The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 49 - September 19, 2012


Resident questions construction work

HOLMES BEACH – Resident Steve Titsworth, owner of Shoreline Builders, read a letter to city commissioners last week regarding substantial improvement construction occurring at 302 67th Street and 303 68th Street.

“The continuing permitting of this kind of work is against our LDC (land development code), FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) regulations and the Florida Building Code which now mandates FEMA compliance,” he stressed.

“Our city is at risk with regard to NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) certification and the owners or future owners are at risk by having non-conforming properties which may not qualify for mortgages or insurance.”

Titsworth said the roof was removed and new exterior walls were built around old exterior walls, which were later removed.

“It’s all smoke and mirrors,” he said.

According to the NFIP, “Substantial improvement means any rehabilitation, addition or other improvement of a building when the cost of the improvement equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the building before start of construction of the improvement.”

Official explains

Building Official Joe Duennes explained. “We permitted them based on the appraised value, which establishes the value, and the affidavit of construction, which establishes the cost of the new repair. These are the numbers you work with to get the percentage.

“We issued the permits under the condition that the exterior walls and major portions of the roof remain. A portion of the roof was removed where an old wall was removed. They put up a new wall because they expanded the footprint.”

Titsworth asked the city to hire an outside expert to address the issues he raised. He also said he had requested public records regarding the permit applications and associated documents for the two homes, but had not received them.

Building Department Clerk Susan Lonzo explained the process for requesting public records.

“A person makes a request to the city clerk and she writes it up and gives it to me,” she said. “I research it and tell her the time it took and the cost. She tells the person the cost, and they approve it and bring in a deposit.”

She said she wrote Titsworth’s request on Tuesday, Sept. 11, the day he appeared before the city commission.


Bridge study on horizon
Carol Whitmore

FDOT hearings on replacing the Cortez Bridge
likely will begin early next year.

CORTEZ – Get ready for another round of bridge replacement talks.

Engineer Andrew Hayslip, from E.C. Driver and Associates, a Tampa engineering firm sent a letter to FISH board member Linda Molto asking for a meeting of residents, engineers and environmentalists to discuss the possible rehabilitation and replacement of Cortez Bridge.

Florida Department of Transportation officials are making plans to hold a project development and environment (PD and E) study, the first step in planning the future of the 55-year-old drawbridge, said FDOT spokesperson Lauren Hatchell.

“We’re down to the top three candidates for a company to run the PD and E hearing and the finalists often contact people in the affected area to get an idea about their feelings on the project,” Hatchell said. “We have not made our selection for a firm yet.”

Molto said most of the people in FISH are of one opinion.

“We have polled them before and the majority want a rehabilitation of the current drawbridge,” she said. “We have several reasons against replacing the bridge.

“First of all, we’re on the National Registry and they will be using federal funds on the bridge and one agency (FDOT) can’t impact another (The National Registry) using federal funds,” she said. “Also, a lot of people walk that bridge and the current slope is a whole lot better than one for a taller bridge.”

Hatchell said PD and E hearings are likely to be held after the first of next year.

Board disagrees on six lots usage

ANNA MARIA – A disagreement about uses and structures allowed in the six lots at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard led commissioners to put off a decision until hearing more pubic comment.

Commissioners were considering a resolution that listed the following allowable uses: low impact ones such as art shows and high impact ones such as festivals. The resolution said the park could contain benches, lighting, walkways and landscaping.

At issue was a listing of uses and structures that would not be allowed that included gazebos, open-air pavilions, parking and picnic tables. Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick objected to banning parking and open-air pavilions.

“We’re going to need more parking down there, so I don’t think we should not allow some of this until we have more input from the public,” she said.

“I think there should still be some consideration for having some kind of open air pavilion where we could have activities like music, art shows that need shelter and bands.”

Commissioners John Quam and SueLynn agreed.

Resident Mary Helen Gee asked where people who go to the park would park and pointed out, “There’s already a shortage of parking there.”

“When we first started talking about this we talked about gazebos and picnic tables,” Tom Turner said. “They should be included.”

“There’s a clear disagreement on whether we want it to be a casual open space or if we want gazebos and picnic tables,” Vice Chair Dale Woodland said. “Let’s put it on the next agenda and keep it in front of us.”

Mattick said it would allow people time to give their input.

Police wonder about grisly joke

The former owner of a restaurant in Bradenton Beach who faces a murder charge in the disappearance of his wife in Los Angeles has people wondering what really happened to her body.

David Viens was charged with second-degree murder in February 2011 after police said he confessed to his daughter one night that he put tape over Dawn Viens’ mouth when she would not be quiet while he was trying to sleep. He said she choked to death on her vomit.

The daughter, Jacqueline Viens, said he told her police would never be able to recover her body, but would not explain why.

On the stand in Los Angeles Superior Court last week, Jacqueline Viens said her father used to joke about the best way to dispose of a body, according to the Daily Breeze newspaper.

“He’s a chef,” she said. “He would joke about cooking a body.”

Viens owned Beach City Market and Grille in Bradenton Beach when he was arrested in December 2004 on drug charges. He turned states evidence and turned in his supplier and received a one year and one day sentence plus 36 months of supervised release.

After he got out of prison, he moved to the Los Angeles area and eventually opened his own restaurant, Thyme Contemporary Café. Jacqueline moved September 2009 to the area to help her father with the business. Dawn Viens went missing in October 2009.

Los Angeles police once dug up the foundation of the restaurant after learning of a refurbishment that included new concrete in the basement, which made them suspect she might have been buried there. They did not find anything.

In February 2011, after his new girlfriend confronted him with the facts that the police considered him a person of interest in Dawn Viens’ disappearance, he confessed the murder to the girlfriend and took off with police in pursuit. He stopped at the side of a road and jumped off an 80-foot cliff. He survived, but is now confined to a wheelchair.

He reportedly confessed the murder to police after his attempted suicide, but did not tell them what happened to her body, according to the Daily Breeze, a Torrence, Calif., newspaper.

City pier tenant continues to seek gate

Mike Field | sun
The trolley stops at the Anna Maria City Pier by
the shelter on the north side.

ANNA MARIA – City pier tenant Mario Schoenfelder has written to Mayor Mike Selby asking for a letter of no objection to his plan to install a gated parking system.

In July, he asked the city for permission to install the gate at the entrance to the north parking lot. People would get a ticket upon entering the lot and have it stamped when using the pier facilities. Others would pay a parking fee.

However, in an August meeting, Chair Chuck Webb said the gate would not be practical and that the tenant only has a right to use a certain number of spaces.

Webb also said the tenant is responsible to do what he needs to do to maintain the spaces and keep non-customers from using them. He said Schoenfelder could put up no parking signs and signs warning that violators will be towed.

In the letter, Schoenfelder said he had a different interpretation of Webb’s remarks than those reported in The Sun after reading the meeting minutes.

“In my view I understand Commissioner Webb’s comment as a statement that:

• It would be only the tenant’s business and decision to install or not to install a gated parking system.

• The tenant has the right to do whatever is needed to ensure parking for city pier visitors including, for example, the installation of a gated parking system.

• The city of Anna Maria has no objection if and when TCBR, Inc. decides to install such a system and will not prohibit the installation of such a system.”

He pointed out that when he signed the lease, the trolley service did not exist.

“Since that service started ‘our’ parking lot has been used as a bus stop, although there is no regulation in the lease regarding that kind of use of the parking space. There has to be found a solution for the bus stop when and if the parking lot will be gated and not accessible like it is now,” he said.

He also said he plans to install a gate on the south parking lot. The commission has not discussed Schoenfelder’s request.

Board to pursue maximum square footage

ANNA MARIA – After discussing the concept of floor area ratio (FAR) last week, commissioners agreed to pursue the concept of limiting the square footage of new homes.

City Planner Alan Garrett had presented examples of FAR using different lot and house sizes with ground, first and second floors. However, Vice Chair Dale Woodland said he didn’t want the ground floor included in the calculations, only habitable floors.

“What is our objective? What are we trying to do with FAR?” asked Commissioner John Quam, who noted that the city recently changed its lot coverage to encourage one-story homes.

Garrett said it’s a policy decision of the commissioners, but they could wait and see if the new lot coverage regulations are effective.

“There are many ways to deal with trying to scale back the intensity of mega houses,” Garrett said.

Concern for the future

Commissioner SueLynn said she is trying to think of the future.

“What will Anna Maria be in 10 years?” she asked. “Will our streets look like canyons because we do nothing and people choose to build very large houses as the ground level homes are torn down?”

She also said she is concerned about very large houses built on two lots like one on Iris Street, and Woodland said someone could buy four or five lots and “put up something awful.”

“I would like some control over mega houses,” Quam said. “The owners live in them a couple of years, then move out and have the perfect hotel.”

He suggested a FAR of .7, which is what the city currently has, for 5,000 square-foot lots, .6 for 7,500 square-foot lots and .5 for 10,000 square feet and more. Garrett said he would have to check the figures to make sure people have reasonable use of their property.

“I’m not in favor of FAR, but we could look at percentages based on the size of the lots,” Jo Ann Mattick said.

Garrett then suggested limiting houses to a maximum number of square feet, and said he would check with other communities.

Regarding limiting the number of square feet, City Attorney Jim Dye said, “It’s an intriguing question. As long as there’s a community justification for it, the courts could say that’s up to the town. As long as you could identify health safety and welfare issues, it should pass muster.”

Attorney to respond to building policy questions

HOLMES BEACH – At last week’s commission meeting Commissioner Jean Peelen questioned why City Attorney Patricia Petruff had not responded to an e-mail from Judy Titsworth regarding building department policies.

“As part of my duty, I do not respond to citizen requests,” Petruff replied. “If the commission wishes me to respond, I need some authority to do so. It’s inappropriate to spend taxpayers’ dollars on any e-mail I might receive.”

Commission Chair David Zaccagnino gave Petruff permission to respond to the e-mail, in which Titsworth, a candidate for city commission, asked questions about properties encroaching in setbacks and stormwater retention.

In addition, Titsworth questioned why what she called half duplexes have been permitted in the city. Building Official Joe Duennes responded to that question.

“There’s no reason you can’t build a single family home on a duplex lot,” Duennes pointed out.

Duennes said Titsworth also questions the property owner’s ability to build a duplex as two separate buildings connected by a foundation.

“The foundation has to connect because by definition it makes it one building,” he explained. “If you have two buildings, they have to be 20 feet apart. If you separate the duplexes by 20 feet, you don’t have enough room to build two buildings.”

He said in recent years, contractors have realized the market potential of what has the appearance of being a stand-alone building.

Electric car purchase causes problem

ANNA MARIA – “What the heck were you thinking?” Vice Chair Dale Woodland asked Public Works Director George McKay after learning that McKay had purchased an electric car that the commission had agreed to purchase for the city.

At Tuesdays’ budget hearing, commissioners agreed to purchase the vehicle this year instead of putting it in the 2012-13 budget. However, they learned at Thursday’s meeting that McKay had already purchased the vehicle.

“He owns it, so the city is in a position that we’re buying it from the public works director,” Woodland explained.

McKay said he learned that the vehicle was available in August for $4,980 and checked on prices of similar vehicles, which ranged from $8,000 to $6,000. He said he asked for a price without the doors and was given the figure of $4,380.

McKay told the board he’s been looking for a reasonably priced vehicle for 10 years and found this one and noted, “It was perfect. It was a great deal.”

Woodland asked why McKay purchased the vehicle after putting a down payment on it the week before and he replied, “I didn’t want to lose the opportunity.”

“I think it’s OK, but I don’t know if there needs to be proper steps taken,” City Attorney Jim Dye said. “If it does raise the specter of a conflict of interest, the way to deal with it is to have full disclosure. I would like to double check to make sure it can be done that way.”

Woodland asked Dye to research the issue and said it would be on the next agenda.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper