The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 3 - October 20, 2010


Bayfest Party Time

Harry Stoltzfus
Thousands of people packed Pine Avenue in Anna Maria all day
Saturday for the 10th Annual Bayfest celebration.

ANNA MARIA – They started showing up on Friday evening and kept jamming into Pine Avenue by the thousands all day Saturday, making this year’s Bayfest one for the record books.

That’s the reaction from Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ann Brockman, who said preliminary figures from the 10th annual celebration look great.

“It was a very packed crowd,” Brockman said. “It appears we did very well.”

Brockman still has to deduct expenses from revenues and she won’t have the final figures for a few days, but signs that it would be a huge success came early.

“They sold all the rum and wine on Friday night,” she said. “We sent Lois (Gift, from Whitney National Bank) and Wende (Webb, of SERVPRO of Bradenton) to get some more and we also ran out of cups The Sun provided and had to buy more.”

Brockman said there were other signs that it was a success.

“I never saw so many hundreds and fifties in my life,” she said, referring to money. “It was a great day.”

Brockman said the weather played a big factor, but so did the crowd.

“It seems like everybody was ready to cut loose and enjoy the first festival of the season,” she said. “They all had had enough of summer and they were ready to celebrate.”

She thanked the sponsors, including Bright House Networks, LaPensee Plumbing, The Anna Maria Island Sun and Miller Electric, whose owner, Ed Gocher, served as the co-organizer along with Chamber Chair Cindy Thompson.

“Ed spent a lot of time helping set up things, plus he provided electricity to all the booths and the band,” she said. “He really did a great job.”

The crowd seemed to enjoy the music. Friday night’s performers played to a packed field with lots of dancing to the music. The food vendors stayed busy both Friday night and all day Saturday. Anne and Karl Deans were busy serving baked goods and other treats. They recently appeared in a competition on The Food Channel. Other vendors served everything from fresh fish to barb, cue.

Chamber volunteers kept the beer, wine and rumrunners flowing and Island Community Center volunteers served soft drinks and water.

Island Dojo Kevin Bergquist kept the kids entertained all day in the parking lot across the street from Roser Memorial Community Church. The church also had activities for the children in a tent on the front lawn and cold water for the people and their dogs walking by. Further up the street, Bill Mergens’ car show was lots of fun for men and women. There were antiques from the 1920s and 30s, hot rods, sleek new high-performance vehicles, a few trucks and some heavily chromed tanks from the 1950s and 60s.

All in all, it was a success if you judged the smiles on the faces of those who attended and the Chamber will likely find it earned a lot of money. As for the quality of the event, Brockman had something to say.

“It was the best Bayfest we have ever done.”.

Real estate sales on rise

More real estate agents are using their sold signs than a year ago, according to a study of sales by Island Real Estate agent Alan Galletto, using figures from the Multiple Listing Service in Manatee County, which keeps track of sales listed through Realtor offices.

Sales on the Island continue to be very strong, with September sales up 55 percent at 34 (20 single –family homes, eight condos, four duplexes and two lots) over September 2009, at 22 (nine single-family, 11 condos, no duplexes and two lots).

Year-to-date sales through Sept. 30, 2010, continue to stay well ahead of last year, up 38 percent at 232 (139 single-family, 64 condos, 19 duplexes and one lot) compared to Sept. 30, 2009, year-to-date at 168 (87 single-family, 64 condos, six duplexes and 11 lots).

Galletto said the increased numbers continue to be related to the increase in single-family and duplex sales this year versus last year.

“Even if we just match 2009 fourth quarter sales, we will end up the year at 298 properties sold,” he said. “Pending sales are at 50. Although down from last month’s 66, they are still well above average, and my best guess is that sales for 2010 will be above 300 for the year.”

Inventory falls

Galletto said inventory on the Island continues to drop. It is currently at 522 (254 single-family, 180 condos, 37 duplexes and 51 lots) compared to 540 last month and 544 in August.

“We’re getting close to the magical number of 500, under which supply and demand are in relative balance, and inventory is at about 18 months supply at the average sales volume,” he said.

Distressed properties (short sales and bank owned) are down to 43 currently (18 single-family, 17 condos, five duplexes and three lots) compared to 44 last month and 53 in August. Galletto said distressed properties account for 28 percent of the Sept. 30, 2010, year-to-date sales on the Island. Nationally, 40 percent of sales are distressed properties, while in Manatee and Sarasota counties, 50 percent of the sales are distressed.

Interest rates

Galletto added that interest rates, although at all time lows, continue to creep even lower with 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages up to $417,000 for first and second homes at 4.21 percent.

“According to the Wall Street Journal, it looks like the Fed is going to allow some inflation to try to spur economic growth,” he said.

“If they do, interest rates are going to jump up. With property prices as low as they are going to go and the mortgage rates at the lowest you are going to see in our lifetime, this is the time for you buyer’s to pull the trigger.”

Galletto had some possible good news for buyers seeking bargains.

“The current news on bank foreclosures is that three large banks, Bank of America included, have stopped foreclosures in 23 states because they might not have followed lawful procedures,” he said.

“The federal government is seriously considering stopping all foreclosures in the U.S. due to questions on ownership of some of these properties because the mortgages have been sold so many times. If that happens, the banks will have to sit on their foreclosed properties for some indefinite period of time.

"A consequence of that may be banks moving much quicker and aggressively on short sales since foreclosing will only increase their inventory of properties that they can’t sell.”

This information was also published in Galletto’s monthly newsletter on his website,

Tourism budget goes to county

PALMETTO – The Manatee County Tourist Development Council voted Monday to recommend $2.62 million in tourist tax funds for tourism marketing in 2011 – the same level as 2010 and an increase from 2009’s budget of $2.31 million.

The 2011 marketing campaign will include variations on the theme, “Find yourself in our island culture,” such as “Find your passion here,” targeted to couples, “Find your balance here,” aimed at outdoor sports and “Find your peace here.”

The total proposed tourism budget is $4.86 million, which includes the marketing budget plus $542,196 to support the Manatee Convention and Civic Center, $269,125 for the city of Bradenton (Pittsburgh Pirates), $21,750 for the South Florida Museum and $767,769 for administration, among other items.

The Manatee County Commission will have the final say on the budget, which was cut by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) from 2010’s $4.89 million budget.

Savings included bringing the county’s part-time film commissioner position in house and moving German marketing efforts from Hannover, Germany-based Kaus Media Services to the CVB’s public relations consultant, Ormond Beach/Tampa-based Hayworth Creative.

The council also voted to give a one-time $10,000 contribution that was not included in the budget to the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Wedding Festival, scheduled for Feb. 26 and 27.

CVB Interim Director Elliott Falcione did not recommend the expenditure to the council, pointing out that the festival earned a profit last year, but Island businessmen Ed Chiles, whose two Island restaurants host weddings, and David Teitelbaum, whose hotels house wedding parties and guests, cited the festival’s success.

“I think it pays for itself,” council member Chiles said, calling the expense “priming the pump.”

The money will be used primarily for newspaper advertisements in Orlando, Lakeland, Tampa and St. Petersburg to draw bridal parties to the Island for a two-day event, which will generate hotel room stays, Chamber spokesman Mark Davis said.

Marketing expenditures are working, according to CVB consultant Walter Klages, of Research Data Services.

In the first quarter of 2010, visitor numbers countywide increased 3 percent from 2009, with 370,400 people creating an economic impact of $403 million, he said, attributing a 10 percent spike in visitors from the southeastern U.S. to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which came ashore in northwest Florida.

“Clearly, we have been affected by the spill,” he said, adding that a stigma remains, despite the fact that Manatee County beaches have not been impacted directly by oil.

European visitor numbers are down about 10 percent due to a poor European economy, he said, adding that the decline of the U.S. dollar works in Florida’s favor to draw overseas tourists..

Pets being killed by coyotes, Cortez residents say

CORTEZ – Quigley, Charlie, Rudy and Silver are just four of the dozen or more beloved dogs and cats that have fallen victim recently to what residents are sure are coyotes.

On Friday, Linda Molto lost a kitten that she had found a home for.

“I had just fed him when I heard it,” she said. “I went out and heard him let out one cry. All the vegetation was pounded down. There had to be a pack of them.”

Since last Halloween, neighbors have been talking about seeing coyotes and wondering whether they are coming from the FISH Preserve, which is being cleared, said Molto, who is on the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) board of directors.

It’s not likely they’re coming from the preserve, said Gary Morse, an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“They don’t need that much wooded area,” he said. “Coyotes find pickings fairly easy because people leave pets and pet food out.”

Coyotes also are attracted to trash; Morse recommends putting trash out in the morning instead of at night. The FWC also recommends five-foot-high fencing to deter coyotes, keeping pets from roaming free and carrying a stick, golf club or pepper spray when walking dogs on leashes, particularly at sunrise and sunset near water.

“They will snatch dogs off leashes,” Morse said. “If you are confronted by a coyote, pick the dog up” and stand as tall as possible.

The state will not trap and remove coyotes, Morse said, nor will the Manatee County Animal Services Department, which does not handle wild animals.

People can hire wildlife trappers to remove coyotes, but the animals will be euthanized, as it is against state law to relocate them except to humanely euthanize them, Morse said.

The FWC lists wildlife trappers on its website, but most will not handle coyotes for several reasons: they can carry rabies, they can be vicious when cornered and many do not euthanize animals.

At least one trapper on the website does handle coyotes, Wayne Evans with Animal Instinct Wildlife Removal in Riverview, (813-785-8769;

As a last resort, legal methods of taking coyote are by gun, bow or snare, according to the FWC website. There is no closed season on coyotes in Florida. Steel traps and hunting at night with a light can be conducted only by special permit issued by the FWC, and the use of poisons to kill coyotes is illegal.

Neal/Robinson project OK'd
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Northwest Bradenton resident Nick Baden took this photo in
the early 1980s after a no-name storm, while standing in
knee-deep water on Ninth Avenue Northwest, near the proposed
Neal Communities development, he told Manatee County
commissioners last week.

BRADENTON - Neighbors who went home from a Manatee County Commission meeting last week thinking it was “three strikes and you’re out” were surprised to learn that “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

During their third appearance before the commission last Tuesday, Neal Communities' representatives asked commissioners to change the county’s comprehensive plan to allow triple density on its 49-acre property east of Robinson Preserve.

In June, tie votes twice defeated the request; commissioners learned last week that litigation is pending over the denials.

Still, by a 4-3 vote, the board again refused the request, prompting applause from neighbors who had waited several hours for the decision.

After the public left the commission chambers during a break in the meeting, a developer’s representative spoke with Commissioner Gwen Brown, who later announced that she rescinded her swing vote against the change, allowing the development plans to move forward.

Brown said that a developer’s consultant told her that commissioners should not have considered a flood map that had not yet been adopted into the county’s comp plan.

During the hearing, developer’s consultant Betsy Benac, of WilsonMiller, and developer John Neal each urged commissioners to disregard the map and use the currently adopted map.

“I’ve never been involved in a process where you’re using maps that haven’t been adopted yet,” Benac said. “People will not want to come here if we don’t have any surety in what’s adopted in the comp plan.”

“These maps are being taken as a certainty. None of these maps have been approved by you,” said attorney Will Robinson, representing his family, who owns part of the property.

Intense reactions

Brown’s decision to change her vote upset commissioners and neighbors who learned about the switch later.

“I think it’s really unfair to the citizens,” said Commissioner Joe McClash, who voted against the comp plan change with Carol Whitmore, John Chappie and, originally, Brown.

“It’s another gift for Amendment 4, exposing the naked power of developers over the Manatee County Commission,” said Cortez resident Joe Kane, who told commissioners during the hearing that Neal’s request “…is the best example for why we need Amendment 4.”

Like many observers, he noted that the hearing was scheduled before the Nov. 2 election on Amendment 4, which would give Florida residents a vote on comprehensive plan changes.

“Developers are sweating bullets knowing their control over Florida government may be upturned by voters, demanding their final say on all changes to their comprehensive plans,” he said.

One resident, Charlie Jones, supported the project, citing the need for new jobs and the good reputations of Neal and Robinson.

The two families have donated more than $20 million worth of property for Robinson Preserve and Neal Preserve, reducing density in the area, which should be considered, developer’s attorney Ed Vogler told the commission in June. The county currently is negotiating with the Robinson family to add about 180 acres to the Robinson Preserve west of the proposed project.

But most neighbors, including Hawthorne Park resident Gilbert Pierola, opposed the project, citing a petition signed by more than 260 people in opposition.

“We are not in opposition to the developer or owner. Most of us are their customers,” he said. “We are opposed to the tripling of density.”

The property, which is north of Ninth Avenue Northwest, east of 99th Street Northwest and south of 17th Avenue Northwest, was zoned for one residence per acre; with the comp plan change, parts of it could have up to three homes per acre.

Neighbor and attorney Nick Baden showed commissioners a photograph he took in the 1980s after a no-name storm hit the area, with the proposed entrance to the project underwater.

“It’s not appropriate at all to put high density in a flood area,” he said.

New development is mandated to improve flooding conditions, and hurricane shelter capacity is adequate for the proposed residents, Vogler said.

In addition, the development poses no safety problems, no increase in hurricane evacuation time and reduces sprawl, as recommended in the comp plan, Neal said.

Cortez mourns Ralph Fulford
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Ralph Fulford at work at the Fulford Fish Co.

CORTEZ – A pillar of the Cortez fishing village, Ralph Moses Fulford, died on Oct. 12.

Born April 4, 1928, in Cortez, Fulford lived most of his life in the village and was a lifelong resident of Manatee County.

He owned and operated the Fulford Fish Co. and Fulford Palms and volunteered with the Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF), a commercial fishermen’s group. He was a charter member of the Cortez Volunteer Fire Department and a former Anna Maria fire commissioner.

Fulford also was a charter member and former president of the Cortez Village Historical Society and was a member and former elder of the Cortez Church of Christ.

“My brother was ‘a man in whom there was no guile,’ ” said Mary Fulford Green, referencing a Bible verse.

The son of Walton Fulford and Edith Wilson Fulford, Ralph is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lois (Guthrie) of Bradenton, son, Ralph W. "Rusty" Fulford (Pat) of Scottsville, Va., daughter, Hazel Petree (Steve) of Cortez and daughter, Sylvia Bailey (Tony) of Bradenton, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He also is survived by four sisters, Dr. Mary Fulford Green, of Cortez; Belinda Porterfield, of Montgomery, Ala.; Irene Taylor and Anna Dean Riddick, of Mt. Arie, N.C.; and two brothers, Wayne Fulford, of Cortez; and Gary Fulford, of Bradenton. He was predeceased by one grandson, Brian Dean Bailey.

Services were held last Saturday.

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