The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 51 - October 3, 2012


H.B. seeks to revoke Mainsail site plan
Carol Whitmore

File photo
This model shows the back side of the project with
the swimmng pool, cabana and bar behind the
main lodge building.


HOLMES BEACH – When he heard that the city plans to revoke the site plan for the Mainsail development, company President Joe Collier said, “There will be fierce resistance on our part.

“They don’t have the ability to do that. We have entitlements (guaranteeing) what we’re allowed to build and those don’t sunset. That was an important part of our decision to purchase the property. We’ve spent a lot of money on that property.”

At last week’s commission meeting, Mayor Rich Bohnenberger told the board, “I’m asking the commission to take action on two issues. Instruct our attorney to draft an ordinance to set up a sunset clause for future site plans and take action to revoke the site plan for the Mainsail project.

“It has become an abandoned construction site and there has been no activity for five years. It has become a public safety issue as well as an eyesore.”

Commissioner John Monetti asked if they could do that, and City Attorney Patricia Petruff said, “We have to give them due process and have a public hearing and give them notice.

“They will have the opportunity to come here and explain to you why you shouldn’t revoke their site plan. Once you hear all that evidence, you can either choose to revoke it or give them a date certain or leave it as the status quo.”

Chair David Zaccagnino told Petruff to start the process of creating an ordinance.

Mainsail president speaks

Collier said he would have liked to begin the project immediately after the company purchased the property at the corner of Marina and Gulf drives in June 2009, but the economic situation prevented that.

“Things have steadied out now,” he explained. “We have sold a handful – what we needed to get started. We’re excited about the project

“We have to finish the last construction drawings. A project manager is on board and one of his first missions is to get this project started.”

Collier said architect Steve Smith, of Cooper, Johnson Smith, specializes in coastal construction, and the plan remains the same as a 3-D model of the main lodge and 37 condo/hotel units and town houses planned for the site that was unveiled in September 2009.

“Right now we’re operating a simple marina,” Collier said. “Once we’re open, it will have more life. It will be better than looking at weeds and rebar. It doesn’t look that great, and I appreciate their concern.”

Mainsail’s other Island project is the Beach Inn at 101 66th Street where two- and three-bedroom units in two buildings are being sold as a condo/hotel and rented as hotel units when not in use by the owners. Collier said seven have been sold.

The projects will allow guests to use amenities at both locations. Renters and guests from the Beach Inn will be able to go the Lodge and eat in the restaurant or get a boat, and renters and guests from the Lodge will be able to go to the beach at the Beach Inn.

Project history

The Mainsail Lodge and Marina, formerly the Tidemark Lodge and Marina, was begun by Nick Easterling in 2001.

It was to include the proposed Tidemark residences and marina and the Beach Inn. The combined projects, valued at $85 million, were to include 14 beach residences and 16 marina residences plus a 62-slip marina with boats and fishing guides and a 24-unit lodge with a 80- to100-seat restaurant and lounge.

However, Easterling filed for bankruptcy in 2004. In 2005, Reliance Realty Partners joined the project and the bankruptcy was resolved. In May 2007, Reliance bought out Easterling, however, in June 2009 the banks foreclosed on the properties and they were purchased by Mainsail.


Viens convicted of second degree murder

David Viens, a former chef and restaurant owner on Anna Maria Island, faces a minimum of 15 years to a maximum of life in prison following his second-degree murder conviction in the death of his wife, Dawn.
After deliberating five and a half hours and at one point asking for a definition of second degree murder, the six-woman, six-man jury returned the verdict in the trial last Thursday. Sentencing is set for Nov. 27.

Viens, 49, grabbed national attention when his recorded confession was played for the jury last week. In it, he said he had argued with his wife one night in October 2009, bound her hands and feet and taped her mouth closed with clear packing tape when she wanted to talk all night and he wanted to sleep. He said he took a sleeping pill and fell asleep and when he awoke a few hours later, he found she had choked to death on her own vomit.

Viens said he put her body in a plastic bag and took it to the Contemporary Thyme Cafe, which he owned and operated, and stuffed the body in a 55-gallon drum of boiling water. He said he cooked her body for four days and got rid of what was left in the trash and in the restaurant’s grease trap.

During closing arguments, Los Angeles Deputy Attorney Deborah Brazil urged the jury to return a guilty verdict on first-degree murder, saying Dawn Viens’ death was no accident. Brazil said it was likely she died under more violent circumstances, such as being choked, and Veins disposed of her body to get rid of the evidence. But the jury apparently concentrated on second-degree murder.

Defense Attorney Fred McCurry told the jury there is no proof of murder.

“The evidence does not support anything other than this was an accident,” he told the jury. “Just because there was a death doesn’t mean there was a murder.”

The story has had a number of unusual turns. Viens and his wife moved from their Holmes Beach home after he was arrested in January 2005, when authorities found 1,000 pounds of marijuana in the house. Viens turned state’s evidence and charges were dropped when police went after his supplier. The couple had owned the Beach City Market in Bradenton Beach when Viens was initially arrested.

They moved to the Los Angeles area after that and opened the Contemporary Thyme Cafe in Lomita. In October 2009, Dawn dropped out of sight and Viens told everybody she told him she had to get away for a while. His daughter moved in with him and later, after drinking some vodka, he admitted to his daughter that he had accidentally killed Dawn. He later made the same admission to his new girlfriend, who told police. When Viens found out he was going to be arrested, he drove to a cliff and jumped, falling some 100 feet to the ground. The incident left him with serious injuries, and he sat in a wheelchair during the trial.

Planner says act now before character changes

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners said they want to digest information supplied by Planner Bill Brisson on oversized dwellings in the R-2 district and whether it is changing the character of the city.

Brisson said he was asked to find out if the size of homes has been increasing and if it is affecting the character of the city. Information he used was the address of the unit, the year it was built, the area of the lot, the square footage of the living area and the number of bedrooms.

He said the number of bedrooms and size of homes and duplexes has been increasing with the most dramatic increase since 2009 and stressed, “It hasn’t changed your overall character because there hasn’t been enough of them, but if you find that trend is a problem, do something to moderate it now before it becomes a big problem.”

From 2009 through 2011, 15 homes were built in the R-2 district and seven had five or more bedrooms and two contained eight bedrooms, and the number of bedrooms in duplex units during that same period averaged 4.6 per unit.

Regarding size, he said for the majority of single-family homes, the living area ratio (LAR) was .22 until 1999 and gradually increased until 2009, when it jumped to .51 for two thirds of the new homes. He said the same increase occurred in duplex units.

He said LAR is the square footage of the living area divided by the square footage of the land area of the parcel.


His preliminary recommendations included:

• Limit new single-family homes and duplex units to a LAR of .34;

• Do not limit LAR, but if the LAR is greater than .34, limit the number of bedrooms to four.

• Allow the LAR to exceed .34 and allow more than four bedrooms, if the owner agrees to a deed restriction that prohibits any form of rental of the home.

Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens asked how they could regulate the final suggestion, and Brisson said a deed restriction on the land or through the city’s rental records.

However, City Attorney Patricia Petruff said that “is not my ideal situation because the enforcement would be incredibly difficult. At some point down the road, you will be in litigation. It’s not a road I recommend you walk down.

“I would much rather see increased setbacks, a lower lot coverage or counting the pool as impervious surface. There are a lot of other things that are much easier to enforce than having people trying to claim that all those people in their house are not renting, but are their 47 cousins.”

Chair David Zaccagnino asked if Brisson’s data could be used to support a LAR, and Petruff said it would give them the rational basis they need to support an ordinance, but she cautioned, “If you go down that road, don’t adversely impact the 50- by 100-foot lots where they become undesirable.

“Also with lots with half duplexes that are already at .4, you need to recognize that you are asking for a lawsuit on those. Those people built that with the expectation that they would be able to come back in under the existing code.”

Brisson said he has addressed the smaller lots by suggesting they could allow them to have up to 2,553 square feet of living area regardless of the LAR if all the setbacks and coverage requirements are met.

Let the people decide

Commissioner John Monetti said Brisson stated that the recent increase in the scale of homes is out of character from what citizens expect.

“I feel that there could be a majority of citizens who come to expect to be able to build within the constraints of the 10-foot by 10-foot by 20-foot by 30-foot setbacks, 36-foot heights and 30 percent maximum lot coverage that have existed for decades,” Monetti pointed out.

He said residents are focusing on this issue, but to impose building size restrictions six weeks before an election could usurp the will of the citizens.

“Nothing will make it more clear than the upcoming election,” he said. “Let the citizens decide.”

“I feel there will be some kind of LAR or FAR (floor area ratio) number, ” Zaccagnino said. “I feel there’s a better chance that this commission would have that number higher than a possible commission down the road. I’m willing to start on it now.”

Brisson said his document is a draft with preliminary recommendations meant to stimulate discussion.

Attorney responds to list of building issues

HOLMES BEACH – City Attorney Patricia Petruff replied to a memo from commission candidate Judy Titsworth posing a series of questions regarding building issues.

“The responses are generic because I did not have access to specific addresses, so I did not have the ability to do independent research,” Petruff explained.

“The code designates the building official as the person that interprets the codes. If you have a question you can ask for an official written interpretation.”

Petruff said she can only offer opinions and doesn’t have the authority to overrule the building official. Only the court or the commission can do that.

The first questions were about what Titsworth called half duplexes, or single-family homes built on duplex lots, and whether another building could be added to the parcel, whether they would have to be joined and whether they should be reclassified as single-family homes.

Petruff said a second half could be built if it met one of three ways a building could be considered one structure – if it is covered by a permanent main roof or has a common foundation or a party wall. She said whether one half duplex added to a lot could be attached by a common foundation is an engineering question.

Regarding reclassification, Petruff said,” I don’t think it makes any difference in the long run. I don’t understand why the classification would be important.”

Setback encroachments

The second set of questions involved buildings encroaching on the side and front setbacks and whether their certificate of occupancy (CO) could be revoked or the owners could be made to bring them into compliance.

“Keep in mind that over the years the setbacks in the city have changed,” Petruff pointed out. “So there could be some legal non-conforming issues out there.”

She said revoking a CO would be a drastic measure, and could provoke a lawsuit against the city. One remedy could be a variance and another could be a settlement agreement under the Bert Harris Private Property Act.

Making an owner bring a property into compliance would be a fact specific question she said. The court would look at whether a permit was issued in error and/or how much it would cost to fix the problem.

Other questions were whether the city could revoke a rental license on a property with encroachments and if the city planner could determine how many of these have been permitted. Petruff said encroachments are a structural non-compliance issue, which has nothing to do with use, and the planner could do so.

Parking and landscaping

The third question was about short-term parking and additional landscaping requirements adjacent to rights of way, and Petruff said the planner and building official are working on it.

The next question asked what could be done if a residential property is collecting stormwater runoff from neighboring new development due to lack of enforcement regarding the issuance of a CO.

Petruff said residential structures on single-family and duplex lots are exempt from stormwater management requirements, and she is recommending that this be changed. She said the city has been requiring drainage plans for new duplex construction.

However, she pointed out, “If someone is flooding out someone else’s property, it’s a legal issue between those two owners.”

As to a question regarding requiring as-built surveys, Petruff said she recommends that requirement be adopted by ordinance. Regarding a question on the addition to the code of state guidelines on docks in Florida outstanding waters, she said the planner is working on an ordinance revision.

“The biggest take away from this is that every instance has to be researched individually with some specificity,” Petruff concluded, “It could be policy decisions or interpretations that I’m not privy to. It’s not my job to make those interpretations; it’s my job to help staff make those interpretations.”

Commission questions

Commissioner Pat Morton asked what could be done if a contractor submits plans, but doesn’t follow them, and Petruff said it should be caught during inspections. If it is fixable, the contractor could be required to obtain an after the fact permit revision.

“I’m not sure we could fix all the things that have happened,” Chair David Zaccagnino said. “We could ask our planner to look at all the permits in the past three to five years.

“It’s like chasing our tail to look in the past and spend all this time, effort and money. I’d rather move forward and be stringent about the inspections and as-built surveys and things like that.”

“I would like to move forward, but not sweep it under the rug,” Commissioner Jean Peelen countered. “It would be good information for the commission to have of how frequent this is or isn’t happening.”

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said the cost would be astronomical for the planner to research all the permits and resulting structures.

Commissioner John Monetti suggested they ask Planner Bill Brisson what the task would entail.

“If you’re interested in all properties with setbacks, that would be a monster,” Brisson replied and added that he could look only at the ones that are considered problems.

Peelen said they could use a list of nine properties provided to the board by Titsworth because they are recently constructed or completed homes in the R-2 district and are by different builders.

“In order to be responsible, you’d have to look at all the homes and not just the ones you think are a problem, Monetti stressed and suggested Brisson do a couple of homes to determine a time frame and cost.

“You probably won’t change much, but you’ll find out where there are problems,” Brisson said.

“An appropriate task is to determine if the issues or complaints are valid or if it’s an interpretation dispute,” Petruff advised. “If we find out there’s a handful that are a mistakes, can they get a variance or is there another way to resolve the problem like a code change.

"If not, do we want to acknowledge we made a mistake and make them legal non-conformities?”

Commissioners agreed to pick three from Titsworth’s list for Brisson to study.

Commission candidates must apply to city

ANNA MARIA – At their next meeting, Oct. 11, commissioners plan to adopt by resolution procedures to appoint a new commissioner to fill the seat of the commissioner who will become mayor after the Nov. 6 election.

The situation was created when no one qualified to run for mayor. According to the charter, after the November election, the commission will elect a chair, and that chair automatically becomes mayor for the next two years.

Commissioners discussed whether to appoint the commissioner before or at the organizational meeting following the election. However, City Attorney Jim Dye pointed out that the seat would not be vacant until the organizational meeting.

Next they established when the organizational meeting is to be held. According to the city charter it is to be the first Thursday following the election, which would be Nov. 8.

However, City Finance Director Diane Percycoe said the even though no one is up for election in the city, the supervisor of elections must certify the election because there are local, state and national candidates. It won’t be certified until after Nov. 8.

“You have to follow the state law,” Dye said.

Commissioners agreed on Nov. 15 for the organizational meeting.

Commissioner SueLynn asked if they would be able to question the candidates, and Commissioner Dale Woodland said he assumed that commissioners and the public would be able to do so.

Chair Chuck Webb said he would add that to the draft procedures submitted by Commissioner John Quam.

Candidates must submit an application form available at city hall, collect10 signatures of residents and submit a resume to city hall by Oct. 31. The only person to submit an application form to date is former Commissioner Gene Aubry.

City and Sheriff’s Office work on enforcement issues

ANNA MARIA – A service agreement with the Sheriff’s Office was approved by commissioners with the understanding that enforcement issues that surfaced in August are a work in progress.

During a budget meeting in August, commissioners were surprised by a memo from Sgt. Dave Turner, of the Anna Maria substation of the Sheriff’s Office, stating that his deputies would not enforce the city’s codes.

“Today we met with Sheriff Steube and members of his staff to discus contract issues we have,” Mayor Mike Selby reported to commissioners. “There’s going to be a memorandum of understanding on procedural issues – how things will be handled in the future. That’s going to be an on-going conversation.”

Commissioner SueLynn asked about deputies enforcing the codes.

“We do not intend for our law enforcement officials to become code enforcement officers,” Selby replied.

Chair Chuck Webb added, “They would not be involved except to report to code enforcement if they saw something. Those are the details we are going to work out.”

He said the Sheriff’s Office would continue to handle violations regarding alcohol, dogs on the beach, noise, parking tickets and the like, and they would continue to work on procedures involving other types of incidents.

“The sheriff took nothing off the table as far as what laws they are willing to enforce,” City Attorney Jim Dye added. “I think some activities are better served by law enforcement and some by code enforcement.

“What we’ve asked them to do is be the eyes and ears of code enforcement during the time the city staff is not available, for instance, on the weekends. They will make sure there’s a record sent to code enforcement.”

Mayor unveils new plan for six lots

This view shows how the city pier parking area woud look
as a park and how the six lots would look with parking and
landscaping as envisioned by Mayor Mike Selby.



ANNA MARIA – Mayor Mike Selby presented a new plan to commissioners last week that swaps city pier parking with the six lots across the street.

“The idea is moving the park over to the east side of North Bay Boulevard were the existing pier parking is located and move the parking and trolley stop to the six lots,” Selby explained. “To me it’s a nice picture when you’re driving down Pine – the boardwalk, the beach.”

Chair Chuck Webb suggested they move the issue to a work session and noted, “My concern is having as much usage space as possible. I can see some advantages.”

Commissioner John Quam said they also should to talk to pier tenant Mario Schoenfelder about the proposal, and Selby said Schoenfelder said he would work with the city.

Selby said he has a cost estimate of $29,287 for landscaping the six lots, and it is designed for 38 vehicles, while the current pier parking area has 24. He said with new tenants in Bayview Plaza, parking there is at a premium and this proposal could alleviate that.

Quam suggested designating 25 pier parking spaces off the right of way of North Bay Boulevard because the tenant could complain about sharing parking.

Webb said the tenant gets what the lease says, but City Attorney Jim Dye pointed out that the tenant gets acreage not a certain number of spaces.

“He gets 150 feet on the one side of the pier and 100 feet on the other, and he gets to use that as he wants,” Dye said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland suggested angled parking inside the six lots on the North Bay Boulevard right of way.

Permit and paid parking

Commissioner SueLynn submitted a memo suggesting permit parking for residents and paid parking for visitors.

“The goal or benefits in considering this would be relief for some residents who routinely have beachgoers parking in front of their homes leaving trash behind, prevent multiple cars from parking in front of and near large rentals, and a potential much needed source of income,” she said.

She said the commission should consider paid parking in the following areas: city hall parking lots, Magnolia Avenue /Gulf Boulevard/Palm Avenue loop, along North Bay Boulevard adjacent to the six lots, selected area along north Shore Drive, near the Rod and Reel Pier, the six lots and the city pier parking lot.

“Parking hours might be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with one fee regardless of how long the individual stays,” she said. “If paid parking is in the vicinity of a restaurant or retail stores, the tickets could be stamped for free parking.”

Regarding permit parking, she said one permit could be issued to each property owner to place on the dashboard for parking in the right of way in front of the property. It could be free or cost $10 to cover administrative costs.

The permit would be for two years with half the property owners renewing each year. The permits would be color coded to facilitate visual identification by law enforcement.

Real estate sales surge

The real estate market on Anna Maria Island continues its recovery from what has been a slump, though one not as bad as surrounding real estate markets.

In a listing of sales in last week’s Anna Maria Island Sun, four properties sold for their listing prices, a rarity during the height of the recession when buyers were able to negotiate lower prices because buyers were scarce.

“We’ve reverted to a seller’s market,” said Alan Galletto, Broker/Associate at Island Real Estate, who publishes a monthly newsletter. “It was a buyer’s market, but foot traffic is up, even during this slow time of the year.”

According to Galletto, sales for the month of August were at a record pace with 37 properties sold, including 19 single-family homes, 11 condominium units, three duplexes and four lots.

“That’s a 48 percent increase over August 2011,” he said. “There were 25 sales during that month, including 14 single-family homes, eight condos, no duplexes and three lots.”

Year-to-date sales through Aug. 31 were up 20 percent over the same period in 2011. This year’s figures show 295 sales, including 165 single-family homes, 92 condos, 19 duplexes and 19 lots, compared with 2011’s 246, including 119 single-family homes, 100 condos, eight duplexes and 19 lots.

The number of distressed (bank owned or short sales) properties sold is down. Of the year-to-date sales through August, only 12 percent were distressed compared with a year earlier where 15 percent were distressed.

Inventory on the Island has dropped to 304 properties, down from 315 in July.

“That’s the lowest it’s been since 2005,” Galletto said. “That’s driving up prices, since the inventory sets the supply end of the supply and demand formula.”

Galletto says there is another factor that has driven the real estate market up – many buyers don’t need financing.

“About half of the buyers are paying cash,” he said. “That means sales are not dependant on finding a lender who might not want to finance a property for its increased value.”

Galletto feels the trend will continue.

“The outlook for the Island market continues to be strong with sales at historic highs and inventory at historic lows,” he said. “In 2011, we began to see a balance of the negotiating position of buyer and seller compared to the buyer’s market prior to 2011.

“In 2012, we are now seeing the market change to a seller’s market as evidenced by properties selling close to or at list price.”

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