BRADENTON – The Manatee County Commission has appointed Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen and Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC).
The appointees replace Holmes Beach Commissioner Sandra Haas-Martens and Bradenton City Councilman Harold Byrd, whose terms expired.
The TDC is a nine-member board that advises the county commission on how to spend county resort tax funds, which totaled more than $7 million in 2011. The funds, paid by tourists to owners of accommodations rented for less than six months, are allocated by the county commission to the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to market the area to tourists and also are spent on beach renourishment and local tourist attractions.
Poston, who previously served one term on the TDC, was unopposed for the seat required to be filled by an official in the county's largest municipality, Bradenton.
As Bradenton works with the TDC on funding for the Pittsburgh Pirates and McKechnie Field, "it's a bigger deal to the city than ever before," he said, adding that he's looking forward to being a part of the new branding effort in progress for the CVB. The Sarasota CVB recently changed its brand to Visit Sarasota County, reflecting the state's tourism agency brand, Visit Florida.
The vote for the other seat, open to any local municipal official, was 4-3 for Peelen over Haas-Martens, with Longboat Key Commissioner Hal Lenobel receiving no votes at the county commission meeting on Tuesday, May 22.
The position should be held by a Holmes Beach official because the city produces more resort tax for the county than any other municipality except the county itself, said Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a former Holmes Beach mayor, who voted for Peelen along with Commissioners Robin DiSabatino, Michael Gallen and Donna Hayes.
Commissioners Larry Bustle, John Chappie and Joe McClash supported Haas-Martens.
Haas-Martens did not make reports to Holmes Beach commissioners or the mayor about TDC activities, Whitmore said, a point Peelen recently mentioned to fellow Holmes Beach commissioners when she requested their support for her bid for the seat.
"I think it's my job to report back to the Island community what the council is thinking," said Peelen, a first-time Holmes Beach commissioner this term, adding, "I'm honored to be appointed, especially since I'm a newbie on the scene."
Peelen said she plans to discuss TDC business on her radio program, "Coffee with the Commissioner," set to begin broadcasting in June, and in her e-mail newsletter, to "open up the processes."
At a Holmes Beach Commission meeting the night of her appointment to the TDC, Peelen said she thought vacation rental problems in Holmes Beach were not the fault of tourists, but of developers.
Holmes Beach Commission Chair David Zaccagnino told county commissioners that morning that he supported Peelen because she has new ideas on how cities can work with the TDC to address vacation rental problems that plague Anna Maria Island residents.
"The TDC has done a great job, but right now we're reaching critical mass on the Island," he said, adding that when too many tourists are on the Island, no one has a good time and they don't come back.
"It's time to protect our product," he said.
"What you have taking place on Anna Maria Island is the pressures of tourism," Commissioner Joe McClash said. "The concerns out there are real; you love it too much and you may ruin it."
However, he said, "The challenge is really not for our TDC members to deal with those issues that are unique to the cities."
It's the "goose and the golden egg problem," Commissioner Larry Bustle said.
"We've been encouraging people to come to Anna Maria (Island) and now we're having second thoughts," he said.
But restricting tourism is not the solution, he said, rather, learning "how to deal with the influx of people and make the visitors and residents happy. I don't think we want to shut off the spigot."
"I feel for what Holmes Beach and Anna Maria are struggling with today because we fought those battles years ago in Bradenton Beach," said Manatee County Commission Chair and former Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie.
"With regard to getting what we wish for, years ago we in Bradenton Beach made the decision that it's a tourist community."
"When I agreed to live on an island, I agreed to share it and that's just the way it is," Whitmore said. "It's just a way of life."
Resort tax collections
Municipality March 2012 * March 2011 * Approx. change
Anna Maria $ 110,439 $ 68,806 up 61 percent
Bradenton Beach $ 136,164 $ 136,992 down .006 percent
Holmes Beach $ 388,938 $ 304,006 up 28 percent
Manatee County total $1,344,639 $1,129,974 up 19 percent
Manatee County's 5 percent resort tax, or tourist tax, is collected from owners of accommodations rented for less than six months who charge the tax to their renters, in most cases, tourists. The tax funds the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau's (CVB) tourism marketing efforts and beach renourishment.
Increases reflect increased visitation, according to the CVB, and improved tax collections efforts, according to the Manatee County Tax Collector's Office.
To anonymously report a rental owner who may not be paying the tax, call 941-741-4809 or visit www.taxcollector.com/services_resort_tax_tips.asp.
*Amounts collected at accommodations in March are paid to the Manatee County Tax Collector's Office in April.
Source: Manatee County Tax Collector's Office
Tourist Development Council members
• Chair Carol Whitmore, Manatee County commissioner
• Wayne Poston, Bradenton mayor
• Jean Peelen, Holmes Beach commissioner
• Barbara Rodocker, owner, Bridge Walk Resort, Bradenton Beach
• David Teitelbaum, owner, Tortuga Inn, Tradewinds and Seaside Inn, Bradenton Beach
• Tom Jung, general manger, Courtyard by Marriott, Bradenton
• Ed Chiles, owner, Sandbar, Anna Maria; BeachHouse, Bradenton Beach; Mar Vista, Longboat Key
• Jack Rynerson, board member, Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority
• Vernon DeSear, vice president of marketing, Manatee Healthcare System
The TDC is comprised of one member of the county commission, two elected municipal officials, one from the county's largest municipality (Bradenton), four owners or operators of hotels, motels or other accommodations in Manatee County who are subject to the county's 5 percent resort tax, and two members who are involved in the tourist industry and have demonstrated an interest in tourism but are not subject to the resort tax.
The TDC meets on the third Monday of every other month at 9 a.m. at various locations.