The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 6 - November 23, 2011


Cell tower debate simmers

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners last week were undecided on whether to revise their current cell tower ordinance or write a new one and asked their attorney to give them an opinion on the issue.

Mayor Mike Selby explained that the city hired Rusty Monroe, of The Center for Municipal Solutions, to review its cell tower ordinance, and "he said we should modernize our old ordinance and adopt an ordinance similar to Bradenton Beach.

"By using CMS's model ordinance we would be using something that has never been successfully challenged in almost 15 years. It would be safe to say he had some serious concerns over our existing ordinance."

Commissioners John Quam, Dale Woodland and Chair Chuck Webb said they favored revising the city's ordinance.

"Money would be much better spent updating the ordinance than trying to defend it in court," City Attorney Jim Dye advised. "It's a highly technical ordinance and needs to be looked at by a technical group. I can come up with additional comments.

"The best thing at the end of the day is to have an ordinance that you have confidence in. My preference would be to go with one that's already been tested and reviewed, but I'm not sure that the template would contain the preferences that Anna Maria would want."

Quam said a new ordinance would take more staff and attorney time than revising the current ordinance.

Public comment

During public comment, Jamie Walstad said, "Our current ordinance has protected every homeowner since 2003 by regulating how a wireless facility comes into our city.

"A tower is outdated, especially since there is DAS technology, which are the size of a large green utility box, and there are micro- clips that attach to poles and neither of the new technologies detracts from the natural beauty of Anna Maria, and one of the reasons why we all live here."

She said it's not the city's responsibility to make sure people have cell service, and people can get devices that boost their signal.

"If our ordinance needs updated, why did we not go back to Kreines and Kreines, the consultant and writer of our current ordinance?" she asked.

She also submitted petitions with signatures of 100 residents asking commissioners to maintain the current ordinance.

Diane Canniff also asked the commission to consult with Kreines and Kreines.

Woodland asked why the city does not consider the DAS antenna system.

"Economics; user density is what they talk about," Selby replied. "There is not enough money to be made. They can't justify it for the small service area we have."

Commissioner SueLynn said the city should get an answer about the DAS system from an expert.

Pines evoke residents' passion
Carol Whitmore

A survey of property owners showed that
most of those who responded favored
keeping the Australian pines at
Gulf Front Park in Anna Maria.

ANNA MARIA – Passionate residents came before commissioners to plea for the Australian pines in Gulf Front Park last week, and commissioners listened.

Public Works Supervisor George McKay explained that at the commission's direction, he surveyed by mail 67 property owners near the park. He said four voted for removal of the pines, 16 said to leave them as is and one said to trim them only.

Commissioner John Quam said to leave them as is and that residents should not be allowed to do work in the area without the approval of the public works supervisor.

"The state, the county, the environmental agencies all say they're an exotic species that needs to be removed," Chair Chuck Webb stressed. "Also underneath is another invasive species, the mother-in-law tongue, that is crowding out all the native species, expanding and taking over the park.

"We have an ordinance that prohibits the planting of Australian pines. It's disingenuous to say it's OK on city property, but you can't plant them on private property. As good stewards of private property, we should be making an effort to remove exotics."

He also said they could fall and damage homes in the area.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick agreed with Webb and pointed out that four mature pines fell over on North Shore Drive several years ago after a storm.

If the decision is to remove them, they should phase it, Commissioner SueLynn said.

"Those are part of our history," Commissioner Dale Woodland maintained. "Sometimes a little imperfection in our lives isn't a bad thing. We need to listen to the people."

Quam asked why the city is not concerned about the pines at Bayfront Park and Bean Point, and Webb said the pines at Bayfront Park wouldn't fall on any homes and the ones at Bean Point are on private property.

Public comment

Carol Ann Magill said the pines aren't near any structures and pointed out, "Those pines aren't hurting anybody. They're not causing any problems. That is a natural wildlife habitat. We residents all feel the same – leave it be."

Chris Collins provoked laughter when he confessed that his children had planted the mother-in-law tongue and the Moss children had planted the pines.

"If any of those trees fell over, they wouldn't hit a house, and in all the storms we've had, we've never had one blow over," Collins told the board. "They're part of our culture. Leave them alone."

Gina Duvall, Jean Murray, Dave Rogerson, Margaret Jenkins, Leslie Atkins and Diane Canniff all spoke in favor of keeping the pines.

Mike Miller said the biggest danger to the park is the mother in law tongue and pointed out, "It's relentless. It consumes vegetation. It never stops. It will kill anything there."

He said the roots of the mother-in-law tongue grow horizontally, and if you pull one out, the tuber snaps off and stays in the ground. A new plant can grow from any fragment of the root.

"The idea that this is a native habitat is total erroneous," Miller added. "You cannot find any native vegetation there."

After public comment closed, Quam made a motion that the city "not remove any pines from Gulf Front Park and that the director of public works is in charge of the cleaning up the area." Webb was the lone dissenter.

SueLynn asked that the city do something about the mother-in-law tongue.

Check your tax bill before paying

Before you pay your Manatee County property tax bill, which most property owners received in the mail this month, it could pay to check it closely against last year's bill.

A state Constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters in 1992 called Save Our Homes caps the annual increase in the assessed value of homesteaded property.

If the assessed value of your home listed on your 2011 tax bill is more than 1.5 percent higher than it was on last year's bill, it's too high, and you should contact the Manatee County Property Appraiser's office, according to Cyndi Capps, assistant to Property Appraiser Charles Hackney.

Under Save Our Homes, the increase cannot exceed 3 percent of the previous year's assessed value, or the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the previous year, whichever is less.

The CPI for 2010 was 1.5 percent, less than 3 percent, Capps said, adding that the cap for a non-homesteaded property is 10 percent.

If you didn't keep a copy of last year's bill, you can check your TRIM (Truth in Millage) notice from earlier this year, which lists values for both years, or go online to, search for your property, then click on "values."

"Total just value" is this year's assessed value of your home. "Previous year just value" is last year's assessed value.

Subtract last year's assessed value from this year's and divide by last year's assessed value, Capps said.

If this year's assessed value is the same or less than last year's, Save Our Homes does not apply.

Doing the calculation on the dollar amount of the taxes instead of on the assessed value amount will not result in an accurate number.

Increased property values are a good sign for the economy, Capps said. They also can mean higher property taxes, although even people whose values stayed the same or decreased may have higher taxes than last year if the taxing authorities (municipalities, school board, fire district, etc.) raised rates.

Dec. 8 is the deadline to get the most discounted rate on your bill, with higher rates applying the closer it gets to April 1.

Commissioner questions Green Village site plan

ANNA MARIA – Commissioner Dale Woodland questioned a site plan for 503/507 Pine Ave., the Historic Green Village, which allows for two residential buildings on one lot.

On Nov. 1, the planning and zoning board recommended approval of the site plan, which requested:

• A special exception to use a combination of Chapters 90 and 91 for parking;

• A reduction in the square footage of Angler's Lodge of 657 square feet by removing the addition;

• The addition of a second story residential unit on Building F, which is planned in front of the Pillsbury building at 503;

• The addition of voltaic panels over an additional portion of the parking area adjacent to the southern landscape buffer and fence.

Woodland asked why two residential buildings were being allowed on 503 and said according to the code, "There is only one residential unit per lot or per structure."

"This project came before you originally as a planned development, which combines the four lots under one unified site," engineer Lynn Townsend Burnett replied. "We have four lots, but three residential units are being requested."

Woodland said he is concerned that other property owners might want two residential units on one lot and asked that the code be reviewed.

City Attorney Jim Dye said he hadn't seen the site plan analysis until now and needed to read it and review the code. Woodland suggested the request be continued until the Dec. 15 meeting.

"I think it's an important issue. I think the ordinance is very clear, and it needs to be evaluated or the site plan revised to make one structure," Chair Chuck Webb added.

Burnett asked that commissioners approve the portion regarding the voltaic panels, which are being funded by a grant and must be installed by Dec. 12, and they did so.

Churches offer Thanksgiving opportunity

While Thanksgiving is known as a family food event, its main purpose is to give thanks for all that we have.

From America's earliest days, prayers have preceded a large family gathering, often held to celebrate the autumn harvest.

For those who live here and those visiting the Island during Thanksgiving, local churches open their doors every year to offer prayers of thanks the day of or the day before Thanksgiving. The following is a list of planned services and events.

• CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, hosts the All Island Denominations Service on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. Call 778-0719 for more information.

• The Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, 4408 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, will have a 10 a.m. service on Thanksgiving. Call 778-1638 for details.

• Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, will host a service at 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving. For more information, call 778-1813.

• Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, will have a service at 10 a.m. in the chapel and a dinner at 2 p.m. Seating for the dinner is limited so call 778-0414 to reserve space.

• St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, will host a 9 a.m. Mass on Thanksgiving. Call 778-4769 for more information.

Gulf Drive Cafe may open beach market

BRADENTON BEACH – The city commission has conditionally approved a two-month trial period for a new outdoor market at the Gulf Drive Café on Sundays.

Bradenton Beach commissioners voted 3-1 on Thursday to allow a 60-day trial period for the market if the city's police chief agrees in writing to provide two officers to patrol the event.

The Beach Market would be open on Sundays from Dec. 4 through Jan. 31 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If it passes the trial period, it would operate through the end of April.

The Holmes Beach Commission voted 5-0 last month against allowing a flea market in front of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce each Sunday from November through April. The Holmes Beach market was proposed by Nancy Ambrose, who organized the Bridge Street market in Bradenton Beach. Ambrose said she is in discussions with the Gulf Drive Café about working on the Beach Market, which would feature many of the same vendors as the proposed Holmes Beach market.

The Bridge Street Merchants are "strongly opposed" to the Beach Market, president Jo Ann Meilner told the board, citing comments from members concerned that it will compete with the established Sunday market on Bridge Street.

The Bridge Street Merchants are working with the newly-formed Holmes Beach Merchants and the North End Merchants Organization (NEMO) in Anna Maria to avoid scheduling conflicting events, said Caryn Hodge, vice president of the Bridge Street Merchants, adding that the Beach Market should do the same.

Competition is good for everyone, Gulf Drive Café Manager Peter Barreda said.

"I don't think that we have a right to legislate against free enterprise," Commissioner Gay Breuhler said.

"We help bring business to local businesses," said Val Gratias of Island Jewels, who worked at the Bridge Street Market and hopes to work at the Beach Market.

Residents at the Imperial House, across Gulf Drive from the site, are concerned about traffic and noise, resident Jane Robertson said.

"I'm pro-business, however, I think it's unfair to residents" who will be disturbed every Sunday as vendors set up and take down their displays, said Commissioner Jan Vosburgh, who voted against the event.

After a tie vote on allowing the market left the issue stalled, newly-installed Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy expressed concern that alcohol served at the Gulf Drive Café restaurant and tiki bar would make its way onto the beach and the street, where it is prohibited.

Vendors would not serve alcohol, but the Gulf Drive Café will serve it on its private property, he said, adding that he misunderstood the permit application, which indicated that no alcohol would be served at the event.

"We do everything in our power to keep them from leaving the property," Barreda said, but acknowledged that no one can guarantee it won't happen.

City Attorney Ricinda Perry urged the commission to consider the effect that alcohol and increased traffic could have on the city's liability, and suggested providing two police officers to patrol the event.

The commission voted to approve the event for 60 days on the condition that Police Chief Sam Speciale agree in writing to provide two officers at the event.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved Shaughnessy's nomination of Ed Straight for vice mayor;

• Postponed a discussion on newsracks until Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.;

• Approved the first reading of an ordinance preempting local firearms regulations to state law;

• Approved the first reading of an ordinance establishing hours of operation for municipal parking lots and prohibiting commercial vehicles in municipal lots;

• Approved the first reading of an ordinance prohibiting parking on the right of way within 100 feet of street ends;

• Postponed the discussion on tenting the Tingley Library until Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.;

• Approved a banner for the Strongman Contest at the Beach House Restaurant on Dec. 4;

• Approved a banner for the annual Manatee County Hazardous Waste/E-scrap Collection on Jan. 28;

• Cancelled the Dec. 15 commission meeting.

Commissioners learned that Vosburgh is working with public works to determine whether Australian pines pose a safety hazard on evacuation routes. Straight suggested considering all tree species. Shaughnessy said he is opposed to removing trees that are not diseased, and that the budget contains no money for removal.

The also approved the clearing of trees and landscaping in the Avenue B alley between 23rd and 24th Streets North. Residents have until Dec. 1 to remove anything they wish to keep.

Tourism money prioritized

The Manatee County Commission voted to amend the county's tourist development tax ordinance on Monday, prioritizing how funds are spent.

The 5 percent tourist development tax, imposed on hotels, motels, condominiums and other accommodations rented for six months or less, is the funding source for the county's $3.9 million tourism budget for 2012-13.

Twenty percent of the funds are allocated for beach renourishment, according to Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Elliott Falcione. Under the amended ordinance, the rest of the funds are prioritized as follows:

1. Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau;

2. Manatee Convention Center;

3. City of Bradenton (Pittsburgh Pirates);

4. South Florida Museum;

5. Reserves for contingencies/opportunities.

The amended ordinance consolidates multiple plans for each of the five pennies the tax produces, Assistant County Attorney Bill Clegg said.

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council unanimously recommended the plan.

Manatee County commissioners raised the tourist tax from four to five percent in 2009.

Boating buoys replaced

New boating safety buoys were anchored in the Gulf of Mexico off Anna Maria Island from Bean Point to Manatee County Public Beach last week, replacing buoys that were dislodged by storms.

The project will continue southward over the next month, according to Alan Lai Hipp, Manatee County Marine Resources Coordinator.

Stormy seas picked up some buoys and moved them to other spots, he said, adding that some washed up on the beach and some disappeared.

To protect both swimmers and manatees, the buoys create a line parallel to the Island that's visible to boaters and personal watercraft riders, indicating either slow speed/minimum wake zones or idle speed/no wake zones between the buoys and the beach.

Another set of buoys at Manatee Public Beach and Coquina Beach designate swimming areas in which no vessels are allowed.

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