The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 21 - March 7, 2012


Part dog park, part baseball, Tebbett's Field to be split

HOLMES BEACH – The city commission has decided to split Birdie Tebbetts Field in two, creating a smaller ball field and a dedicated dog park.

The fenced-in field was built as a baseball field, where the city has allowed dogs to run off leash if no one is playing ball. No dogs are permitted during ball playing activities, as noted on a sign posted on the fence. The 77,000-square-foot field will be split nearly in half with an $8,000 fence, with the outfield as a dedicated dog park and the infield as a smaller baseball field.

Commissioners have noted that the regulation-size field is too large for children and most adults to play on.

The plan is a solution to a problem that began with a single disgruntled dog owner who was told to leave the field by a ballplayer. In response, a resident asked the Holmes Beach Commission to make the field exclusively a dog park, saying no one used it for baseball.

Under the city's comprehensive plan, Holmes Beach does not have to maintain the baseball usage of the field as long as the field is providing recreation, which a dog park does, said Holmes Beach resident and Manatee County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore, whose husband takes their dog to the field.

But since the issue was first raised several weeks ago, the park's visibility has increased and ballplayers now are using the field.

The resulting safety and liability issues led to the decision, reached by consensus at last week's commission meeting.

"We need to separate the kids from the dogs," Commission Chair David Zaccagnino said.

Dog owners told the commission in previous meetings that splitting the field was unnecessary, and suggested requiring ball players to make reservations at the city police department, so the field could be shared. Commissioners began the registration requirement last month.

Dog owners could form a club and raise funds to expand the existing back fence to make the dog park larger, add a double entrance area and add water fountains and other amenities, Zaccagnino said.

Island heritage on display
Carol Whitmore

From left, Howard Bard, Frank Popovick, Jon-Clay Kemper,
Harrell Wells and Susie Martin, of State Road 64, play.

ANNA MARIA – Once again, perfect weather brought out a huge crowd to enjoy the AMI Historical Society's annual Heritage Day Festival at the museum complex on Pine Avenue Saturday.

Many left their vehicles and took advantage of the trolley, which regularly stops in front of the museum. They shopped at booths manned by local merchants as well as vendors offering artwork, jewelry, crafts, woodcarvings, antiques and T-shirts that filled the parking lot and the park behind Belle Haven Cottage.

New this year was the beginning of a fundraising effort to move Warren Spahn's former home, Infield, to the museum complex and renovate it as a baseball museum. The Historical Society's goal for Phase I of this effort is $30,000.

All the money from the raffle of donations of items from Heritage Day vendors and three baskets packed with donations from Island merchants, plus the raffle of a signed photo of Warren Spahn in the Historical Society's new baseball booth went toward the fund.

Inside the museum, Carolyne Norwood signed copies of her two Island history books, while outside State Road 64 provided bluegrass music that had people clapping along and dancing.

Clowns Snowbird, Sparky and Heartstrings delighted the children with colorful balloon animals. In the shaded garden, Betsy Smith demonstrated palm frond weaving and Brenda Kuluk demonstrated pine needle basket weaving.

Hungry visitors dined on a selection of hoagies from Kozy Korner, formerly Fusion; lox, bagels and muffins from Paradise Café; and Jail House Dogs from the Historical Society.

The day concluded with the raffles, which brought in $511 for the Infield fund. The baseball booth brought in an additional $144 for the fund.

To park or not to park
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Gene Aubry | SUBMITTED
On Thursday, the city commission will discuss this parking
plan bordering the six lots on Pine Avenue and North
Bay Boulevard that was drawn by Gene Aubry.

ANNA MARIA – Mayor Mike Selby recently received two communications regarding parking.

One was a letter from Roger Roark, chair of the congregation of Roser Memorial Community Church, seeking relief from unauthorized parking by people visiting, shopping and sightseeing on Pine Avenue.

The other was from city pier tenant Mario Schoenfelder asking the city to reconsider the commission's decision to eliminate parking in the six lots at the corner of North Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue.

Roark wrote, "It appears the city government has not addressed the issue of adequate parking for the increased commercial development and tourist attractions on Pine Avenue."

He said Roser is a very active church and there are few days during which it is not being used for church related events or authorized community events, and increased public parking would have a negative impact on those events.

"It is the position of the Roser governing council that Roser will not operate a public parking facility, and a team has been established and charged with the job of developing recommendations as to how to address the increasing problem," Roark said.

"We would be interested in how you and the commission members plan to address what we see as a serious parking space problem in the Pine Avenue/Bay Boulevard area."

"I will ask the commission chair to put this on the April work session," Selby said. "We need to look at the global issue."

Pier parking

In his e-mail, Schoenfelder said, "I applaud the city's purchase of the lots across from the city pier. I believe that the parking needs of the community should be reconsidered before you close the door on the possibility of using a portion of that purchase to address those needs."

He said while he is pleased with the new boardwalk and entryway and the beach renourishment, both will create more pressure on current parking. He also said that while he doesn't believe it's the city's job to provide parking for a commercial enterprise, a "viable city pier depends a great deal on available parking.

"It is my hope that you will reconsider the addition of some parking if you are in the process of making yet another attractive area in the new lots."

"Mr. Schoenfelder has a point," Selby said. "There's a lot of new attractions on Pine Avenue, and the six lots also could turn into an attraction for people and vehicles.

"Gene's Aubry's parking plan for North Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue around the six lots would provide 19 spaces. Maybe we could provide some parking inside the six lots."

Selby said commissioners will discuss Aubry's plan at Thursday's work session.

Pier might lose its T-end
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

photos from the | sun
The T-end of the Bridge Street Pier is popular with anglers
and people who like to relax under the covered area on swings.

BRADENTON BEACH – The city is gearing up to refurbish the Bridge Street Pier from just east of Rotten Ralph's to the end of the structure, but the pier might lose some length for a while if they don't have the money to do it all.

The Pier Team, composed of city department heads and the owners of Rotten Ralph's, has been meeting monthly since the last refurbishment, which started after storm damage in 2004 prompted an inspection of the structure that forced the city to close it.

It hired an architect and engineer and took out a line of credit to reinforce funds collected from the franchisee, which were committed to the pier's upkeep, and embarked on a project that saw new pilings for the pier from the shoreline to just past where the restaurant is located. The city also replaced the restaurant with a larger structure and added a bait shop, a dock master office, larger public restrooms and a public shower, but it left the eastern portion of the pier alone.

During the project, the Pier Team met regularly with representatives of the contractor to go over progress and any change orders that needed to be made.

After the project ended, the Pier Team held monthly meetings to discuss items such as maintenance and repair.

With the recent announcement by City Clerk Nora Idso that the loan had been paid off early, Police Chief Sam Speciale, who also serves as Pier Team chairman, suggested at last Thursday's meeting that the team should start work on the scope of the next project to replace pilings under the rest of the pier and decking above them.

Speciale asked Public Works Director Tom Woodard to get comparative prices from Duncan Seawall and Brian Wood between composite and wood decking and concrete and wood pilings. He suggested the $420,000 they have budgeted might not be enough for the pilings and decking. Building Official Steve Gilbert agreed.

"We're looking at a configuration, no doubt about it," Gilbert said, "The T-end might have to go."

Speciale said they might have to rebuild the pier as far as their money would go and then wait for more money before replacing the T-end, which includes a fishing area and a covered area where people can use large wooden swings attached to the ceiling.

Speciale wondered if they should leave in the old pilings, since the state has said it would not allow the city to add to the footprint of the pier, and if the T-end was taken down, the city might not be allowed to replace it. He felt that leaving the pilings in would keep the footprint the same, but he said they should check with the state to see what their options might be.

The group agreed to start work on the new rehab project and told Dave Russell, owner of the restaurant franchise, he would not need to attend future meetings unless he had a maintenance or repair issue.

If it's unique, find it at the boutique
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Pat Copeland | Sun
Find painted fish wall art, shell mirrors, pillows, decorated
flip flops, jewelry and more at the AMI Community
Center's Tour of Homes Tropical Treasures Boutique.


ANNA MARIA – The 19th Annual Anna Maria Island Tour of Homes offers an opportunity to view six unique Island homes in Holmes Beach from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 17.

The tour include the homes of Diana McManaway, 205A 66th Street; Dan and Jan Hazewski, 212 68th Street; Susan Gress, 534 70th Street; Debi Wohlers and Lori Waggoner, 508 72nd Street; Marty and Laurie Hicks, 615 Key Royale Drive; and Ron and Barb Harrold, 619 Ivanhoe Lane.

The Tour of Homes committee has been busy making unique items for it popular Tropical Treasures Boutique offering home décor with a tropical twist. The boutique will be located at the Hicks home in Key Royale.

Some items you can shop for include hand-made jewelry; oil cloth placemats, napkins and aprons; painted signs; shell topiary trees; shell mirrors; painted fish wall art; picture frames; beach bird houses and more, as well as a selection of tasty baked goods. There also will be a silent auction of one-of-a-kind pieces for your home.

The drawing for this year's tour quilt, "The Birds of Paradise," made by the Eyeland Needlers, will be held at the boutique at 3 p.m. on the day of the tour. Until then, it is on display in the Island Community Center lobby, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, and tickets are available there for $1 each or $5 for six.

Tour tickets

Tickets for the tour are available for $20 at the following Island locations:

Anna Maria: AMI Sun, 202 Palm Ave.; Ginny's & Jane E's, 9807 Gulf Dr.; The White Egret, 10006 Gulf Dr.; Beach Bums, 427 Pine Ave.; Egret's Nest, 10010 Gulf Drive; the Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave.; and Anna Maria General Store and Deli, 307 Pine Ave.

Holmes Beach: AMI Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Dr.; The Islander, 5404 Marina Dr.; LaPensee Plumbing, 401 Manatee Ave.; The Egret's Landing, 5602 Marina Dr.; Island Fitness, 5317 Gulf Drive; and Holmes Beach Hardware, 3352 East Bay Drive.

On tour day, take the free shuttle or ride a bicycle or trolley to the homes. The shuttle leaves from the AMI Chamber of Commerce parking lot, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Tour sponsors include Anna Maria General Store & Deli, the boutique; Beach to Bay Construction, the event; Green Real Estate, the quilt; and the Anna Maria Island Sun, the Bradenton Herald, and the Islander, media.

All tour proceeds benefit the Community Center, which serves over 5,000 children, families and seniors in the community with programs and services that otherwise would not be available.

For more information, call the Center at 778-1908, ext. 0.

Moratorium debated in Holmes Beach

HOLMES BEACH – During a strident city commission meeting fueled by an accusatory e-mail and peppered with heckling, Commission Chair David Zaccagnino made a plea for civility.

"This is a small Island. Hurtful and false things travel quickly, and they do more damage than can be imagined," he told a nearly-packed commission chamber of city residents Tuesday night. Commissioners ran for office "…to give back to our community and try to keep a slice of Heaven alive, not for money or power, but for our neighbors and children, to try to come up with solutions and make people happy with a safe city."

In an e-mail to commissioners dated Friday, Feb. 24, resident Ellen Stohler asked for a building moratorium, echoing Anna Maria's administrative hold on certain types of construction, a response to complaints about noise, trash, parking and overcrowding problems at vacation rentals.

"There is a lot of talk in Holmes Beach about bribes being paid to the commission," she wrote. "Nobody has proof, but this resistance to the public sure looks like you guys are being paid off."

"People who voted for you don't understand why you don't do what we want," she told the commission Tuesday night, eliciting such a response from the audience that Zaccagnino nearly closed the public hearing.

Commissioners' moratorium views

The commission, which has had two 4-1 consensus votes against a moratorium, voted 3-2 on consensus against it again on Tuesday, with Commissioner Jean Peelen favoring a short term, three- or six-month moratorium and Commissioner Pat Morton willing to discuss it, but saying he does not favor the idea. Commissioners Zaccagnino, Sandra Haas-Martens and John Monetti opposed the idea.

A moratorium is not a denial of rights, but a "pause in an activity until the policy makers can decide if there needs to be a policy change," Peelen said, adding that while no permits are in the works for the large-scale duplexes that are at the center of the vacation rental problems, "…if we wait until they're filed, it could look like we're targeting the builder," she said.

The residential character of Holmes Beach is threatened by the multi-bedroom duplexes, she said, calling them "incompatible."

A moratorium would affect the livelihoods of many who are not causing problems and would affect property owners' rights, said Monetti, adding that committees led by commissioners were set up to find solutions to the problems and need to be given time to work (see related story on page 9).

Peelen had requested that the item be included on the agenda for a formal vote, but, as chair, Zaccagnino opted not to include it given the prior two consensus votes, he said.

Holmes Beach differs from Anna Maria, which may have opted for a moratorium because it is not protected by minimum rental restrictions, Zaccagnino said. Holmes Beach has seven-day and 30-day minimum rental restrictions in certain zoning districts.

Some owners build a duplex, then rent it out until they move here and become permanent residents, Haas-Martens said, adding, "We have to be fair to everyone."

The city can't put a moratorium on everyone because many longtime builders respect the city, Morton said.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger reported that complaints about rentals have died down, with seven trash complaints, two parking complaints and one signage complaint resolved by code enforcement. Two 30-day minimum rental violation complaints were unfounded, he said.

Other views

Resident and former mayor Carol Whitmore, now a Manatee County Commissioner, encouraged the commission to consider a 60- to 90-day moratorium.

"It's time for you guys to take a step back and get your act together," she said.

Resident Pam Leckie, who serves on Peelen's committee, called the commission's response "smoke and mirrors," saying the congestion in her neighborhood is intense, and asking commissioners to take the request for a moratorium seriously.

Developers misrepresented the size of their buildings to neighbors, saying they would be smaller than they are, said resident Barbara Marcheck, who also serves on Peelen's committee.

"They are changing the character of the places we live," she said. "I'm losing neighbors to this. This is a dire situation to us."

People leaving neighborhoods because of big houses built next door does not compare to families that have to leave for economic reasons, said Joe Varner. He told the commission that he came to the Island a year ago from Ocala because of the poor economy there and opened a vacation rental company.

"Anna Maria Island has made a whole new life for me and my family," he said.

Resident Dorothy Pon said she is losing a tenant because of construction noise seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. by a builder of vacation rentals. She suggested restrictions that would lower building height and increase pool setbacks to encourage smaller homes.

Zaccagnino said that builders are trending toward smaller, one-story buildings.

Only one or two builders are ruining things for everyone, resident Renee Ferguson said, adding, "Let's make it uncomfortable for these individuals to be comfortable in our community."

In other business, the commission:

• Discussed whether to require Martini Bistro to request city approval of its outdoor dining seats due to complaints about parking congestion.

• Decided to require any music group wishing to use the Holmes Beach Pavilion next to city hall to rent the entire field to discourage rehearsals that would disturb neighbors.

• Requested that residents and renters leave tan trash cans at the rear of the building for rear door pickup and not use them on the street.

• Passed on first reading an ordinance to update the schedule of projects in the city's comprehensive plan to include the Manatee County School Capacity Program.

Committees explore rental issues

HOLMES BEACH – City committees are working on ways to manage vacation rental problems that have filled commission chambers in recent weeks with residents frustrated with noise, trash, parking and overcrowding in their neighborhoods.

Holmes Beach commissioners decided last week to set a goal of wrapping up committee reports by the end of April.

Commissioner John Monetti's permitting and zoning committee, with Mary Buonagura, resident; Larry Chatt, rental agent; Steve Titsworth, builder; and Joe Duennes, city building official; has concluded that permitting is not the primary way to approach vacation rental issues, Monetti told the commission last week.

However, the committee learned that postings of building inspections at building sites are not always accessible to the public, and should be, he said, adding "We want to make it easy for everyone to hold us accountable."

Commissioner Jean Peelen's building code committee, which includes Jim Plath; Pam Leckie, resident; Barbara Marcheck, resident; Greg Ross, builder; and Terry Parker, architect; is looking into how other towns have dealt with similar vacation rental problems and exploring whether the commission could require buildings to conform to an architectural review standard, she said.

Commissioner Sandra Haas-Martens' code enforcement committee, which includes Dave Moynihan, Robert Longworth, Len Tabicman and Steve Sanders, is working on ways to educate residents about city codes, such as a web page on the city's website, with legalese translated into everyday language.

They also have discussed a fine increase for code violations assessed against renters, property owners and rental agents of up to $500 a day, plus city expenses.

City Code Enforcement Officer Dave Forbes has never issued a citation, he told the committee, adding that 90 percent of the time, talking to violators and rental agents results in the problem being solved, sometimes with an eviction.

"Our goal is compliance, not fines," he said.

The committee also discussed changing the city's parking code to require one space per bedroom, and the challenge that would pose for residences with multiple drivers.

Commission Chair David Zaccagnino does not have a committee, but is working on the possibility of canceling or not renewing city business tax receipts, a form of business license, of rental property owners who do not comply with city codes, he said. He also is meeting with the county tax collector to find ways to crack down on rental property owners who do not pay resort taxes.

Commissioner Pat Morton's rental agents and contracts committee, with Ron Travis; Mike Kimball; Sean Murphy, restaurant owner; Jerry Kern, builder; and Larry Chatt, rental agent; discussed increased incremental fines followed by the revocation of the business license, color-coded mailbox stickers to designate seven-day or 30-day rental housing to assist police and code enforcement officers in identifying violations and boat trailer parking.

They also discussed holding property owners, who don't use rental agents and rent over the Internet, responsible and the importance of maintaining a database of rentals, which a proposed state law may make difficult. The law would eliminate the ability of municipalities to impose business taxes.

Chatt suggested codifying the following best practices for rental agents:

• Arrange rear door trash pick up; four bedrooms or more, two trash cans required; seven bedrooms or more, three trash cans required;

• Give renters a sheet with the city logo on it and containing the noise ordinance plus tips on playing nice with community;

• Record the number of day guests, night guests, occupants and cars and cross check;

• Give the city a rental list for police dispatch to be called regarding any issue and for severe issues immediately;

• Encourage new owners and current owners to meet their neighbors and provide property management details on whom to contact;

• Provide a community recycling dumpster, and have owners and property managers that rent reconsider leaving out bins versus removing recycle bins and provide the location of the community recycling drop off.

Chatt also suggested to the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce that they discourage weddings in residential areas on their website, which they have done.

Students learn pitfalls of abusive substances

tom vaught | sun
Holmes Beach Police Officer Brian Copeman asks for answers
as he quizzes fifth-grade students about the pitfalls
of using and abusing tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

HOLMES BEACH – "What time is it?"

"DARE time!"

That question and thunderous response signaled the start of a DARE class two weeks ago in Mrs. Nyberg's fifth-grade class at Anna Maria Elementary School.

Holmes Beach Police Officer Brian Copeman, who also serves as the school's resource officer, is a qualified teacher of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), and he preaches the hazards of illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, backed by facts and figures.

Copeman, in his fourth year of teaching the course, goes to each of the three fifth-grade classrooms each week until the course is finished. Last week, he finished talking about smoking, both tobacco and marijuana. In addition to what smoking does to users' lungs, he spoke about secondhand smoke, but he also touched on Madison Avenue's attempts to lure more people into the habit.

Copeman passed out cigarette ads from old magazines, explaining to the students that such ads have now been banned.

He had them describe what was going on in the ads, which mostly depicted happy people having fun or, in one case, an attractive young lady admiring a handsome young man who is taking a drag on a cigarette.

"That ad suggests ladies like guys who smoke," he said as the kids collectively said, "Yuck."

Another ad said that brand cigarettes had no artificial additives.

"They might not have those additives, but that doesn't mean they are any healthier for you," he said. "There are 250 poisons in cigarettes, and none of them are additives."

Copeman also reminded the kids of the warnings both on cigarette packs of and in the ads about the hazards of smoking, especially for women who are pregnant.

He pointed out there were no old people in the ads and asked why. The students surmised that they were trying to get young people to start smoking. When pushed farther, they said the tobacco companies needed younger people to start so they could replace the older smokers who died, probably from smoking.

"Why do people keep smoking," he asked and after a few suggestions, he talked about nicotine, a chemical found in all cigarettes.

"Nicotine is the substance that makes people get addicted to cigarettes," he said. "Once you're hooked, it is very, very hard to stop."

He asked the fifth-graders what they would do if they had a friend who told them he wanted to start smoking, using the decision-making model they learned from the course.

The first answer was to not join that friend and to punch him in the mouth for thinking about it. Another was to find another friend. Other answers were to tell him not to smoke, go home and tell your parents and to stare at him, shake your head and walk away because he's being ridiculous.

On the subject of marijuana, the facts are: smoking it causes breathing problems, smokers can catch more colds, it affects the brain, it causes a loss of short-term memory, it slows coordination and reflexes, affects the ability to judge distances and it can be addictive. In addition, it contains more tar than cigarettes and it increases the risk of cancer.

Finally, it is illegal, and you could go to jail.

Following the classes, students will write essays on what they learned, and the best essay authors will be recognized at a ceremony toward the end of the school year.


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