The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 40 - July 20, 2011


Sabine search resumes

Anna Maria Island Sun News

Cadets from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office
(above and below) comb the underbrush at the beach
near Willow Avenue for signs of missing motel owner
Sabine Musil-Buehler. The search was scheduled to
resume Tuesday morning.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office searched a wooded area of the beach near Willow Avenue for the remains of Sabine Musil-Buehler after a crew clearing out an area of dense growth on July 9 found items that belonged to her.

Deputies searched the area last week with cadaver dogs. On Wednesday morning, July 13, they returned and started digging in two areas identified by the dogs as being suspicious. They found nothing. They returned Friday with about a dozen cadets from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Corrections Academy, who combed through the vegetation on both sides of the Willow Avenue dune walkover and found nothing. They were expected to return with front-end loaders on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week to dig in the beach between Willow and Palm Avenue.

The sheriff's deputies contacted Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox last week to have her coordinate the digging project. Fox said there are five nests in the area being considered for digging.

"When they go out there to dig, we'll be there," she said. "We're still concerned there might be some nests with eggs in them that were unidentified because of the rains a week ago that washed away mother turtle tracks."

The area to be excavated also has about 18 inches of new sand added during the renourishment earlier this year, according to Fox. County front-end loaders would have to dig past that point to get into sand that might hold clues as to where Musil-Buehler might be buried.

The land where the unidentified items were found belongs to the Moss family. CrossPointe Fellowship Pastor Ed Moss said they were trying to improve the property following the June 25 death of his mother, Elizabeth, a longtime resident who had lived in the home for decades.

"We were sprucing it up last Saturday after getting a permit from the city to clear some of the underbrush," he said. "We found the items and called police. A deputy came out and the next day, they started searching."

Det. John Kenney, the former head of the Sheriff's Office Anna Mariasubstation, is in charge of the investigation. He headed an effort to find the missing woman in February 2010 using front-end loaders along the beach two blocks north of the site where they are now looking. He said they were searching there because witnesses saw Musil-Buehler's car parked along Gulf Boulevard, a one-block-long street with open access to the beach, when she disappeared.

Musil Buehler has been missing since Nov. 4, 2008 ,when she allegedly had an argument with her boyfriend, William Cumber, at an apartment about a block from where her car was spotted. Her estranged husband and business partner, Tom Buehler, called police. Two days after police pulled over a man driving her white Pontiac Sunbird convertible in Bradenton. The man, Robert Corona, first told detectives that he had partied with her the night before, but he later said that he stole the car when he found the keys in the ignition. He is now serving a four-year prison sentence for the theft.

Cumber told investigators that Musil-Buehler left their apartment Nov. 4 after they had gotten into an argument. Her car was later seen parked overnight a block away on Gulf Boulevard and a deputy issued a parking ticket. Cumber is serving a 13-year prison term for violating his parole on an arson conviction involving another girlfriend.

Grenade found in shallows

A visitor from Georgia made a disturbing discovery in the Gulf waters off the 800 block of North Shore Drive on Monday, July 11, around 6 p.m. While searching for sand dollars, Jason Waldron found an old pineapple-style hand grenade in the sand underwater.

Waldron brought the device home and called officials. A deputy for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office arrived and called for the bomb disposal unit. He also evacuated the houses on both sides of Waldron's vacation rental. The bomb squad picked up the device and took it to its disposal unit where it will be destroyed.

According to Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow, the grenade was possibly a World War II era device. He said the fact that it had been submerged for many years made it doubtful that it was still armed and dangerous, although the bomb unit has to treat it as such.

Golf carts draw complaint

HOLMES BEACH – Reckless and possibly underage golf cart drivers are causing problems for walkers, residents and motorists in the Jones subdivision, a resident told Holmes Beach commissioners last week.

Mary Buonagura said she has seen drivers who look too young to operate golf carts driving them without adult supervision in the neighborhood from 43rd Street to 52nd Street and from Second Avenue to Fifth Avenue. The golf carts are parked at rental homes used by short-term visitors, she said.

"It presents a pretty big danger," she said, telling commissioners that she has seen golf carts speeding, driving on sidewalks, running stop signs, breaking pipes on lawns and rolling across her driveway as a shortcut.

Senior pedestrians and those walking dogs, in particular, are disregarded by the drivers, she said, adding, "It's an accident waiting to happen."

Rental agencies and rental property owners should leave printed information about golf cart regulations in rentals offering golf carts, she suggested.

"We need to hold businesses responsible for informing people of the laws," she said.

Golf carts may not be driven by anyone under age 14, and carts with license plates must be driven by someone 16 or over with a valid driver license, Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said, adding that the city's police chief plans to meet with Florida Department of Transportation officials on the issue.

In other business:

• City commissioners learned that an interlocal agreement between Manatee County and municipal governments to enforce the fertilizer ordinance passed by the 2011 Florida Legislature will be on the agenda at the Manatee Council of Governments meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

• Manatee County Commissioner and Holmes Beach resident Carol Whitmore requested that a work session be scheduled to discuss allowing the installation of a car cover on her residential property within 10-foot setbacks, instead of the 20-foot setbacks required by the city's code.

• Commissioners decided that a spectator shelter is needed at the southeast corner of the soccer field next to Holmes Beach City Hall.

• The first reading of an ordinance amending the schedule of code enforcement violations to match the city's code was passed unanimously.

• The first reading of an amendment to the city's live-aboard vessel ordinance to conform it to state statutory changes passed unanimously.

• The first reading of the commission's approval of Superior Asphalt Inc. as lowest bidder ($314,871) on annual street resurfacing for Palm Drive and part of Marina Drive and Gulf Drive and for 10 other streets ($74,745) passed unanimously.

• The first reading of the commission's approval to re-appoint Susan Normand and Sylvia Harris to the planning commission for three-year terms passed unanimously.

The next commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 26 at 7 p.m., followed by a work session.

City to get six lots appraised

ANNA MARIA –Commissioners agreed last week to get an appraisal on the six lots at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard that they are considering purchasing.

"We need to have an appraisal to know the fair market value," Chair Chuck Webb stressed, as he has in past meetings.

The discussion followed a presentation on eminent domain, a possibility for acquiring the property also raised by Webb at previous meetings. Commissioner Dale Woodland said he is opposed to eminent domain and an appraisal and wants to hear from the public.

"You want to go into this blind," Webb declared. "For comparatively little dollars, don't take the risk."

Woodland said he is a fiscal conservative and noted, "We're looking at this as a purchase for a lifetime for our community. I'd hate to see us lose the opportunity to make this purchase when we're squabbling over money."

Webb said his best estimate of the property's value is $2.1 million and the offer from Blackhawk, the majority lender on the property, is $2.8 million. He explained, "You get an appraisal and then you start negotiating. The idea is so we can make rational decisions with the public's funds."

Mayor Mike Selby said a typical commercial appraisal costs $2,500 to $3,500 and an appraisal for eminent domain costs $4,500 to $5,000, and asked, "Blackhawk turned down a $2,5 million offer, does that not set the value?"

Discussion continues

Woodland asked Webb if he would pay more than the appraised value. Webb said he would calculate the cost of eminent domain and then decide whether to accept Blackhawk's offer.

Woodland again emphasized his opposition to eminent domain and asked, "Why would the government interfere with a private individual for something we just want and don't need?"

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick asked City Attorney Jim Dye if the property contains six buildable lots.

"Yes," Dye replied. "The city has decided they are buildable and can't deny the use of the property."

Resident William George said he is opposed to the purchase and pointed out, "This would be a major expenditure to this small city. Why do we want to take it off the tax roll? Six houses will bring in considerable revenue."

He said there's no money to develop Gulffront Park, repave the streets, dredge the canals or give employees raises.

"I don't need a park or a parking space," he continued. "Bayfront Park is right across the bridge. How can you justify this kind of an expenditure, over $4 million mortgaged over 20 years, to the taxpayers of this community?"

Sandy Mattick said the park would be for community use such as the festivals that are staged there and that she favors getting an appraisal.

Micheal Coleman said he is opposed to getting an appraisal because "I don't think it matters. The price is $2.8. It's not any other price.

"If it's appraised at $2.3 million would you walk away? In five or 10 years, will we kick ourselves because we paid $400,000 too much or if there's six houses here?"

Commissioner John Quam said he favors getting an appraisal, the commission needs more discussion and he is opposed to the vision statement.

Selby said he received a contract from Blackhawk, but hadn't reviewed it yet. Commissioners voted to get an appraisal with Woodland dissenting. Commissioner Gene Aubry was absent with an excuse.

Attorney explains eminent domain
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Attorney Mitchell Palmer explains the process
of eminent domain to commissioners last week.

ANNA MARIA – Commission Chair Chuck Webb invited attorney Mitchell Palmer to explain the process of eminent domain to commissioners last week.

At previous meetings, Webb has raised the possibility of using eminent domain to acquire the six lots at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard. Since mid-June, commissioners have discussed purchasing the lots but have disagreed on whether eminent domain is an option.

"I wanted to make sure the commission understand all our options," Webb said when in introducing Palmer.

Palmer said he is a native of the county and has been practicing law for 29 years. He worked as an assistant county attorney for 13 years, and other government clients include the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto and the Florida Department of Transportation.

He said the city has the power of eminent domain under Florida Statutes and taking property for park and recreational use is a recognized purpose. He said there are two types – the quick take process and the slow take process, and both involve filing a lawsuit in circuit court.

"In the quick take process the city would acquire title to the property before a final determination is made as to what you owe the property owner," he explained.

"You are required to compensate the property owner fair market value and in accordance with the highest and best use of the property."

He said if the parties are unable to settle on the issue of compensation, the mater goes to a 12-person jury.

"In the slow take, you file your lawsuit and a determination of fair market value is made before you take ownership of the property," he continued. "If you're unable to come to a settlement with the property owner, it goes to a jury trial.

"Once that judgment is entered by the court, the city has 20 days to deposit into the court registry the amount of the jury's verdict or say no and walk away."

In either case, the city must pay the property owner's reasonable attorney's fees, which are determined by statutory formula. It also must pay the experts' fees and costs that are incurred by the property owner.


Webb asked if cities get appraisals first, and Palmer said "almost always" and added, "You need to know what the property is worth."

Does it matter that the bank has started foreclosure proceedings? Webb asked.

"Any person or entity that has a reported interest in that real estate must be named a party in that lawsuit," Palmer replied. "However, the mortgage lender is not allowed to contest the taking itself. The mortgage lender's interest is in the money."

He said the city is not required to pay more than fair market value, and Mattick asked if it is based on highest and best use. Palmer said the appraiser makes a determination of the highest and best use.

Mattick asked if the city has to have all the money first. Palmer said if it's a quick take, the city must deposit into the court registry that sum of money the city's appraiser says the property is worth.

"What's the time frame for a trial?" Mattick asked.

Palmer said for a quick take from the time the lawsuit if filed to the time the city takes title is an average of four to six months, but it would take 10 months to two years to get to a jury trial.

Mattick asked how much he would charge for an eminent domain case and how many hours it would take. Palmer said he would offer the same low rate he gives the county – $200 an hour and the number of hours depends on a host of variables.

Webb asked how often property owners settle without a jury trial, and Palmer said 95 percent of the time.

The need

"I'm opposed to eminent domain because it's not like we need a park," Commissioner Dale Woodland said. "We don't want anybody building tall houses on it. That's a lousy justification for taking somebody's property.

"I have talked about getting the community to help us with a public/private partnership. Taking somebody's land sends the wrong message to people you want to help you."

Sandy Mattick said the city has a valid need for the land as right of way for a new humpbacked bridge in the future.

Micheal Coleman said the property owner would not be cooperative and the city should anticipate a long aggressive defense. Palmer said the owner's cooperation would be driven by the city's appraisal, and if both sides come up with the same figure, they'll have a deal.

"If you believe the property owner will contest the taking, you need to go through some planning processes such as identifying the need for additional park facilities."

He also pointed out, "To prohibit high rise development is not a proper public purpose. If the goal is to increase available public parking facilities, that's a valid public purpose."

"To spend money to keep somebody from building on it is not a good use of city money," Webb added.

"This is about trying to get a better price," Coleman said. "If we're trying to get to $2 million, and there's offers on the table for $2.5 million, would you advise your client to pursue this course?"

Palmer said that's a decision for the city commission.

START seeks affiliation with Cortez

CORTEZ – Solutions To Avoid Red Tide (START) is discussing a plan with the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) to add a caviar and wine component to the Cortez Folk Arts Festival in November.

With the assistance of restaurant owner Ed Chiles, a founder and director of START, the group proposes to sell gourmet seafood dishes, wine and champagne at the festival, START President Sandy Gilbert told the FISH board last week.

FISH produces the small festival, scheduled for Nov. 19, which is in its eighth year.

Cortez recipes could be featured, including caviar made from Cortez mullet roe, called bottarga, along with recipes for sturgeon raised at the Mote Aquaculture Park, a START partner, Gilbert suggested.

The partnership could increase Cortez fish sales while benefiting both not-for-profit groups, Gilbert said, adding that FISH would net more money from its $2 ticket sales because START would draw more people to the festival.

START would make money from sales of the approximately eight vendors it would bring to the festival, he said.

dors would owe vendor fees to FISH, FISH board treasurer Jane von Hahmann said, adding that the two groups could discuss splitting the $250 fee that vendors pay to set up booths at the festival.

Adding START to the festival could draw new people to the folk festival, she said.

FISH must be careful establishing partnerships, as it did with the producer of a recent Holmes Beach concert, Save the Gulf, which drew some criticism, FISH board member David Zaccagnino said, adding that FISH's mission is focused on commercial fishermen.

START's mission, which began as preventing and mitigating red tide, is refocusing on clean water and sustainable seafood in the absence of red tide, Gilbert said.

The FISH board assigned the request to an ad hoc committee for further consideration.

The Cortez Folk Arts Festival is one of several held in the fishing village; the largest and oldest is the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in February.

Red tide group changes logo
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The new logo for Solutions To Avoid Red Tide
portrays a healthy fish instead of a fish skeleton.


With the last local red tide quickly fading from memory, Solutions To Avoid Red Tide is changing its logo to reflect its focus on healthy waters.

START - founded in 1996 to investigate scientific methods of preventing and combating red tide – is changing the group's logo from a fish skeleton, representing the devastation of red tide, to a healthy fish, representing sustainable seafood, according to the board of directors.

Red tide is an overabundance, or bloom, of the organism Karenia brevis, which is always present in the Gulf of Mexico. It can kill fish and marine mammals, poison shellfish and cause respiratory illness in people.

The last severe local red tide in summer, 2005 created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, only small amounts of the Florida red tide organism have been detected in water samples collected alongshore of Manatee County.

START's new logo is more representative of its vision statement and ongoing goal to preserve coastal waters, according to directors, who made the decision at the annual directors meeting last month at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

A new website,, also better reflects the group's non-profit, educational and research activities than its previous .com designation, widely used by commercial enterprises, according to the board.

Research continues on red tide at Mote, with a study on its effects on human behavior, policy, education and health.

Findings could reveal better and more cost-effective ways to ease the harmful effects of red tide on communities, according to researchers.

"We have studied the effects of red tide on human health for years, and now we're excited that our work will help weave a more complete picture of red tide and society," said Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, manager of Mote's Environmental Health Program, who is leading portions of the project focused on human health, education and outreach. "This project is really crossing boundaries to look at an environmental hazard through a multifaceted lens."

The project, which started in October 2010, is funded through a five-year grant of nearly $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation.

Commission whittles down expenditures

BRADENTON BEACH – It took almost six hours over three days, but it looks like the city commission has more than balanced the budget for the next fiscal year without raising the property tax rate.

Last year, the city commission got an early start on computing expenditures as the city's taxable property values continued to drop due to market conditions and other sources of income also fell victim to the sluggish economy. This year, it scheduled a week of meetings with department heads going line by line over their projected expenditure.

The result was a savings of $101,340 and the only employee casualty was one of the two sanitation employees who would have been transferred to public works projects. One of the two sanitation workers will stay, but the commissioners felt keeping both of them would be an extravagance.

Before the cutting began, City Clerk Nora Idso distributed projections for the year showing revenues of $2,378,023 with the millage at the same rate as last year – 2.1539 – and expenditures of $2,420,795 for a $42,772 deficit. With the new numbers, there would be a surplus of $58,568.

The largest cuts came in the police department budget and elimination of the emergency operations department. They saved $28,000 in the police budget when Police Chief Sam Speciale used an old worksheet, which showed $33,000 extra for vacation and sick pay. Idso said that those expenses were included in the overall salary figure of $499,132. They left $5,000 for vacations and sick time and struck $28,000. As for the emergency operations department, it was set up years ago when the Island had its own Emergency Operations center with police Lt. John Cosby as its sole employee, only during times of emergency. They left money in the budget for cellular telephones that department heads use, but transferred it to the police budget. That saved the city $11,000.

Before commissioners sharpened their pencils at the first meeting on Tuesday, April 12, Mayor Bob Bartelt said he wanted employees, who have dependents on the city's health insurance, contribute 10 percent of the cost, estimated at $840 each annually. The city currently pays the entire premium for health insurance for employees and, if needed, for their dependents.

"I asked (city accountant) Ed Leonard if it is sustainable to continue that and he said no," Bartelt said. "Other cities pay 30 to 40 percent of that cost."

City Commissioner Jan Vosburgh read a letter she had sent to fellow commissioners recommending they try to cut at least two percent from each department's budget.

Rick Curd, a city resident, was the only person to attend the budget meetings. He read letters before each meeting, and the first one urged the city to try to bring down its millage rate to equal that of the other two cities. At 2.1539, or $215.39 in tax per $100,000 of taxable value, it exceeds the 1.7882 rate in Anna Maria and 1.7500 rate for Holmes Beach. He spoke of one resident who was hard hit.

"Where I live, all but one resident is more or less permanent and that one is a family vacation home," he said. "There's a neighbor who is 98 years old, and we and another neighbor's family support this man. He hasn't had a raise in income in years."

The city will have to decide on a proposed millage rate for the next fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, during the next few weeks.

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