The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 31 - May 16, 2012


Fest fee forgiven
Carol Whitmore

How to best use the large, city-owned empty
six lots - outlined in red - at the corner of Pine
Avenue and North Bay Boulevard has been the
subject of debate in the Anna Maria City Commission.

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners agreed to forgive the fee for the AMI Chamber to use the six lots at the corner of North Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue for Bayfest.

In February, commissioners agreed on fees for the use of the lots – $500 if alcohol is not served and $1,000 if it is served. In April, Chamber representatives asked the city to waive the fee for its annual October festival on Pine Avenue and said it costs $6,500 to hold the festival in the city. Commissioners, in turn, said they wanted to see profit and expense figures from the Chamber.

Chamber President Mary Ann Brockman read letters from business owners praising the festival, and President Karen LaPensee said Bayfest is "a unique event supported by residents and businesses."

LaPensee said the festival nets about $15,000 for the Chamber, some of which is used for its annual scholarships, and it provides income and exposure to Pine Avenue businesses. She said vendor space is given to non-profits at no cost and politicians use the event to campaign.

Grandfather the event

She asked the commission to grandfather the event with regard to the lot fee and the special event fee, which is $200 with a $500 bond if alcohol is served.

Commissioner John Quam said he favors keeping the event in the city, but it is high impact and creates "wear and tear on the infrastructure," and noted, "We're asking for a token of appreciation to the taxpayers for the use of the land."

LaPensee said the Island has 35,000 visitors every weekend that also impact the infrastructure.

Commissioner Dale Woodland agreed with LaPensee and said he would favor forgiving the lot fee, but not the special event fee because it creates a cost for the city. Commissioner SueLynn agreed.

Chair Chuck Webb also agreed, but said it should be reviewed every year. A motion to waive the lot fee for 2012 was approved with Quam dissenting.

Decision prompts resignations

BRADENTON BEACH – Several members of the city's planning and zoning board have resigned after drawing a line in the sand over the city commission's approval of a dune and parking lot project just south of the BeachHouse restaurant.

Chairman Rick Bisio tendered his resignation following the city commission meeting May 4 where the commission approved the joint project over the P&Z's recommendation to reject it. In his letter, he said, "Unfortunately, it is quite clear that my value to the city has reached its end."

In his letter of resignation, former city commissioner Bill Shearon said simply, "With deep regret and disappointment, I am requesting you appoint a replacement to complete my term as a member of the P&Z Board."

The board's newest member, Joyce Kramer, listed five reasons for her decision:

• The work and time demanded of the P&Z Board is not valued or taken seriously.
• Commissioners must base their decisions on the word of "experts" and the staff.
• The P&Z Board is ineffectual.
• The commissioners do not receive copies of the minutes of the P&Z Board's deliberation.
• New P&Z Board members are at a disadvantage due to a learning curve.

Kramer also wrote, "I am deeply disappointed with the tone and conduct of the Bradenton Beach City Commission meeting on May 3, but I am far more dissatisfied with the manner in which the interests of our citizens are treated and the decision-making process is conducted. Our city deserves better."

The board, which had seven members, is now down to four and it might shrink more. Bob Dale is reportedly recovering from an operation, Art DeHardt resigned because he moved off the Island, Pat Whitesel just resigned from the Scenic WAVES Committee and said she is undecided about the P&Z and Dakota Mathis and JoAnn Meilner have not voiced a decision.

Meanwhile, Dan DeBaun, of the Board of Adjustment, has announced his intention to move to P&Z.

The P&Z Board's recommendation to reject the parking project was based on several factors including the preservation zoning of the land, a history of sea turtle nests near the area and the fact that some of the beach was renourished sand that belongs to the federal government.

According to building official Steve Gilbert, one reason the city commission approved the project was the fact that the P&Z claims had no backup.

"They failed to use any evidence to back up their recommendations," he said, adding the P&Z and the city commission have to look at evidence and base their decisions only on that evidence.

Some of the allegations the P&Z used were disputed by Gilbert and the city commissioners. Gilbert said the land belongs to the BeachHouse, and the owner is free to use it within its bounds as he feels. He said Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox said there had been turtle nesting in the area in the past, but did not provide dates and locations. Code Enforcement Officer Gail Garneau said the records showed only two recent nestings on the land, but not close to the parking area.

As for the parking lot being located on renourished sand, Gilbert said it is substantially inland from that sand, which runs north and south in an area west of the Erosion Control Line.

"One thing the P&Z ignored was the staff analysis by Lynn Townsend," he said. "It shows where those dunes are necessary."

As for the fact the land is zoned so nothing could be built on it, Gilbert said they used the Future Land Use Map for their determination, and it is not a regulatory device, since it shows how the city would like to see the zoning in the future.

Mayor won't run for second term

ANNA MARIA – Mayor Mike Selby said Friday he will not seek a second term for the office of mayor, citing personal reasons.

"I think I've done what I came here to do – to get people talking again and find solutions to problems," he said.

Selby was elected in 2010. His lone opponent was Sandy Mattick.

Commissioner Chuck Webb, who also serves as the board's chair, said he plans to run again for his third consecutive term.

"There's a lot to be done," he said. "There are never ending issues because we're getting more and more development pressure. The typical Florida beach town issues are hitting us now."

Commissoiner Jo Ann Mattick, also up for election, was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Selby said he made the announcement in order to give others time to consider running.

Qualifying for the city begins at noon on May 29 and ends at noon on June 8. Candidates must be citizens of the U.S., registered voters in the county and residents of the city for two years.

Candidates also must pay an election assessment fee equal to 1 percent of their annual salary or $96 for mayor and $48 for commissioners or file an undue burden oath and collect 10 signatures of voters residing in the city and a candidate's residency affidavit.

Aubry presents new parking plan
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Gene aubry | submitted
Parking spaces are surrounded by trees lining
a 15-foot wide walking path.

ANNA MARIA – Architect Gene Aubry unveiled a new parking plan for the six lots the city purchased at the corner of North Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue.

"Anna Maria is a tourist island, whether we like it or not, and as tourists come, unfortunately so do automobiles," Aubry told commissioners at Thursday's work session. "We have to deal with it."

Aubry's previous plan showed parking spaces along the North Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue sides of the lots, but he noted, "All you can see is the butt end of automobiles." The new plan puts parking in the center of the lots surrounded by trees lining a 15-foot wide walking path.

"On Pine Avenue we're trying to build a pedestrian street," Aubry explained. "That means we need a beautiful place for people to walk.

"My thought was to contain the parking. You end up with the same amount of parking, but all you can see is green."

He said whenever the city wants to use the space in the center of the lots, it could close it to parking. He said the city also could create the same path with trees along the North Bay Boulevard side of the city pier parking lot.

"The plan up there is not what I'm proposing," he stressed. "I truly do not believe we have a parking problem. We have people who come to this Island that will not walk one city block to go to the pier."

A new idea

Commissioners John Quam and Dale Woodland said the city told residents that the lots would be open space. Commissioner SueLynn said she liked the concept, but if the commissioners promised open space that should be considered.

"This is totally against open space." Woodland pointed out. "Our parking problem is seasonal. An idea I've had is to have one lot open during peak season for parking and leave it like it is. If that doesn't work, have it open year 'round.

"The city shouldn't provide public parking with public money for the business community, but I've had ideas for using some portion of those lots for pier parking. The city owns the pier, so we're helping ourselves."

Chair Chuck Webb said he doesn't like parking around the six lots, but he doesn't want them turned into a parking lot either and asked, "Do we need that much parking?" He said someone had suggested having parking along the back of the lots.

He said in its lease, the city pier has the right to parking spaces north and south of the pier, and Mayor Mike Selby said 150 feet on either side of the pier is for pier parking only.

Saturation point

"We can't handle the traffic that comes in here on a daily basis," said Commissioner John Quam. "We can't try and provide parking for everybody.

"I am in favor of not using the lots for parking other than what's there today on the Pine Avenue part and leave the parallel parking across from the city pier."

"We have a finite amount of land," Commissioner SueLynn said. "We've reached the point of saturation. We can't meet everybody's needs. We have to protect what we have and not give in to making space for more tourists to come.

"We bent over backwards in the past years to accommodate visitors and bring more businesses in to support our businesses. Now its time to bend over backwards to accommodate our residents and do what is going to keep us the residential community that we want to be."

City Planner Alan Garrett said he and Building Official Bob Welch are working on a change to the city's code to allow more public parking in districts where it is not currently allowed.

Public comments

Resident Larry Albert said he prefers the lots to be open space with parking on North Bay Boulevard.

Nick Walter, of Roser Church, said he objected to Woodland's statement that the parking problem is seasonal and noted. "We have a problem, and our issue is year 'round. We don't want to be in the public parking lot business because of the liability issue."

Billy Malfese, chair of the Environmental Education and Enhancement Committee, said. "We need to come up with a compromise. I feel parking is a huge issue in this area. It's a major attraction.

"With all the marketing and promotion, the influx of people will grow and grow. I feel the more parking the better. We can't turn a blind eye to the people coming here."

He said the six lots should include green space and parking. He asked if commissioners have discussed metered parking and suggested remote parking at the Community Center with golf carts to shuttle people to Pine Avenue.

SueLynn said Ed Moss, pastor of CrossPointe Fellowship, has offered its lot, but they would have to find a way to shuttle people to Pine Avenue.

Dave Sork, of the city pier, said the pier is a magnet drawing people to the city, but so are the boardwalk, the beach and the shops on Pine Avenue.

"For us to be viable, we have to accommodate people during the peak time," Sork said. "It carries us through the year."

Webb said he would keep the issue on future agendas.

Perico to be wildlife preserve
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Manatee County Natural Resources
Department | Submitted
The 176-acre Perico Preserve will have a
single trail and not be staffed.

Perico Preserve, the newest jewel in Manatee County's necklace of restored coastal properties, is on its way to becoming a preserve more focused on wildlife than people.

While nearby Robinson Preserve hosted 47,000 runners, walkers, bikers and kayakers and 22,000 dogs in February alone with its trail systems and staff-led activities, Perico will have a single trail and will not be staffed, Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker told the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Committee last week.

East of the new Harbour Isle development, which is still under construction, the 176-acre Perico Preserve will serve to connect Neal Preserve and Robinson Preserve, forming a nearly continuous wildlife corridor.

Work is progressing on phase one, visible on the north side of Manatee Avenue where the old fruit stand once stood. Old mosquito control ditches will be reopened to increase water circulation, Hunsicker said.

Phase two will include a 15-acre seagrass mitigation project in a 20-acre pond with a bird nesting island in the middle, he said, mitigating the future destruction of seagrass beds to build berths at Port Manatee, another county department.

Construction of phase two is expected to begin by the end of 2012.

Robinson parking

Just down Manatee Avenue to the east, the unofficial back entrance to Robinson Preserve, where parking is not allowed, soon will have legal parking, Hunsicker said.

After a year and a half, the county has acquired the last piece of land necessary to build a parking lot on the south side of the road with a pedestrian walkway stretching from the parking lot under the bridge to the entrance, he said, adding that the project should be completed by the end of the year.

The project will solve the problem of people accessing the preserve by parking on the shoulder of Manatee Avenue, a blind spot for drivers traveling west over the Perico Bayou Bridge toward Anna Maria Island.

Sweet dreams

Negotiations are still continuing with the Robinson family to acquire property between Robinson Preserve and the Geraldson Community Farm to create a pine forest, a canopy walk created with shade trees, age-specific playground areas under canopies, a tern nesting island and a rental island which people could rent to camp overnight, Hunsicker said.

A plan to purchase the property with Southwest Florida Water Management District funding fell through, he said, adding "We set aside that plan, but never the dream."

Officials reply to Center on cell tower

ANNA MARIA – Mayor Mike Selby and Commission Chair Chuck Webb said they felt compelled to respond to statements made by a Community Center official over their lack of response regarding a cell tower.

Randy Langley, treasurer of the Community Center said he received no response from Webb after making phone calls and sending faxes about changing the Center's lease to allow a cell tower. In February, Center officials entered into a lease with a cell tower provider.

"That's not accurate," Webb stressed. "Randy contacted my office on Jan. 6 and wanted to talk to me. I meet with people who want to talk to me in city hall a half an hour before city meetings so everyone can see us. I told him to coordinate a meeting with city staff, and he never called back."

Webb said the language change in the lease to allow the Center to sublet to a cell tower provider "would have allowed anything."

"I told them we needed to rework our cell tower ordinance and then we could talk to them," Selby added.

Tower locations

Center officials also have said the city requested that they allow cell tower to be built at the Center. Selby confirmed that and said, "I was directed by the commission to talk to cell tower developers.

"We drove the city and looked at locations that we thought a cell tower could go – the Center, the

Historical Museum, city hall and Roser Church. I introduced them to Pierrette (Center Executive Director Pierrette Kelly) and said it might be a good fit."

"We didn't say, 'We want a cell tower here,'" Webb added. "We said, 'We're exploring options and looking at what sites are available because that will have an impact on the ordinance we write.'"

Selby said he has always told Center officials that the city owns the property and would expect to split the proceeds and noted, "I've been very up front with them."

Webb said Center officials implied that he is lax in his duties as the city's liaison to the board because he hasn't been attending board meetings.

"It is a private, non-profit entity, and I have no right to go to their meetings unless they invite me," he pointed out. "I have indicated to two board members that I'd be happy to come if they tell me when and where."

City commissioners discussed the city's revised cell tower ordinance for the first time Thursday and plan to continue the discussion on June 14.

Commission wrestles with rental problems

HOLMES BEACH – The Holmes Beach commission waded part way through an eight-page memo last week from its city attorney, who made recommendations on fixing vacation rental problems in the city.

Another session on the memo, by Patricia Petruff, is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22 at 7 p.m.

Petruff addressed residents' concerns voiced over several months that tourists are causing noise, parking and trash problems in residential neighborhoods that are transitioning to vacation rentals.

She told commissioners they have one major handicap – a new state law prevents them from changing existing rental restrictions or instituting new ones without risking invalidating existing restrictions.

The commission made no decisions, but debated several ideas produced by committees over the past few weeks, including requiring pool deck setbacks.

The main suggestion is instituting a floor/area ratio, or FAR, component to city ordinances establishing how much floor space a house or duplex can have on certain lot sizes, which Petruff said would have to apply to all housing, not just vacation rentals, to be valid.

Several items in the memo already have been done or are in progress, including updating the city's complaint form for code violations, coordinating with the police on code complaints, updating the business tax receipt form and sharing it with police, raising business tax receipt fees, coordinating with the tax collector to do periodic resort tax sweeps and coordinating with rental agents on best practices. Other ideas were discarded, including requiring identification stickers for rental housing and requiring a copy of city rules to be posted in rental housing.

Special magistrate

Commissioner Pat Morton requested that a special magistrate be hired to decide code board cases, as board members often find themselves declaring conflicts of interest and recusing themselves from decisions due to relationships with the subjects of code enforcement actions.

Petruff said that an ordinance creating a special magistrate position could be adopted as early as June, but hiring would take until August or September.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore suggested considering Holmes Beach resident and attorney Hamilton "Chip" Rice.

A previous attempt to hire a special magistrate failed due to the sentiment that Island residents, not outsiders, should police each other, Commission Chair David Zaccagnino said.

Commissioner Sandra Haas-Martens said she favors a disinterested third party deciding cases.

The issue is set to be considered at the Tuesday, May 22 commission meeting.

In other business:

• A proposed ordinance to remove the requirement that people take an oath before speaking at commission work sessions passed its first reading 3-2, with John Monetti and Sandra Haas-Martens opposed. The second reading is set for Tuesday, May 22.
• New complaint forms are available at city hall to report code violations.
• Mayor Rich Bohnenberger announced that the pavilion in the field next to city hall will be named the Holmes Beach Veteran's Pavilion. The field has been seeded with grass and is temporarily closed.
• A trolley shelter at a former school bus stop will be relocated to the dog park in the outfield of Birdie Tebbetts Field because the bus stop was moved.
• Flooding at Avenue E and 31st and 32nd streets is on the public works projects list for October, awaiting a permit to remove mangroves in the swale.
• Safe Boating Week is May 19-25 and courtesy vessel checks will be available at Kingfish and Coquina boat ramps beginning Saturday, May 19.
• Saturday, May 19 is Power of Purple Day in honor of the Anna Maria Island Relay for Life, celebrating cancer survivors and remembering cancer victims.

Thrashers celebrate green designations

ANNA MARIA – Lizzie Vann and Mike Thrasher celebrated the platinum LEED certification for the Sears and Rosedale cottages and net zero energy designation at the Green Village on Pine Avenue last week with a host of friends and well wishers.

"This is a big deal," Jenn McAlister, president of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), stressed. "There are less than 100 buildings in the world that have achieved both designations."

According to the USGBC, LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building was designed and built using sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. A net zero energy designation means the site produces as much energy as it uses.

"We fell in love with Anna Maria and its beautiful, natural environment," Vann Thrasher told the group. "There's a strong sense of pride in the community, and we felt a strong sense of responsibility to keep it that way."

She said one of their purposes was to preserve some of the historical structures in the city that were in danger of being demolished, and another was to build a showcase for people to learn about green technology.

"They are passionate," Raymond Kaiser, director of Green Building Services at Stewart Engineering Consultants, said about the Thrashers. "They want people to get it and realize that they can do it too."

He said the buildings in the Green Village use 25 to 30 percent less energy than typical buildings. They are powered by solar panels, there are solar water heaters, they are cooled by pumping water from underground, stormwater is stored and used for irrigation, rain water is stored and used to flush toilets, there is a charger for electric vehicles and the landscape features native plants.

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