The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 42 - August 1, 2012


City proposes tax hike to avoid deficit

BRADENTON BEACH – With one visitor in the room and no public comment, the city commission proposed a higher millage rate, also known as property tax rate, to help eliminate a deficit in next fiscal year’s budget.

The proposed $2,421,019 budget would provide a 2.5-percent pay increase across the board for city employees and a new patrol car for the police department while cutting back on certain projects until the economy improves. However, there are some areas where the city commission wants to spend more to rebuild some of the infrastructure.

The deficit between income and expenditure began at $104,758 before the commissioners approved the pay raise and added some projects for the city’s upkeep. After six meetings to go over the budget line by line, the deficit had grown to $145,479. Commissioner Rick Gatehouse, a freshman, offered three scenarios to close the gap.

The first was to take the entire amount from a tax hike. It would have required the commission to raise the millage from 2.1359 to 2.5425, adding $40.66 per $100,000 of taxable value to tax bills.

The second suggestion was to take $50,000 from the reserves and raise the millage to 2.4028 to cover the $95,479 difference. That would add $26.60 for every $100,000 of taxable value to tax bills.

The third option, which was what the commissioners favored, was to take $75,000 from reserves and increase the millage to 2.3329 to close the $70,479 gap, which will add $19.70 per $100,000 of value to the tax bills.

In order to help sell the increase to commissioners, Police Chief Sam Speciale had made a large copy of a property tax bill, noting the city’s portion of that bill was between 9 and 11 percent. Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said the taxes in the example were very low and that a neighbor paid more than $10,000 per year in property taxes and had to sell his home and move to the mainland. That’s why she was opposed to raising the millage, although she thought the option they were considering was fair to all.

“In addition to only costing about 10 percent, the city provides the majority of services residents use,” said Gatehouse.

“We can argue this all day, but we’ve got to do what we came to do,” said Mayor John Shaughnessy. “We’re not trying to scalp anybody, we’re trying to be fair.”

Shaughnessy said they are trying to take care of the city and by doing so, they are taking care of the residents.

City Clerk Nora Idso said there had been no millage increase since 2005, and last year, they actually lowered it a bit.

Gatehouse blamed a purchase the city was forced to make last year for part of their deficit. The city purchased a beachfront lot from a developer after the city would not allow him to develop condos on it. The builder threatened to sue the city if it did not buy the lot.

“The city would be well off if they hadn’t spent $350,000 on a useless plot of land,” Gatehouse said.

“We reduced taxes last year, but nobody noticed,” said Commissioner Ed Straight. “ I think the public wants to see the city function well and everything kept up.”

Straight also said if the city gets some money from a cell tower proposal, it could be applied to the reserves. The city is expected to get $350,000 for the cell tower, although it would not come until the tower is built, which might take more than a year.

After the discussion, the commissioners voted unanimously for the third scenario.


Connelly gets three years

After hearing from several friends and family members and reading almost 100 letters from friends asking him to give her probation, Circuit Judge Thomas W. Krug sentenced Holly Connelly to three years in prison with credit for time served, and 25 years probation for her guilty plea to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Key Royale Golf Club. She will also be responsible for making restitution, and Krug said he would name an amount within 60 days that she would have to repay.

After the sentence, many of the more than 80 people who packed the courtroom in Bradenton were sobbing. Many of those attending were there for Connelly’s moral support, while others were Key Royale members hoping the once-trusted bookkeeper would exact some form of punishment.

The former Key Royale bookkeeper’s friends generally requested she be allowed to avoid jail so she could raise her three children. Connelly is separated from her husband, Philip, who was in arrears for child support, according to court records.

Her attorney, Jennifer Fury, said it began in 2008 when Connelly’s husband had a failing business, was spending a lot of money to keep it going and was using drugs. She said it was a very abusive relationship, and Philip was using Holly, who felt trapped trying to hold the family together.

“She started stealing as much as $10,000 to $12,000 a month,” Fury said. “They had huge deficits and people were suing Philip for work not done.”

Fury said it wasn’t until the board made changes and a new treasurer came in that members of the board got suspicious.

“Somebody looked, finally,” Fury said. “She (Holly Connelly) said she wished somebody would have looked sooner.”

Fury said she could find no evidence that Connelly hid some of the money in bank accounts overseas, as some people thought.

“She spent it all,” Fury said.

Fury argued against a long sentence, citing similar cases on record. One was a person who embezzled a half million dollars from Hillsborough County and got two years house arrest and probation. Another person got six years for running a business into the ground.

In arguing for probation and restitution, Fury noted that after her arrest, she got out of jail on parole and got her high school GED. She worked three jobs to support her family because her husband was not doing so. She said on probation, Connelly could learn job skills that could increase her earning power so she could make restitution faster.

“I would say that after doing this for 13 years, Holly’s one of the most impressive clients I have had,” Fury said. “Her attitude with me was always one of remorse and disgust. There has never been an attempt for Ms. Connelly to escape blame for what she did.”

Witnesses for CONNELLY

Family friend Courtney Hendricks said Connelly has recently been motivated to reach goals she never thought were attainable.

“She has no history of crime,” Hendricks said. “She has been willing to take responsibility for her actions and right the wrong.

Hendricks’ mother, Carolyn, said if she goes to jail, it will cost the state $50,000 per child to take care of them.

“There is no question in my mind that Holly would do what she could to better herself,” Hendricks said.

Another friend, Jean Chamberlin, pointed out that Connelly went to Haiti to take supplies to the needy there, and she was a Girl Scout leader.

Jake Gallo, who looked after the Connelly kids when Connelly was first arrested, urged probation.

“When she got out of jail, she lived with them,” he said. “She was always a good mother, very doting.”

Gallo said if she loses the children, “We’ll all lose.”

Prosecutor Christopher Nigro asked Gallo his reaction when he heard about the charges against Connelly.

“I didn’t see her in that role,” he said, adding he was shocked.

Tammy Angelou, who took care of the children from time to time, talked about Connelly’s family life.

“From the first time I met him, it was apparent Holly was abused,” she said. “If Brianna was at my home, Philip called several times an hour.

“He was very controlling and Brianna wanted to get out of the house,” She added. “If you mentioned his name, she would start shaking.”

Another friend, Henry Tobin, talked about Connelly’s husband.

“She didn’t have three children, she had four with Philip,” he said. “I always considered him a loose cannon.

“He was evicted after he got the children and he called her sister to try to get her to bail him out,” Tobin said.

Connelly’s sister, Dawn Robertson, said she hoped Holly would get probation and be with the


“I love her and I want her around,” she said.

Connelly’s mother, Cindy Lawson, said Connelly took care of her stepfather when she was 18.

“She looked after everyone but herself,” she added. “She was the breadwinner and Phil’s attitude was to come and go as he pleased.”

She offered to sign a note for the missing money.

Club leaders testify

Key Royale President Craig Humphries, said he heard that 100 club members wrote letters asking that she get a lenient sentence.

“Certainly everyone is entitled to an opinion,” he said. “We have no right under the by-laws to drop members for their opinions.

“No member voiced an opinion to me that she should escape punishment,” he said. “This flagrant embezzlement caused the near downfall of the club.”

He said publicity made it hard to recruit new members. He talked about when they met with her to ask about the missing money.

“She lied when she said the computer was broken and she had lost data,” he said. “After we fired her, she produced a flash drive (with the data on it).”

Club treasurer Tim Friesen said he became suspicious when Connelly said a power surge had damaged the computer but other equipment such as the printer was still working.

Friesen said she refused to give him bank records but when he got signatory authority on the bank account, he was able to see them.

“I saw $500 withdrawals from the ATM to the tune of $10,000 a month,” he said. “That debit card was supposed to be used for emergencies.”

Friesen said he went to Humphries and past president Terry Schafer and asked if this was normal. They said no and they arranged a meeting with Holly on April 1, 2011.

“I showed her the transactions and she said she had no idea what they were,” he said. “Then I saw the forged checks written six at a time with consecutive check numbers made out to Holly Connelly, $387,000 in forged checks that were all deposited in the same account where she deposited her paychecks.”

Friesen said there is still the question of where all that money went.

“Once the bank showed me the forged checks, they stopped producing records,” he said. “For all we know, she might have some of it in a safety deposit box there.”

He said they would like for her to surrender her passport so they can see if she went somewhere to set up a foreign account, although they found out later her mother has Connelly’s passport.

Former club president Terry Schafer said each of the members is looking to the judge to set punishment for “this heinous crime.” He also said he wished the club would have known about her other problems.

“After working with Holly over the past years, I firmly believe she has a criminal mind,” he said. “No prison time would be a miscarriage of justice.”


“There is not a day that goes by when I’m not remorseful,” she said. “I know there were many people hurt by my actions.”

She said she can’t take back what has been done, but there have been some positive changes in her life such as her GED and changing her living situation.

Final arguments and the sentence

Prosecutor Nigro asked for 10 years in prison and 20 years probation.

“She will never have an opportunity as a convicted felon to pay back Key Royale Club.” He said.

Fury again brought up comparable cases where the guilty parties got less than what the state rating system suggested.

Judge Krup said that her score in a rating system made it possible to give her probation or he could sentence her to 30 years in prison. He said the reality is sentencing is punishment, but more than the guilty are punished. He praised Fury for doing a great job.

“I believe Key Royale Club is not the only victim,” he said, “If you were permitted to walk out of the courtroom today, the community would still be safe but taking between $387,000 and $487,000 – the number shocks.”

He gave her the sentence and told her she had 30 days to appeal.


One lot, one pool suggested

HOLMES BEACH – To slow the demolition of ground level homes, city commission candidate Judy Titsworth suggested to commissioners last week that they consider prohibiting more than one pool on duplex lots.

The recent redevelopment trend of demolishing ground floor homes and building duplex condos with a pool on each side has exacerbated vacation rental problems in Holmes Beach neighborhoods, she said.

“It’s so much of an increase of intensity,” she said, adding that she has one next door to her.

“We’ve lost so many ground floor homes. To stop it, we need a common pool” to make the property less attractive to investors, she said. “Can we stop bending over more and more for the developers and start doing something for residents?”

Commission Chair David Zaccagnino said that he had talked to builders about the idea, and that they said they could bypass a one lot, one pool rule by connecting the pools underground and making them look like two pools, like some new duplexes are connected underground, yet look like two single-family homes.

Commissioners Pat Morton and Jean Peelen expressed some support for Titsworth’s idea.

Titsworth had previously questioned two docks built at a duplex next to her home, at 5311 A and 5311 B Sunrise Lane, without a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) dock permit.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff told the commission that DEP has offered to enter into a consent order with the owner of the property, Neal Sivyer, of By the Shore Investment, and Jason Syrek, of AMI Beach Inn, and that the owners will be cited by DEP if they fail to agree.

The commission also discussed a draft of a proposed ordinance that would prohibit water slides and diving boards at pools, establish setbacks around pools and decks, require sound baffling for pool equipment, require one parking space per bedroom and add a maximum floor area ratio (FAR) requirement in the R-2 zoning district.

Commissioners Sandra Haas-Martens and Morton suggested separating the issues into separate ordinances. Petruff said separate ordinances would be more costly to advertise, and the commission informally agreed to keep the subjects together.

They also agreed to remove the prohibition against slides.

The ordinance was drafted in response to vacation rental problems in the R-2 (duplex) district.

In other business, the commission:

• Agreed to send a police vehicle no longer needed by the city to Roatan, Honduras, with transportation paid by the Rotary Club.

• Heard a letter from a resident of Tiffany Place that a reported theft was handled quickly and well by Holmes Beach police.

• Heard a report from Police Chief Jay Romine that the police department has received 137 noise complaints so far this year, compared to 50 last year. Not all were violations of the city’s noise ordinance, as some occurred before 10 p.m. and some were unfounded, with complaints about normal conversation levels, he said, adding that violators usually comply with police requests to be quiet and that no citations have been issued by police.

• Heard a report from Peelen that the owner of 203 69th St. would be cited for violating FEMA restrictions on first-floor living areas and renting for less than the minimum time allowed by the city in that zoning district. Petruff said that the city recently mailed a letter to everyone in Holmes Beach with a rental business tax receipt about first floor regulations.

• Heard a request from Peelen that the city ask for a schedule of mosquito spraying so people can plan to go indoors to avoid the chemical.

• Learned from Petruff that the stairway built by former commissioner Al Robinson to access the beach eroded by Tropical Storm Debby has been red-tagged by the city.

• Heard a request from Marvin Grossman, candidate for city commission, that the city assist a disabled veteran who seeks a building permit for a therapeutic hot tub.

• Learned from Petruff that the public can park on the city’s right of way, but that the commission can consider requiring residents to have parking permits or prohibiting parking after a certain time of night.

• Heard a request from mayoral candidate Carmel Monti to reopen negotiations between the city and Sandpiper Resort Co-Op and Bradenton Beach. Holmes Beach filed a declaratory action in May against the two over a property dispute along the 27th Street border between the two cities, at Sandpiper’s northern edge. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on July 23, alleging that the city failed to state a cause of action for declaratory relief and failed to state the elements necessary for injunctive relief.

Tenant seeks a gated parking system at pier
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Pat copeland | sun
The north parking lot at the Anna Maria City Pier
is generally filled by early morning and remains
that way throughout the day.

ANNA MARIA – City pier tenant Mario Schoenfelder has asked the city if he could install a gate system at the entrance to the north parking lot for the city pier.

“People would get a ticket when entering the parking lot and need that ticket, processed at the city pier bait shop, for example, to leave the parking lot,” he explained in a memo to Commission Chair Chuck Webb.

He said people who use the pier and eat in the restaurant would park for free, while others would pay significant parking fees.

“This is in my opinion the only really successful and working means to enforce city pier visitors parking only,” he pointed out.

“It would also be costly, but I would be willing to make that kind of investment in order to make a really working and successful effort to enforce city pier visitors parking only, hereby following your advice to make efforts to keep people out of our parking space.”

Schoenfelder also took issue with statements made by Webb that it is the tenant’s problem to control parking in the lot.

“When the city created a temporary beach right next to the city pier’s parking lot, it was the city’s responsibility that we ran into huge parking problems,” Schoenfelder pointed out.

“When the city removed our city pier parking signs during the renovation project and forgot to reinstall them, it was the city’s responsibility that the signs had been removed and not been replaced until we asked to do so.”

He said the lease is a partnership between the tenant and the city and noted, “I do believe it is also the city’s obligation to support the tenant’s efforts to run a successful business and customer parking is an essential part of that.

“T.C.P.R., Inc. has leased and pays rent for the parking lot and for city pier’s customers’ and visitors’ parking, and I see an obligation also on the landlord’s, the city’s, side to help make sure the designated kind of use possible.”

He asked that the memo be a formal application to install a gated parking system.

Rental control suggestions nixed

The rental agent for Lighthouse Lodge at 508 Spring Ave.
advertises that it sleeps 14 to 16 people. Last week
there were eight vehicles in the driveway

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners were not receptive to two ideas proposed by Commissioner SueLynn last week regarding rental issues.

The first was to require every swimming pool owner to have a sign “that advises people in the pool that noise travels and they need to keep the noise down. When the deputies go to talk to the people making the noise they say they didn’t know. If there’s a sign, they can’t say that.”

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, who has returned to the city after an absence of several months, asked how it could be enforced, and Commissioner John Quam asked if the city could require signs on private property.

City Attorney Jim Dye said it could, but said it would be difficult to enforce and noted, “If it doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism, it becomes a suggestion.”

Quam said property managers should do a better job of informing renters that they are in residential areas. Mattick also said it should be a function of the property managers.

Enclosing the ground level

A second suggestion SueLynn made was not allowing people to enclose the ground level on elevated houses.

“Almost every contractor encloses the ground level,” she said. “Maybe the person who buys the house may put in a bedroom and bathroom and we don’t know what’s going on.

“When I was mayor, we didn’t allow the ground level to be enclosed. I think we have to go back to that. Allowing people to enclose the ground level makes it to easy to create a violation.”

She said people could be limited to an enclosure of 5 by 10 feet for storage, and if the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ever investigated, the city could lose its flood insurance discounts.

Building Official Bob Welch said it would be rare for FEMA officials to check on homes with flood insurance. If they did, they would report violations to the city, which could take code enforcement action.

Mattick said she is opposed to SueLynn’s suggestion because people need storage areas, and Quam said people want to be able to secure their vehicles and property. Commissioner Dale Woodland also was opposed to the idea. Chair Chuck Webb was absent with an excuse.

Lighthouse Lodge

Resident Jim Kojak asked commissioners about a rental on Spring Avenue called Lighthouse Lodge that advertises that it sleeps 14 to 16 people. He asked if the owners could advertise it as a lodge.

SueLynn said there have been as many as seven vehicles at the property.

According to the website, the rental at 508 Spring Ave. has five bedrooms and three bathrooms and two separate living areas and states, “Covered parking areas and extended driveway provide plenty of parking for the group.

“We’ve been looking into how many signs a property can have and whether it can have a plaque sign and a rental sign,” Welch explained. “Lighthouse Lodge is a

Pier reopens with no fanfare

tom vaught | sun
Emergency workers wheel Laurie Miles Pardee to
an ambulence. He was taken to an unknown
location after police Baker Acted him.

BRADENTON BEACH – Anglers are again jockeying for their favorite spots off the Bridge Street Pier after a Cortez native, Quinn Mora, and his helper, Luis Bracero, reinforced a broken piling with wood and cable.

The piling broke last month after two boats crashed into the pier at that location during high winds and waves from Tropical Storm Debby. After they discovered the piling, city officials searched for somebody to fix it, and the best estimate thy could get was between $5,000 and $10,000. The city commission turned down spending that kind of money because the piling is scheduled to be replaced within two years when the city rebuilds the structure east of the restaurant.

With the pier closed, Rotten Ralph’s experienced a sharp drop in business, but Police Chief Sam Speciale thought there was somebody out there who could do the job for less.

Mora said he heard about the city’s plight, and he offered his services for $2,500, which was more palatable with the city commission.

On Thursday last week, Mora and Bracero were out on their raft, putting in the wood braces. The next day, after Building Official Steve Gilbert looked it over, they took the yellow ribbon blocking people from entering the pier.

“It was real scary when our business dropped and we watched people walk to the pier, turn around and leave,” said Rotten Ralph’s owner Dave Russell. “I want to thank Sam for working so diligently to get it reopened. He did a great job.”

Russell said he hoped people would come out and enjoy watching the water and boats in the bay.

“It’s summertime and this is a beautiful spot to spend some time,” he said. “Dining on the water is what it’s all about.”

In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, it sells bait and snacks for anglers.

Privateer stays while commission debates

BRADENTON BEACH – Although they were already approved for next season’s activities, the Anna Maria Island Privateers stayed at the city commission meeting last Thursday while the commission reviewed a new planning, zoning and land use fee schedule.

Privateer Tim “Hammer” Thompson saw the proposed list and wondered if the city would be charging his non-profit group a fee to hold gatherings and festivals in city limits.

While spending valuable time at city hall waiting for the item to come up, the Privateers quietly watched the commissioners conduct their business until it was time for the fee schedule.

“Is there a provision for non-profits so we wouldn’t have to charge them?” Commissioner Jan Vosburgh asked.

Building Official Steve Gilbert said there was.

“I want to thank the city for that waiver for non-profits,” Thompson said. “Is there a way where you could make it automatic for non-profits located on the Island?”

City Attorney Ricinda Perry said it would be better for the city to have the

Commissioners lobby for less parking, more crosswalks

Vehicles line Gulf Drive at Spring Avenue,
making a left turn from Spring on to Gulf difficult.

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners last week targeted several streets in the city where they feel parking is a problem.

Streets include the intersection of Spring Avenue and Gulf Drive, the first blocks of Tarpon Street and Crescent Drive off Pine Avenue, Jacaranda Road between North Shore Drive and North Bay Boulevard and Magnolia and Palm avenues.

“I’ve always had an issue with going up Spring to Gulf and having to make a left hand turn,” Commissioner SueLynn said. “There are at least two cars parked there and in order to be able to see, you have to inch out into the street.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen. I’ve seen several instances where people almost got hit. I would like us to remove those two parking spaces.”

She said the situation is the same at Magnolia Avenue and Gulf Drive and Palm and Gulf drives.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick asked what the city’s code requires, and Commissioner John Quam replied, “There’s a 20-foot triangle from the corner of the property. There it is over 30 feet currently to the first parking spot.”

He said during season it is difficult to get out and suggested going out at another street. Mattick suggested putting a stop sign on Gulf Drive at Spring Avenue.

“I don’t think it’s that serious myself,” Quam said. “I don’t think you want a stop sign there and at Pine. The other thing is we’re taking away two parking spaces from the businesses and that’s not right.”

“They have so many other places they can park around there,” SueLynn responded and someone quipped, “How about a round about?”

Commissioner Dale Woodland said it is a seasonal not a year ‘round problem.

Slow it down

Mattick suggested lowering the speed limit to 15 mph on Gulf Drive beginning at Spring Avenue and continuing down Pine Avenue.

“You can’t go 15 mph in season even if you wanted to, so there’s a zero effect on that,” Woodland pointed out. “You’re slowing people down at a time when we don’t have any traffic.”

SueLynn said she also has problems with visitors parking in residential areas in the first block of Crescent Drive and Tarpon Street off Pine Avenue.

“Last Friday, someone parked in a resident’s driveway,’ she said. “People don’t care, and they just take advantage. I would like to see no parking signs on both sides of the street.”

Quam said a resident has complained about beach goers parking on the west side of Jacaranda Road between North Bay Boulevard and Shore Drive. The resident said they make noise late at night and throw garbage under the bushes.

SueLynn said she feels that parking should be restored to the 100 block of Magnolia and Palm avenues because most of the houses are rentals.

“Why would you want to increase parking for day trippers?” Quam asked.

“It’s not just day trippers; it’s an area where we could provide more public parking,” she replied.

“Unless you live there,” Quam responded.

Mayor Mike Selby said one resident there has asked for one-way traffic there because it is so narrow.

SueLynn also said there should be more crosswalks on Pine Avenue because “tourists tend to cross willy-nilly. We need to have marked crosswalks at each of the street end sections.”

Mayor Mike Selby said he and Public Works Supervisor George McKay have prepared a proposal for additional crosswalks at most intersections on Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue.

All of the parking issues were moved to the Aug. 9 work session.

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