The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 17 - February 6, 2013


Commission wants to take some off the top

ANNA MARIA – The city commission wants to limit the size of new buildings, and it placed an administrative moratorium into effect until it can decide on whether to limit home dimensions in relation to the size of their lots or lower the allowed building height 10 feet to 27 feet.

The Thursday work session agenda had four suggested solutions to the plethora of large, multi-bedroom houses being built to service renters more than families. The first was the first reading of an ordinance that would spell out the amount of coverage allowed by a house as prescribed by the size of the home’s lot.

City Planner Alan Garrett presented the proposed ordinance that would limit the size of the house to 20 percent of the first 5,000 square feet, 10 percent of the second 5,000 square feet and 2 percent for any area above 10,000 square feet. For example, he said, a 15,000-square-foot lot could hold a 3,200-square-foot house. The formula is similar to one used by Venice and Sanibel.

Commissioner Gene Aubry, an architect, said the new homes are out of scale for the older houses and they should be reducing the allowable height of the buildings. He said the new houses don’t cause a problem; it’s the people that own and rent them that cause problems.

He said the new houses lack style, and the city should require an architect’s stamp on non-commercial buildings.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said making the dimensions of the house smaller is one way to guarantee more two-story over elevation houses. If they can’t go out, they will go up.

Commissioner Chuck Webb asked about having an architectural review board, and Aubrey said they are generally “a pain in the neck. It’s all about taste. One thing happening now is the generation is smart, and they are building smaller.”

Commission Chair John Quam asked about lowering the homes. The height restriction in Anna Maria is 37 feet, and Quam suggested 27 feet.

Aubry said at 37 feet tall, the buildings on Pine Avenue would give the commercial district a canyon effect.

“We have to keep the scale down, and 27 feet is plenty high,” he said, adding the city should not strictly enforce the height restriction if the homeowner wants to go a little higher. “If we go 27 feet and they want to add a widow’s walk on top, don’t penalize them if the railing is higher than that.”

Building Official Bob Welch said he prefers 27 feet because when a storm hits, the taller the structure, the more the damage.

Height debate

“I think I would have died and gone to heaven with 27 feet,” said Spring Avenue resident Jill Morris.

“The 27-foot height would take care of a lot of the problems,” said resident Katherine Miller.

Longtime resident Tom Turner suggested the 27-foot height limit and a 30 percent lot coverage limit.

Former Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh agreed with the height limit.

“If you can’t live in a house of that size, maybe you should live in another town,” he said.

“Are we absolutely sure 27 is enforceable and won’t be challenged?” asked Ed Hassler. “I think this is a rational approach as long as we’re on stable footing.”

Sharon Talbot said she had problems telling everyone what a correctly sized house should be.

“One man’s castle is another man’s doublewide,” she said.

Jeanne Deem suggested the city initiate a moratorium, too.

Mayor SueLynn asked if the city is risking litigation by lowering the height allowance.

Webb said if the land buyer did so to build a profitable investment, there might be a problem with a taking of his rights to develop his land to its full potential. He asked for any lawyer in the audience with a case like that to e-mail it to him.

Woodland asked about a moratorium, and Webb said it’s good for the city. They would have time to get everything in order. Woodland said he would limit the moratorium to the 27-foot height issue.

The commission agreed on an administrative moratorium starting immediately, but it would have to adopt an ordinance.

Lot coverage will remain 40 percent for one floor and 30 percent for two floors.

Commission reverses rental decision
Carol Whitmore

Tom Vaught | Sun
City hall was packed with people Tuesday night as
the commission voted to reverse its decision to
enforce a rule that says short-term rentals
are not allowed in residential neighborhoods.

ANNA MARIA – Faced with a strong showing of fear and outrage by rental property owners, the city commission voted Tuesday, Jan. 29, to rescind its decision to enforce provisions of the zoning code and comprehensive plan that say short-term rentals of 30 days or less are illegal.

The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Chuck Webb voting against, and when he was asked why he voted that way, he said because the provision is in the books.

Like the meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24, an overflow audience packed city hall.

Those opposed to the initial action were concerned that all short-term rental activity would be halted at once, but Webb said it would have been enforced on a complaint basis.

Before the Tuesday hearing, Webb asked about City Attorney Jim Dye’s disclosure at the earlier meeting that his family owns a rental house in Anna Maria. Dye said Tuesday there would likely be no conflict of interest.

“That house is one of original (baseball star Warren) Spahn houses and has been used as a rental since its construction,” he said. “It is grandfathered in.”

But Webb said he checked the house’s listing on its rental agent’s website and found it was advertised as being available for a minimum of three days. He moved to obtain conflict counsel, but the motion died for a lack of a second.

Webb asked City Commissioner Dale Woodland if he serviced rental houses with his pool company.

“The question is whether the commissioner can make a profit and if that’s the case, he should declare a conflict,” Dye said.

“I’ve had these accounts for a number of years, and they have no connection to this,” Woodland said.

“The question is whether your income is affected by your vote,” Webb said.

“I respectfully disagree,” Woodland said. “I cannot be bought or sold.”

Webb moved to reconsider the action they took the prior Thursday, and the commission voted 3-1 to do so. Commissioner Nancy Yetter was absent.

Commissioner John Quam had asked for the meeting, and he explained he was concerned that the short-term rentals would be made illegal immediately.

“The commission did not give proper notice to the public for such an important issue, and it should have been continued to a work session,” he said.

Webb, who discovered the provision in the zoning code that outlaws short-term rentals, said some properties might be grandfathered in to continue renting short-term.

“We need to adopt a procedure so people can figure out if they are grandfathered or not,” he said, adding the city could file for a declaratory judgment to tell the city if the provision outlaws short-term rentals.

"I haven’t slept since last Thursday, night,” said Commissioner Gene Aubry. “We should have put it to legal counsel.

“I got stopped by people and listened to people, and I don’t want anyone to go broke. I want to have it analyzed so we know what we have.”

Woodland said he wants to rescind it and re-address the problem.

“Rentals are not the problem,” He said. “Renters are the problem.”

Public comment

“I have lived here since 1968 and my house is a duplex,” said Tom Turner, long-time board member and a veteran of many meetings. “My renter has been with me for nine years. I would lower the minimum rental to 10 days.”

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said she has lived on the Island for 44 years.

“I have voted for rental restrictions for years and got no support,” she said. “You can’t control it now, but you can control the size of buildings.”

Ed Hassler, from Blue Heron Drive, had three points to make.

“First, this is not a residential community; this is a beach community, and there are a lot of businesses that have made a sizeable investment. Number two, there seems to be a lot of emotion about rentals and the size of the buildings, I’ve been here eight years and haven’t seen it. There is talk about big box houses, but I haven’t seen any, I don’t think we have them, and third, you really do need to enforce ordinances; let police enforce the noise ordinance.”

Attorney Scott Rudacille said he was there on behalf of 28 people who own 38 properties.

“These people are your residents, seasonal owners, weekenders, families who have owned homes and vacationed for years, and they would be hurt the most,” he said. “The reaction I’ve seen has been very consistent – why would they do this to us?

“Don’t blow up the city to kill a mosquito,” he warned. “These people want to help weed out the bad actors.”

The commission also voted to hold meetings every Thursday until they make progress on the problems that tourism has brought to the city.

Duplex connection to be severed

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners instructed the city planner and attorney to draft an ordinance to eliminate the underground connections for duplexes, which after a date to be determined must share a common roof and be joined by a party wall.

In addition, the change will include a grandfather clause for those who have built one half of a duplex when the connecting footer was allowed or where a building permit has already been issued.

The other portion of the duplex can still be built on the other half of the lot without a common roof or party wall. However, Planner Bill Brisson said the new unit must be built at .34 LAR (living area ratio).

Commissioner Judy Titsworth asked if the duplexes that would be grandfathered could be identified by address, and Brisson said the addresses could be put in the ordinance.

Titsworth asked if they had been permitted as single family structures, and Interim Building Inspector Tom O’Brien said they have been permitted as half a duplex.

O’Brien also said he has been making an inventory of them, and there are four to six currently under construction and there are some for which the permit has not been applied for yet.

“I have a problem with this because the houses across the street from the school that are two separate small buildings are much more attractive than if we force people to put them together,” Commissioner David Zaccagnino said. “We’ll end up having one big massive building than two smaller ones that will be landscaped and buffered a lot better.”

Building separation

In addition, commissioners approved Brisson’s recommendation to leave the distance between buildings the same as it is in the current code.

“The commission agreed to a 20-foot separation before you decided to eliminate the underground connection of duplexes,” Brisson explained. “I don’t think you really want a 20-foot separation when someone builds individual buildings on one lot. The same thing would apply to duplex buildings.”

He gave commissioners a chart showing the current and proposed separations. In R1-AA the minimum distance between buildings is double the applicable yard (setback) requirements.

In all other residential districts, A-1, PUD and REC, the separation is 20 feet for single story structures and 30 feet if either or both structures are more than one story.

“Reducing the separation between multiple buildings on a single lot to just 20 feet regardless of height will allow the buildings to be closer together than they would be if they were on separate lots,” he said.

He also recommended changing the language from “single story structure” and “more than one story” to “first and second habitable levels.”

In other business

• Titsworth said she would like commissioners to discuss requiring sprinklers on the second living level of structures with two levels over parking.

• Mayor Carmel Monti reported he went over all the department budgets and the city is on budget, but there is not a good system to manage. He said he would be working toward a system and report monthly to commissioners.

• Commissioner Marvin Grossman asked if commissioners could receive monthly reports from the code, police and building departments.

• Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore and resident Terry Parker asked the board to allow residents to add decorative elements or stagger facades in duplexes with party walls, so they don’t appear to be big boxes.

County focuses on historical, cultural tourism
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Visitors to the Island Historical Museum buy
homemade Old Settler’s Bread at Heritage Day.


BRADENTON – When it’s cold and windy, as it was last week, or you’re just beached out, there are other things to do in Manatee County, according to Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Debbie Meihls.

Among them are historical and cultural attractions that were featured at a Manatee County Historical Gathering on Jan. 28 at Jiggs Landing in east Manatee County, including Jiggs Landing, the Island Historical Museum and the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez.

The Anna Maria Island Museum is selling homemade Old Settler’s Bread every Wednesday through March, and will host a Heritage Festival on Saturday, March 30, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust has completed its application to designate Anna Maria as a Florida Historic City, which the city commission will vote on, spokeswoman Sissy Quinn said, adding that the designation will give the group more input in saving historic homes, which the Island is losing to vacation rental developers.

Four replica cabins at Jiggs Landing, on the Braden River, will be for rent soon; Jiggs Landing is historically significant because of its reservoir, which made Bradenton’s development possible, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County’s Natural Resources Department.

The Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez has a new 15-minute video on the Kitchen, the part of Sarasota Bay where fishing families can always find a meal, and a photography walking tour of the village is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19, at 9 a.m., volunteer Sam Bell told the group.

The museum is one of the many sponsors of Manatee Heritage Days, which will feature more than 25 events including tours, cruises and concerts at several of the county’s historic sites during March, timed intentionally to coincide with the height of tourist season.

While acknowledging that residents get frustrated with lines at restaurants and traffic jams this time of year, Meihls said that the economic impact of tourism creates one job for every 85 visitors. Tourism has replaced agriculture as the largest industry in the county, she added.

The CVB will sponsor an industry partner meeting on using social media on Monday, Feb. 11, at 8 a.m., just prior to the 9 a.m. Manatee County Tourist Development Council meeting at the Manatee County Commission chambers in Bradenton, she said.

The county’s visitor guide will be out soon and will be more of a lifestyle magazine this year, published by Time Inc., with some tourist businesses carrying recommendations from Southern Living Magazine, she said, adding that the guide will be available on an iPad app and in an e-book version on the county tourism website,

Fowl proposal in Holmes Beach

HOLMES BEACH – Residents could soon be gathering their own fresh eggs if commissioners act on a request from Ryan Duncan to allow residents to raise laying hens in their yards.

“I’ve been asked by my children and wife to come here and plead our case for having some laying hens. Every magazine my wife is looking at right now has decorative coops in it, so she has it in her mind that it’s an absolute necessity for survival,” Duncan told the board with tongue in cheek.

He said there’s no downside because laying hens are quiet and stay in their area. In addition, communities all over the country are lightening up on regulation to allow them.

Chair Jean Peelen said she has been getting fresh eggs and they taste much better than ones from the store.

“I love the idea,” Commissioner Judy Titsworth declared. “I grew up here and I had hens. As a little girl I walked to the shopping center carrying my little hens under my arm. We are trying to get families back and we’ll have people moving here because we allow hens.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said the city’s ordinance prohibiting livestock was the result of a 300-pound pot bellied pig that a resident had as a pet.

Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie said the county is seriously considering allowing hens.

“I have asked the planner to look into it and the commission agreed,” he said. “I think it’s great. I like the idea. They are not dirty and they don’t make noise.”

Chappie said the county would share information and the cities of Palmetto and Sarasota allow them. Duncan brought a copy of the Sarasota ordinance for commissioners to read.

According to Sarasota’s ordinance, hens are allowed only in single-family homes, and the maximum number of birds allowed is four. People are not allowed to slaughter the hens, and the sale of eggs and other chicken products is prohibited. Roosters are not allowed.

Commission defines market value

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners agreed at last week’s work session to use the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s figures to determine market value.

The question of how to determine market value arose from a December discussion that commissioners had on the definition of substantial improvement for purposes of the building moratorium. Market value is used to determine the amount of substantial improvement allowed.

The city code defines substantial improvement as “any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or other improvement of a structure, the cumulative cost of which equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the start of the construction or improvement.”

According to a memo from City Attorney Patricia Petruff, who was unable to attend the meeting, “I suggest that the commission delete the option to provide an independent appraisal and instead rely upon the property appraiser’s value of the structure plus a percentage in the range of 15 or 20.

“For homesteaded properties, this approach may need further review since the values of those types of properties have been held artificially low due to the statutory 3 percent cap imposed on the property appraiser.”

Consistent with FEMA

Interim Building Inspector Tom O’Brien said it is consistent with Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines and standards.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth asked if they could raise the percentage to 30, and O’Brien said he would defer to Petruff, but added, “It has to relate to some basis in law. We have to be able to defend why we need something different.

“It’s a double edged sword because if you ask the county tax appraiser to increase the appraisal on your property, your tax bill will be larger next year.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino objected and said, “The other things we’re doing will eliminate anybody submitting any appraisals for any ground level reconstruction of remodeling to adhere to FEMA guidelines. They don’t have to have an appraisal if they’re going to go up.”

How much, how often

Titsworth said the city used to let people who were remodeling a ground level structure have it appraised and then do work amounting to 50 percent of the market value, then a year later, they could do it again. She asked O’Brien what the city’s current policy is on that.

“The intent of the substantial improvement rule is to allow the owner to maintain the habitability of an existing structure,” O’Brien replied. “We used to limit how much you could improve that structure by the accumulative total of improvements that were made.”

“Twenty-five years ago, some places did it over the life of the structure. Every time you got a permit they would keep track of how many credits of your appraised value you used up.”

“In the early 90s, the DEP became more involved in coastal construction. Their standard for the cumulative total was set at five years, so you would not be able to exceed 50 percent of the valuations in improvements in any five-year cycle.”

He said in the city’s current policy is one year.

Collins featured at Artists’ Guild

One of the photos by Chris Collins that will be on display
at the Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island.


Anna Maria Island photographer and framer Chris Collins will showcase his photographs as February's featured artist at the Artists' Guild Gallery, 5414 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

A free, public reception will be held Friday, Feb. 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Collins provides the viewer with views of seascapes, landscapes and people. Each photographic composition, uniquely presented in a hand-made frame, reveals his love of his subject, whether a classic car in Cuba, the cliffs of Nova Scotia, the sand and dunes of Anna Maria Island or two strangers on a beach.

A former Air Force Captain, printing company owner and school teacher, Collins can be found volunteering somewhere in the community when he's not taking photographs. A family man, he enjoys his role as grandfather, father and husband and as a mentor to students in need.

For more information, call 941-778-6694 or visit

Countdown to Cortez fishing festival

Last year’s festival drew the lunch crowd to the
docks at the eastern end of Cortez village.


CORTEZ – Eat all the seafood you want, but whatever you do, don’t call it a seafood festival.

The 31st Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16 and17, is all about fishing.

Yes, there’s fresh seafood galore – with two working commercial fish houses in the historic fishing village, there’s no shortage.

But without commercial fishing, there would be no seafood industry, and probably no grouper sandwich on your plate, unless you caught it yourself or had a generous friend with a boat.

The festival has always celebrated the commercial fishing heritage of the village, and this year, it’s celebrating its bright future, too.

The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) used festival proceeds to purchase the 95-acre FISH Preserve east of the village on Sarasota Bay in 2000, and has just succeeded in having a conservation easement designated on the preserve, which will forever keep it from being developed, said John Stevely, one of the festival’s original organizers.

The preserve, which has been enlarged and improved since then with removal of trash and exotic plants and installation of native plants, is a buffer between the village and development to the east.

Plans to undertake major earth moving and habitat restoration on the preserve later this year also are in the works, he said, with FISH partnering with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and the Southwest Florida Water Management District SWIM Program on the project.

New fisheries and wildlife habitat will be created, with shallow lagoons and mangrove wetland habitat to support juvenile fish, birds and land animals, Stevely said.

Visitors to the festival will directly contribute to these efforts with their $3 admission fee (free for children under 12).

The festival features music, dancing, arts and crafts, marine life exhibits, videos, lectures, children’s activities, and, of course, seafood.

The main festival gate will be at the corner of Cortez Road and 119th Street; head west on Cortez Road toward Anna Maria Island or east from the Island toward Bradenton.

Or avoid the traffic and enjoy a shuttle bus ride with your friends for $2.50 round trip from the new remote parking site at G. T. Bray Park, 5502 33rd Ave. Drive W. in Bradenton; turn east off of 59th Street onto 33rd Avenue West.

The shuttle service also will go to the remote parking area at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island. From the Island, take the free trolley to the remote parking area and take the bus to Cortez.

The parking area just east of the village off Cortez Road has been expanded, but plan to arrive early or later in the day if you choose that option as this parking area fills up quickly.

Some Cortez residents manage small parking areas at their homes and businesses with some charging fees.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, visit or call 941-722-4524.

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