The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 30 - April 27, 2011


Parking, pedestrian plan passes

ANNA MARIA – Nearly a year in the making and with numerous revisions along the way, the parking and pedestrian plan for Pine Avenue was approved by the city commission at its April 14 meeting.

Planner Alan Garrett said at the last work session, commissioners had discussed limiting the maximum square footage for a covered porch. Garrett recommended 10 percent, and commissioners agreed.

Quam asked Garrett to confirm that the ordinance would not negatively impact any of the current developments on the street, which he did.

Commissioner Chuck Webb added some language regarding special exceptions. Commissioners had agreed at a March meeting that if a property owner chooses to have parking and access controlled by Chapter 90, it would require a special exception.

"The idea is if someone wants something different from the code, they have a right to come in and ask for it," Webb explained. "However, we have to have standards to apply. I wanted to give a few more detailed standards."

"If there's difficulties providing the parking set forward in Chapter 91, then you have the option, through this special exception and meeting the standards, of reverting back to Chapter 90 or even a combination of both," Garrett added.

Commissioners tweaked the language in a portion of the ordinance regarding the owner's choice of using the requirements of Chapter 90 or 91.

City Attorney Jim Dye suggested a language change regarding what the applicant has to do during the special exception hearing process.

There was no public comment, and the ordinance was approved with the suggested changes. Commissioner Dale Woodland was the lone dissenter.

Pier boardwalk hearing set

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will host a public information meeting for the upcoming Anna Maria Boardwalk project at The Anna Maria City Pier on Tuesday, May 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

Improvements to be made as part of this project include the construction of a new boardwalk and plaza shelters; parking reconfiguration; landscaping; installation of lighting, irrigation, benches, trash enclosures, bike racks, signage and concrete pads for magazine racks. This public information meeting will be an open house format with no formal presentation. Project staff will answer questions regarding the project and related information. Construction is expected to begin next month and continue through the fall of 2011.

Persons with disabilities who may require special accommodations at the workshop under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or persons who require translation services (free of charge) should contact Robin Parrish, District One Title VI coordinator, at 863-519-2675 or by e-mail at at least seven days before the workshop. For additional project information, contact FDOT Public Information Officer Darren Alfonso at 813-767-9532.

First trolleys to arrive in June

This is what one of the five new trolleys the county ordered
looks like. It is said to be more durable, which means
it won't be in the shop as much as the nine previous trolleys
the county used.


The first of the new, heavy-duty trolleys the county ordered will be coming soon, according to Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) Director Ralf Heseler, and the rest of the colorful people-haulers will trickle in on a monthly basis.

Heseler, who attended Monday's Manatee-Sarasota Public Transportation Task Force meeting, said that the first vehicle is expected in June, barring any delays, and the remaining four would be delivered approximately a month apart.

Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker authorized the county to order new vehicles after obtaining a grant to replace the old trolleys, which have racked up a lot of miles and have always been problematic due to their constant use on the Island, where sand and salt prevail.

The first five trolleys were purchased in 2002 with help from a federal grant, when the county worked out the budgeting for the trolley line, which replaced a bus route that was not well used. The free trolley rides were an instant hit and ridership dwarfed that of the buses.

Those initial vehicles had their share of problems, too, including noisy engines and brake problems due to the sand. An exhaust modification quieted the noisy engines, but the vehicles, which run a 365-day-per-year schedule, still had more than their share of breakdowns.

The county ordered four more vehicles from another supplier in 2006, but these vehicles were even more prone to breakdown, according to Hunzeker. Last year, in order to raise money to keep the trolley rides free, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce signed an agreement with the county to sell advertising space inside and outside the vehicles.

When he heard complaints from advertisers that the vehicles were in the shop too much and their ads were not being displayed when buses replaced the broken down trolleys, Hunzeker decided to purchase heavier-duty vehicles. He deferred the ad program until the new vehicles arrive, allowing the ads to stay on the old vehicles but not charging the advertisers until their ads are on the new vehicles.

On another note, officials at the meeting were told the Longboat Key trolley line, which was modified to save money, is serving fewer people. The route was almost dropped, due to lack of riders, but MCAT, Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) and the Longboat Key Commission agreed to pay for one more year while giving the Longboat Key, Lido Key and St. Armands Chamber of Commerce time to market the route. Unfortunately, in order to keep the route going, they shortened the hours and the number of trips, The headway between trolleys is now one hour, instead of every half-hour.

The bad news is ridership is down 25 percent, but the good news is the cost-cutting ideas resulted in a 67 percent savings, so the cost per rider has dropped.

Additionally, the reports from transit systems showed an increase in ridership on other routes, which they attribute to the rapidly rising cost of gasoline.

Get ready for turtles, birds

Sea turtles are expected to get a jump on the official first day of turtle nesting season, May 1, due to unseasonably warm water, and birds already have begun nesting, according to Suzi Fox of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring.

When the water temperature reaches 80, it triggers nesting in loggerhead sea turtle females, she said, adding that nearly 50 of the organization's 75 volunteers already have begun scouring the beaches for turtle tracks just after dawn each morning so they can mark nests with stakes and ribbons for later monitoring.

Local Gulf of Mexico water temperatures reached 79 last week.

Historically, the earliest a turtle nest has been spotted on Anna Maria Island was on April 29, while the latest was on June 8, she said.

Both turtle nesting and successful turtle hatchings have declined locally since 1982, the first year records were kept, Fox said, due to lights that disorient turtles, turtle disturbance and harassment, water pollution and beach furniture and debris.

Nesting data collected by the organization's volunteers is distributed to federal and state wildlife managers, local municipalities, fishermen, event organizers, homeowners, business owners and others whose activities may impact turtles and birds.

The first snowy plover of the season nested two weeks ago, laying one egg on the beach in the 700 block of North Shore Boulevard in Anna Maria. The egg was eaten by a crow, Fox said.

Center board hears from public on misconduct allegations


Emotions ran high last week as the Anna Maria Island Community Center board members and directors heard from the public about how to address the recent allegations of sexual abuse at the center.

"We, all of us, can use this opportunity to heal and to make things better," said Ed Moss, who served as moderator. Moss is pastor at Crosspointe Fellowship.

Executive Director Pierrette Kelly gave a timeline in which she went over the sequence of events involving allegations that a staff member had sex with a 17-year old girl and sent inappropriate text messages to that girl and also a 14-year old girl.

"I was so shocked when I heard about this," Kelly said to the audience at the April 21 meeting. "I immediately talked it over with Scott (AMICC Director Scott Dell.) We called the Abuse Hotline and placed the staff member on administrative leave."

Kelly said the center has long had policies and procedures in place to deal with just this kind of situation.

As Kelly continued outlining what happened when, she noted that a board member had known of the allegations at least two weeks before Kelly found out.

A staff member also knew about the allegations.

"He told the kids to wait until after the Affiaire, and then they could all go out to dinner and discuss the situation," Kelly said.

Under Florida law, both the staff and board members are in a custodial relationship with children who use the Center, and thus are required to report allegations to the Department of Children and Family Services.

Sandy Mattick, who brought the issue to light on April 1, first went to see Mayor Mike Selby. Selby called the city attorney and Sgt. Dave Turner, who commands the Manatee County Sheriff's sub-station in Anna Maria.

Selby then called Kelly and asked her to come to his office.

Mattick said at Turner's request she wrote a letter outlining the allegations she said she'd heard from her daughter. Mattick was upset that Kelly copied her letter of complaint and handed it out to AMICC staff members.

"You promised me confidentiality," Mattick told Kelly. "My daughter got a text message in school just an hour after the meeting with the mayor. She was devastated that I had reported what she confided to me."

Kelly said she probably had violated Mattick's privacy.

Policies and procedures

There were questions about policies and procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse.

"If you read these policies and procedures, you can't help but see that they deal with sexual harassment among staff members," said Chris Tollette. "There's nothing in here about the safety of children.

"I'm appalled about what's going on here. How can you open a center where children come and not have a risk management policy in place? I'm outraged."

Tollette told the AMICC directors and board members that they should be ashamed of themselves for not even noticing that there was no real child protection policy in place.

Board Member David Teitelbaum responded to Tollette:

"I am," he said. "I'm ashamed of myself and of all of us. We should have known and we should have done something."

Risk management

Cindy Thompson, president of the Island Chamber of Commerce and the owner of a day care center, said she also thinks that the Center's policies are lacking.

"You need a risk management policy," she said. "You need to work with those policies all the time. You need to practice. It does no good to have policies and procedures gathering dust in the files. You have to make sure your staff knows them so well that they automatically do what they're supposed to in a case like this."

Thompson said she agreed with Tollette and was surprised there were no risk management rules in place.

"The risk management in the Community Center is fine," said Brian Stephenson, a commercial lines account executive with Boyd Insurance and Investment Services. Tollette responded that risk management policies and procedures for the protection of children are different from the risk management policies an insurance company would consider sufficient.

Members of the board agreed that a risk management policy is necessary and that policies and procedures need to be rewritten.

Board Chair Greg Ross asked Thompson and anyone else who has expertise to join the board or to help advise them as new policies and procedures are drawn up.

Judge against Robinson project

An administrative judge has recommended that the Florida Department of Community Affairs withdraw its approval of up to triple housing density for a proposed Neal Communities development on 49 acres near Robinson Preserve in northwest Bradenton.

Administrative law Judge D. R. Alexander, of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, recommended that the DCA find that the development is not in compliance with the county's comprehensive plan because the area is in a coastal high hazard area subject to flooding.

Neighborhood resident and former Bradenton Beach Mayor Katie Pierola and her neighbor, Greg Geraldson, had challenged decisions by the DCA and the Manatee County Commission to allow up to three homes per acre instead of one on the Robinson Farms property, owned by the Neal and Robinson families.

The commission granted the request for increased density after twice refusing it last year, when former Commissioner Gwen Brown changed her vote during a hearing. She said that a developer's consultant had told her during a break that commissioners should not have considered a map that had not yet been adopted into the county's comprehensive plan and showed the property in a coastal high hazard area.

More than 260 people signed a petition opposed to the development, citing concerns about flooding and traffic snarls during hurricane evacuations.

Local tourism goes mobile

A new cell phone app due out this summer from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will allow tourists to scan bar codes in advertisements for local tourism-related businesses with their phones, downloading information on events, shopping and accommodations.

Mobile phone use for travel is up more than 3,000 percent, said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the CVB.

A mobile version of the local tourism website launched four months ago, sized for a telephone screen, featuring brief descriptions of attractions, maps and Facebook sharing. Visit

The traditional website is at

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