twice on the city’s charter review board. She said Friday that she would take out papers to run for her first full term as city commissioner.

Candidates have from Monday, June 14, at noon, to Friday, June 18, at noon, to turn in their papers for candidacy.

One other commissioner faces re-election. Second ward commissioner Bob Connors is in his first full term as commissioner. He served one year before that as an appointee to replace Pierce who ran successfully for mayor.

A Memorial Day to remember

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
Beaches were full all three days of the
Memorial Day weekend and despite reports
of stingrays at the beaches north of
Anna Maria Island, there were none
that they knew of on our shores.

They came to the beach this Memorial Day just like they have since the first bridge to the Island was built and they came despite the ongoing oil spill on the other side of the Gulf. Memorial Day was a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, a day to forget the grim news headlines and a day to enjoy the beautiful weather on Anna Maria Island’s beaches.

“We’ve had strong crowds of people all three days of the weekend,” said Capt. Joe Westerman, lifeguard for the Manatee County Department of Safety stationed at Coquina Beach. “It’s been busy, but we haven’t had any big problems.”

Meanwhile, businesses that deal with visitors to the beach were doing well.

“We’ve done real well this holiday,” said JoAnne Spallino, who owns Joe’s Eats and Sweets with her husband, Joe. “This holiday was a lot busier than last year’s.”

Lauren Sato, co-owner of Beach Bum’s in Anna Maria, said that they had a great holiday renting electric vehicles, bikes and beach related items.

“We had a record high for Memorial Day,” she said. “The majority of our customers came from Bradenton, Apopka, Lakeland and Orlando.”

Sato said that the alternative transportation vehicles were popular.

“We rented a lot of electric vehicles,” she said. “That included Go Peds (electric scooters) and legal electric cars.”

Not everyone had a positive holiday. Drivers who came through Anna Maria received expensive reminders if they did not wear their seat belts, come to a complete stop at the intersection of Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue or parked illegally.

“A lot of the people we are catching are locals,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Dave Turner, who said they wrote 21 tickets and 46 warnings in 1 1/2 hours. He said they would continue to enforce the seat belt laws, a program known as Click it or Ticket, during the summer months. Fines for seat belt violations start at $116.

Violators were directed to the north parking lot at Anna Maria City Hall where they were given tickets or warnings.

There was an aggravated assault involving a parking space at Bayfront Park on Saturday. The complainant said she was saving a parking space for a friend when a driver brushed her with his vehicle while trying to take that spot. The complainan was not injured.

The driver of the car said his son pulled out of the parking spot and as he attempted to pull in, the complainant jumped in front of his car and they argued.

As the beaches emptied Monday around 4:45 p.m., there was an accident on the Anna Maria Bridge, the second of the afternoon. Traffic was tied up for more than an hour and during that time, EMS was called to two addresses in Key Royale for separate medical emergencies. Police had to get cars out of the way for emergency vehicles going to the Island.

The beaches were full all weekend, according to lifeguard Rex Beach at the Manatee County Beach.

“It’s a typical Memorial Day at the beach,” Beach said Monday. “We’ve had no problems and the weather has been beautiful.”

Westerman said that despite reports of stingrays in the St. Petersburg beaches, there were no stings at Manatee County’s beaches.

“In a few weeks, it will be stingray season,” he said, "but in the past month, we’ve had maybe three stings.”

He added, however, that people should do the stingray shuffle to avoid stepping on one and finding out how close we are to stingray season.

County won’t change vote on beach contract

BRADENTON – Pleas by Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitmore, John Chappie and Joe McClash to reconsider the vote on the Manatee Beach concession contract fell on deaf ears last week.

The three asked any member of the board who had voted in favor of United Park Services to reconsider his/her vote and name Café on the Beach as the concessionaire. Those who voted in favor of the contract were Commissioners Donna Hayes, Ron Getman, Gwen Brown and Larry Bustle.

On May 11, the board awarded the contract to UPS of Tampa. Following that vote, Stavros Tingirdes, attorney for Café on the Beach, filed a protest stating that the owners of UPS were given the opportunity to negotiate their compensation to the county, while the owners of the Café were not. He also asked for reconsideration of the vote.

“I have heard nothing but disappointment that the current vendor did not get the contract,” Whitmore said. “UPS was made aware that the vote could get overturned.”

McClash took issue with figures that were presented by county staff regarding how much each company offered as compensation and also with the figures on proposed capital improvements.

“I’m concerned as far as the misunderstanding of what it is,” McClash said. “It’s an RFP, not a an invitation to bid. There is no winner. It’s a recommendation to negotiate with the top ranked firm and to award (the contract) to what they felt was the top firm. In all fairness, the only way to resolve these issues is to reconsider it or end the contract.”

Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino pointed out, “The bid process was flawed. Tommy (Café on the Beach owner Tom Vayias) never got an opportunity to negotiate. All the places UPS is at right now are not old Florida any more.

“We have something special here. Things are working on the Island right now. Let’s not change it.”

When Hayes asked if anyone wanted to reconsider his/her vote, there was no response from Brown or Bustle. Getman was absent.

City votes against PAR site plan

ANNA MARIA — By a vote of 3-2, city commissioners voted against a Pine Avenue Restoration site plan designed for 308 Pine Ave.

City Planner Alan Garrett was asked several times by various members of the commission whether the plan was in compliance with the city’s land development regulations and the comprehensive plan.

“Yes, sir, it does meet the LDRs and comp plan,” Garrett said each time he was asked.

The same questions were put to City Attorney Jim Dye, who also answered in the affirmative.

The city’s planning and zoning board had a hearing on the plan early last month and voted to recommend to the city commission that it approve the site plan for 308 Pine Avenue, which is in the city’s residential/office/retail district. Despite hearing from staff that the site plan complied with all city codes and despite the recommendation from the P&Z board, the commission voted to deny the plan.

As the hearing got underway, Ricinda Perry, who represents PAR, asked Dye to poll the members of the commission about any ex parte communication they might have had. A site plan review is a quasi-judicial hearing, and commissioners must base their decisions solely on evidence presented during the hearing. If they have had communications outside the hearing, they must reveal with whom the conversations took place as well as explaining the nature of the conversations.

Only Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus admitted to having prior conversations. He said that he’d had discussions on the density issue.

“But nothing to affect my vote,” Stoltzfus said.

Dye then said that the disclosure has to contain as much detail as possible.

At that point, Stoltzfus stated that he’d had conversations with others about the formula for calculating density.

There is conversation between Stoltzfus and Robert and Nicky Hunt in some e-mail about the density issue. Legal consultant Michael Barfield, on behalf of PAR, made those e-mails public after a public records request.

In one e-mail, Stoltzfus appears to offer to help pay for a lawsuit challenging the city’s interpretation of the density issue as long as his name can be kept out of the legal action.

That matter is still pending before the Florida Department of Community Affairs. A phone conversation took place last week, and a ruling on the matter is expected in a couple of weeks.

Most of the questions about the site plan on May 27 swirled around whether or not vehicular traffic would have to cross sidewalks when entering or leaving parking places.

The developers agreed to stipulate that they would move the sidewalks closer to the buildings if the city so desired, but that wasn’t enough to turn the vote of Commissioners Dale Woodland, John Quam and Stoltzfus, who all voted against the plan.

There was no explanation for the basis of the denial put forth, but the main issue appeared to be the fact that the parking regulations are in a state of flux.

Commissioners Chuck Webb and Jo Ann Mattick voted to approve the site plan.

The denial may result in another legal action against the city.

In a similar case several years ago, the commission denied a site plan for a property at 303 Pine Avenue that is owned by the Hunts. The denial came in the face of a recommendation for approval from the P&Z board and opinions from the city attorney and the building official that the site plan met all city codes and ordinances.

That denial was challenged, and the courts later ruled against the city.

Stoltzfus recall good to go

ANNA MARIA — A committee working to recall City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus has gotten the green light to proceed with the second step in the process.

The ruling came from Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas last week in response to a request by Stoltzfus and his attorney for an accelerated hearing to halt the recall.

Nicholas said in his ruling that the plaintiff had failed to show that irreparable harm would result if the recall proceeded.

He added, “All remedies available to the plaintiff, i.e. injunctive and declaratory relief with the circuit court may be sought after and only if 15 percent of the electors sign the Recall Petition and Defense forms."

Stoltzfus came under fire when he was forced to release his e-mails under a public records request.

In one exchange of e-mail with Jeremy Anderson, an attorney for the Nallys, who currently have a lawsuit against the city, Stoltzfus offered to help fund the lawsuit if his name could be kept out of it.

In another, he made comments to the Florida Department of Community Affairs that were contrary to the city’s position about density calculations in a legal action filed by Robert and Nicky Hunt.

“We’ll begin collecting signatures again sometime this week,” said Bob Carter, the chairman of the recall committee. “We’ve had people calling to volunteer, so we’ll have a bigger group collecting signatures this time around.”

The city charter allows for recall actions to be placed before the voters in accordance with state statutes. It’s a three-step process.

First, the committee must collect the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters and then have those signatures certified by the supervisor of elections. That step has been completed.

The committee must now attach Stoltzfus’ defensive statement of no more than 200 words to the recall petition as the second round of signatures is collected.

If those signatures are certified, the recall would be scheduled “no sooner than 30 days and no longer than 60 days after the recall is certified.”

In his defensive statement, Stoltzfus uses three quotes from Thomas Jefferson.

One reads, “The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”

The beleaguered commissioner goes on to state that the recall attempt is “spearheaded by a politically motivated group of people, including some within this administration, who are either unwilling to accept the truth or unwilling to make the changes to bring our city back into compliance.”

The recall petition is available for viewing at city hall. Anyone wanting to sign the petition can call 941-840-4623.

Walkable communities expert here Friday

ANNA MARIA — Dan Burden, a nationally recognized expert on making communities livable and walkable will be in Anna Maria on Friday, June 4, at 4 p.m. at city hall to address the P&Z board and the city commission, and the public is invited.

After numerous meetings of both boards, separately and together, there has been little or no consensus on how to handle parking and traffic flow in the residential/office/retail district on Pine Avenue and a couple of blocks of Gulf Drive south of Pine.

Months of deadlock have led to frustration on the part of board members, commissioners and residents.

“I’m frustrated, said Commissioner Chuck Webb at the latest such meeting. “We just keep going around and around in circles, and we never make any progress.”

Burden, who is coming to town as a favor to his friend, Gene Aubry, an architect who lives in the city and who has volunteered his time and expertise to try to help the city officials reach some agreement on the parking.

There are a couple of sides in the debate. Some would like to see all parking in the ROR district contained on each property; some see that as creating an asphalt jungle or a suburban strip center.

There are arguments for and against allowing any parking on the right of way. There are concerns about making sure there is green space and adequate drainage.

Some envision the Pine Avenue corridor as a single entity with a streetscape that ties the entire district together; others want a lot-by-lot method of handling parking. All believe that traffic shouldn’t be backing out and backing in over pedestrian thoroughfares.

“You always see differing views when you’re making these changes,” Burden said. “Our streets and our towns weren’t laid out for the automobile. For years, we’ve accommodated ourselves to the traffic.”

Burden said it’s his hope that people can open up their minds and come together without preconceived ideas and solutions.

“This is a conflicted time,” he said. “Parking can be a lightening rod. People want to hold onto the past. Not knowing what the future will be and not agreeing how to get it right can make it very difficult to find solutions that work for everyone.”

More and more communities are striving to find a way to make their communities more walkable and livable.

“We want to get out of our cars and walk or bike in our towns,” he said. “We want to be able to age in place instead of having to leave our homes because we can’t drive any more.

Law firms court local fishermen

CORTEZ – Law firms from Palmetto and Miami made competing presentations last week to Cortez commercial fishermen afraid of what the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will do to their livelihoods and lives.

While no oil has hit local shores, it continues to gush into the Gulf, causing ever-widening fishing closures in federal Gulf of Mexico waters where commercial fishermen make their living.

“Mullet spawn in those offshore areas,” one fisherman said, voicing widespread concern about the longterm future of the region’s premiere export, mullet roe.

Fisherman Bryan Ibasfalean suggested that the oil could widen the dead zone, an area without oxygen, that sometimes forms at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Despite BP’s use of dispersants, which push the oil below the surface and break it up, “I think we all know it’s not going to go away,” said Scott Kallins, of Kallins Little Delgado & Opstal P.A. in Palmetto.

BP’s claims process may get fishermen a quick $5,000 check, but a lawsuit could compensate them for longterm, higher damages that may not show up for years, said Justin Bloom, associated with the Kallins firm.

Claimants who anticipate damages can join a suit even if they haven’t yet suffered a loss, he added.

Fishermen expressed mistrust of BP, citing the company’s initial policy requiring those who signed up to help lay booms in its vessel of opportunity program to sign away their rights to recover damages.

“We want to protect our beaches and help, but we don’t want to give up our rights,” one fisherman said.

Other fishermen said the legal process takes too long, with some saying they have been waiting for years for a resolution in an unrelated class action lawsuit.

The BP litigation will not be a class action because of the differences in damages of the plaintiffs, which will include fishermen, hoteliers, restaurants, property owners and other impacted businesses, said David Rash, of Miami firm Alters Boldt Brown Rash Culmo.

Individual suits likely will be combined in federal court in the largest multi-district litigation in the nation’s history, he said, explaining that a federal judge who has not yet been selected to handle the litigation will appoint more than a dozen law firms to represent all plaintiffs.

The Miami firm is working with commercial fishing organizations to attract clients in an effort to be named one of the firms, possibly the lead firm.

Both firms work on a contingency fee basis.

While many fishermen are independent by nature and sometimes steer clear of organizations, “You need a united front to get you at the forefront of the litigation so you will be sitting at the table,” Rash said.

Fishermen will have to provide records such as catch statistics and income tax returns to prove claims of future losses, he said.

The losses look more likely every day that BP does not stop the leak, according to fishermen.

The oil and the chemical dispersants used to break it down could affect the food chain indefinitely, Cortez Capt. Zach Zacharias said.

“It could blow out the value of the whole Gulf.”

Environmental, business groups to meet on oil

Two public meetings are scheduled on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, one for businesses anticipating losses from the spill and one for environmental organizations and volunteers.


The Manatee Chamber of Commerce will host Gulf Coast Oil Spill: The Impact on Manatee County Business and Tourism on June 2 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Chamber, 222 10th St. W. in Bradenton.

Topics will include oil spill facts, how it could affect business and tourism in the county, how businesses can prepare for the impact of the spill and resources for businesses with lost revenues related to the spill.

The panel will include speakers from the Manatee County Natural Resources Department, Emergency Management Department, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Mote Marine Laboratory.

Reservations are required; call Jahna at 748-4842, ext. 172, fax 745-1877 or e-mail

The meeting is sponsored by the law firm of Kirk Pinkerton.

Environmental groups

The Manatee County Department of Natural Resources, Department of Public Safety and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program will host a meeting for members of environmental organizations on June 8 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Emergency Operations Center, 2101 47th Terrace E. in Bradenton.

Topics will include the current status of the oil spill, its potential environmental impact on beaches, coastal habitats and wildlife in Manatee County, what steps the county has taken to address the situation, potential roles of local environmental organizations and what interested volunteers can do to help.

Participants should e-mail their questions in advance to Melissa Nell Cain at, fax them to 941-741-3227 or call 941-748-4501, ext. 4605.

Attendees should use the citizen parking area at the second entrance to the Public Safety Center.

Residents love historic green village concept
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Lizzie Thrasher answers questions from the audience about
her green village concept following her presentation at the
Island Community Center last week.

ANNA MARIA – Lizzie Thrasher got a round of applause from about 50 residents after her presentation on her green village concept for Pine Avenue.

“The dream that so many of us have had for so long is finally going to come true,” Janet Aubry said.

Thrasher gave a power point presentation at the Island Community Center last week on plans for lots at 425, 501, 503, 505 and 507 Pine Avenue owned by her and her husband, Mike.

“We are trying to create jobs for local people by investing in businesses that are useful to the local community, add to the beauty of Pine Avenue, revive buildings of historic value and ensure that all the buildings are remarkable, beautiful and useful,” Thrasher told the group.

Thrasher said their first investments were Beach Bums at 427 Pine Avenue and the General Store at 307 Pine Avenue. She said they renovated Beach Bums and passed it to Lauren Sato and Diane Havelka and plan to pass the General Store to manager Brian Seymour.

A walkable area

The warehouse at 425 Pine, next to Beach Bums, will become a general store with fresh produce, while 501 to 507 will be part of a walking area. Plans for those buildings include:
• 503 – The Rosedale Cottage will become a showroom and gallery with a garden café at 501. Public bathrooms will be located behind this building.
• 505 – The Sears Cottage at 308 Pine Avenue will be moved to this lot to be part of the gallery area.
"I want to get Rosedale up and running for next spring,” Thrasher explained. “I’d like to have it and the Sears Cottage and the garden done in time for the pier centennial.”
• 507 – This house is currently rented but plans are to make it a walk-in medical center.
“I love trees and one way to make the street walkable is to plant trees,” Thrasher said. “Our idea is to put a lot of trees on the lots we have.”

Public comments

Chris Tollette asked if there is room for any more historic homes, and Thrasher said there is room for two, but they are very difficult to move.

“This is the opposite of what we’re seeing on the street right now,” remarked Neville Clark and asked if there is a time frame.

Thrasher said they would start as soon as the city approves the plan.

Architect Gene Aubry, who designed Thrasher’s plan, pointed out, “If you’re going to make the city a really special place, there has to be a lot of cooperation and working together.”

One resident asked about fencing along the rear of the properties as a buffer for the homes behind them, and Aubry said it would be heavily landscaped.

Another resident asked about parking, and Thrasher said most of it would be behind the buildings.

“I have been visiting this area since 1963, and the thing I love about Pine Avenue is where people have taken the existing old cottages and kept them like they are but renovated them. I’d be so delighted to see more of that done,” said another audience member. “To me that is the fiber of the city of Anna Maria.”

Thrasher asked residents to contact her at the General Store, by phone at 896-6301 or online at with their comments about the plans. Drawings of the plans are available for viewing at the General Store and city hall.

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