The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 14 - January 18, 2012


Dude, where's our pier?
Carol Whitmore

In the 1960s, the pier at Manatee Public Beach
was a popular gathering place for families.

HOLMES BEACH – The pier at Manatee Public Beach, demolished for safety reasons in 2009, is missed by visitors and residents and needs to be replaced, Manatee County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore says.

The commission voted in 2009 to replace the structure, which still appears in tourism ads, and helped keep the beach from eroding, Whitmore said at a recent county commission meeting.

The county can't afford the $2 million price, and a new pier wouldn't be the same, even if was affordable, according to Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County's Natural Resources department.

"Everybody wants the old pier back," he said, but if the beach is eroding, as Whitmore believes, a new pier would be permitted as an erosion control structure with no railings like those at Twin Piers in Bradenton Beach, not a recreational pier.

If a recreational pier were permitted, it would have to be much higher than the old pier due to federal and state laws, he said.

The county has been monitoring erosion at Manatee County Public Beach and there is not much effect since the pier was demolished, Hunsicker said, adding that the monitoring will continue.

Resort tax funds could possibly be used to build an erosion control structure, but only if the county can prove to the state Department of Environmental Protection that erosion is occurring, he said. He added that the necessary scientific model of how much the beach might be eroding due to the absence of the pier would cost $100,000.

Manatee County's 5 percent resort tax is collected from owners of accommodations rented for less than six months. The tax funds beach renourishment and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau's tourism marketing efforts.

Anna Maria tackles residental rental issue

ANNA MARIA – The rental business is booming here in this small city just like it is all over Anna Maria Island. And, just as in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, problems with noise and overcrowding have some permanent residents wishing business wasn't quite so good.

Last week, city commissioners got an earful from residents, property managers and the Sheriff's Office about some of those problems and agreed that something needs to be done, but that more discussion is needed to determine just what the answer is.

Mayor Mike Selby said he and City Attorney Jim Dye attended a meeting on the issue held by the Holmes Beach City Commission and said, "Property managers came to the forefront in Holmes Beach. They want to see things happen for the good of the residents. We all know the problems. We need solutions."

Commissioner SueLynn, who spoke about the issue during her campaign, suggested that renters sign a form approved by the city that lists the number of people and cars with consequences for violators. She said the city could limit the number of cars to two.

However, Dye pointed to state legislation that "told local governments that they could not single out vacation rentals for regulation."

He gave an example of the commission's recent decision to require non-homesteaded properties to have rear door garbage pick up, which is aimed at vacation rentals, but does not single them out.

Dye also said that limiting the number of people in a rental house is difficult to enforce.

Noise enforcement

Commissioner John Quam said noise is a major issue with vacation rentals, and Commissioner Dale Woodland asked about citing people for disturbing the peace.

Sgt. Dave Turner, who is in charge of the Sheriff's Office substation in the city, explained, "We do have a noise ordinance. Right now we're in transition mode with it. We're going back to the decimeter and have been told how to deal with it by our people."

Dye said the city's noise ordinance contains decibel levels, so it is enforceable.

Turner said disturbing the peace requires affidavits by two complainants and noted, "It has to be way out there. We have never approached anywhere near there. Noise is not disturbing the peace. It's a civil enforcement issue done by a complaint through code enforcement."

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick asked if deputies turn over complaints to the code enforcement officer, and Turner said they currently do that.

"When a deputy responds to a noise complaint, he has the option of clearing the complaint, resolving the situation there and writing a report or stepping it up," Turner explained.

"The deputies will usually go there and there will be compliance. Sometimes there's not, and we're going to have to work on that and see what we want to do.

"He needs another tool," Chair Chuck Webb said. "It's just a citation process and right now we don't have that."

Woodland said if the problem continues after a deputy has responded, he would expect the deputy to contact the property manager or owner.

Rental agents speak

Mike Brinson, of AMI Accommodations, said , "We're providing lists to the police dispatch so they can contact us. If people don't quiet down, we can take their keys away and remove them from the property. No refunds. No questions asked."

Selby asked what happens if the people refuse to leave, and Brinson said the Sheriff's Office would back them up.

Brinson said since the issue arose in Holmes Beach, property managers have compiled a list of best practices that include requirements such as rear door trash pick up, additional trash cans for additional bedrooms and checking on parking maximums.

He said they give renters a handout with advice on following city ordinances and being a neighbor-friendly guest. They are encouraging all property managers to ask renters the number of people and vehicles that will be at the rental. He said all property managers have 24-hour emergency lines for people to call if there are problems.

"A few are ruining it for everybody," he pointed out. "We don't want them in the houses."

Larry Chatt, of Island Real Estate, added, "We want to be part of the solution. Call on me anytime. We have the power. My owners would be very upset if I didn't handle those issues."

Brinson asked people to contact him or Chatt for adding to the guidelines.

Other ideas

Resident Penelope Naylor, who has an issue with swimming pool noise from a neighboring property, said there are other ways to control problems such as health department and fire codes.

"These properties seem to be hybrids because they are single-family residential properties, but they operate the same as hotels," she pointed out.

"Hotels have their guests sign a contract before they come and it spells out what the behavioral limitations are and what's expected. If they violate them, they're thrown out."

Resident Micheal Coleman suggested appointing a commissioner to be a liaison to the property managers and help them develop standards.

SueLynn offered to be the liaison and asked, "If you're using your residence to make money, why isn't that considered commercial?"

"The state defines it as a resort dwelling, and it's allowed," Building Official Bob Welch responded. "It still has the designation of single- or two-family dwelling, but it's not a prohibited use in the neighborhood."

Code Enforcement Officer Jerry Rathvon said another problem is the homes that are rented privately, and when there are problems, it is often difficult to contact the owners.

Resident Richard Penn thanked commissioners for taking the issue seriously and said, "It's a serious problem. We want to make our neighborhood livable again."

Another resident said he has a party house next door and has considered moving out of the city.

Different, but still the same

ANNA MARIA – Island Community Center board members on Monday voted to execute a contract with a cell tower developer in hopes that the city commission would act on it.

Treasurer Randy Langley said at the November board meeting, he had suggested moving forward to force the city to address the issue. He said last week he learned that there are two other groups that hope to have a tower on their property.

"Over the Internet I contacted the (cell tower)committee, and we negotiated a contract with the developer," he said. "I want to execute a contract with the developer by the end of the week."

He said there would be caveats in the contract to allow the Center to get out of it if necesary. He would not disclose the developer's name or the amount of the contract.

Langley said if the cell tower is at the Center, the money should go to the Center because "the entire communty benefits from it."

The board asked their attorney and cell tower committee members to review the contract before submitting it to the developer.

In March, the board formed the ad hoc committee to study a city request to allow a cell tower to be built at the Center. In September, the board authorized the committee to negotiate a contract with a provider.

However, Mayor Mike Selby advised them to get approval from the city to change their lease before proceeding because it is not a permitted use in their lease. In December, Langley came before the city and offered the Center's cooperation on a cell tower.

Center hopes to force cell tower issue

Clean beaches don't just happen; seaweed, used diapers, dead fish, cigarette butts and a blue million of those little plastic bucket handles seldom bother beachgoers thanks to Mark Taylor.

A former Cortez commercial fisherman, Taylor keeps Anna Maria Island's Gulf beaches clean with a tractor rake, and people are noticing. He is the Manatee County Employee of the Month for January, and last month, he was honored for his service by the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department.

Nicknamed "Little Rusty" for his dad, Earl "Rusty" Taylor, Mark served as state president and local chapter director of the Organized Fishermen of Florida during the fierce battle against banning commercial gill nets in the early 1990s. The ban was enacted by constitutional amendment in 1995, putting Taylor and much of Cortez out of work.

After working as a truck driver and motorcycle instructor, Taylor came on board with the county Parks and Recreation Department 10 years ago to stay close to the water.

But it's no day at the beach.

The day after Fourth of July and New Year's Eve fireworks, three-day weekend trash and dead fish from red tide are the worst, along with holes dug in the sand that can entrap sea turtles, people and his tractor, which used to be an open cab, ensuring a facial sand blast on windy days.

Anything the rake won't pick up must be picked up by hand. Sea turtle nests and tracks must be avoided, as must oblivious beachgoers who walk in front of the big, green tractor or in back of it while it's beeping.

He works with Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch to keep sand shelves graded like ramps for easy sea turtle access during nesting and hatching season, May 1 to Oct. 31, on Anna Maria Island, which Taylor still pronounces Anna Mar-eye-ah.

If you lose something on the beach, it would be wise to go back soon to look for it; Taylor will leave certain items out a day or so before picking them up. But don't wait too long because, as he says, "I hate trash."

Making use of unwanted mullet a Catch-22
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Dead mullet littered Beer Can Island on
Longboat Pass earlier this month.


Try to find a way to keep discarded mullet from washing up on local shorelines and get it into the hands of the hungry, and you're likely to wind up in a catch-22.

As reported in The Sun on Jan. 4, a plentiful harvest of mullet over the past few weeks filled Cortez fish house freezers to capacity, causing them to buy only female mullet, which carry high-dollar red roe, an Asian delicacy.

As a result, fishermen tossed males with less valuable white roe overboard. If it's done right, at sea, some survive, but in a race to get to the fish house first, some fishermen waited until they docked to separate the fish, when the fish were already dead, then took the male carcasses offshore and dumped them.

The dead fish washed up on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key Gulf beaches and in canals along the Intracoastal Waterway, according to the county's beach raker and elected officials who received a boatload of complaints from residents and tourists.

The logical question is: Why can't the unwanted mullet go to a food bank instead?


The answer is complicated, and, like many things, boils down to money.

The Salvation Army in Bradenton is short on volunteers and does not have the staff – or even fillet knives – to clean and fillet the fish, but they would cook it up and serve it if it was cleaned and filleted, a cook said.

All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota is a warehouse with no kitchen, and, therefore, has no place to clean the fish, and there is no room in the warehouse to store fish, spokesman Jim Swinford said.

"Mullet has to be gutted and cleaned right away, and we don't do processing here," said Cindy Sloan, of the Food Bank of Manatee.

Roser Pantry in Anna Maria does not accept fresh food, only non-perishables.

"I would love to have them, but I don't have the ability to clean them and cook them," said Penny Goethe of Our Daily Bread in Bradenton.

Even if a food bank was willing to take the fish, there are problems on the supply side.

The fish have to be continuously kept on ice, and ice costs money.

Kim McVey, of Cortez Bait and Seafood, said the fish house was buying ice daily during the mullet run. Freezer space at the fish house was at a premium, reserved for female mullet.Fishermen wait all year for the uncertain and often short window of opportunity when mullet roe is plentiful to sell the high-dollar catch. They aren't likely to take valuable time in the busy season to handle low-value fish, said Karen Bell of A.P. Bell Fish Co.

And even if they were willing, Bell Fish was too busy to transport the unwanted fish elsewhere, she said, adding that they ran at full capacity for weeks and even had to cut off the purchase of red mullet.

How they do it up north

The problem isn't just in Cortez.

A study by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization states that discarding fish is a worldwide "waste of fishery resources and potential food."

A study by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on donating bycatch to food banks suggests "creating more interest and opportunity for expanded donation programs involving fish species that currently are not retained due to market or other economic considerations."

Alaska has figured out a solution, with a "bycatch to food bank" program.

Boats fishing in the Bering Sea donate their unwanted bycatch to Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based SeaShare, a branch of the Feeding America food bank network.

SeaShare has organized a not-for-profit group of fishermen, fish houses, processors, packagers, and storage and transportation companies who donate their services. To offset the rest of the cost to get the fish to the hungry, SeaShare obtains financial donations.

The group has served more than 150 million meals since 1994, said SeaShare director Jim Harmon, who vacationed on Anna Maria Island in the 1960s with his parents.

At the request of The Sun, the Tampa Bay branch of Feeding America is looking into whether the program could work locally.

In places without a solid fishing industry infrastructure, getting whole fish to food banks may not work, Harmon said.

But mullet also can be ground up as fish meal and used as food in aquaculture, he said. Aquaculture farms operate north and south of Cortez, in Ruskin in Hillsborough County and at Mote Marine Laboratory's farm in Sarasota County.

SeaShare had to obtain special federal permits to allow fishermen in the Bering Sea to keep unwanted bycatch for charitable donations, as federal law requires them to discard bycatch.

In Florida, there's no such red tape. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – not the federal government – has jurisdiction over the mullet fishery, said the FWC's Aaron Podey, and it does not prohibit donating bycatch to food banks as long as the fish are landed at a licensed dealer and a trip ticket is reported for each load.

Dumping illegal

The FWC is approaching the problem from another angle - law enforcement.

In response to numerous complaints about discarded mullet, the FWC recently asked its legal staff to clarify the fisheries regulations for its law enforcement officers, who earlier this month told The Sun that the dumping was not illegal.

A Florida statute and a provision in the Florida Administrative Code prohibit dumping dead fish, Podey said.

"If you use any part of it, such as the roe, you have to land it (at the dock) in whole condition," he said. "If you're not going to use any of it, you must return it to the water immediately, alive and unharmed."

Fishermen who throw out dead male mullet violate the regulation, he said, adding that throwing out female carcasses after the roe is removed

probably is not a violation.

Wildlife officers use their discretion, he said, which is particularly wide on mullet, because it has no commercial limit. The last stock assessment of the species in 2008 showed they were exceeding management goals, Podey said, adding, "This is a fishery in good shape."

A sin and a shame

Too good, this year.

Dead fish generated so many complaints, including from tourists afraid that red tide had killed the fish, that Manatee County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore and Holmes Beach Commission Chair David Zaccagnino formed an informal committee to investigate ways to use the excess fish.

Besides looking into food banks, they hope to work with prisons, which may have the capacity, equipment and staff to handle the fish.

If nothing else, a landscaping company might use the mullet as fertilizer for trees and bushes, as the early settlers of Cortez did.

Meanwhile, there's good news for coastal residents and beachgoers who are sick of smelling dead fish, although it's bad news for fishermen – the mullet run has slowed to a walk.

With more mullet this roe season than anyone can remember seeing in their lifetime, a run like this is unlikely to happen again anytime soon, Bell said.

Still, any dead fish thrown overboard is, as one Cortez fisherman said, "a sin and a shame."

Anyone with ideas or dollars to help get surplus seafood to hungry people, hungry fish or hungry plants, contact Whitmore at 941-748-4501 or

Birdie Tebbetts Field safe
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Cindy Lane | sun
Aspen, a Holmes Beach Labrador, enjoys Birdie Tebbetts Field.
Dogs are allowed to play on the field when no one is playing ball.


HOLMES BEACH – The city can't allow Birdie Tebbetts Field to go completely to the dogs, despite requests from citizens, according to Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.

The field is listed in the city's comprehensive plan as part of its "recreational" element, he said, adding that private donors and the Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department contributed funds for the field with the agreement that people would always be able to play baseball there.

The ball field, named for the late George "Birdie" Tebbetts, who was a resident of Anna Maria Island and a professional baseball player, manager and scout, is designated for baseball and softball use, but if no one is playing ball, dogs are allowed to play there.

Holmes Beach resident Jeannie Hudkins wrote the city commission recently asking the city to designate the field as a dog park.

"If you've never been at the ball park at around 5:00, please go and visit; there is so much community socialization and interaction. And that is what we want for our Island: a friendly, laid back, Island atmosphere that allows time to smell the flowers, get to know our neighbors, and run our dogs," she wrote. "That field is used by more people (and their dogs) every day than it ever could have been if left exclusively as a ball park. At least 100 people (and their dogs) use that field every single day for exercise and interaction."

If the field was exclusively designated as a dog park, city maintenance costs could be reduced by not using expensive pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer treatments, she wrote.

Chemical applications prompted the city to install gates in the openings on the fenced field, so they could be locked to keep people and dogs off the chemicals, Bohnenberger said, adding that many people think the gates were installed to keep dogs in.

Gate talks continue this week
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

File photo
This gate in a fence at Sandpiper Resort has two cities
in a conflict resolution proceeding that continues this week.

HOLMES BEACH – Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach officials and attorneys plan to continue negotiating a property dispute over the 27th Street border between the cities on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. at Holmes Beach City Hall.

The Holmes Beach City Commission also is expected to discuss the matter Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. at its regular meeting at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Some Holmes Beach officials object to a new gate installed by Sandpiper Resort in Bradenton Beach in a fence along 27th Street. While Sandpiper owners say the gate was meant to keep wheeled vehicles out, Holmes Beach officials argue that it impedes access by Holmes Beach residents and say that the city of Bradenton Beach had no authority to quitclaim the strip of property to the mobile home park in 2008.

After the initial conflict resolution meeting between the cities last month, Holmes Beach officials requested that Sandpiper quitclaim the northern 30 feet of the 50-foot right of way on 27th Street back to Bradenton Beach and remove no trespassing signs and the new and old gates. The proposal would make Sandpiper's private grass parking area open to public parking. Sandpiper directors have not publicly responded to the request.

The Bradenton Beach Commission is unable to take any action because two of its five voting commissioners, Mayor John Shaughnessy and Commissioner Gay Breuler, cannot vote because they own property in Sandpiper, and one board seat is empty, leaving the commission without a quorum to do business.

Two members of the Holmes Beach Commission also abstain from voting on the issue, Commissioner Jean Peelen, who owns property at Sandpiper, and Commissioner John Monetti, who owns property adjacent to the fence. Monetti first raised the public access issue last year.

The Holmes Beach Commission voted in October to initiate the dispute resolution proceeding against Bradenton Beach.

7th annual Jazz Fest set for Feb. 9 at the Sandbar

The Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus & Orchestra (AMICCO), Gulf Drive Band, Sandbar restaurant and The Anna Maria Island Sun present the Seventh Annual Jazz Fest to be held on Thursday, Feb. 9, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Sandbar pavilion, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria. After expenses, proceeds from Jazz Fest go directly to AMICCO to ensure future concerts will be held for the community.

Jazz Fest will feature the Gulf Drive Band with Ted Young, from Pittsburgh, on piano and Bil Bowdish, from Boston, on flute, sax and vocals. Selections go back to the 1920s and span seven decades. While the band performs in various styles at numerous locations in the area, this presentation will focus on pieces with a jazz flavor. Special guest star will be Island and area favorite Koko Ra, who plays two saxophones at the same time – harmony on one and melody on the other.

Tickets to Jazz Fest are on a first come basis at, by calling 778-8585 or at the Anna Maria Island Chamber, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Tickets are $8 per person in advance (before noon Feb. 9) and $10 at the door. The Sandbar will provide refreshments at an additional charge.

AMICCO will have tickets on sale for its Feb. 12 operetta, Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" and CDs from previous concerts.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper