The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 14 - January 16, 2013


Weather enhances Dolphin Dash
Carol Whitmore

They’re off as the one-mile fun run starts at the
Anna Maria Elementary Schcool Dolphin Dash.

HOLMES BEACH – Last weekend’s Dolphin Dash was the first one in a while where you couldn’t see your breath, which might account for the good turnout.

With the temperature in the upper 60s, the parking lot at Anna Maria Elementary School was busy with runners registering and preparing for the 5-K run, the first of two races.

This was the first year Rebecca Walter was not the organizer, due mainly to the fact her twin daughters are no longer at the school and are attending middle school.

Jesse Brisson is the new organizer, and Rebecca helped out by registering runners.

“I’m so proud the legacy continues,” she said. “Jesse did a great job.”

Walter said she was not running in this year’s 5K and one-mile races, joking that a lot of people thought she was a fast runner, and she did not want to dispel that belief.

“I have all four of my kids running,” she said. “It’s a good turnout thanks to the nice weather.”

Eight-year-old Katie Lyssy, a second-grade student of Mrs. Newhall at AME, was running her first race.

When asked if she thought she could win her age bracket, she said, “I’m going to try.”

Former teacher Lynn Drolet, who taught kindergarten at AME before taking a job at an educational book company in North Carolina, was back on the Island to watch the races.

“I love my job, but I miss the kids,” she said, noting that all the students she taught have moved on to middle and high school.

When the horn sounded for the start of the 5K race, the runners headed for Gulf Drive, which was blocked by Holmes Beach Police officers. They crossed the street and ran one block west then turned right through the back roads.

A short while later, Geremy Dewitt was the first male in. The Crystal River High School student said he came to the Island just to run the race. He is a serious runner.

“I run about eight miles per day,” he said.

Second place went to Michael Lamb, who works at the BeachHouse restaurant in Bradenton Beach.

Zachary Jones was next, the first youngster. The nine-year-old is a member of the Wakeland Runners Club.

Dominique Kohlenberger, of Longboat Key, was the first woman to finish. and Zachary Smith, 11, from Bradenton Christian School, was first in hisc class.

“I run every chance I get,” he said. “This was my first race.”

The one-mile Fun Run began at 9 a.m. This is a race that a lot of the AME students ran. Most were members of the runners club that race organizer Brisson leads every Wednesday before school. Anthony Monetti came in first, and Sarah Quattromani, 15, from Manatee High School, was the first lady runner to finish.

Moratorium approved for R-2 District

HOLMES BEACH – A moratorium on issuing demolition permits and building permits for any work that exceeds the threshold for substantial improvement for all residential dwelling units in the R-2 district became official with its second reading last week.

Property owner Joe Kennedy, a former 20-year city resident, once again protested the ordinance and pointed out, “A list of the many ordinary, normal or day to day problems that any city, but particularly a coastal resort community such as Holmes Beach, was provided to Mr. Brisson (City Planner Bill Brisson) by the city commission.

“All of these problems could have been resolved or minimized in any number of other ways like proper or stricter enforcement or consistent interpretation, yet the city commission has chosen the most repressive of all, a moratorium.”

Resident Dave McKeever argued the other side and had harsh words for the contractors who have built “the monstrosities that make the moratorium necessary.

“Now we’re exploring remedies to other problems that that these carpetbaggers have foisted upon us … I commend the mayor and the rest of you for trying to protect what’s left of this town. I’ve lived here since 1980 and change is inevitable, but I barley recognize it any longer. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a neighborhood driven by greed.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino read a letter from property owner Keith Carter in which Carter said there is “an unintended result of the council’s current approach to development in Holmes Beach,” which is that people are demolishing ground level homes instead of remodeling them.

“… it is now apparent that under the current atmosphere building department employees are hesitant to exercise any discretion in favor of the homeowner and to some extent are now overly restrictive in interpretations fearing recrimination for any perceived ‘leniency,’” Carter wrote.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino opposed the ordinance approval.

Plug pulled on Concerts in the Park

HOLMES BEACH – There’ll be no more partying in the park after Mayor Carmel Monti made the decision to charge all users, including non-profits, the $250 special event fee for use of the field.

“It’s officially done,” event coordinator Cindy Thompson said Thursday. “I will not work with Holmes Beach any longer. I shouldn’t have to beg them to give them something.”

Monti said former Mayor Rich Bohnenberger made a decision to waive the fee for non-profits last year and he made the decision to reinstate it.

“In my opinion, any non-profit or for profit worth its salt should be able to afford $250 for that whole park. We’re not saying don’t bring your concert,” he told commissioners at last week’s meeting after several residents protested the decision.

“We’re saying there was a bill in place, it’s back in place and it’s more than reasonable for the amount of space. That is a very fair rate for what we give to the people that use it.”

He said business owners in the city have complained to him about losing business to concert vendors.

Thompson said when she came to get the permit signed on Jan. 7, she was told that the mayor would sign it. She said the next day she learned that the mayor had reinstated the fee, and she notified the musicians and vendors that she would cancel the event scheduled for Friday, Jan. 25.

Protesting the decision

At the meeting, residents, business owners and representatives of non-profit groups protested the mayor’s decision. They said the concerts raise money for non-profit groups and bring the community together.

“We are the ones pulling the permit for the February concert,” Barry Gould, of the Rotary Club, said after some said Thompson’s organization is for profit. “Cindy is not someone who is doing this for profit. She does it because she’s community minded. And we’re slapping her in the face.”

He said the money she raises benefits the non-profit sponsor each month, which in turn benefits the city and other non-profits.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth said neighbors have complained about the overuse of the field by various organizations, not just Concerts in the Park, and added, “It would be wonderful if we could find another location in the city.”

Commissioner Marvin Grossman offered to pay the fee for the January concert until Thompson could make a presentation to the board. He said he wanted to see contracts and figures, which Thompson said she would be willing to supply.

However, the next day she made the decision not to fight city hall and said, “At the end of the day, if I’m not in partnership with the city, it’s not worth it. It’s done. We need to move on.

“It was a labor of love and I am happy to continue to share my passion and energy to volunteer in this community. Non-profit organizations can apply for their own event, and I’ll support them and share resources.”

Who makes the money?

“I started the concerts in January 2012,” Thompson recalled. “By April, the city had amended its insurance requirement, and it doubled my bill for insurance.

“I talked to Mayor Bohnenberger, showed him my books and told him I couldn’t continue if I had to pay the increased insurance and the special event fee. He made the decision to waive the fee because he saw it as a community asset.”

Each month, Thompson partners with a different non-profit group to raise funds for that group with the concert. This year’s groups were AMI Concert Chorus and Orchestra, January; AMI Rotary Club, February; AMI Preservation Trust, March; The Junior League of Manatee County, April; the Cortez Maritime Museum, May; and the Privateers, June.

“I am acting as an agent for their organization,” she explained. “I pull the permits in the name of the non-profit. I get 20 percent of the net proceeds, but so far I haven’t taken anything. I’ve donated it all back to the non-profits.”

She said expenses include an application fee to the city, music, lighting electric, Dumpsters, a bounce house and movie rental. Income includes two to four sponsors at $250 each, a $200 movie sponsor, 15 arts and crafts booths at $40 each and five restaurant booths at $75 each.

“At the event, I give the non-profit a $500 bank, which they sign for,” she continued. “They sign for the alcohol sales each hour and lock up the money. They are completely in charge

“At the end of the night, the income is totaled and I subtract the bank. The non-profit gets all the rest after the beer is paid for. They get a copy of all the expenses and income and all the receipts.”

She said last year, she raised $10,000 in eight months for seven non-profit organizations.

“I did it because I could do what I love to do and bring a benefit to the community,” she said. “I wanted to build the events so they could grow in the future, and at some point, Island Festivals could be a for profit company.”

Board to hold public hearing on Mainsail

HOLMES BEACH – Hoping to resolve their concerns about the Mainsail Development project, commissioners last week approved a motion by Commissioner Judy Titsworth to schedule a public hearing to amend or revoke the 2001 resolution approving the special exception for the project.

Chair Jean Peelen objected and said they should first send a letter to Mainsail President Joe Collier stating that the public hearing would be the next step. She asked Titsworth to amend her motion, but Titsworth declined.

“I agree with Judy,” Commissioner Pat Morton said. “Over the years we’ve overextended our welcome to these people, and they just keep trampling on it.”

However, Peelen pointed out that there have been different owners through the years. Commissioner David Zaccagnino agreed with Peelen, but the motion was approved 3-2.

“We’re going to bring the whole team down and do a full blown presentation, so they can see what we’re doing,” Collier said when contacted about the commission’s decision.

“If they want minor changes, we’ll work with them. If it’s something that will cause us economic harm, we’ll have to take a different tack.”

He said there would be a partners meeting this week to set the date to make the presentation to commissioners.

“We’ve been studying this for awhile and have no desire to get into a litigious situation” he continued. “We want to make sure they have all the information.”

City raises concerns

Commissioners have raised issues about the project at the corner of Gulf and Marina drives since September, when former Mayor Rich Bohnenberger asked the city attorney to take action to revoke its site plan.

At the time, City Attorney Patricia Petruff advised the commission to set a public hearing and allow the company to come in and explain why the site plan should not be revoked.

In December, Titsworth raised issues regarding changes in character and intensity on the site. Petruff said, according the code, the company was required to obtain a building permit 90 days after approval of the site plan, and while that did not occur in the proper sequence, the city did issue building permits for various aspects of the project.

She had pointed out, “Arguably, when a building permit was issued it perhaps vested the site plan. I think it would be a very difficult thing to revoke that site plan.”

Later in December, Mayor Carmel Monti, Titsworth and Building Inspector Tom O’Brien met with Collier to discuss the project. At that time, Monti pointed out that Collier had twice canceled planned presentations to the city commission due to previous commitments.

County to aid city building department

HOLMES BEACH – Manatee County will be aiding the city’s building department in processing permits, Mayor Carmel Monti told the board at last week’s commission meeting.

“We had a couple of choices over the last few weeks – Joe Duennes who was able to help us, John Fernandez until recently, Manatee County and the city of Anna Maria. We went with the county. They’ll help us on an interim basis for 90 days.”

The city’s building department has been struggling since Duennes, the city’s building official and superintendent of public works, retired on Nov. 16.

John Fernandez, who once was the city’s building official and also served as building official for the town of Longboat Key, had been providing building department services to the city under a special agreement since July 2012, but ended his agreement with the city on Dec. 26.

In December, commissioners approved a six-month contract with architect Tom O’Brien as interim building inspector. O’Brien is currently going through the process of renewing his certification as a building official.

Also at the request of Monti, commissioners approved a change in O’Brien’s contract with the city. His previous agreement stated, “The contractor shall work 40 hours per week and shall submit weekly time records to the mayor for review and approval prior to payment being made.”

Monti asked that it be changed to a flat rate of $5,000 per month. Commissioner David Zaccagnino asked how they would know how many hours O’Brien is working, and Monti said he would work 40 hours or more.

In addition, City Attorney Patricia Petruff explained that O’Brien is exempt from worker’s compensation insurance, but must obtain a courtesy letter from the state to verify that.

Zaccagnino asked Monti when O’Brien would get his license to be a building official and how much it would cost to use the county’s services. Monti said there is no time frame.

Zaccagnino was the lone dissenter in approving the change.

Commission discusses big rental homes

ANNA MARIA – Holmes Beach is getting infected with big box rental homes, and Anna Maria is looking for a serum to keep from catching it.

That was apparently the mindset of some of the commissioners on Thursday, Jan. 10, as they discussed parking regulations and building coverage based on lot coverage to control the size of homes built primarily for vacationers.

City Planner Alan Garrett said the city recently processed a plan for a six-bedroom, five-bath home with parking for three vehicles. He said that he also serves as planner for Bradenton Beach, and their parking requirements are tied to the number of bedrooms.

Garrett said there is a trend toward enclosing lower levels of the elevated house for more bedrooms. He wants to require one of the parking spots to be enclosed, to stop that trend.

Garrett passed out a chart of parking requirements for Bradenton Beach and Palmetto. In Bradenton Beach, the requirement is two parking spaces for one and two bedrooms and three spaces for three bedrooms. Anything larger would require an additional parking space for each two bedrooms or a fraction thereof.

Palmetto’s residential requirements call for a minimum of two parking spaces per unit and each space would be built on a hardened surface.

“I want to write an ordinance now,” said Commissioner Chuck Webb. “We’re missing the boat.”

Mayor SueLynn said she agrees.

“There are people now who are scared of Holmes Beach and they’re coming up here,” she said.

Webb said the city needs to advertise an ordinance now and then give it a title as soon as possible.

Developer Michael Coleman said controlling parking via capacity can bring problems.

“We want to do everything we can to reduce capacity to protect people’s home rights,” he said. “We need to think about how to reduce parking. If there is a party house and they get busted without a place to park, they won’t rent it again.”

SueLynn said she favors a maximum of two parking spaces. Webb said he wants to require all parking to be on the property.

Talk then turned to building coverage based on lot coverage.

Garrett said he looked for a law that maxes out the number of bedrooms in a house but could not.

“If you have an acre of land, you could still limit it to say 3,000 square feet, and they would have more privacy,” he said. “You could lower lot coverage percentage for larger lots. That includes multi level homes and multi-lot plots of land.”

“I’m happy with the way the city was plotted, but I have a problem with 10,000 square-foot houses that look like a hospital,” said Commissioner Dale Woodland. “That damages the image of our city.”

Webb wanted Garrett to come up with suggestions and commissioners to look at homes in the city that they think are too big to see how to scale it. Garrett said he could take examples of various sized houses for the next meeting.

Webb said he is working on a case in Bradenton where they limit the number of bedrooms to square footage.

“We need to get control of what’s going on because we’re getting a series of motels being built in our town,” he said. “This is a different type of rental than we’ve seen before, and we need to do something about it.”

The commissioners agreed to discuss the subject again in the near future.

City refuses to lower fine

ANNA MARIA – There was no sympathy on Thursday, Jan. 10, for a rental house owner who repeatedly ignored requests by Waste Management and the city to pay for trash pickup at the house.

After repeated warnings and code enforcement actions, the city started fining Mary Lease $100 a day for ignoring their findings that she was guilty of a code violation. The city requires all property owners to have trash pickup and, of course, to pay for it. The violations went on for 82 days, and the city fined her that much and placed a lien on her property until she paid it.

Roser Memorial Church Pastor Gary Batey asked if the city commission could consider lowering the penalty, saying Lease is a woman of modest means. He pointed out she had settled her account with Waste Management, but the $8,200 city fine remains.

Commissioner Chuck Webb said Lease went for 13 years without paying for trash pickup.

If she wants a break from the city, she got a break there, he said.

“She got a year and a half of notices to get her account straightened, and she put her trash in city trash when they quit picking it up at Waste Management,” Webb added. “She gets notices, and there is a meeting she didn’t attend. She got two weeks to come into compliance, more notices, then they levied a fine of $100 a day and she didn’t respond for 82 days.”

Webb said the fine could have been $250 per day, so she got her break from the city.

“I can’t support any reduction of the fine,” he said. “The day after the hearing, she went to Waste Management and cleared her account with a payment plan.”

Commissioner John Quam said the city is still trying to recover some of the costs.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he was impressed that Batey would step in for Lease, but she had a chance to act and did not until the city levied the fine.

“One of the things we have in our Waste Management contract is the city is kind of the hammer when Waste Management has a customer who is not paying,” he said. “I think most of the city’s expense was through (Code Enforcement Officer) Gerry Rathvon. I think this is a very unique situation, and I’m in favor of writing the whole thing off.”

“I took an oath of office to uphold the laws of the COAM and I think this is a very unique situation,” said Commissioner Gene Aubrey. “If we were to reduce fines, I would recommend City Attorney Jim Dye get involved and find out if she really knows what her situation is.”

The commissioners finally moved on without taking action on the request.

P&Z rejects easement vacation

ANNA MARIA – The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) voted down approval for an ordinance that would vacate an easement in the parking lot of the Sandbar restaurant that would reportedly be safer for customers and beachgoers in the parking lot.

The existing easement is the walkway between the nearest and second-nearest row of parking spaces to the restaurant. Within that walkway, there is a portion that crosses the traffic lane that accesses the two rows of parking spaces. The easement would have been moved to a swale northeast of the parking lot abutting the restaurant, and the restaurant owner would construct a boardwalk over the swale, according to engineer Lynn Townsend-Burnett. The restaurant would agree to maintain the boardwalk, according to Anna Maria Planner Alan Garrett.

Townsend said the plan would accomplish several things.

“It would ease congestion in front of the Sandbar, reconfiguring the traffic flow to meet the objectives of the plan to keep pedestrians away from the cars,” she said, adding the restaurant would change direction of the traffic in the parking lot for better utilization. She said traffic in the eastern section of the lot is often forced to exit the lot through an alley next to Bortell’s bar.

Jeremy Anderson, attorney for the Nally family that has a rental house near the restaurant, warned that his clients do not like the plan. He said it would create a new conflict, and he said he noted valets were handling the parking in the lot.

“They do all the driving in the conflict area,” Anderson said. “If safety is the purpose, why not do something creative?

“It will decrease beach access by one and add traffic along my client’s property line,” he said, adding there are excess outdoor heaters and stray cats around the area of the dumpsters on the property, and that’s where the beach access would be.

Developer Michael Coleman said the Nallys built their house in a commercial district, were admonished for doing so and told not to complain.

“Since then, the Nallys, thorough their counsel, have opposed everything the restaurant has wanted to do,” Coleman said. “This from a resident of Lakeland.”

Before voting, members gave their opinions.

“Why hasn’t the walkway been expanded all the way?” asked Tom Turner. “This is an incomplete plan, and I don’t see any benefit to clearing a walkway.”

Carl Pearman said he’s convinced this is a needed change.

“We have to come to the attitude that we have to protect citizens of the city first,” he added.

Lou Ellen Wilson said to change the walkway to the beach is an inconvenience.

Margaret Jenkins said they should open up the walkway to the beach instead of making people walk through the lot.

“When the original easement swap was made, they promised a landscape walkway to the beach,” she said. “I haven’t seen it yet.”

Wilson moved to reject the plan, and they voted for that motion, four-to-one with Pearman voting against it.

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