The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 10 - December 21, 2011


Rental problem draws packed house
Carol Whitmore

City hall was overflowing last Tuesday with residents, rental property
managers and others eager to suggest ways to cope with noise,
trash and parking problems caused by tourists in vacation rentals.

HOLMES BEACH – Holmes Beach commissioners began delivering on their campaign promises to make short-term rental problems the focus of the new administration by holding a public work session last week.

A commission chamber overflowing with residents, property managers and others brainstormed suggestions to solve the noise, trash and parking problems caused by tourists in vacation rentals, the result of a recent redevelopment boom and the Island's growing reputation as a wedding destination.

During the city's visioning process, residents said they wanted to maintain the city's single family residential character, which is being undermined by short-term rentals, said Sue Normand, a property owner, business owner and chair of the city's planning commission.

The city is running the risk of losing residential neighborhoods by not enforcing city codes against non-conforming rental properties, she said.

Best practices

Larry Chatt of Island Real Estate, speaking for five large, unnamed rental property managers that he said represented 65 percent of the managers on Anna Maria Island, delivered a to-do list of "best practices."

For trash problems, the city should require rear-door trash pickup for all rental properties that are required to have a business tax license with the city, and rentals with four or more bedrooms should be required to have more trash cans, he said, suggesting that the city bring back a central dumpster for recycling to avoid blue bins scattered all over streets.

For overcrowding problems, property managers should personally give tourists a note in red letters spelling out noise, parking, trash and other regulations upon check-in, and should ask the number of people and vehicles in the party both while making reservations and again at check-in.

To help enforcement efforts, property managers should give police a list of their rental addresses so that when complaints are called in to the police, they can call the property managers to respond.

To promote goodwill, property managers should encourage rental property owners to meet their residential neighbors, whose concerns about tourist abuses often are ignored.

The suggestions won't address problems caused by tourists who rent online directly from owners, on websites such as Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO), or from property managers who don't subscribe to the best practices.

There are no teeth in best practices, said Ron Travis with ReMax Alliance Group, suggesting that when a complaint comes in to the police department, one warning should be issued to the tourist, one to the property owner and one to the property manager, and a $250 fine imposed the second time.

"This packed house tells you there's a lot of issues going on," he said.

The "M" word

Travis drew applause with his suggestion to place a six-month moratorium on building duplexes. Duplexes built 10 feet apart are fire hazards that should have been addressed by the city before construction, he said, adding, "Somebody's gonna die."

City Attorney Patricia Petruff suggested that commissioners could pass a moratorium for six months then extend it to a year if needed.

Darrin Wash, of Wash Family Construction, said a moratorium would hurt everyone, and that the city should "see who's causing the problem and talk to them directly."

Resident Tom Sabow suggested that the city allow builders to build only one or two properties at a time, as a few builders have multiple units under construction for months at a time, making the city look like a "war zone."

For example, builder Shawn Kaleta is using the vacant DaGiorgio's restaurant as a staging area for other construction projects, making a poor impression in the city's business district, he said, suggesting the city not allow equipment storage on site.

Kaleta was not available for comment.


Short-term rental owners often do not comply with regulations such as having fire and health department inspections, observing pool occupancy limits and collecting resort tax, said Ken Gerry, of White Sands Beach Resort, adding that the city should follow up on its proposal to require one parking space for each rental bedroom to reduce multiple cars overflowing into lawns and streets.

The issue is property use, said David Teitelbaum, a Bradenton Beach resort owner and member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council and Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

Residential buildings, many of them duplexes, are being used as commercial enterprises, which may put them in violation of several layers of regulation, including local minimum stay ordinances in different zones in the city, state health department regulations, for example, on commercial swimming pools, and federal regulations on overcrowding.

At his resorts, people are evicted if they disrupt neighbors, he said.

"People come here for enjoyment," said Teitelbaum, one of the founders of the Island's wedding festival. "To turn a single family home or duplex into a wedding palace is wrong," he said.

Twenty five-year resident Jayne Christenson, whose home is surrounded by 10 rental houses, said she was stunned to see a horse being ridden on her street on the way to a beach wedding.

She had several ideas that garnered applause.

Since duplexes are required to be attached, some builders have attached them underground, she said, suggesting that the city require them to be attached above ground, which would discourage investors.

Book 'em

Police should issue tickets, not warnings, for noise violations, she said, and property owners, as well as property managers, should be called when a violation is reported.

The police have no problem citing people, but are not heavy handed on first offenses, Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine said, noting that tourists have written nasty letters to the editor about speeding tickets.

There is a "huge increase" in reports, with 57 calls in the first nine months of 2010 compared to 126 in the first nine months of 2011, he said, adding, "Never feel you're bothering us."

Resident Renee Ferguson suggested that the city take advantage of the Island's talent pool and form volunteer ad hoc committees to help limited code enforcement, building department and police staff tackle the problems.

Holmes Beach Commission Chair David Zaccagnino said the commission would consider the suggestions and work on a plan.

"We can all make this a happy, peaceful place where we can co-exist," he said.

Popular sky lanterns causing concern
Carol Whitmore

Sky lanterns have been known to fall into sea
oats along the beach and set them on fire.


Safety concerns about releasing sky lanterns into the air at weddings and on holidays such as New Year's Eve have lit a fire under county officials to begin working on an ordinance regulating them.

Sky lanterns are made of paper, usually on a wire frame, with a candle that heats the air inside the paper, causing the lantern to become airborne. When the flame dies, the lantern lands – on the ground, in the water, in a tree, even on airport runways.

In May, 40 sky lanterns were sent aloft at a wedding at the Powel Crosley estate at the Manatee/Sarasota county line.

"What goes up must come down," said Rick Piccolo, CEO of the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority. "And where it lands, nobody knows."

That day, at least a dozen lanterns landed on the runways at the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, shutting down air traffic, he said.

Wire left on a runway or sucked into an engine could cause a plane to crash, and adding a lit candle to the fuel stored at the airport is a disaster waiting to happen, he said.

Airport officials asked Manatee County officials to write an ordinance regulating the lanterns as a danger to the public, he said.

State law (Florida Statute 379.233) already prohibits the release of 10 or more sky lanterns, or lighter-than-air balloons, within a 24-hour period; violators can incur $250 fines.

"We're looking at models around the country so it will be a thoughtful process," said Karen Windon, deputy county administrator. "It has a huge environmental impact."

That impact includes lanterns setting fire to dry sea oats or trees along the beach.

Effect on wildlife

For wildlife, the impact can be worse. Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox is concerned that lanterns sent aloft at the growing number of weddings on the beach will come down in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving wire parts in the water that could entangle or be ingested by sea turtles and other marine life.

Even "biodegradable" lanterns made with wood instead of wire could be eaten before the wood degrades, she said, adding that they also cause litter on the beach, where turtles and birds nest.

Wildlife, especially sea turtles, mistake the lanterns for food, and strings attached to them can entangle birds and other animals, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spokeswoman Susan Smith.

While state law allows for the release of balloons that are biodegradable or photodegradable under FWC rules, the FWC so far has not approved any.

The FWC encourages "more environmentally responsible actions," she said.

The lanterns have been banned at the Crosley, a popular wedding site, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Natural Resources Department.

An incident was averted at Anna Maria Elementary School's Peace Day in September when a sky lantern became entangled in a tree. Fire department volunteers who had been invited to the celebration retrieved it before any damage was done.

In parts of the U.S., sky lanterns have been banned as a hazard to farming, setting crops afire and landing in cattle herds, where wire can be ingested and entangle cattle.

Operator floats water shuttle proposal past board

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Tracey Dell is proposing a shuttle boat like the
Island Pearl, which would offer service from the
Anna Maria City Pier.

ANNA MARIA – A water shuttle operator will have to get permission from the city pier's lease holder to dock there, commissioners said last week.

Tracey Dell said he and his wife, Kathleen, own a small vessel charter business and would like to offer service to and from the city's historic pier at the end of Pine Avenue. He said they have purchased a 50-foot vessel, which is big enough to cross Tampa Bay.

"I hope by February or March we could have it in service," he said.

According to documents supplied by Dell, he plans to have two routes – one between the Island and Ft. De Soto Park in Pinellas County and one between the Anna Maria City Pier and Coquina Bayside with stops in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach.

"The lease is exclusively run by Mr. Shoenfelder," City Attorney Jim Dye pointed out. "The city only collects rent payments. In order to set up an operation like this, he should first talk to Mr. Shoenfelder."

Mayor Mike Selby said Shoenfelder has four years left on the lease with an option for another five years.

"Isn't the city interested in the structure?" Dell asked.

"The city owns it, but Mr. Shoenfelder is responsible for maintenance." Dye replied.

Chair Chuck Webb advised Dell to work out a deal with Shoenfelder and then come back to the commission.


Commissioners John Quam and SueLynn said the pier's manager, Dave Sork, submitted a list of questions that need answered. Questions include:

• What increased stress would this cause on the limited parking?

• Is there a potential for damage to the structure of the pier? Will any modifications have to be made to the structure to accommodate this extended commercial use of the pier? Who would bear any additional costs?

• During peak times, restroom facilities are already at a premium. While I understand there is a head on the vessel, I would guess that some passengers would prefer a more stable platform and would choose to use the already overburdened facilities on the pier.

• Would there be a payment made to the leaseholder, Mr. Shoenfelder, for the use of the pier by a for profit enterprise?

"It's a great idea," SueLynn said. "It would bring a lot of business into the city. I think a water taxi is inevitable. Keep the commission informed."

Webb noted that SueLynn is the commission liaison to the pier and told her to work with Dell. Dell said he would talk with Shoenfelder.

Center offers cooperation on cell tower

ANNA MARIA – Representatives of the Island Community Center told city commissioners that they want to cooperate with the city regarding the possibility of a cell tower at the Center.

"We met as a board several times in reference to a cell tower," explained Randy Langley, treasurer of the Center's Board of Directors. "We were approached by cell tower providers.

"We want to let the town know that we understand that our lease does not allow us to sublet, and any arrangement that's made with tower providers in the future would be with the full cooperation and the town's blessing."

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick asked if the Center expected to keep the revenue or let the city have it. Langley said that would be up to the city, but it would appreciate sharing any proceeds.

City Attorney Jim Dye advised commissioners that their current cell tower ordinance needs to be reworked or a new one drafted.

"Whatever approach the city takes, I do think the standards and criteria in the ordinance today need reviewed to make sure they are not in violation of federal law," Dye said. "My recommendation is to take a look at your substantive provisions such as standards and locational criteria."

Commissioner Dale Woodland asked if the city's 37-foot height restriction applies to cell towers.

"That's hard to say," Dye replied. "There's a provision that allows it to match the height of the surrounding trees. I found that nebulous as to how that's measured.

"There's also a provision that says whatever height the zoning district allows. It's hard for me to say which of the two you follow."

He said the ordinance contains other conflicting provisions.

Commissioners approved a motion for Dye and Rusty Monroe, of The Center for Municipal Solutions, which reviewed the ordinance and offered revisions, to work on amending the ordinance and bring it back to a work session.

Kids feel the holiday spirit
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Santa comes ashore from the personal watercraft
that lifeguard Rex Beach used to get him to the
Lawton Chiles Christmas Party for Kids.

ANNA MARIA – The stage was set for a watery appearance by Santa Claus, but the skill of Manatee County Rescue Lifeguard Rex Beach assured Santa made it to the kids with only sand and surf on his boots.

More than 100 kids from the Head Start Program and Healthy Families Manatee showed up for games, surprises, gifts, lunch under the Sandbar restaurant pavilion and an appearance by the jolly fellow.

Thanks to the generosity of the Chiles Group of restaurants and private donors, each child got a pair of shoes, clothing, an appropriate toy and a complete turkey dinner for his or her family.

The late Florida Governor Lawton Chiles started Healthy Families Manatee and the annual party and after he died, his son, Ed, carried on the tradition, calling it the Lawton Chiles Christmas Party for Kids.

In addition to Santa, there were cartoon characters for kids of all ages including Square Pants SpongeBob, Spider Man, and a few people dressed for the holidays.

After lunch, Santa made his appearance on the back of a personal watercraft as kids ran toward him across the beach. Then, he set himself up in a large, comfortable chair where kids got to sit on his lap and tell him what they wanted.

As the event came to a close and the kids lined up at their buses, Ed Chiles walked by with a smile on his face,

"This gets you in the Christmas spirit," he said.

Churches schedule holiday worship

The Island's churches will hold services during the holidays for residents and visitors. Here is a list of those services:

• CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-0719,, will hold a Christmas Eve service on Saturday at 7 p.m. and a Christmas Day service at 10:15 a.m.

• Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, 4408 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-1638, On Christmas Eve, there will be a family Eucharistic service with music at 5 p.m. and a service at 10:30 p.m. featuring carols followed by a Solemn High Eucharist at 11 p.m. with incense, choir and music. On Christmas Day, there will be a Eucharist at 10 a.m.

• Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-1813,, will have a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. with carols and candlelight and a second service at 10:30 p.m. There will be a service at 9:30 a.m. on Christmas Day with worship, carols and communion.

• Harvey Memorial Community Church, 300 Church Street, Bradenton Beach, 779-1912, will have a church service on Christmas Day at 7 p.m.

• Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, 778-0414,, will have a Family Candlelight Celebration at 5:30 p.m. and a Traditional Candlelight Service at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve plus a 10 a.m. service on Christmas Day.

• St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, 7784769, will have Mass at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve and at 8 and 10 a.m. on Christmas Day.

Commission approves Waste Management contract By Pat

ANNA MARIA – After hearing changes negotiated by staff to the city's franchise agreement with Waste Management, commissioners approved it last week.

Provisions of the agreement, which begins on April 1, 2012, and will be in place for seven years, are:

• Residential service for homesteaded properties will remain the same. The collection rate will be $18.94 per month, which includes a $1.25 fee for a recycling cart.

• Residential service for nonhomesteaded properties will be side yard collection for solid waste and recyclables. The rate will be $22.45 per month, which also includes the recycling cart fee.

• Pick up days will be Mondays for solid waste, recycling and yard waste and Thursdays for solid waste.

• Recycling carts can be 35 or 64 gallons.

• There will be two free residential cleanups per year.

• Waste Management will contribute $5,000 to the city for educational ads about waste and recycling.

• The city will get two solar compactors. "Waste Management has accepted every point," Mayor Mike Selby told the board.

Commission questions

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick asked if residents can opt out of taking the recycling cart, and Selby said that would defeat the purpose.

Chair Chuck Webb asked if there are problems with collections and if the city should pass an ordinance addressing the issue. Rose Quin-Bare, representing Waste Management, said it is the company's responsibility to collect its fees.

"It's not out of hand," Quin-Bare said. "We don't stop service unless it's absolutely necessary so we don't penalize others."

City Attorney Jim Dye said the city requires residents to have service, and if they don't, it would be a code enforcement issue, but collections are up to the company.

Commissioner John Quam asked how drivers would know whether the homes are homesteaded or not. Quin- Bare said the cans would be marked. Commissioner Dale Woodland said the price is competitive, he is glad to see the absentee owner issue addressed and that he is comfortable with Waste Management.

Andy Toler, district manager of Waste Pro, said his company provides service to Bradenton Beach for $16.04 per residence and that $1.25 per month for the recycling cart over seven years would cost each owner $105.

"We are here asking for your business," he said.

However, commissioners unanimously approved the Waste Management agreement.

Board OKs baseball house move

This graphic shows two possible locations at the Historical Society
complex for the baseball house named Infield, which
is owned by Greg Spahn, son of baseball great Warren Spahn.

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners gave their blessing to the Anna Maria Island Historical Society to move one of the city's historic "baseball houses' to the society's complex on Pine Avenue.

Melissa Williams, president of the Historical Society said Greg Spahn, the son of baseball legend Warren Spahn, has offered Infield to the Anna Maria Island Historical Society.

The small cinder block home at 203 Cypress Street is 29 feet by 24 feet, and the Historical Society has received an estimate of $18,000 to move it. That does not include the cost of permits, a foundation and renovation.

"I have appointed a committee to look into raising the funds (to move and restore it)," Williams explained. "We feel there is great potential. Although the house isn't beautiful, we feel it embodies a culture that was very big on the Island for many decades."

She presented two possible locations for the house – between the Old City Jail and Belle Haven Cottage and on Lot 10, where the city stores yard waste and equipment.

"I can't think of why anybody wouldn't want to put it there," Commissioner Dale Woodland remarked, "but both of these locations intrude on public works."

"It (Location A) would wipe out a third of what we consider storage for public works," Public Works Director George McKay said.

Williams said McKay has offered a third possibility – closer to Belle Haven Cottage, but she pointed out, "It's very close to Belle Haven. It would wipe out the path where you walk into the park,"

"I'm just thinking of sliding it back closer to the bayou," McKay responded. "We need to try to make it work without encroaching on the public works area."

Commissioner John Quam said he favors Location A, so all the buildings could be in one area.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick suggested moving it near the street, however, Williams said that would eliminate some of the museum's limited parking area.

Mattick asked about Location B on Lot 10, but McKay said he needs it for yard waste containers. However, Mayor Mike Selby said he hopes to put a cottage offered to the city by Joe Chiles on that lot.

Quam made the motion to give permission to the Historical Society to move the house with Chair Chuck Webb abstaining because Greg Spahn is his client.

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