The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 37 - June 16, 2010


Stoltzfus ethics case dismissed

The Florida Commission on Ethics has dismissed an ethics complaint filed against Anna Maria City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus.

The Commission found that the complaint, filed by John Cagnina, “substantively fails to indicate a possible violation” of the ethics laws.

In a press release, Richard Harrison, an attorney representing Stoltzfus, quoted his client: “I certainly appreciate the diligence and speed with which the Commission disposed of these baseless violations. I knew in my heart that I had not violated any ethics laws, and now everybody else knows, too.”

The ruling from the Ethics Commission while dismissing the complaint said, “Regarding the Sunshine Law, it is not, per se, within the jurisdiction of the Commission on Ethics; rather, it is the province of the courts and State Attorneys.”

The Commission’s language further stated about the complaint, “In essence, rather than substantively alleging a corruptly motivated use of public office by the Respondent for the private benefit of himself or another, the complaint describes an alleged situation susceptible to a possible remedy, if any remedy is required, through the courts, prosecutors, local government board considerations, recall efforts, or standard elections process.”

The complaint was thus dismissed for failure to constitute a legally sufficient complaint. Original complaint Cagnina responded that, contrary to Stoltzfus’ conclusions, the dismissal doesn’t clear the commissioner of wrongdoing.

“It simply states that the remedies are recall, which is currently under way,” he said. “Further, it states that Mr. Stoltzfus would have to vote on an issue he raised in the lawsuit, which he has clearly done.” Cagnina was referring to the vote Stoltzfus cast to deny the site plan approval for 308 Pine Avenue.

In his complaint, Cagnina had alleged that Stoltzfus offered to help fund a lawsuit against the city if his name could be kept out of it and that the commissioner made comments to the Florida Department of Community Affairs in another legal action that were in opposition to the city’s position.

Both charges arose out of e-mails Stoltzfus turned over to legal consultant Michael Barfield as a result of a public records request.

Also charged was that the commissioner had used a private citizen as a conduit for communication between himself and another commissioner — something that’s not allowed under Florida’s Open Government laws.

Stoltzfus to seek legal fees In a separate letter last week, Harrison notified the city that his client would be seeking reimbursement of the legal fees he incurred in defense of the ethics complaint.

“Commissioner Stoltzfus is entitled to such reimbursement as a matter of right under the law of Florida,” Harrison wrote in his letter to city officials. Harrison cited a 1990 case in which a Fort Walton Beach commissioner was able to recover his legal expenses in a similar situation.

“Florida courts have long recognized that public officials are entitled to legal representation at public expense to defend themselves against litigation arising from the performance of their duties while serving a public purpose,” Harrison noted.

Harrison declined to give an estimate how much the Stoltzfus’ legal fees might run.

Oil protest set for June 26

HOLMES BEACH – During the first Hands Across the Sand event on Feb. 13, about 180 protesters lined up on Manatee public beach in 47-degree temperatures and brisk 17-mile-per-hour winds to draw a line in the sand against offshore oil drilling.

Across the state, Floridians representing 90 beaches joined hands to protest efforts by the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress to lift the ban on oil drilling in Florida waters.

Since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off Louisiana, spilling oil into the Gulf ever since, the event has gone international, and a sequel is planned.

Hands Across the Sand II will be held at Manatee Public Beach on Saturday, June 26 at noon, with people holding hands for 15 minutes, rain or shine, to protest oil drilling.

Participants are asked to dress in black, use approved beach accesses and parking, avoid bird and sea turtle nests, and be courteous and respectful to those who disagree.

The event is sponsored by Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, Audubon, Oceana, Greenpeace, Ocean Conservancy, Friends of the Earth and others.

Beach sand still the goal

The money may or may not be there and there’s a tremendous amount of oil floating around in the Gulf of Mexico, but Charlie Hunsicker is undeterred.

Hunsicker addressed a Manatee County Commission budget workshop last week, lay ing out plans for a $56 million, three-pronged, re-layering of the beaches of Anna Maria Island over the next five years.

Hunsicker, who is in charge of the county’s natural resources department, said the plan called for a renourishment next year along Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and a small portion of shoreline in Anna Maria. He said both areas are hurting. Aggressive erosion is depleting the southern beaches and threatening beachfront homes in northern Anna Maria, he said.

The Coquina Beach portion of the plan is budgeted for $13.32 million with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) because the beach was supposed to have been renourished in 2007, but the contractor was not able to complete the job.

Hunsicker said that the county would lose the use of a borrow area after the Port Dolphin natural gas pipeline is built in a few years. Port Dolphin is providing $5.5 million to take sand from that area before it becomes restricted, and he said the county would place it in another borrow area located closer to the Island for future use.

That future use would come in 2012, when the county extracts 400,000 cubic yards of sand from the Port Dolphin borrow area and places approximately half of it on the beaches of Anna Maria. The other half would be placed in that closer borrow area.

The county will combine the Port Dolphin $5.5 million with $1.96 million from the state and a matching $1.96 million from the county’s tourist tax to pay for the renourishments.

Cortez Beach

This project also includes replacing two of the three groins along Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach. Hunsicker noted that news stories in The Anna Maria Island Sun by staff writer Cindy Lane were influential in the county deciding to keep at least two of the groins because of interest by local surfers. However, the $1.2 million needed for the groins is unfunded at this time. The commission decided to look for those funds later in the fiscal year.

The final renourishment project would take place in 2015 when 1.5 million cubic yards of sand would be placed along the shore from Coquina Beach to Anna Maria with an additional 1.5 miles of Anna Maria beach. The funding for that project is estimated to be $16,249,285.

County beach pier

The final item on his list was rebuilding the pier that was torn down at Manatee Public Beach last year. Hunsicker said that the county tourist tax would not be applicable.

“It is more recreational than protective in nature,” he said. “We need to find additional funding for the pier.”

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said the county committed itself to replacing the pier when it was razed, but Commissioner Donna Hayes disagreed.

“When we tore it down, it was a safety issue,” she said. “There was no deal when we allowed it to be torn down.”

Commissioner John Chappie was not convinced.

“We committed money for permitting,” he said. “Whether it is for protection or recreation, we need to build it. I stand committed to the new pier.”

After Hunsicker finished his presentation, commissioners agreed that funding to complete his five-year plan to protect the beaches is iffy at best, but they would work toward providing the bucks.

May tourism down

May tourism was down from last year on both Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, according to the latest statistics from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

Hotel occupancy on Anna Maria Island was 58.5 percent, down from 62.2 percent in May 2009. The Manatee County portion of Longboat Key also saw a decrease in visitors, with occupancy at 52 percent, down from 54.1 percent last May.

About a dozen hoteliers reported cancellations to the CVB due to visitors’ fears about the Deepwater Horizon oil slick.

But some think that area beaches – as yet untouched by oil – may start attracting people here who otherwise would have visited north Florida beaches that have been sullied by oil.

If the oil is swept into the Loop Current and around to the Atlantic Ocean as predicted, local tourism operators could see even more business diverted here from the east coast, predicted Randy Stewart of Lil’ Toot charters in Cortez.

So far, during the bridal month of June, the Island wedding business has not faltered due to oil concerns, said Shawn Rhoton, wedding coordinator at the BeachHouse restaurant, adding that June is fully booked, along with July and most of August and September.

For prospective visitors, the CVB Web site has links to two live Web cams on Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach to show current conditions, as well as the Mote Marine Beach Conditions Report at

Also available are historic hotel rates for the area. May hotel rates were mixed, with Anna Maria Island rates averaging $150.88 a night, up from $144.40 last May. Rates on Longboat Key averaged $162.95 a night, down slightly from $163.77 last May.

House moves down the street
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT The Sears Cottage leaves the lot
it has occupied for the past 75 years for a new site
two blocks away. The home will join other historic
structures that will be renovated and used for residential,
commercial and office purposes.

ANNA MARIA – The historic Sears Cottage on Pine Avenue was moved a couple of blocks down the street on Tuesday, June 8, to the Anna Maria Historic Green Village at 503 Pine. The cottage was a mail order home from the Sears catalog and was built on its old site at 308 Pine Avenue, in 1935.

Dan Gagne, the contractor who is working on the village, was in charge of the house moving. He said once it is in place at its new location, owners Mike and Lizzie Thrasher will go through the permit process for site plan approval.

Pine Avenue Redevelopment (PAR) owns the land where the home was originally located and they donated it to th Thrashers. They are in the process of saving several old cottages on the Island and will convert them into residential, commercial and office buildings.

The house was pulled out of its original lot and onto Pine Avenue toward its destination. Workers had to remove a couple of street signs temporarily and trim some tree branches to make room for it. Mike Thrasher had to sound a warning to workers and sightseers alike to stay away from the brick chimney as they had some doubts about its integrity after so many years. The home was finally guided into its new lot, where a few garages still stood in the back.

There were no incidents during the move, and Mike Thrasher said he was excited about getting the Sears Cottage to its new location.

Recall petitioners get the boot from plaza

ANNA MARIA — The post office and Bayveiw Plaza are off limits for now to anyone conducting political activity.

Tom Breiter, the manager of Bayview Plaza at the intersection of South Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue, just across from the city pier, sent a memo to Mayor Fran Barford asking her to notify a committee working to recall City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus that they cannot use the business condominium property to collect signatures for their recall petition.

“This last weekend, I guess things got a little heated during their (the recall committee’s) efforts for the second petition, and there were complaints to the postmaster and her staff,” Breiter said in his letter to the mayor.

But Bob Carter, the chairman of the Stoltzfus Recall Committee had a different view.

“The volunteers have stated that no such confrontation happened,” Carter said. “Second, the location of the volunteers was not in front of the post office, nor were they interfering with anyone’s access to the post office.”

The volunteers were directly east of the ATM machine in front of the newspaper boxes, according to Carter, who suggested that the post office security tapes would confirm this.

Breiter wrote that the postmaster had advised him that federal statutes prohibit political and commercial activity in and around federal facilities, including post offices. He added that the plaza’s owners have a policy of not allowing political campaign efforts or promotion of commercial activities other than for the businesses in the plaza.

Candidates for city office have campaigned near the post office for decades. It’s considered a prime spot for them to meet and greet the voters, all of whom must go to the post office to collect their mail, since there is no home delivery in Anna Maria.

Carter questioned whether or not Breiter’s and the postmaster’s positions were correct.

He cited case law from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Clean-up ’84 vs. Heinrich, in which there was a successful constitutional challenge to a Florida Statute prohibiting solicitation of signatures on petitions within 100 yards of a polling place on election day.

The challenge was upheld by the courts, which ruled “it is also agreed that ‘asking a voter to sign a petition is protected speech.’”

“The lease between Bayview Plaza and the U.S. Postal Service should be used to determine what area is specifically designated as being leased by the USPS, so that those wishing to conduct political activities at the plaza are aware where they should not be,” Carter wrote in his memo to Breiter and Mayor Barford.

The committee is currently in the second round of collecting signatures to force a recall election of Stoltzfus.

They need to collect at least 204 signatures, or 15 percent of the registered voters for this round. The Supervisor of Elections must verify those signatures.

The committee collected a total of 247 signatures during the first round of the petition drive. Of those, the elections office verified 214.

Stoltzfus and his attorneys filed a request for an expedited hearing on the legality of the petition. The courts denied that request, and the matter is now under appeal.

Local oil spill hotline activated

Residents and visitors anxious to help in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster can be coast watchers for local emergency officials using a local hotline scheduled for activation this week.

Anyone who suspects that they see oil or tar balls in area waters or on coastlines should call 941-749-3547 to report it, Manatee County Department of Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said.

“You’re very important,” he told members of environmental organizations at a meeting last week in the county’s new emergency operations center. “You’re our eyes and ears on the beach.”

Calls will trigger emergency response teams dispatched by the U.S. Coast Guard to investigate whether the substance is oil, tar balls or marine life that resembles them, he said.

Observers should not touch anything they suspect is oil due to potential health concerns, according to the county health department.

Volunteers also can register now at for later assignments should oil affect the area.

U.S. Coast Guard planes and boats and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boats continue to comb the Anna Maria Island coastline for signs of oil.

June 15 marks eight weeks since the disaster began.

Oil spill meeting Thursday

A community meeting on the Gulf oil spill is planned for Thursday, June 17, at 7 pm. at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave. in Anna Maria. Sponsored by a new group, Keep O.F.F. (Oil Free Forever) Manatee, the meeting will provide an opportunity to meet with federal, state and local government officials and non-profit organization representatives. For more information, contact Mike Shannon at 779-2222.

'Bottledarter' lure has local ties
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Larry Welcome, a part-time Anna Maria Island
resident, has invented a plastic version of his
popular handmade wood Bottledarter fishing lure.

BRADENTON BEACH – A fishing lure catching red drum and tarpon in Florida and striped bass and bluefin tuna in New York was invented by a part-time Anna Maria Island resident.

Larry Welcome, of Cutchogue, N.Y. and Bradenton Beach, has been making wooden lures by hand since 1993. Each Bottledarter, a cross between a bottle plug and a darter, takes 40 minutes to make by hand on a lathe in his workshop.

“I didn’t have that much time in my day to meet demand,” he said, so he and fishing buddy Rob Koch, a mechanical engineer, developed a plastic version now manufactured in about three minutes each in Minnesota and Pennsylvania under the Northbar Tackle name. Welcome handles shipping and receiving in his New York cellar in between making wooden lures under the Sporting Wood name.

Koch printed the first plastic lure design from a computer file onto plastic halves that were glued and placed between two pieces of foam. Like a chicken on an egg, Koch sat on the lure for more than two hours while the glue cured.

Later that day, on its first test, the Bottledarter attracted a bass that struck on the first cast, Welcome said. A black and purple lure from the second batch caught a 63-pound bass.

The lures come in colors including yellow, blue, gold, green, pink, black, white, red and combinations. Different colors are used in different light and water clarity conditions, or to resemble bait (for example, pink is for squid). The variety also allows fishermen who are confident in a certain color to have their favorite choice, Welcome said.

Liquid can be added to the lures to increase casting distance and make them dart in a more exaggerated pattern. A video on the company’s Web site demonstrates how to load the lure. For more information, visit

Denied site plan won’t be reconsidered

ANNA MARIA — A site plan application that the city denied for a project at 308 Pine Avenue will not be reconsidered.

The city commission rejected the plan at a May 27 meeting then reconfirmed that denial last week. The move comes despite a positive recommendation by the planning and zoning board to approve the proposal. The city planner and city attorney also both said the plan met all current city codes.

Commission John Quam placed the item on the agenda and said he was hoping the application could be held in abeyance while the parking regulations in the ROR district are being thrashed out.

“I hope in this way to avoid a lawsuit,” Quam said.

There was some question as to whether or not the matter could even be heard again.

City Attorney Jim Dye said the city has no official policy on the reconsideration of votes. But he added that since the commission loosely follows Robert’s Rules of Order, it was his opinion a commissioner who had voted with the majority could make a motion to reconsider.

But deferring the vote until the parking regulations can be worked out would not forestall a lawsuit, since the applicant had only 30 days from the initial denial in which he could legally appeal the decision. After 30 days, the applicant would lose all rights to appeal the case in court.

“Once the denial takes place, the applicant has a 30-day window in which to file an appeal,” Dye said. “After that 30-day period, they cannot appeal the denial. If it were my client, I would strongly urge them to appeal.”

Ricinda Perry, the attorney for the applicant, Pine Avenue Restoration, indicated that she intended to appeal the ruling for her clients in the circuit court.

In the May 27 vote, Commissioners Harry Stoltzfus, Dale Woodland and Quam voted to deny the application. Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick and Chuck Webb were in favor of approval.

In 2004, the commission denied a site plan for 303 Pine Avenue that it was told adhered to all current codes and which the P&Z board had recommended approval.

The circuit court found that the city had erred in its denial of that application and it should have been approved.

Two sitting commissioners participated in that case. Quam voted for the application; Woodland voted against it.

Chiles Group hosts weekend of fireworks shows
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Beachgoers enjoyed a spectacular display at one of the
Chiles Restaurant Group's fireworks shows last year.

The Chiles Restaurant Group will host a fireworks show at each of its three waterfront eateries the weekend of July 2-4.

The weekend starts, on Friday, July 2, with the Second Annual Boom Boom on the Bay at the Mar Vista Dockside restaurant at 760 Broadway Street on the very north end of Longboat Key. The Mar Vista is exactly two miles south of the BeachHouse.

Gold sponsors for the Mar Vista fireworks are Mar Vista, Moore’s Stone Crab restaurant and Longboat Observer newspaper. Silver sponsors include Cannons Marina and Longboat Key Club.

Reservations are best and will provide a great seat for this show. Diners may order off the regular menu and enjoy full bar offerings. Because Mar Vista is on the bay, boaters and watercraft enthusiasts are able to moor or dock at the Mar Vista’s private 12-slip dock.

By waterway, Mar Vista is located at ICW #39. For more information call 941-383-2391.

The BeachHouse will hold its 17th Annual Fireworks Extravaganza on July 3. With the expansive Gulf-front deck, the BeachHouse provides a great spot for this fireworks show with a huge adjacent beach to throw a blanket or chair on as the fireworks explode over the Gulf.

VIP party packages are available by contacting Shawn Rhoton at 941-778-8718 or Valet parking is available, but come early as this event is very well attended.

The grand finale is at the Sandbar restaurant on July 4. The Sandbar is also doing things a little differently this year. The Sandbar will host a full day of fun at the beach ending with the Sandbar Fireworks Spectacular.

The Sandbar special events pavilion will also be open all day so beach goers can grab a hot dog, BBQ sandwich or cool drink and then head back to their spot on the beach. Live beach-side entertainment with fun and games for the kids will go on throughout the day and into the night.

Beginning at 7:30 p.m., VIP seating will be available under the pavilion with an upscale buffet and cocktails as well as front row seating for the fireworks show. VIP tables are available for $1000 for a table of 8. Valet parking is also available. For more information and VIP table purchase, contact Janice Bergbom, special events assistant, at 941-778-8710 or

All fireworks shows start shortly after dark and are weather permitting. There are no refunds for inclement weather.

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