The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 43 - July 28, 2010


Aubry to run in recall election

AMISUN News Robbery Banker

ANNA MARIA — Anna Maria resident Gene Aubry has declared his candidacy for city commissioner.

There are, however, several questions that will have to be answered before Aubry could ever take a seat on the commission.

Anna Maria voters will go to the polls on September 7 to mark their ballots in what is believed to be the only recall election ever held in Manatee County.

City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus will be facing a recall election if Judge Edward Nicholas finds that the recall petition against him is legally sufficient. Judge Nicholas has set aside time on August 12 to hear the challenge that Stoltzfus’ attorney Richard Harrison has lodged against the recall petition.

If Judge Nicholas finds that the recall petition is in order, the recall election will go forward. If the voters recall Stoltzfus, they can elect Aubry to fill the remainder of Stoltzfus' term, which runs through the first Tuesday in November 2011.

Candidates wishing to run in the recall election must qualify before Friday, July 30. As of Monday of this week, Aubry was the only candidate to file his qualifying papers.

A recall committee has been working for months to bring the recall election to the voters.

Recall Chairman Bob Carter and the other members of his committee began the drive after a public records request revealed emails by Stoltzfus that his critics claim violated the state’s Sunshine Law.

“Public records evidence that Stoltzfus violated the Government in the Sunshine Law by holding electronic meetings and using liaisons to discuss public business that has not been advertised to the public,” the recall petition states.

“Stoltzfus’ email communications contained libelous and inflammatory remarks concerning city staff, citizens and professional consultants in violation of the city’s stated policy against personal attacks.”

Other charges leveled at Stoltzfus in the recall petition are that he made numerous statements in violation of the requirement for a fair hearing in a quasi judicial proceeding and that “he conspired with others to deceive citizens and bring financial harm to the city of Anna Maria by encouraging potentially harmful and expensive legal action against the city while hiding his own involvement.”

Beginning in April, volunteers went door-to-door in the city to collect signatures in support of the recall.

Bob Sweat, Manatee County’s supervisor of elections, certified a first round of signatures containing more than the required 10 percent of the registered voters. Sweat’s office also certified a second round of signatures representing more than the required 15 percent of the registered voters in the city.

Chief Judge Lee Haworth set the recall election date for September 7.

Legal challenge

There remains a legal challenge to the recall filed by Stoltzfus through Harrison, his attorney. Attempts to contact Harrison were unsuccessful at press time.

On Aug. 12 at 1 p.m., Judge Nicholas will hear Harrison’s arguments as to why the recall petition is not legally sufficient.

One contention is that the language in the petition is so vague that Stoltzfus couldn’t compose an adequate defensive statement, which he was entitled to do with the second circulation of the petition.

Stoltzfus did mount a defensive statement, as was his right.

“The charges against me are a collection of nebulous, unsubstantiated falsehoods. Their vagueness makes a specific, directed response impossible,” Stoltzfus wrote in his own defense. “As commissioner, I have attempted to uphold the policies and regulations of our comprehensive plan and our land development regulations. My focus on safety has revealed an inconvenient truth: our city has repeatedly contravened its policies and regulations.

“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 required to bring our city back into compliance.”

Stoltzfus closed his defensive statement with a reference to what he called “a proud history of dealing with similar threats.”

He said he was confident that the residents of his city would respond appropriately to “this misguided effort to recall me.”

Offer to donate building withdrawn

The Angler's Lodge was built in 1913 and gave prospective land
buyers on the Island a place to stay while they looked at the lots.

ANNA MARIA — A blog posting has resulted in the cancellation of an offer of a historic building to the city of Anna Maria.

Sissy Quinn, the president of the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust Inc., said she withdrew her offer of the building at the July 22 city commission meeting after becoming a target of the blog that regularly posts comments on city issues.

The blog, at, was founded by former City Commissioner Duke Miller. Most of the recent blog posts, however, were generated by Bill Yanger, a St. Petersburg attorney whose parents live in the city

The building in question is Angler’s Lodge, which is located just north of the Lake LaVista Inlet on North Bay Boulevard. It was built in 1913 and was used as overnight accommodations for people who came by steamer from Tampa to look at property on the Island that was then being developed.

Quinn worked for months with the building’s current owner, Agatha Hebebrand, who ultimately was willing to donate the structure to Quinn’s organization, AMI Preservation Trust.

Then, the question of where to put the structure, which has to be moved off the property, created several problems.

The Anna Maria Island Historical Society didn’t want the lodge situated on the eastern-most part of the city-owned property on Pine Avenue, where the museum, the jail and Belle Haven Cottage are located.

Quinn appealed to the commission to let her locate the structure there. She envisioned an adult “friendship center” on the ground floor with non-profit offices on the second floor.

AMIHS objected to that location. Once that organization realized that section of the property was available, they wanted to expand the native plantings that had been put in by Doug Copeland and Mike Miller as well as other people over the years.

“No one wants to save historic buildings more than we do,” said AMIHS Director Melissa Williams. The group offered $1,000 to the Preservation Trust to help save the lodge.

The AMIHS position was that the lodge was worthy of saving, but that the location for it was not in the historic park, which is the location of the only green space on Pine Avenue. The group has photographs of the area that was used for picnics and gatherings in the earliest days of the Island — something that the Society says they feel strongly is worth preserving.

AMIHS Director Betty Yanger said her group was ready to offer an alternative site behind the jail before Quinn withdrew her offer of the building to the city.

Bill Yanger is Betty and William Yanger’s son, which he revealed in his posting. But his position was strongly against the Trust’s efforts to get the building fixed up and moved to the historic park.

In response, Quinn was intensely critical of the blog.

“We have all been taken hostage by this malicious blog no matter what side you are on,” Quinn read from a prepared statement she made to city commissioners. “It has cost our city and taxpayers a lot of money, work and the diminished effectiveness of our loyal city staff and the people who represent us in city hall.”

Quinn said that she withdrew the offer of the lodge to the city with a “heavy heart.”

“Becoming the topic of a slanderous blog, which the president of the historical society sees fit to spread throughout the Island by email, is about as aggrieved as it gets,” she said. “It seems our city is poisoned by people who will have their way at any cost.”

The blog posting was circulated widely on the Island.

Bill Yanger said that though Betty is his mother, his main goal was not just to defend her.

“I feel strongly that that area of the Historic Park should remain as green space,” he said. “Angler’s Lodge is worthy of preservation, and the Historical Society openly worked to help fund it and to help find a location for it. I just hated to see an organization with 20 years of service to the community scapegoated.”

Yanger said the discussions should have taken place between the two groups before any locations were finalized, not after.

Island: Legislative session a bust

Last week’s short-lived special Legislative session dashed hopes on Anna Maria Island and elsewhere that Floridians would have the opportunity to vote on a Constitutional amendment banning oil drilling in state waters.

State legislators closed the special session called by Gov. Charlie Crist about two hours after it started without considering his request to place the amendment on the November ballot.

Some called the session a political move by Crist to gain favor with voters in his race for U.S. Senate, and solidify his position against oil drilling; the governor had said he was open to considering drilling prior to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil spill off Louisiana.

Crist responded by criticizing the Legislature for taking away the people’s opportunity to decide the matter.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore agreed.

“I am very upset about citizens not having a chance to vote on this,” she said. “At one point citizens were for oil drilling and it would be nice to get a flavor of what the citizens are feeling now instead of putting these decisions in the hands of just a few. We all should be educated and make the decision.”

“I thought it was a good opportunity to bring people together to talk about this very, very serious issue, but it was done too quickly and without a whole lot of planning or strategizing,” Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said, adding that it was a waste of taxpayer’s money. “They went into it with the mindset that it was not going to be a productive time.”

“I think the governor actually called the session for political gain,” said Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger, adding the session was a “knee jerk reaction” to the oil spill.

With a state ban on drilling in Florida waters already in place, it’s the federal government, not the state Legislature, that needs to act, he said.

“The public’s impression is that if we have a ban (by constitutional amendment) it solves the problem, but that doesn’t stop the federal government from issuing a permit to drill 10 miles from our beach,” he said. “Legislation by Constitutional amendment has never been a good thing.”

A Constitutional amendment banning drilling would have required 60 percent approval from voters and – unlike a state statute – could not be rescinded without a citizens’ vote.

State rejects challenge to city's comp plan

ANNA MARIA — A challenge to the city’s approval of mixed-use buildings in the residential/office/retail district has been rejected by the state.

In a ruling last week, The Florida Department of Community Affairs sided with the city and denied the challenge, which took issue with the way the city calculates density in the ROR district.

The petition had been filed in February by Robert and Nicola Hunt, and Robert and Coleen Muzzy. The couples each own a residential lot adjacent to the ROR district.

The Hunts and Muzzys complained that the city was miscalculating the density in the district and was therefore in violation of its own comprehensive plan. The ROR district allows residential space above retail/office units and mandates no more than six units per gross acre. The complainants said allowing residential units on the 50- by 100-foot lots resulted in 8.7 units per acre.

The city countered, saying that the smaller lots were all platted prior to World War II and were specifically grandfathered in the ROR when the comp plan was adopted.

Newly platted lots must be 7,500 square feet, which would yield six units per acre. But the smaller lots can be considered under the previous set of rules.

The Hunts and Muzzys can file an appeal within 21 days to the Division of Administrative Hearings. Their attorney, Jeremy Anderson, said he could not comment on whether or not his clients would appeal the ruling.

Another PAR site plan denied

ANNA MARIA — For the second time in a month, city commissioners have voted against approving a site plan submitted by Pine Avenue Restoration, LLC.

The latest denial is for the property at 210 Pine Ave. It came at the July 22 city commission meeting.

The city also denied the site plan for 309 Pine Ave. earlier. In that case, they also cited concerns about how the parking was to be handled for that property. The city of Anna Maria has been thrashing out how to re-work the parking regulations in the residential/office/retail district since last November.

Currently, most parking on sites being developed is straight in on the property. The concern is that since vehicles cross the sidewalk entering and exiting the parking, there may be a safety hazard.

PAR has gone on record with an offer to move sidewalks onto their property at their expense as soon as the city finalizes the parking regulations.

Until those parking rules are formally revised, some commissioners said they are unwilling to approve any projects that show backing out over sidewalks, which they deem to be unsafe. The city attorney has told commissioners that any site plans submitted in the meantime must be judged on existing regulations rather than on future, unformed regulations.

There has never been an accident caused by someone backing out over a sidewalk on Pine Avenue, but commissioners remain convinced that such a practice is an accident waiting to happen.

This newest plan submitted by PAR left the sidewalk off the plan.

“We know you have safety concerns, so my client is willing to put the sidewalk wherever you say you want it at his own expense, despite the fact that there is no sidewalk there at this time,” PAR Attorney Ricinda Perry told commissioners.

She added that her client was willing to put up a bond to ensure that the sidewalk would be built once the city makes a decision on what kind of parking they want in the ROR district.

As the hearing got under way, Perry asked commissioners about ex parte communication, which means communication outside the formal hearing on the site plan. Such a hearing is considered quasi-judicial and strict rules about communicating outside the hearing apply.

Every commissioner denied having any ex parte communication.

City Attorney Jim Dye advised commissioners that if they had had any communication outside the hearing, they should reveal it.

Perry then produced two e-mails that Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus had exchanged with Anna Maria resident Nicky Hunt in which he specifically mentioned 210 Pine Ave.

“Having Bob Welch (building official) waste this city’s money spending hours poring over site plans that look like 216 Pine is ludicrous,” Stoltzfus wrote in a Dec. 9, 2009 e-mail that was entered into evidence. “I can look at that this plan for ten minutes and tell you that it should be denied.”

After asking Stoltzfus again if he participated in any ex parte communication and whether or not he had any bias against her client and after the city attorney advised him he didn’t have to answer, Stoltzfus denied that he had any bias against PAR and he denied any ex parte communication.

A court reporter and a videographer were both on hand as clients of PAR to record the course of the meeting.

Commissioner John Quam wanted to continue the meeting for a month and made a motion to that effect, but no one seconded that motion.

Quam said he wanted to wait until decisions are made about parking plans for the ROR district, which includes all of Pine Avenue, Gulf Drive from Palmetto to Pine and a small strip of South Bay Boulevard to the south of Pine.

The final vote against the site plan was 3-2 with Stoltzfus, Quam and Commissioner Dale Woodland voting for denial of the plan while Commissioners JoAnn Mattick and Chuck Webb voted against the motion for denial.

PAR can submit the plan or a revised version of it again at anytime. But its chances of passage remain slim until new parking regulations for the ROR district are agreed upon and passed.

Cortez festival changes locale
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE The 29th Annual Cortez Commercial
Fishing Festival will be held on 119th Street West next year,
anchored by the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez, the
renovated Cortez Rural Graded School.

CORTEZ – The 29th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival will relocate from the west end to the east end of the historic fishing village beginning next year, according to organizers.

The two-day festival, set for Feb. 19-20, has been based at the A.P. Bell Fish Co. and Star Fish Co., which no longer will be the site, according to office manager Karen Bell.

In recent years, since the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez opened on 119th Street West and a large sand parking area was created at the adjacent FISH Preserve, the festival has expanded to include the east end of the village.

Next year, the event will be held exclusively on 119th Street West from Cortez Road to Sarasota Bay, where the Great Florida Gulf Coast Small Craft Festival is held each April.

“There will be so much more room,” said festival chair Linda Molto, who has been involved in organizing the event for 15 years. “We’ve got so much space we’re trying to figure out how to use it all.”

The parking lot at Cortez Bait and Seafood, the Cortez Kitchen and the Bayside Banquet Hall will be cleared for the festival and feature the main musical stage, she said. Another stage on the porch of the historic Burton store on the museum grounds also will feature musical acts, and an expanded children’s area is planned near the museum, which will be open for tours.

New activities may include castnetting and sailing demonstrations, Molto said.

Admission gates will be at the corner of 45th Avenue and 119th Street and at the Bonefish Bridge to the east of the museum on the FISH Preserve, where parking will be plentiful.

Previous festival parking has been problematic, with two-way streets becoming one-way, some residents blocked in during the event and others charging for parking in their front lawns.

Busses will use 45th Avenue to drop passengers at the main gate, a shorter walk to the festival grounds than in previous years – and will leave at the traffic light at 119th Street and Cortez Road, which will improve safety, she said.

To solidify the new location, the festival’s theme will be “You Are Here,” and will feature a colorful map of the village.

The festival raises funds to enlarge and restore the 95-acre FISH (Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage) Preserve on Sarasota Bay at the east end of the village.

For more information, or to volunteer, call the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez at 708-6120 or visit

Beaches at night a delight

Independence Day fireworks are over, but midsummer nights on the beach offer some startling displays in the next two weeks that should elicit “oohs” and “aahs.”

The beaches are especially dark in the summer, when lights are turned off for sea turtle season, setting the stage for spectacular night sky viewing from the sandy shores.

International Space Station

On Saturday, July 31, the International Space Station will be visible at 6:22 a.m. for three minutes. Look to the south-southwestern sky for its approach, about 15 degrees above the horizon. Don’t crane your neck too much, because it won’t go higher than 37 degrees above the horizon. On its way out of view, it will be in the eastern sky at about 32 degrees above the horizon.

To find out about the many missions of the ISS, visit NASA, which celebrates its 52nd birthday this week, at


Falling stars will shower Anna Maria Island on Aug. 12 -13 when the annual Perseids meteor shower will be visible.

The show starts at 9:30 p.m. both nights and goes on until dawn, with the setting moon putting on a sideshow at 9:53 p.m. on Aug. 12 and 10:31 p.m. on Aug. 13.

The Perseids are named because their paths can be traced back to the northeastern sky constellation Perseus, named for a Greek god. They also are called "The Tears of St. Lawrence," because they appear near the Aug. 10 anniversary of the saint's martyrdom, an event depicted in a painting discovered earlier this month that is thought to have been created by the 16th-century Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

The meteor shower happens when the Earth passes through the dust trailing behind the comet Swift-Tuttle. The meteors pose no danger to the Earth since they are no larger than grains of sand.

You don’t need binoculars or a telescope for either event, just a reclining beach chair, water and insect repellent.

And a clear midsummer night.

Chamber, Community Center to hold dance

HOLMES BEACH – The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce is already looking forward to fall when it begins its regular slate of events aimed at providing the community with food, refreshments, music, fun and information on weddings. But before they get to that, there’s a new event coming up in August.

It’s called the Sizzling Summer Dance and it will be held at, and in conjunction with, the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia, Anna Maria, on Saturday, Aug. 14, from 8 to 11 p.m.

Island performer and disc jockey Mike Sales will provide the entertainment, much like he did during the Parrothead Dance also hosted by the two agencies in April. During that dance, Sales was able to provide the audience with the music that kept them dancing until the end.

The cost of the dance is $12 per person and there will be a cash bar and snacks available. Tickets are on sale at the Chamber or by calling 778-1541 or e-mailing

The summer dance starts the season of fundraising for the Chamber, which means they will start filling their coffers after a summer that regularly sees little more than income from new members and from the monthly breakfasts, luncheons and business card exchanges.

In addition to the dance, golfers should note the Chamber’s annual golf outing comes up on Monday, Sept. 27, with registration starting at 11:30 a.m. and a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m. Enjoy mulligans, prizes, raffles, food and fun. They are still signing up golfers and sponsors. Sign up a foursome or sponsor a tee, a hole or the tournament. Proceeds go toward the chamber’s scholarship fund to help high school students pay for college. Call 778-1541 for more information.

In October, the festival season kicks off with Bayfest 2010, to be held in the field at Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard, across the street from the Anna Maria City Pier. This year the Chamber is holding a Bayfest T-shirt contest. Artists of all ages are welcome to submit entries on 8 1/2 –by–11-inch paper. The theme is the fact that this is the 10th Bayfest and it is one of the most popular festivals on the Island featuring arts and crafts, food, refreshments, play areas for kids, live music, dancing and an auto show with entries ranging from exotic sports cars to antiques to hot rods.

The contest deadline is Aug. 31 and the winning entry will be the official design for this year’s collector T-shirts. To enter, send artwork via e-mail to and put in the subject line: “Bayfest T-shirt Contest.”

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