The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 22 - March 14, 2012


Commission holds off on moratorium

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners agreed to hold off on advertising the second reading of the moratorium ordinance and have a special meeting March 15 to define the problem.

The moratorium would stop the issuance of building permits on the construction of new houses or for remodeling, reconfiguring or renovation of existing houses if that would increase the habitable area.

Currently there is an administrative stop on the issuance of building permits. Those owners that received a building permit or site plan approval by Feb. 23 are exempted.

Attorney Jim Dye said he made the expiration date of the moratorium July 31, but commissioners could change it.

Commissioners had differing views on identifying the problem they are trying to resolve with the moratorium.

Commissioner Sue Lynn said she thought it was to focus on large homes being built, but language in the ordinance indicated rentals are the problem.

"What I took away from the discussion at the last meeting, was that there was a concern for a perceived problem with party houses," Dye responded. "Not so much the mass of the houses but what's going inside, and that's how I crafted it."

What's the point?

Dye said the commission should decide the point of the moratorium so staff can address it.

"When you say you're going to change your zoning, you get a tidal wave of building permits because everybody tries to get under the threshold," Chair Chuck Webb pointed out. "We're just saying time out so we can study the issue."

"The size is not a consideration for me; it's all about vacation rentals," Commissioner Dale Woodland stressed.

Webb said the issue is consistent breach of peace problems with rental and party houses. However, because of state legislation, they can't single out rentals and must address the problem city-wide.

Building Official Bob Welch said he met with Mayor Mike Selby and Dye and said, "We're putting together a citation program, and we're working diligently toward enforcement to manage these types of situations. How do you want us to approach it – enforcement or planning?"

Selby said the Florida Building Code is changing March 15, and Welch has three sets of building plans on his desk that were taken in by staff.

"The state law says if you accept plans, you have 30 days to tell people there's a problem," Welsh explained. "After 30 days, if I haven't told them there's a problem, I have to issue the building permit."

Dye said they could make the effective date of the moratorium March 15 and accept the three plans under the current code.

However, Webb said someone could come in with a problematic plan, and Dye responded, "That's the roll of the dice."

Public comment

Attorney Scott Rudacille representing Erik Abrahamson, of North Shore Drive, stressed, "A moratorium is a very serious action intended to be enacted when the city has come up with a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

"I haven't heard a consensus from this commission as to what the problem is. If the issue is how the houses are being used, the commission ought to take a serious look at the code."

Grant Castilow, of My Green Buildings, read a letter from Claudia and Tom Carlson, of Oregon, who have been preparing for eight years to build their retirement home on Spring Avenue.

"We hope that you will take into consideration the financial commitments we have made and stand to risk if we are forced to delay construction due to the building moratorium," the Carlsons said.

Micheal Coleman and Al Marnie said a moratorium would put a significant financial burden on individuals planning to build homes.

"My family and I are the owners of 60 North Shore Drive that I know was the subject two weeks ago," Scott Eason said. "I feel like this is the fear of the unknown, and I just want to get the facts out on what our intensions are.

"Before we bought this property, we met with the building official and the city planner. The house that was there sat on three separate lots. Our intension is not to build rental houses, but single-family homes."

He said it is the only property in the city they own and he is distressed that the family's purchase of one property is keeping someone from building their retirement home.

Maureen McCormick spoke for the moratorium and pointed out, "There is a problem, and we see it in Holmes Beach and spots of it in our city. We want to avoid that happening to us. A moratorium is not a major hardship for a short time."

Webb said he views the problem as "the erosion of the single-family character of Anna Maria caused by the development of high occupancy vacation rentals."

Commissioners set a special meeting on March 29 for the second reading of the ordinance, if needed.

Green's the color for St. Paddy's Parade
Carol Whitmore


HOLMES BEACH – While nobody would associate Anna Maria Island with hunting wild animals, one might want to keep an eye out for an elephant marching down Marina Drive and Gulf Drive on Sunday, March 18, starting at 4 p.m.

Don't worry that this precocious pachyderm named Judy might sneak up on you – she'll be in the 15th Annual Beach Bistro St. Patrick's Day Parade along with her trainer and owner, Mr. Bones.

The parade begins at Eat Here, 5315 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach, and ends at 79th street and Palm Drive.

Judy will be marching with area marching bands, pipe bands, musicians, colorful floats and a few leprechauns.

If you have a hankering to join the fun, show up around 3 p.m. where the parade starts. It would behoove participants to show some green on their ride or themselves. If you want to stand on the side of the road and watch, keep your eyes out for traffic and flying debris in the form of beads and candy.

Beach Bistro and Eat Here owner Sean Murphy says the parade idea started when an Island city mayor, two Irishmen and he got to talking at the Beach Bistro bar 15 years ago. The mayor got the permit, the Irishmen called some friends and Murphy called the media to make sure everyone knew what they were up to. That first parade had a companion for Judy, a camel named Omar.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Noisy breakers evicted from rentals

HOLMES BEACH – Eighteen spring breakers were evicted from a rental house on 72nd Street last week after neighbors twice complained about noise.

Holmes Beach police responded to noise complaints at 204 72nd Street on Sunday, March 4, and Tuesday, March 6, where 18 spring breakers from North Carolina were partying.

The same night, officers also were called to 124 50th Street, where 14 girls, also from North Carolina, were partying, only three of whom were old enough to legally drink alcohol, according to the police report. Under Florida law, officers can hold adults responsible for contributing to the delinquency of a minor if underage drinking occurs at a party, Lt. Dale Stephenson said.

Island Real Estate, which manages both rentals, evicted the larger group and gave the smaller group its first and final warning that another disturbance would result in an eviction, rental agent Larry Chatt said.

"I am proud to be involved in the collaborative effort between Island Real Estate, Holmes Beach City and the Holmes Beach Police Department to enforce the quiet enjoyment of our neighborhoods," Chatt said in a press release. "This sets an example that cooperation between property managers and the police will make a difference to find more balance in our residential communities. I hope the choice to face adversity inspires others to get involved with cooperative solutions to tough problems."

Chatt has been at the forefront of responding to residents' complaints about tourists causing noise, trash and parking problems at vacation rentals in recent weeks, crafting a list of best practices for rental agents willing to take a strong stance against code violators.

He serves on two of the city's five focus group committees, formed last month to find ways to solve the problems that residents say are ruining their neighborhoods.

Rental agents have the major responsibility to solve rental problems at the multi-bedroom duplexes that are designed to attract several families or large groups, Chatt said at last week's permit committee meeting.

The committees also are attacking the problems from other angles, such as possibly changing the city's parking code, amending its land development code, educating residents about city codes, increasing fines for code violations and assessing fines against renters, property owners and rental agents, canceling business tax receipts or licenses of violators and identifying rental tax evaders.

The complicated vacation rental problems are "a big bowl of wet spaghetti," said committee member and resident Mary Buonagura at Commissioner John Monetti's permit committee meeting last week.

"No one understands why the commission is not slowing the process down," she said, referring to residents' requests for a building moratorium.

To curb the development of mega-duplexes without a moratorium, the group discussed limiting the number of building permits the city would issue to a single contractor in a year and limiting the number of duplexes that could be built each year.

"Regardless of who's building them, it's going to continue," Chatt said, because nine out of 10 investors are interested in buying rental income property. "There's a strong, strong demand for these houses."

The problems are caused by property owners who rent to large groups, not the construction industry, developer Shawn Kaleta said later. His company, Beach to Bay, built some of the large duplexes, but has since downsized its homes, building three bedrooms and less for the past two years, he said.

Kaleta is building according to the rules, but some of his investors may be serving on the rental committees and should disclose their financial interests, Buonagura said.

A landlord himself, Kaleta said he wants to see codes enforced.

"We need to make sure neighborhood disruption is handled on a case by case basis," he said.

Meanwhile, residents are coming up with creative solutions of their own. Committee member Steve Titsworth, of Shoreline Builders, planted bamboo as a privacy screen between his home and a mega-rental. Jane Christenson, who sits on another rental committee, replaced her windows with hurricane windows to try to cut down on the noise from nearby vacation rentals.

Committees plan to issue their recommendations by the end of April to the Holmes Beach commission for action.

Commissioner reports progress on rental issue
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino
addressed the Anna Maria Commission
regarding rental issues.

ANNA MARIA – Commissioner SueLynn reported last week that she is continuing to work on rental issues with Larry Chatt, of Island Real Estate, and Mike Brinson, of AMI Accommodations.

"We have our arms around many of the issues," she said. "I'm appreciative of the interest they (Brinson and Chatt) have."

She said they are putting together a list of addresses and contact numbers from real estate and property management companies. The list will be put on Excel and given to Sheriff's Office deputies.

"We have put together a form that will capture the information on the number of complaints per property, so we can keep track of that and kick in the citation process when it's appropriate to do so," she continued.

"We also have come up with neighborhood friendly guidelines, and we will meet with real estate agents and property managers to talk about the items we would like them to include in their information they give to renters."

She said the list includes a form for tenants to sign acknowledging they have read the regulations. They also have developed a list of best practices for property managers.

"These are the things we want people to abide by," she said. "If we do this and get this system set up, we'll very quickly be able to take care of some of the complaints we have."

Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino said the system works, and they have used successfully it in Holmes Beach.

Mayor Mike Selby said he would meet this week with deputies from the Sheriff's Office to discuss enforcement and the citation process.

Parking plan well received
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Architect Gene Aubry showed his plan for parking around the
six lots at the corner of North Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue
to commissioners last week.


ANNA MARIA – Commissioners seemed pleased with a plan by architect and former commissioner Gene Aubry for parking around the six lots at the corner of North Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue.

"You can get a total of 19 cars in the available space," Aubry said. "Parallel parking spaces along North Bay Boulevard are 12 feet wide and 20 feet long. The walkways I've shown are10 feet wide."

He said people also should be informed about free parking in the right of way along Pine Avenue.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick asked if Aubry had considered head in parking on North Bay Boulevard. He said it would kill the trees and move in the path shown around the perimeter.

"How much parking do you want?" Aubry asked. "The name of the game is to have a walking street."

Sissy Quinn said there is ample parking at Bayfront Park and noted, "To eat up that park (the six lots) with parking spaces will rile the community."

The pier and the church

Mayor Mike Selby referenced letters from Roser Church seeking relief from unauthorized parking by people visiting, shopping and sightseeing on Pine Avenue and city pier tenant Mario Schoenfelder asking the city to reconsider the commission's decision to eliminate parking in the six lots.

"Do we need to consider those letters in the decision for the six lots?" Selby asked.

City Pier Manager Dave Sork pointed out that the pier is the #1 attraction in the county and that the new beach renourishment and the boardwalk there also are attracting more people.

"As this continues, the public parking for the pier has shrunk," he said. "If you're going to add attractions in this neighborhood, you have to have somewhere for people to park. If not, you just squeeze us out."

Commissioner John Quam said the city can use parking "as a wedge to increase rent" when the pier lease is up for renewal and that it is in the city's best interest for businesses on Pine Avenue to have adequate parking.

Jim Bennington, representing Roser Church, said people use Roser's parking lot rather than on-street parking, creating problems for the church.

Commissioners agreed to discuss the Roser and pier parking issues in a workshop in April.

Holmes Beach man charged in Sarasota bank robberies

Holmes Beach resident Danny Nemeth, 46, has been arrested after confessing to robbing two Sarasota banks.

According to a Sarasota police news release, Nemeth walked into the Bank of America at 3175 Fruitville Road in Sarasota at approximately 4:40 p.m. on Friday, March 2, gave the teller a blank bank bag and told her, "Fill my bag with everything you got. No dye pack or I'll come back and hurt you."

He fled and a witness reported seeing him drive away in a Nissan pickup with primer instead of paint.

A Sarasota police officer found the pickup near University Parkway and North Lockwood Ridge Road and located Nemeth. The officer took Nemeth back to the bank where the teller identified him. He was arrested and taken to the police headquarters for questioning.

Two detectives talked with Nemeth and after being read his Miranda rights, he confessed to the Bank of America robbery. He told the detectives where he hid the money in his truck and then signed an authorization to allow them to look for it, which they did. They recovered all the money.

During the interview, Nemeth also confessed to robbing the BB&T Bank at 3201 North Tamiami Trail. No weapon was identified in either robbery. He was booked into the Sarasota County Jail. The police department recognized the Sarasota and Manatee County sheriff's offices for their assistance in nabbing the robbery suspect.

Nemeth will be arraigned at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 30, in Judge Donna Padar Berlin's courtroom in Sarasota Circuit Court.

Wine tasting for Affaire at Harry's

ANNA MARIA – Harry's Continental Kitchen is holding a wine tasting from 4:30 to 6:30 on Wednesday, March 14, to benefit the Island Community Center's Affaire to Remember.

Enjoy a variety of wines from around the world as well as tasty hors d'oeuvres from Harry's. Admission is $10. Harry's Continental Kitchens is located at 5600 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key.

A special evening of surprises is planned for the Affaire set for Saturday, March 31, in the grand ballroom of the Center at 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, on March 31. Valet parking is available.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with a champagne reception, hors d'oeuvres and the silent auction. Harry's Continental Kitchen will cater the dinner, which will be followed by entertainment and the live auction.

Center officials are seeking sponsors and donations for the live and silent auctions. Sponsorships include Bronze, $1,000; VIP table host, $2,000; Silver, $2,500; Gold, $5,000; and Diamond, $10,000.

Tickets for the Affaire and VIP cocktail party are $250 per person, while tickets for the Affaire are $175 per person. Tables of eight are available.

For tickets or to donate or be a sponsor, call Sharen at 778-1908, ext. 9203, or e-mail

Island police departments honor officers of the year

Every year the Manatee County One Hundred Club, a group that supports law enforcement agencies, makes its Law Enforcement Officer of the Year presentation, from among the top officers chosen by police chiefs and the sheriff.

This year's contestants from Anna Maria Island will be officers of the year Brian L. Copeman, from Holmes Beach, and Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz, from Bradenton Beach.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine chose Copeman for his work at Anna Maria Elementary School. According to Romine's letter to the One Hundred Club, Copeman was chosen to as the school's resource officer to teach the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program and he has "built an outstanding rapport with both the students, the staff and faculty at the school."

As part of his duties, Copeman also directs traffic on Gulf Drive in front of the school during mornings and afternoons when students arrive and leave school. Romine talked about Copeman's attitude and dedication.

"He has volunteered his time for activities at the school as he understands how vital it is for him to be a positive role model for the students," Romine's letter said, adding it is not unusual to see Copeman patrolling Holmes Beach on an ATV, bicycle or in a marked car as he continues to handle calls for service as a patrol officer.

Copeman came to work for the department in 2005.

In Bradenton Beach, Diaz was honored for his investigation of three major cases:

• The case against Joseph Chiquet, whose activities came to light when a woman came to the department to report her 15-year-old had been having a sexual relationship with the 34-year-old man. That case is still in trial and the defendant is expected to accept a plea bargain that will label him as a sexual offender for life and give him up to seven years in prison.

• On Dec, 8, 2010, Sgt. Diaz led the investigation of a stabbing with serious injuries and was able to make an arrest within two hours. The suspect escaped custody, but was taken back into custody. The offender was found guilty by a jury and is awaiting sentencing.

• On April 15, 2011, Diaz assisted officers in the investigation of multiple vehicle burglaries in the city and developed Kyle Dale as a suspect. Later in the day, Diaz learned that Dale's girlfriend had returned stolen merchandise at a store in St. Armand's Circle and after two months of investigation, he had enough evidence to confront Dale, who confessed to the burglaries. He recently accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to 59 months in prison.


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