The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 24 - March 16, 2011


Scott kills renourishment funding

Harry Stoltzfus
This pipe is where the sand will come out when
the current renourishment project starts in a few weeks.

BRADENTON BEACH – A large brown pipe sits on the shore, just south of the BeachHouse restaurant, and it leads into the Gulf of Mexico toward the barrow pit where sand will be obtained for the next renourishment project on Anna Maria Island. If everything goes well, the project will be begin by the end of March and if the crews are real lucky, they might be done before their income tax returns are due this year.

However, Governor Rick Scott's latest budget proposal might make renourishments a thing of the past after this project and a smaller one next year.

Both have both been fully financed, but Scott has taken any funds for future renourishments out of his budget proposal for next year.

Restaurateur Ed Chiles, who owns the Sandbar and BeachHouse restaurants, both on the beach on Anna Maria Island, was adamant in his objection to the cut.

"I'm in shock," he said. "I don't get it. If this guy is all about jobs, he's doing the wrong thing."

Chiles, whose father was the last Democratic governor of Florida, said he opposes Scott's handling of the state's budget problems.

"Our beaches are the lynchpin of the economy of Manatee County and all over the state," he said. "So if he wants to take money from the beaches and education and use it to give tax breaks to rich people, I don't think the people will stand for it."

Chiles said without the beach renourishment, his income would drop, resulting in fewer taxes to the state.

According to Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker, this is not the first time renourishment has been cut from a governor's budget proposal.

"Governors' budgets since (Jeb) Bush have carried little or no funds for renourishment," Hunsicker said. "It will be up to the House or Senate to restore the funds."

Hunsicker said the communities affected need to stir up political support to demand that those funds be reinstated, although they also need to worry about a gubernatorial veto if the funds are replaced. He said their main concern is the possibility of letting the beaches return to pre-renourishment status.

"Not only would the beaches lose their protection against storm damage," he said, "it would also mean loss of tourists.

"Tourist dollars drive many economic engines in Florida," he added. "It is contradictory to take away support for renourishment."

Hunsicker serves on the board of directors of the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Council, and he said that organization would likely gear up to voice objection to the funding cut.

Manatee County's elected officials are buzzing about the renourishment budget cut, and Manatee County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore expects to make an appearance in Tallahassee from March 30 through April 2 to try to change Scott's mind about renourishment funds.

"I met with some of his people in Washington earlier, and they told me the governor is all about jobs," Whitmore said. "They told us if we can prove that jobs would be lost without renourishment, he would be more receptive."

As Great Lakes Dock and Dredge workers put together the pipeline that will stretch seven miles from Cortez Beach to where the sand will come from north of the Island, the prospect of state funding for an Island-wide renourishment in 2015 wanes. That project would put 1.5 million cubic yards of sand along the shores from one end of the Island to the other, if the money is there. State funds would be needed to match federal funds that would pay for half of the expense.

"The governor needs to know that a study of renourishment shows that for evey dollar spent on restoring beaches, the state gains $9 in revenue," Whitmore said. "When we go to Tallahassee, we will meet with members of our state congressional delegation and the county's lobbyist."

Whitmore said that while she was in Washington earlier, they got the federal government to keep $100,000 in the budget for the engineering for the 2015 renourishment.

"We have to keep the money there from the federal side in order to keep the door open for the state funding," she said.

County Commissioner John Chappie said he hopes the governor reconsiders the budget cut.

"Beach renourishment is an economic driver," he said. "Thirty-five of the 67 counties in Florida have used state funding in the past to build up their beaches."

Chappie says renourished beaches help sustain the state's largest industry.

"Tourism is the key," he said. "Everything we market about Florida relates to the beaches."

He added that delaying any renourishment projects just makes them more expensive and he called the governor's action "very short-sighted."

"It leaves us wide open for storms," Chappie said. "There will be all kinds of repercussions in all sorts of ancillary businesses, not just on the Island. It covers so many aspects of the community."

Kingfish lighting questioned

HOLMES BEACH – After hearing objections from Commissioner David Zaccagnino, commissioners agreed to require a site plan and permit from the county for its lighting plan at Kingfish Boat Ramp.

In February, Zaccagnino raised objections to a plan to install 11 lights at the ramp area. County engineers said the lighting plan is governed by Florida Department of Transportation regulations.

However, after a tour of the area with Manatee County officials pointing out where new lights were to be installed, city officials OK'd the plan. City officials also had concerns about whether the lights were turtle friendly and county officials said they were.

At last week's meeting, Zaccagnino said, "I still have a huge issue with Kingfish Boat Ramp. The county decided to put in11 light poles that are 40 feet high with 10-foot arms that have 400-watt, high-pressure sodium bulbs that are not turtle friendly.

"We can still stop it. It's a complete waste of taxpayers' money. It's overkill. The county is imposing their will on us. Nobody I know wants it."

He asked the mayor to write a letter to Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie asking the county to downsize the project.

Turtle concerns

In a letter to the board, AMI Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox said she had concerns about the height of the poles and the strength of the bulbs.

"We feel these proposed lights would add unnecessary illumination to a very valuable nesting beach at the end of Manatee Avenue as well as a very sensitive wildlife area around the Kingfish Boat Ramp and the Intracoastal waterway," she said. "We also believe there are better options."

She suggested that the county install the same fixtures as used in the Manatee and Coquina beach parking areas and by the city of Bradenton Beach along SR 789. She also said that disorientation has worsened due to city glow.

"City glow is the term used of accumulative lighting omitting from the center parts of the Island. These fixtures would add to that glow…"

Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said when city officials walked the ramp area with county officials on March 2, they did not foresee a problem and were told the lighting is turtle friendly.

After the meeting, Fox said, "All these people need to be brought to the table to review the lighting plan. Holmes Beach has gotten some wrong information."

Jurisdictional issues

City Attorney Patricia Petruff asked if the city issued a permit for the lighting plan. Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said it did not, and the ramp area is Florida Department of Transportation right of way and the lighting is a county project.

Petruff pointed out that the ramp area is on DOT property, is leased to the county for recreational purposes but was annexed into the city.

"In terms of regulatory authority, the city has it, regardless of who owns it," she explained. "Because they own it, DOT also has some regulatory authority in addition to a proprietary interest. Manatee County has a lease, so they have a proprietary interest in the property.

"If there was not an approved lighting plan, the city has some regulatory authority to request an amended site plan or lighting plan so that the city can permit those things. The county does not have absolute discretion to put those lights wherever they choose."

Bohnenberger asked if the city could tell the county what type of lights to install, and Petruff replied, "I think you can."

Bohnenberger said he would write a letter to the county stating that site plan approval and a permit are required for the project. However, the county's code will govern the project because that was in the annexation agreement.

County response

Sia Mollanazar, deputy director of the county's engineering services division, said he is awaiting directions from County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, to whom Bohnenberger's letter is addressed.

Regarding the turtle issue, he said, "It was reviewed by the state and they said it's not a nesting designated area and a turtle application is not warranted at this location.

"I asked for that in writing and received a map of designated turtle nesting areas from Fish and Wildlife. They show the Gulf beaches as designated, but not the ramp area. I talked with DOT and they made the same conclusion."

He said he checked on the contract obligations on the lights and said the county cannot cancel the order. The lights are slated for installation the first week of April.

He said if the city wants lower poles, it might call for more lights. He said the lights are shielded, and if the city wants different bulbs, it could change them.

"We are just coordinating this project," he said. "We'll do what the people want."

Parking plan revised

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners last week further revised the Pine Avenue Parking and Pedestrian Plan and instructed Planner Alan Garrett to make the changes.

Changes included:

• Reduce maximum office/retail square footage from 35 to 30 percent for a corner lot/parcel and from 30 to 22 percent for an internal lot/parcel and remove percentages for porches and let them be governed by setbacks;

• If a property owner chooses to have parking and access controlled by Chapter 90, it would require a special exception. Garrett was instructed to craft language for a special exception;

• Wheel stops would be the standard six inches high;

• Requirements for locations of sidewalks would be broken down into categories depending on the type of usage – single-family residential, office/retail or existing;

• Parking spaces would be angled at 90 degrees;

• A minor language change in a whereas clause.

During public comment, Micheal Coleman said the reduction in square footage is unfair to those who have not built structures yet.

"I have two major concerns with this parking plan," Frank Pytel told the board. "It is in direct conflict with the clear and intended language of the comp plan. It incrementally impacts the single-family vision of the city. Anna Maria focuses on single-family homes and family oriented-tourism.

"I'm concerned that the city is getting away from its family oriented roots and is migrating toward a community that is more focused on the young, party-going, wedding industry crowd."

Commissioners continued the plan to March 24 at 6 p.m.

Board says employee awards criticism unfounded

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners last week responded to a citizen's complaint that the monthly service awards distributed by the city but funded by individuals or businesses are a form of bribery.

"I just want to make it clear that this unsigned letter is misleading," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said. "We don't allow city employees to take direct gifts from anybody. I'm the one that decides who gets what.

"We have a history in this city of citizens voluntarily giving gift certificates and things. They have to be distributed by me to employees selected at random. There is no bribery taking place whatsoever."

Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said she has given gift certificates for distribution to employees, as has Commissioner John Monetti.

However, Commissioner Al Robinson declared, "I disagree with the mayor. I think this is a form of bribery. Everybody knows where those gifts come from on a regular basis.

"I brought up a code of ethics a year-and-a-half ago by people approaching me with gifts. This commission shouted me down. I think it is improper, and we ought to put it on a work session."

"It's not bribery," Haas-Martens responded. "It's just a thank you to them for the job they do with no raises."

Commissioner Pat Morton said the gifts are from business owners, not commissioners, and Commissioner David Zaccagnino said if the businesses were giving gifts to commissioners, that would be different.

"This is not anonymous," Robinson stressed. "They know exactly where that bribe comes from. Our employees deal with business owners. I think it's inappropriate. If we don't pay our employees enough that they can buy their own meals, shame on us."

Zaccagnino suggested giving employees raises and eliminating the gift certificates.

However, Monetti replied, "Maybe we should just give them a raise and not consider it a bribe because they do have a code of ethics, and I think we've set a high enough standard that they shouldn't be questioned about it."

Party beneath the stars at Island Music Festival

ANNA MARIA – Even though Daylight Saving Time has pushed the clock forward, there's still time to dance under the stars at this month's Island Music Festival on Friday, March 18, from 5 to 10 p.m.

Look for arts and crafts and food vendors plus refreshments provided by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

Three popular groups will provide the music. Firedoor plays from 5 to 5:30 p.m., Koko Ray and the Soul Providers offer their music from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Kettle of Fish goes from 8 to 10 p.m.

If you're visiting the Island this weekend, you'll want to enjoy an evening outdoor near Tampa Bay with local food and unique souvenirs on sale. If you live and/or work here, you probably know how nice it is to end a busy week with a party in the field at the corner of Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard.

Chris Grumley is the master of ceremonies and BOC Productions provides the sound. Miller Electric hooks the electrical system together, and the Anna Maria Island Historical Society is also a sponsor. The Anna Maria Island Sun is the media sponsor.

Come on out and bring your mate or your family. The kids enjoy running around in front of the stage, and it's a great place to share a dance. For information on the festival, contact organizer Cindy Thompson at or the Chamber at 779-9412.

Attorney responds to fisherman


HOLMES BEACH – City attorney Patricia Petruff responded last week to claims by fisherman Wayne Slusser that some of the city ordinances regarding the beach are outdated or violation of state law.

"I reviewed the ordinance and I don't know that we need any changes."

Ordinances Slusser questioned were all in Article II, Beaches Division I, Section 66 regarding:

• Banning animals from the beach. Slusser pointed out that it does not make any exceptions for service animals, therefore, it is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The ADA takes precedence over local ordinances, so it isn't a problem," Petruff said.

• Defining beach. Slusser maintained that it is a violation of the Florida Constitution and contradicts Florida statute, which defines beach differently.

"Our definition of beaches is for regulator purposes," Petruff explained. "The sovereignty state owned land is below the mean high water line, so I didn't have problem with our definition."

Restricting lighting

• Restricting lighting during turtle nesting season. Slusser said that it makes no exception for cell phones, lit cigarettes, cameras or other personal devices.

"Anything that would be objectionable to the terms of the turtle lighting ordinance wouldn't be allowed," Petruff pointed out. "Where turtles nest is not state-owned land. They generally come above the mean high water line, so it is appropriate for the city to regulate this."

She said regarding cell phones, lit cigarettes, cameras or other personal devices, she could see Slusser's point, but felt it the ordinance never meant to include those items and didn't feel it was necessary to change it.

• Defining civil twilight. Slusser said, "There should be a definitive time that is agreeable to all parties," and "it imposes an unreasonable time restriction during the winter months. Many working families will be discriminated against for the simple reason they have a job. As an employed resident, I find this to be unacceptable."

Petruff said she agreed that it does change but that she didn't feel it creates any enforcement issues and noted, "Until we have a particular issue, I wouldn't change it. Most people know what it means."

Fisherman responds

Slusser then responded to a report filed by Code Enforcement Officer Nancy Hall regarding her encounter with him during turtle season in which she said he had floodlights and a generator.

Slusser held up a light stick and said that is what he uses for lights and claimed, "I never had a generator or floodlights."

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said that light sticks weren't the issue and added, "No citations were issued; it's a non issue."

"There might not have been a citations, but in the paper it said that the police and code officer said he had a generator and flood lights," Commissioner Al Robinson declared. "I have personally watched him fish out there at least on five different occasions, and there is no problem.

"I can't believe this. I talked to him this week on two occasions and asked him did he have floodlights and a generator and he said no. I think we're abusing this man."

Commissioner Pat Morton pointed out, "I wasn't there, so I have to rely on the code enforcement officer."

Slusser also said that he never stated that he worked with Mote Marine, as it stated in Hall's report and an October 2010 police report. He said the information he obtains goes to many different facilities.

"I'm not attached to any entity," he said.

"Is there any way we can let this man fish?" Commissioner David Zaccagnino asked to which Bohnenburger replied, "He can fish any time he wants without lights."

"We're saying if you want to fish, you have to use turtle friendly lighting," Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens concluded.

Wine tasting to benefit Affaire

Harry's Continental Kitchens will host a wine tasting on Wednesday, March 23, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. to benefit the Anna Maria Island Community Center's Affaire to Remember.

You can sample a variety of wines from all over the world and a delicious appetizer buffet. Admission is $10, and you will receive a $5 coupon toward your next purchase at Harry's located at 525 St. Judes Drive (off of Gulf of Mexico Drive) on Longboat Key.

Harry's also will be catering the dinner at the Affaire to Remember, "A Magic Moment with Lee Greenwood," on Saturday, April 2, at the Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

The Affaire kicks off with a champagne reception, hors d'oeuvres and silent auction at 6 p.m., then dinner will be served. After dinner, country artist Lee Greenwood and his band will perform a selection of his many hits, including his most famous one, "God Bless The U.S.A." The live auction will follow.

Greenwood also will host a VIP cocktail party, which includes VIP seating and a private viewing of silent auction items from 5 to 6 p.m. Tickets for the VIP cocktail party are $250 per person.

Center officials are seeking sponsors and donations for the live and silent auctions. Sponsorships include Bronze, $1,000; Silver, $2,500; Gold, $5,000; and Diamond, $10,000. A VIP Magic Moment Table Sponsorship is $2,000 and includes an eight top table and tickets to the VIP cocktail party.

Center officials are once again expecting a sell out crowd for the event, so reserve your tickets early. Tickets for the Affaire are $175 per person. Tables of eight are available.

For tickets or to donate or be a sponsor, call Sharen at 778-1908, ext. 9203, or e-mail or for more information, go to

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