The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 3 - November 2, 2011


Rental crackdown ruffles feathers

HOLMES BEACH – City officials are getting a response from recent efforts to crack down on owners of short-term rentals who violate parking, trash and noise ordinances.

In response to residents' escalating concerns about violations at rental properties, officials began citing owners of short-term rental properties who are in violation of city codes last month, automatically suspending their city rental business tax receipts or rental licenses.

Owners cited must respond in 14 days or appear before the code enforcement board, which can fine up to $250 a day for violations.

Brian Derr, owner of 207 N. Harbor Drive, flew in from Chicago for the Holmes Beach Commission meeting last week to protest being singled out among the first batch of violators when he is unaware of recurring problems with his renters.

"I'm not fighting it, I want to understand," said Derr, who said he purchased his home from developer Shawn Kaleta, who has built many rental homes in Holmes Beach.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said that the city is working from the most recent violations back, not the number of complaints.

"We were inundated (with complaints), so we sent the letter as a shot over the bow," he said. "It was designed to get everybody's attention."

"You're going to get people like me getting a bad taste and not recommending Anna Maria Island," Derr said.

The violations

The inspections are uncovering evidence of non-compliance with city ordinances and state law, Bohnenberger said, with some owners misrepresenting their rental property as residences, not paying the 5 percent tourist tax or illicitly obtaining homestead exemptions.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said Kaleta has not violated the city's code, but that developers could easily sidestep regulations requiring one parking space per bedroom by building one-bedroom houses and advertising them as "sleeps 16."

A new state law prohibits cities from enacting rental restrictions if they were not already in place by last summer, Bohnenberger said. He added that while Holmes Beach has restrictions in place in some parts of town, it's too late to expand the restrictions.

In addition, City Attorney Patricia Petruff said, the code has no clear definition of what constitutes a bedroom.

"The city should enforce what's on the books," said resident Mary Buonagura, who is concerned about the "plethora of pastel palaces popping up all over faster than sandspurs in summer." The rentals are "changing the Island from a balanced use of land including residential and a rental mix to a short-term rental vacation resort," she said. In the process, older residences are being devalued and local architectural history is being destroyed with "Disney-like facades," she said.

Possible solutions

Larry Chatt, of Island Real Estate, said that a year ago he addressed trash problems by requiring his clients to sign up for rear door trash pickup.

He said he asks renters how many people are in a party, requiring them to sign for the number of guests, children and cars that will be at the property, then follows up to check on them. He distributes local ordinances and turtle laws, and provides a 24/7 emergency phone number for problems, he said.

The Holmes Beach Police Department needs a list of the rentals that each rental agent manages, so they can contact the agent when complaints are called in, commissioners said.

"We must acknowledge everybody's property rights," said resident and commission candidate Andy Sheridan. "Tourism is not all bad. It's been good to residents."

He suggested that police and code enforcement officers work together on a common data bank, which could be reviewed for violations at rental license renewal time. He also recommended the city hire a new code enforcement officer before the peak tourist season arrives.

A second code enforcement officer is in training in house, Bohnenberger said.

Border dispute escalates to legal action

HOLMES BEACH – The city commission has voted 4-0 to initiate a dispute resolution proceeding against the city of Bradenton Beach over a disagreement about a gate installed along the 27th Street border between the two cities.

Sandpiper Resort installed the gate in an existing fence last summer to deter wheeled vehicles from entering the 5 m.p.h., 55 and over mobile home park.

But the gate prevents Holmes Beach residents from having access to the road, which leads to a beach access at the west end of 27th Street, said Commissioner John Monetti, who first raised the issue at a commission meeting several weeks ago.

Monetti, who owns property adjacent to Sandpiper, recused himself from the vote on City Attorney Patricia Petruff's advice, due to what she called a "potential direct or indirect financial interest in the outcome of the decision," regardless of whether the financial interest is a gain or loss.

Bradenton Beach relinquished 27th Street to Sandpiper in 2008, but Petruff has told Holmes Beach officials that it did not have the legal authority to do so.

The city has not received a response from Bradenton Beach officials on the issue, and winter residents will be back on the Island soon, Monetti said, urging action at last week's commission meeting.

Holmes Beach will send a letter to Bradenton Beach informing officials about the dispute resolution proceeding, Petruff said.

Meanwhile, Bradenton Beach intends to send a letter to Holmes Beach expressing the city's point of view, specifically, "Why we did a quitclaim deed rather than a vacation and how our city charter precludes us from vacating street ends that go to the bay or Gulf without a referendum," Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt said.

ArtsHOP opens Island arts scene

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

AMI Chorus and Orchestra soprano Joy Leitner
will perform Nov. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the
Studio at Gulf and Pine.

There's something for everyone at the Island's annual artsHOP weekend Nov. 11 through 13 with a variety of activities and events planned for Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.

The weekend begins with a gallery walk and play on Friday, continues with an arts and crafts festival, a small maritime crafts show and the play on Saturday and concludes with the arts and crafts festival, a chorus and orchestra concert and a drum circle on Sunday.

Friday gallery walk

The gallery walk takes place on Friday, beginning at 5 p.m. Participating galleries include The Studio at Gulf and Pine, Ginny & Jane E's at the Old IGA, Emerson Quillin, The Village Café, Really Relish and Three Monkeys, all in Anna Maria; and Artists Guild Gallery, Anna Maria Island Art League, Island Gallery West and 12th and East Home at the Beach, all in Holmes Beach.

Each gallery will offer complimentary refreshments and some will offer live music, art demonstrations and prizes. Other galleries, businesses and studios in all three cities will be open for visitors.

Pick up a passport at any participating gallery, get it stamped at six or more of the artsHOP galleries and receive a coupon worth 20 percent off dinner at the Sandbar, BeachHouse or Mar Vista restaurants.

Turning in your stamped passport (location to be announced) by 8:45 p.m. on Friday will make you eligible for a drawing for an arts supply basket valued at $150 courtesy of Keeton's Art Supply, of Bradenton.

Friday special events

The Studio at Gulf and Pine, 10101 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, will host "Flow," Earth's Motion in Paint, an exhibit by artists Nancy K. Betty and Cheryl Moody from 5 to 7 p.m.

In addition, AMI Chorus and Orchestra tenor Robert Lischetti and soprano Joy Leitner accompanied by Lurray Myers will perform at 6:30 p.m. They will provide selections from Broadway shows, light opera, and current popular selections.

The Artists Guild Gallery, 5414 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, will host an opening reception for watercolorist Charles Hlawatsch, its first featured artist of the season, from 5 to 7 p.m. while State Road 64 plays bluegrass.

The Anna Maria Island Art League, 5312 Holmes Blvd., Holmes Beach, will host an opening reception for "Island Visions," an all media juried exhibit where artists explore the views and visions of Anna Maria Island, and "Celebrar el Sol" (Celebrate the Sun) from 5 to 9 p.m. The Chop Shop and the AMI Art League will provide refreshments and hors d'oeuvres.

At Island Gallery West, 5368 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, the public is invited to enjoy fine art, refreshments and meet some of the gallery's 28 member artists from 5 to 9 p.m.

The Island Playhouse, 10009 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, presents "Charles Lindberg – The Lone Eagle," at 8 p.m. Written, researched and performed by Steve Carroll, this portrayal of an American icon is a stunning performance of history. Tickets are $15 at the box office for general admission seating.

Saturday events

Saturday kicks off with an arts and crafts festival to benefit the AMI Butterfly Garden in the Holmes Beach city hall field, 5801 Marina Drive, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Enjoy food and music while browsing for holiday gifts from more than 30 vendors.

The AMI Historical Society and the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez will host a traditional small boat show at the museum complex, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m.

The Island Playhouse, 10009 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, presents "Charles Lindberg – The Lone Eagle, " at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the box office for general admission seating.

Sunday events

The arts and crafts festival to benefit the AMI Butterfly Garden continues in the Holmes Beach city hall field from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The AMI Historical Society and the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez will host a traditional small boat show at the museum complex, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m.

The Anna Maria Island Concert Orchestra and Chorus will present a concert featuring selections from the masters, Bach and Beethoven, at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for open seating. Call 778-8585 for tickets.

Come join the drum circle at the Manatee County Public Beach near the concession stand from 5:30 p.m. to sunset. Scott Blum will direct. The drumming will continue until sunset. Bring your drums or something to bang on and a chair or blanket. Food and drinks will be available at the Anna Maria Island Beach Café.

The weekend is sponsored by Cultural Connections, representing nine Island arts and cultural groups. For further information on the weekend events, go to

Three years later, Sabine mystery goes on

Three years ago on Nov. 4, Sabine Musil-Buehler disappeared and was never seen again.

Her fate remains a mystery to all, though many speculate about where the co-owner of Haley's Motel in Holmes Beach might be, and whether she is alive or dead.

Tom Buehler, her estranged husband, has nothing new to say. Since she disappeared, a fire destroyed all but the foundation of the building they used for parties and Buehler recently began rebuilding it, but still no Sabine.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office Homicide Detective John Kenney has tried to find her body by digging on the beach where evidence indicates she might have spent her last minutes, but still no Sabine. Earlier this year, items belonging to her were found in thick brush at the end of Willow Avenue. The area was cleared and more digging was done with heavy equipment but nothing else was found.

Kenney has promised he won't give up the hunt, but clues have been scarce.

Musil Buehler disappeared after hosting a Halloween party at Haley's. She was living with William Cumber, who has been a prime suspect in the case although he was never charged with anything. He is serving a 13-year sentence for violation of his parole and, according to Kenney, is not talking to police about Sabine.

Anyone with information on her disappearance is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 747-3011, Ext. 2216.

Holmes Beach candidates speak out

HOLMES BEACH – Five candidates vying for three seats on the city commission attended the Anna Maria Island Sun's forum on Thursday at city hall, answering readers' questions on rentals, a dog beach and other issues.

Three incumbents, Pat Morton, Al Robinson and David Zaccagnino, will face two former candidates, Jean Peelen and Andy Sheridan. All run as at-large members for two-year terms. The election is on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Individual statements

In individual statements, Morton, the administrator of CrossPointe Fellowship Church, said he enjoys working with citizens to solve problems, taking their concerns to city department heads for answers. He cited as his slogan, "My Community, My Responsibility," and said he takes his position very seriously, missing only one meeting in eight years.

Robinson is a former coal miner who now buys and sells real estate, and as a businessman, watches the money spent by the city, he said. He noted that while the commission is usually unanimous on issues, he has been the sole opposition on some financial matters.

Zaccagnino, a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial, said he wants to continue to keep taxes down and keep more of the tourist tax money on the Island. He said he enjoys giving back to the community and coming up with rational solutions to problems.

Peelen, a former civil rights lawyer for the federal government, said she is "a new voice" for Holmes Beach. An animal activist and member of a women's giving circle, she said she is interested in what residents want the city to look like in the next five years, and has the determination, willpower and energy for the job.

Sheridan, who has a background in banking, marketing, transportation and is currently in retail sales, said he has been attending commission meetings since 2008 and speaks out on issues important to him, primarily quality of life issues. A member of the city's code enCell towers and loud renters

Q: Should the city allow a cell tower at the Community Center or is there a better location? If the tower is at the Center, should the city share in the revenue?

A: All agreed that the property owner should get the revenue from a cell tower.

Yetter said having a cell tower is health and safety issue, but installing one at the Center may be a problem because of height limits there. Quam said service needs to improve, and any tower should be on city property. SueLynn said the city should explore the antenna system, and any system should be on city property. Woodland said it is not a health and safety issue, but if there is a tower, it should be on city property.

Q: There are increasing complaints about loud renters and large numbers of people and vehicles at rental houses in residential neighborhoods. What can be done?

A: All agreed that if there are violations, it's a law enforcement issue, and it's the responsibility of the real estate agents to control their renters.

SueLynn added two suggestions – ask real estate agents to have the renters fill out a form and name all the people staying in that house. If they have more, they should be asked to leave. Have the rental agents charge the renters a fee, and if the police aren't called, they get it back.

Dogs, dredging and revenue

Q: Would you support hiring someone to ticket people who bring their dogs to the beach? A $500 fine would swell city coffers.

A: All but Woodland said there's a problem, but a $500 fine is excessive. SueLynn said a deputy could be sent to talk to offenders, and Yetter suggested a volunteer team to observe and advise people. Quam said more prominent signs and asking real estate agents to advise their renters of the regulations could help.

Q: How can the city raise additional revenue without raising taxes? SueLynn, Yetter and Quam suggested a tax on rentals. Woodland suggested a 2 percent surcharge on all purchases. Quam added special events fees, and Yetter added a cell tower.

Q: Is the city responsible for maintenance dredging of the city's canals?

A: All agreed that the city is responsible, but said it must find ways to fund the work such as grants or a fee for canal-front property owners.

Anna Maria hopefuls answer questions

ANNA MARIA – Voters go to the polls Nov. 8 to elect three commissioners from four candidates that include incumbent Commissioners John Quam and Dale Woodland and challengers SueLynn and Nancy Yetter.

Quam, retired from a career in marketing, is seeking his sixth term as a commissioner and has served as its chairman for seven of his years in office. Woodland, retired from a career in computers and now owner of Woodland Quality Pool Care, has served four terms as commissioner.

SueLynn, who works as a management and organizational consultant and was the city's mayor from 2002 to 2006, is seeking her first term on the commission. Yetter, who has worked as a circulation director and in sales management and is a member of the planning and zoning board, is seeking her first term as commissioner.

The four recently responded to the following questions from voters at a candidates' forum in city hall.

Q: What should the city do with the six lots it purchased at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard? Where should the city get the funds to create that use?

A: All said they want input from residents before making a decision.

Quam: Open space, a small area for pier parking, benches, landscaping and special events with revenue coming to the city. The only cost is maintenance. If you put structures up you have maintenance.

SueLynn: It's got to be flexible, easily maintained, available to a lot of different people and generate income. I see it being used for fairs and things like that, but not an endless Friday party. A wireless facility could bring in income.

Woodland: Primarily open space; a public/private partnership. I'd like to see Bayfest stay there, but I wouldn't like to see any more high impact events. There are a lot of low impact events we could do on a regular basis. An ideal use would be to put the Joe Chiles and Greg Spahn houses on the west end.

Yetter: Green space, a gathering place, low maintenance. One person suggested shade trees to make it attractive and one or two public rest rooms. Funding should be a combination of public and private.forcement board, he also said he stands for common sense government and fiscal responsibility.

Rental homes

On the issue of multiple-bedroom rental homes that are creating parking, noise, trash and other problems for residents, Morton said he has warned about the problems since 2005 and voted against high density rentals and would continue to oppose them.

Robinson said the commission should have addressed the issue earlier, but is doing so now and that he would vote against allowing any more housing density.

Zaccagnino said he has problems with rentals in his own neighborhood and that the city needs another code enforcement officer to keep parking and noise in check.

Peelen said the problems are caused by huge duplexes that are "dominating and destroying" the community, prompting residents to leave the Island. Parking, trash and noise are symptoms of the problem – the buildings themselves, she said.

Sheridan said that one person's rights end where another's begin and that educating both sides is key to solving the problems. He proposes raising rental fees to hire a new code enforcement officer.

Dog beach

Morton does not support a dog beach anywhere in Holmes Beach or on the Island, saying the beach is for people and nature.

Robinson said the perfect spot for a dog beach is the jetty at the southernmost end of the Island where swimming is prohibited.

Zaccagnino does not support a dog beach in Holmes Beach because dogs already keep people from using the city hall athletic complex for sports, he said.

Peelen said the Island can spare a quarter mile for a dog beach with restricted hours and a clean-up patrol.

Sheridan supports a dog beach, but not necessarily in Holmes Beach because it's in the middle of the Island where people would have to cross over it; perhaps on the end of Coquina Beach, he said.

Tourist taxes

Morton said tourist taxes paid by tourists to the city could be used to revitalize businesses in the city.

Robinson said Holmes Beach generates the lion's share of the county's tourist taxes and that if some of the funds came back to the city, it could lower taxes.

Zaccagnino said the county is taking tourist taxes produced by the city and using them to attract more tourists and fund off-Island destinations including the county convention center, the Crosley estate and McKechnie Field and should return some of the taxes to the city.

Peelen said the city should carefully watch what Manatee County does with the tourist taxes generated by the city and be there at meetings to provide input.

Sheridan said the tourist taxes should be used for the trolley or to replace the Holmes Beach Pier, not for advertising the Island as a party destination.

Australian pines

Morton favors leaving Australian pine trees on the Island if they are not creating a hazard, saying that while they're not native, neither are most Island residents.

Robinson said the trees are an asset at Coquina Beach, where they provide shade, for example, but that private property owners should be able to remove them.

Zaccagnino likes Australian pines on the beaches and city rights of way unless they are rotted, then another tree should be planted to replace them.

Peelen said she enjoys the sound of the wind in the pines and that other cultures appreciate non-native plants, including Brazilian peppers.

Sheridan said the city should not be involved in selecting certain trees for removal.

Golf carts

Morton favors using golf carts to get to shopping and to keep cars off streets, but not if they're driven by youths.

Robinson said he favors police educating golf cart drivers rather than ticketing them while the golf cart ordinance is being reworked.

Zaccagnino said the city's new ordinance requiring a driver license is necessary because 12-year-olds have been driving golf carts.

Peelen said the community has 35 mile-per-hour speed limit zones where people travel 45 to 50 miles per hour, raising safety concerns about golf carts.

Sheridan favors golf cart usage in the city and the new ordinance.

City government improvements

Morton said the commission was once difficult to approach but has improved, and invited more public participation.

Robinson said Grassy Point should be completed, the pier should be rebuilt, and that salaries within the city are inequitable.

Zaccagnino said he thinks the city is run well, but that replacements need to be trained to take over for department heads who are due for retirement.

Peelen said that communication with residents needs to improve, using technology, not just commission meetings, to communicate.

Sheridan said property rights issues are the city's biggest challenge, with other priorities including opening Grassy Point and making sure the city is promoted as a family friendly tourist destination.

Canines raise the woof at pooch parade
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Ladybug kisses
Gracie, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, gives
Jeanine Zeris a smooch Saturday during The Sun's
Ninth Annual Canine Costume Contest.

ANNA MARIA – It was touch and go weather for the Ninth Annual AMI Sun Dog Costume Contest last Saturday, but with canine contestants dressed as everything from Indiana Jones to the cowardly lion, there was just no stopping this pooch parade.

The day started with a light rain that fizzled out around mid-morning, leaving clearing skies just in time for the 1 p.m. start time in the parking lot of Island Sun Plaza.

While the clouds might have kept some entries away – there were two no-shows – they also kept the temperature down for the 21 dogs that participated, and that made it more comfortable for the animals and their owners.

There were a wide variety of costumes vying for awards in three categories – most original, cutest and celebrity.

In the most original category, Kandi Kerekes' tiny Stella Rose as a toucan took first place. Sami and Suling, owned by Pat McLaughlin, came in second in the Dragon Wagon and Caesar, with owner Matt Shafer, looking like a giant peeled banana came in third.

In the cutest category, Lola, with owner Cassie Calvert, was the sheriff and took first place. Linda Mayberry's Gracie came in second place as a ladybug and Mary Stockman's Chickita Juanita (Chi Chi) took third as a witch.

Charlene Doll's Bay Breeze, an American Water Spaniel dressed as Indiana Jones, took first place in the celebrity category; Sakka, owned by Katie Van Beveren, took second place as a Giants football player; and Ajax, a pit bull owned by Serena Spring, took third as the cowardly lion.

Artists opening doors to creativity

From left, Deborah Webster's door is named "Hokoluni"
or heavenly star in Hawaiian and was inspired by Buddhist
Thangka cloths. Rita Payne's door panes will be painted
with vignettes of beach scenes.

Artists and friends are heeding the call to make art pieces using the theme "Doors II, Outside the Door" for Cultural Connections' artsHOP weekend Nov. 11 thorough 13.

The Doors theme was first used in artsHOP 2009, but people generally used large doors and painted them. This year people are being asked to create smaller doors or create something using door as a theme.

Artist Deborah Webster's door comes from a series she began a few years ago.

"I was painting on canvas and needed something sturdier," she recalled. "I went to Home Depot and bought a hollow core door, patched the holes and painted it with oils."

The door is named "Hokoluni" or heavenly star in Hawaiian. Webster said it was inspired by Buddhist Thangka cloths.

"Buddhists embroidered images on cloths to explain the teachings of Buddha," she explained. "They rolled them up and carried them from town to town to teach people through visual images of paintings.

"The series is images of women expressing the agony and ecstasy of their lives. This one represents the serenity and calmness of being near the ocean. She's sitting in a meditative pose inside a lotus blossom."

Webster said on the Thangka cloths, the painters exaggerated the important parts of the story, which is why the woman is very large and the dog is small and out of proportion. In addition, she painted swirls from van Gogh's "Starry Night" in the background to represent ocean, sky, peace and tranquility

Artist Joan Voyles said of her door, "I decided to do half doors. I discovered I love working in this size and on this firmer surface. The idea of the palm trees originated from a watercolor painting based on an earlier drawing in Pass-a-Grille looking across that waterway.

"I realized this concept, being on one shore with towering palm trees and looking across the water, is a look and feeling all along Anna Maria Island too."

The doors will be displayed in Island businesses and locations the week before and during artsHOP. Each piece will have a buy now price established by the artist and a bid sheet with a starting bid. Artists retain 40 percent of the selling price.

On Nov. 18, there will be a silent auction of any pieces remaining during the Porch Parties on Pine Avenue. The sale will take place in the garden behind Belle Haven Cottage at the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

For more information, call Marsha Bard at 778-9503.

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