The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 10 - December 19, 2012


A holiday to treasure

An estimated 2,000 people turned out Friday night for
Anna Maria’s citywide Holiday of Treasures celebration,
including Gabby Shancek, 8, brother Steven Shancek,
center and friend Chris Hinkler, who all enjoyed the
“snow” at Island Sun Plaza.

There was fun everywhere Friday night at the Anna Maria Holiday of Treasures, from Slim's on Gulf Drive north to Pine Avenue and from there to Bayfront Plaza, businesses opened their doors, porches and parking lots to the visitorrs. There was the sound of cash registers also, as some business-es like Three Island Monkeys reported brisk business.

The visitors all had bingo cards  that they had marked at each participating business, and they turned them in for a raffle drawing. Some of the businesses served food and refreshments, and Santa had some helpers to take sugges-tions from the kids and some grownups. The Anna Maria Island Sun's snowmaker proved popular, especially for those youngsters who have never seen the real stuff, and Santa sat in his sleigh, watching and listening to kids who have been good all year tell him what they want for Christmas.

On Pine Avenue, those big porches proved popular with shop owners and vistors alike. There were tables of food, refreshments and sale items, and people took advantage of seating in some of the porches to rest before moving on to the next block.

The beautiful weather helped bring out the strollers and the shoppers, and it was like a night in small towns long ago, where everyone knew their neighbors and socialized in the streets.

While heavy snow, like that in "It's a Wonderful Life's" Bed-ford Falls is not common in Anna Maria, the feeling of an old fashioned Christmas returns every year. Residents and visi-tors are more than willing to trade those snowflakes for the tropical weather here and the feeling of a genuine holiday celebration each year.

Moratorium generates protest backlash
Carol Whitmore

Many in the audience at the Dec. 11 Holmes Beach City Commission
meeting did not want a proposed building moratorium approved.

HOLMES BEACH – A parade of contractors and residents pleaded with commissioners not to impose a building moratorium or to change the effective date and make it shorter.

At the Dec. 11 meeting, City Attorney Patricia Petruff explained that she drafted the document based on commissioners’ comments at the Dec. 6 work session.

“It is effective on Dec. 6 because that’s the date you authorized me to draft it,” she explained. “It imposes a moratorium on the issuance of demolition permits for all residential dwelling units located in the R-2 zoning district. That includes demolition that exceeds the threshold for substantial improvement.”

She said it also includes the construction of new dwelling units on vacant lots. She said the first reading would be at the Dec. 18 meeting and the second reading would be at the first meeting in January.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said they should discuss the date and the threshold for substantial improvement, which he thought was 50 percent of market value. He said a memo from interim Building Inspector Tom O’Brien indicts differently (see related story on Page 13).

Petruff said she used the definition of substantial improvement from the land development code and it states “50 percent of the market value before the start of construction,” She said she also used the code definition of market value.

Chair Jean Peelen said no one else had a copy of O’Brien’s memo, and they would discuss it after everyone has read it.

Public comment

Jack Sandelman, owner of Big Fish Association Management, said two months is too long, and they could accomplish their task in 90 days.

“We just bought house on 68th Street and started demolition today, and now I found out we can’t build for six months,” Janice Martinez said. ‘What’s up with that?

“Be fair to people like us. Can you make and exemption for the people who want to live here and enjoy our golden years and be a part of this community?”

Another new resident said the moratorium would put individual property owners in limbo and that commissioners should first define the problem and the issues they have to address.

“If you do this it will affect my business and the livelihood of my employees,” contractor James Martin stressed. “We’re a small company. If the moratorium went into effect, I would have to lay off half my work force.”

Attorney Louis Najmy, who said he represents several property owners, told the board, “I get it that you want to to ensure that the Island isn’t overbuilt and you want to put a hold on building the big houses.

“I can’t seem to stop connecting your manifesto to this ordinance that solely targets R-2 and demos within R-2 and the potential goal to stop one builder, which is Beach to Bay Construction.”

He said the retroactive date is arbitrary, the six-month period is too long and to avoid potential claims from multiple property owners, they should address issues with the building code.

“It’s a big impact to us contractors, but it’s business as usual for you,” contractor Darren Wash pointed out, “We’re not coming to your job and saying you can’t work for six months. What if we say we don’t need you for six months?”

David Scott said must sell the home he has owned for 13 years due to family circumstances and said, “A moratorium will discourage people from buying homes because they don’t know what they can do and can’t do.”

Suggesting changes

“We take your concerns seriously,” Peelen said. “We are not in the business of hurting the business community. We tailored the moratorium as narrow as we could make it so it would have the least adverse effect.”

Petruff said they could change the language regarding the length of the moratorium to “up to six months or until the adoption of a revised zoning code.”

Zaccagnino suggested Dec. 25 instead of Dec. 6 as the effective date, and Petruff warned the city could get a rush of permit applications.

Mayor Carmel Monti said they inherited the situation because the former commission did not act and added, “We want to be fair and compassionate.

“I originally was against the moratorium, but commissioners have talked to me regarding lot and lots of problems. Frankly, we’ve been out of control for five years.”

He said the code has been ignored, and he hired an interim building inspector, Tom O’Brien, to fix the situation.

“We’re open to listening, but we do have to react to what the majority of people wanted us to do,” Monti said. “That’s why they elected us.”

Commissioners agreed to the Dec. 25 date and the change in language regarding the length of the moratorium.

Annual mullet run is on
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Commercial fishermen worked the waters around
Anna Maria Island last week in search of schooling mullet.


CORTEZ –The arrival of a cold front and a drop in barometric pressure and changing tidal patterns provided commercial fishermen their first significant mullet run of the season last week.

“Monday night we had a pretty good hit – maybe 30,000 to 40,000 pounds,” A.P. Bell Fish Company office manager Karen Bell said Friday afternoon. “And last night we had 150,000 pounds.

Monday was the little run, but this was the major run.”

A run consists of mullet traveling from Sarasota Bay and other inland waters, passing through Longboat Pass and other outlets and into the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where the higher water pressure found at greater depths releases their eggs – an occurrence known as spawning.

“The fish go out the pass, and that’s when the guys catch them,” Bell said.

Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, west of the Longboat Pass Bridge, fishermen drop cast nets to a depth of about 30 feet, where they remain submerged for a few minutes before being pulled up.

A.P. Bell and Cortez Bait & Seafood are the two working fish houses and processing facilities in Cortez. They are paying fishermen $1.40 a pound for female mullet and 15 cents a pound for males.

Saturday afternoon, Cortez Bait and Seafood owner John Banyas was out of the office and unable to provide specific numbers, but he said they had 40 to 50 boats bringing in mullet last week. His staff worked until 4 a.m. Friday morning processing Thursday’s catch.

“We had good first run,” he said. “The season was running late and we hadn’t had any cold snaps yet. Hopefully we’ll get a few more good runs this year. It looks like it’s going to be a good season.”

The prize catch for mullet fishermen is the red roe (the eggs) produced by females. Referred to as “poor man’s caviar,” red roe is considered a delicacy in some foreign countries.

Friday afternoon, workers at A.P. Bell formed an assembly line, filleting the female fish and removing the egg sacks, with buyers from Egypt, Italy and Taiwan already bidding on the red roe.

“Whoever bids the highest price will get the fish,” Bell said.

Last year, female eggs sold for $14 a pound. As for the rest of the fish, Bell said she already sold 50,000 pounds of “food-grade gutted mullet” to a buyer in Haiti.

“We ship them to Romania, Haiti and South America, where they are valued more because it’s an inexpensive source of protein,” she explained.

“A lot of Americans look at mullet as a ‘trash fish.’ They’re wrong, but they’ve never been introduced to it properly,” mentioning that mullet fillets can be purchased at the Starfish Co. Seafood Market next door.

Comparing the 2012 season to last year, Bell said, “Usually we have a run right after Thanksgiving but this year we did not. There were less fish than last year, but it was more manageable. Last year people were throwing the white roe, the male fish, overboard because the fish houses were at capacity.

“This year we’re getting both males and females. With a little over 100,000 pounds, we were able to process everything with no problems. During that big run last year, we had over 200,000 pounds. It was overwhelming, and the fish houses were overrun with fish.”

Bell then said, “I’m really glad the boats have worked hard not to throw the male fish away. There is a huge price disparity, so you can understand why they would. Last year, the county and the public were upset with all the waste. I would counter that it wasn’t really waste because it goes back into the eco-system, and you’re feeding the crabs and the smaller fish, but on a mental level people don’t like to see dead fish floating. It’s not good for the industry.”

Docked alongside A.P. Bell Friday evening, commercial fishermen Ken and Pickett (no last names given) unloaded their day’s catch, which Pickett estimated to be between 400 and 500 pounds.

“It’s been a little slow, but it’s early, Pickett said. “Last year was an awfully big year.”

Later that night, commercial fisherman Brett Hitchcock relaxed at the Swordfish Grill after a hard day’s work. Still wearing the white rubber boots that are a trademark of commercial fishermen, Hitchcock said the boat he works on brought 6,400 pounds of mullet into Cortez Bait & Seafood Thursday night.

“The fish houses are paying for the males,” he said. “If the season keeps moving the way it is, I believe it will be a good season.”

Hitchcock said he was taking the weekend off, but he planned to be out fishing again Tuesday, when weather conditions were expected to produce another run.

Commission to implement LAR

HOLMES BEACH – After considering daylight planes and wedding cake setbacks to limit the size of new homes, commissioners agreed on establishing a LAR (living area ratio) as the best way to accomplish their goal.

Last week, they asked Planner Bill Brisson to prepare an ordinance establishing a LAR of .34. LAR is determined by dividing the square footage of the living area by the square footage of the land area of the parcel.

Brisson said with a LAR of .34, up to 2,533 square feet of living area excluding garages and porches would be permitted on a minimum 7,510 square-foot lot, and 1,481 square feet of living area would be allowed on each half of a 8,712 square foot duplex lot.

During a discussion of wedding cake setbacks, which involves increasing setbacks for each floor of a multi-story building, Chair Jean Peelen said, “Wedding cake to me is dictating design and taste. I love that our city is built with quirky houses.”

Brisson said, “Wedding cake is more flexible if you’re not concerned about building size. LAR does limit the size of the buildings” and added that he thought a .34 LAR would be supportable.

Commissioner Marvin Grossman said he is more interested in having buildings that are compatible.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth asked about one and a half stories, and Brisson said he’d have to think about it.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said to keep it simple and not be too restrictive and Commissioner Pat Morton agreed.

Interim Building Inspector Tom O’Brien, an architect, said, “LAR is a performance criteria and it allows design professionals a lot of latitude as to how to respond to that.”

Realtor Don Schroder said they would be drastically reducing the size of homes and noted, “I think you’re opening up to a lawsuit. Don’t lock yourself in. Let the community have its character.”

Car fire damages Key Royale house

HOLMES BEACH – Two residents on Dundee Lane in Key Royale are lucky after a strange incident early Saturday morning. According to the homeowner, who asked that his name not be used, they heard a car pull into their driveway around 3 a.m. A little later, smoke alarms went off, and they got outside where they found the car that had pulled into their driveway was on fire. Its driver was standing, watching the fire.

The homeowner said it appears the driver pulled into the driveway and fell asleep. A cigarette he had been smoking started the fire.

The fire was slowed by the new garage door, which he said was insulated and was two layers thick. There was smoke damage to the garage and the exterior of the house and the heat of the fire melted the back hatch and bumper of an SUV inside the garage. A sedan also inside the garage had a lot of soot on it.

The homeowner said Holmes Beach Police took the driver in for questioning.

Santa makes beach landing

Santa Claus waves to the crowd after riding to
shore on a Manatee County Rescue personal watercraft.

ANNA MARIA – It was a cloudy day, not like our typical weather, when Santa came ashore at the Sandbar restaurant, hugged a few kids, talked with parents and they all turned toward the restaurant’s gazebo to celebrate Christmas.

That’s how those kids from Head Start, the Children’s Academy and other programs got a start to their holidays at the Lawton Chiles Christmas for Kids.

Named after the popular late Florida governor whose son, Ed Chiles, owns the Sandbar and keeps the program going with help from his staff. According to events coordinator Patti McKee, they bought the items for the stockings and gifts and pairs of shoes, packaged them for each child and had a huge wrapping party over the weekend to make it all happen.

They got some help from some characters all the kids knew including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Elmo from Sesame Street, and some of Santa’s elves plus Rudolph, whose nose Santa could have used to guide his personal watercraft.

There was face painting and two clowns made balloon animals for the kids. There was also a bounce house and prizes buried in the sand for the kids to dig up. They also got some chicken fingers and fries for lunch. All this occurred as Chris Grumley played season music for all to enjoy.

After Santa and crew got to the gazebo, Santa sat down surrounded by packages, and Grumley called out each child’s name to come see Santa.

It was another year of making kids’ dreams come true for Ed Chiles and his daughter, Ashley, who attended and was seen carrying a toddler or two. It also helped make some adults’ dreams come true since there is nothing more rewarding than to make a youngster smile.

Roser recreates Bethlehem Walk

Erin Tribble and Jay Cram as Mary and Joseph.


ANNA MARIA – It was a walk around the block for the group of worshippers who recreated Joseph and Mary’s trek to Bethlehem while Mary was pregnant with Jesus, but it was laced with prayers and Christmas carols that warmed the heart.

Joseph, played by Roser Memorial Community Church Youth Coordinator Jay Cram, led the way as Erin Tribble, playing Mary, walked with him. Erin is the daughter of Roser Education Director Kelly Tribble, whose two daughters are now veterans of the role.

The group would stop at a residence along the way and ask the person at that home if there was any room for them as his wife was with child. They were headed to Bethlehem for a census.

They were turned down until they stopped at Sato Realty. The person there directed them to the church, where they could stay with the animals in the stable.

Nobody remembers when the annual Bethlehem Walk started, but it is a chance for young and old to recreate what Joseph and Mary went through on that winter night. When they got to the church, Joseph and Mary went inside and returned with the baby Jesus, played by Bosun Duytschaver, son of Sean Duytschaver, who was being held by his mother, Julia. The wide-eyed baby looked at the crowd and seemed to know he was playing a significant role in the celebration.

Some unusual animals for the Island joined the walk from a farm east of Bradenton. There were lambs, a donkey and a llama. They had been a part of the walk for years and seemed to know the route around the block. The children took control of the smaller animals, one child cradling a baby lamb in his arms, and many of the participants wore clothing of the era, which was available for loan at the church.

As happened last year, when the caravan turned the corner at the Waterfront restaurant, many of the diners in the outdoor area expressed surprise at this holy-looking throng. A few minutes passed before one of the walkers yelled, “Merry Christmas,” which brought smiles and chuckles from the restaurant’s front porch.

It was a uniquely genuine experience for those who have read about the birth of Christ in the Bible and heard about it in church, and it was something those people at the restaurant will take home with them as a warm memory of Anna Maria Island.

Jury rejects lawsuit against cop

The jury struck down a $24 million lawsuit against the city of Bradenton Beach and former police officer Tim Matthews over an arrest he made on Sunday, April 20, 2008, at Coquina Beach.

In a ruling last week, the court dropped the lawsuit after the jury found no fact in the six charges against Matthews and four charges against the city by Lance and Veronica Lewis, who are brother and sister.

Matthews no longer works for the Bradenton Beach Police and now works for the Palmetto Police Department.

“It was a long case, and we’re thrilled at the outcome,” said Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale.

It began when Matthews was patrolling Coquina Beach in his police car and saw three people walking on the multi-use path. The three were Veronica Lewis, her 14-year-old brother, Lance, and William Williams. As Matthews was watching, he saw Land Lewis blow him a kiss and appeared to stagger. according to court records. Matthews thought Lewis might be under the influence, so he stopped his car and walked toward the three, asking Lewis, “What is your problem?”

Lewis responded with a racial slur against Matthews. Matthews asked Lewis why he blew a kiss, and Lewis answered with a four-letter word near the benches with families. As he approached Lance Lewis to make a disorderly conduct arrest, Veronica Lewis stepped between the two. Matthews warned her about interfering as she pushed her brother away from him. Matthews told her she needed to move as he took her brother to the ground and placed handcuffs on him. As he did, Veronica Lewis scratched his lip with a fingernail. The two were arrested for disorderly conduct and battery on a law enforcement officer.

In September 2008, charges against the brother and sister were dismissed for lack of probable cause. The couple’s father, Clarence Lewis, said he wanted to sue to recover legal fees. In October, he filed a $200,000 lawsuit to recover those fees. The judge removed the suit from the docket because it had also named the police department, so the couple re-filed in federal district court, asking for the $24 million.

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