The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 18 - February 13, 2013


Tourism jumps 9.3 percent

BRADENTON – Tourism was up 9.3 percent in 2012 over 2011, with 537,908 visitors to Manatee County, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) learned on Monday.

Tourist spending was up 12.5 percent, reaching $364 million in the county and creating a total economic impact of $575 million, according to Walter Klages, the county’s tourism consultant.

The biggest gains were in the European market, mostly the United Kingdom and Germany, up 20 percent from 2011, he said, adding, “This is where the opportunity really lies.

“2012 has been a very, very successful year, and not by accident,” Klages said, crediting marketing efforts by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

Same coin, two sides

Booming tourism has created bitter debates and caused incumbent commissioners to be ousted over the past year on Anna Maria Island, where developers are buying up and demolishing small duplexes and building three-story, multiple bedroom vacation rentals in residential areas.

“A few have degraded the (Island’s) character a little bit,” TDC Chair Carol Whitmore said, asking for a clear statement from the board on the issue.

TDC members responded with a unanimous vote to oppose the practice.

“The TDC resolves that we think it is unwise for cities to allow developers to build what is in essence hotels in neighborhoods,” moved TDC member and Island restaurant owner Ed Chiles. “You know them, if it has 10 or 12 bedrooms where there was a two/two, that is not right.

“We want to attract the right kind of people,” Chiles said. “We want you to come, but we want you to come if you share our values.”

More to come

The TDC voted unanimously to recommend that the Manatee County Commission spend $1.1 million over the next five years to win a bid to lure the 2017 World Rowing Championships to Nathan Benderson Park, near the Sarasota/Manatee county line.

The funds would come from the county’s resort tax, generated by accommodations rented for six months or less. Sarasota’s tourism bureau would contribute slightly more of its resort tax funds to the effort, called “Sarasota-Bradenton 2017 Candidate City.”

Chiles said the event is an opportunity to attract more people to the region, including sports news networks and sports sponsors.

International rowing will draw people from Europe, where the sport is even more popular, Klages said.

The facility also may host other water events in the future, including wakeboarding, CVB Director Elliott Falcione said.

Visitors guide, website to continue trend

The CVB has produced a new Manatee County Visitors’ Guide and upgraded the county’s website, the TDC learned on Monday.

The new guide is published by Time Inc., and also will be published in an iPad edition by the end of February, CVB Marketing Director Debbie Meihls said.

The guide, which will look like a magazine, features original stories by Time Inc. writers and endorsements by Southern Living magazine, another Time Inc. product, for beach weddings, the Bradenton Blues Festival and four other attractions.

The website has been made friendlier for mobile device users and has integrated social media, map-based listings and more photographs.

The next TDC meeting is schedule on Monday, April 15, at 9 a.m. at the Holmes Beach City Hall.

Cortez festival this weekend
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.

CORTEZ – The 31st Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival this weekend is all about fishing, and making sure there will be “Better Fish to Fry” – the festival’s 2013 theme – long into the future.

The village’s past dates back to the 1880s when fishing families from Carteret County, N.C., settled the area. Cortez has continued as a working commercial fishing village until today, however, in 1995, a state constitutional amendment was passed that banned gill nets, causing a 60-80 percent decline in fishing and whittling five fish houses down to the two that remain.

To preserve the village from encroaching development and protect south Sarasota Bay, the grassroots group FISH, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, has used proceeds from the festival to purchase and enlarge the 95-acre FISH Preserve east of the historic Cortez fishing village since 2000.

Festival proceeds also have been used to remove exotic plants and trash and plant native plants to help keep the “Kitchen” in Sarasota Bay, which borders the edge of the preserve, a healthy place for fish to breed and grow.

The preserve’s new conservation easement will keep it from being developed in perpetuity, say organizers, some of whom have been working with the festival for three decades.

Environmentalist and ocean explorer, Jean-Michel Cousteau, has endorsed the FISH Preserve, calling it “very impressive. Its economic value cannot be judged in terms of dollars alone. I have seen from many places around the world, communities like the fishing village of Cortez, suffering from the demise of the natural resources base on which they depend. Your project is an important reminder of the vital connections between nature and humanity.”

This year’s $3 admission fee (free for children under 12) will be used to expand the preserve, restore wetlands and create wildlife habitat.

The festival will spotlight fresh seafood and feature music, dancing, arts and crafts, marine life exhibits, videos, lectures and children’s activities. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17.

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. Shuttle bus rides are $2.50 round trip from the remote parking site at G.T. Bray Park, 5502 33rd Ave. Drive W. in Bradenton; turn east off 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.

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

Bridge Street project preliminarily denied
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Michael Hynds proposed a second floor 60-seat
restaurant and up to 10 retail spaces for 119 Bridge Street,
but the city’s Planning and Zoning Board did not approve.

BRADENTON BEACH – Citing parking concerns, the Planning and Zoning Board voted 4-0 not to recommend to the city commission a redevelopment project proposed by Michael Hynds at 119 Bridge Street.

Hynds proposed the two-story restaurant and complex at the board’s Tuesday, Feb. 5 meeting, detailing plans for a second floor, 60-seat restaurant and bar serving lunch and dinner and up to 10 small retail spaces geared towards start-up businesses.

Forty seats would be outside and 20 inside, and the number of retail spaces could vary depending on tenants’ needs, said Hynds, who redeveloped AMI Plaza in Holmes Beach.

Board members denied Hynds’ request for setback modifications and a waiver of the city’s parking and loading requirements for his planned unit development (PUD).

The PUD, if approved, could allow for otherwise prohibited setback modifications in the Bridge Street historical overlay district, City Planner Alan Garrett said.

But the board agreed that parking was the real problem and the reason for their denial, saying they had no evidence to consider since Hynds had done no traffic studies.

Hynds proposed allowing customers to park at county parking lots at Coquina Beach and Cortez Beach and offered to provide a shuttle to Bridge Street, but board members were not satisfied upon learning that Hynds had not contacted the county about permission to use the lots.

Hynds also offered to provide call ahead valet service for VIP members and proposed working with other retailers on Bridge Street to coordinate deliveries to limit traffic blockage from trucks.

One board member suggested elevating the restaurant with parking underneath, like the original design of Bridge Street Bistro and Island Time at the corner of Bridge Street and Gulf Drive, but Hynds said that plan was not viable.

The employees alone would take up at least 10 parking spaces, said Jacob Spooner, of Bridge Street Bazaar, adding that he is concerned about increased trash.

A restaurant would produce more garbage than existing retail, board member John Burns said.

Hynds said he planned for more frequent trash pickups.

Fred Bartizal, of the Bridge Tender Inn, also expressed concern about parking and deliveries, saying, “I don’t understand how that’s going to flow.”

Barbara Rodocker, of BridgeWalk, said she is in favor of new business, but is concerned about parking.

“If there’s not enough room, it makes the city look bad,” she said, adding that parking is so scarce that she and other Bridge Street business owners pay attendants to keep people from parking in their private lots.

Drift In owner Joe Cuervo also pays attendants at his lot, he said, wryly suggesting turning city hall into a parking lot and moving city operations to the police department.

Bridge Street could be closed to traffic and people could access it by trolley, suggested Board Chair Patricia Whitesel.

Complaints prompt police search

HOLMES BEACH – The police are looking for real estate salesman Michael Carlton, owner of Coastline Accommodations, after receiving another complaint from a prospective renter that he did not deliver on promised services.

According to a Holmes Beach police report, the complainant, Linda Barnds, of Montauk, N.Y., said she sent a check for $1,280 to Coastline Accommodations as a deposit for a rental unit last December and on Jan. 1, she contacted him again to ask questions about the rental. Carlton began questioning whether she had sent him the deposit and began questioning who she was, the report said.

The report said Barnds said she got an uneasy feeling about Carlton and began researching Coastline Accommodations. She asked for her money back, but Carlton never complied. She tried several times by e-mail and he did not answer. When she arrived Feb. 1, she tried to contact him but could not.

The officer who took her complaint also tried to find Carlton, but could not get an address. He talked with the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and was advised they had gotten numerous complaints about Carlton renting property that he didn’t have control of and double booking.

Chamber President Mary Ann Brockman said they have been contacted by a number of people who were upset.

“They spend their money and get here and their room isn’t ready, so they call us, and there’s nothing we can do for them except find another rental unit,” she said. “He has not been a Chamber member for four years when he didn’t renew, but we wouldn’t accept him now, of course.”

Brockman said people should search for a reputable real estate agent on the Island, which she feels is the vast majority of those doing business here.

“We tried to report him to the Better Business Bureau, but they don’t have a file on him,” she said. “When they get a report, they open a file and send the agent a letter. If they get no answer, they close the file.”

Brockman said the best thing people can do is call Holmes Beach Police Detective Sgt. Brian Hall at 708-5804 if they have lost money by dealing with Carlton.

Hall is looking into the case and wants to talk with Carlton.

There also are several complaints about Carlton and Coastline Accommodations in Trip Advisor, a websiten where travellers rate their experiences with accommodations.

If you have any knowledge of Carlton’s location, call 708-5804.

Viens sentencing delayed

Former Holmes Beach restaurant owner David Viens’ sentencing for the murder of his wife, Dawn, has been delayed again. He was set to be sentenced in November, but he fired his attorney and asked for a delay, which was granted until Feb. 1. His sentencing was again delayed and will be on March 22.

Viens was convicted of second degree murder after he confessed to police that he put tape over Dawn’s mouth after an argument, and she choked to death on her own vomit. He said after he found her dead, he put her in a large pot and cooked her body for four days until there was nothing left but bones.

Viens tried to kill himself before being arrested. When he heard police were coming after him, he got into his car and fled. He stopped at a cliff and jumped off, breaking several bones. During his trial, he was in a wheelchair most of the time.

Viens could get 15 years in prison for the murder.

Commission agrees on moratorium

ANNA MARIA – The city commission wants a moratorium on building permits for structures higher than 27 feet while it works to reverse the trend of tearing down homes and replacing them with huge multi-bedroom structures best used for rentals in residential neighborhoods.

However, they don’t agree on whom to let in before they close the barn door.

City Planner Alan Garrett drew up an ordinance to enact the moratorium, except permits for residential structures that have been accepted and are bring processed by the city on the effective date of the ordinance. Also exempt are residential structures in the design process that have not been submitted to the city for processing, as long as the owner can prove he or she spent a substantial amount of money for the design and permitting, based upon the city’s regulations as they exist on the effective date of the moratorium, which is Jan. 31.

Before discussing the proposed ordinance further, Building Official Bob Welch updated the commission on the building permits in the city.

“We’ve been contacted by people planning 15 houses that are in the design stage,” Welch said. “Each of those have submitted proof, one addition to a house has been applied for. I met with principals of Villa Rosa, being renamed Bimini Cove, and they will likely ask for some guidance. I had another that contacted us, but did not provide any documentation. Most of the 15 homes have design plans.”

“This will defeat the purpose of the moratorium,” Commissioner Chuck Webb said. “Requiring documentation to be included in the exemptions is more than the law allows and it is very generous.”

Commissioner Dale Woodland disagreed with Webb.

“We’re on a barrier island and when you want to build, you don’t go to city first, you need permits from the State Department of Environmental Protection,” he said.

Woodland asked City Attorney Jim Dye if he felt the city could enact the moratorium without exempting those who are in the process of getting a permit.

“You can do that without ending up on the wrong side of litigation,” he said. “The law says the city can make changes to its building code, but the homeowner has no guarantee that things will be the same.”

During public comment, Steve Maury, with the company developing Bimini Cove, said they are two weeks away from providing Welch with the model plans, yet they might be outdated if the building height limit is lowered. He said Bimini Cove is different because it is a neighborhood into itself.

Attorney Scott Rudacille said he represents several people who want to build in Anna Maria.

“I’m surprised at what I hear tonight on granting those people who are in the process exemption,” he said. “I think if you try to cut all those people off, you will greatly increase resistance on this exercise.”

Woodland said what they are considering is exempting all those in the pipeline.

“It seems to me the beauty of this place is its diversity, and I don’t think what we have here is ugly,” said developer Lizzie van Thrasher. “We bought a two-story house and put a bedroom above it and have a nice view of the beach. I’m not an architect, but I prefer the diversity of the skyline.”

Marie Franklin, a long-time resident with deep roots in the city, said when the city did away with the multi-family zoning, they realized it would add to their property values and the city gave them a long lead before enacting the ordinance. She said the city could have avoided the problem of tall houses if it had adopted the nine-foot elevations, instead of higher elevations.

Mayor SueLynn said she knows what it’s like to get all your plans together, only to get shut down by city hall.

Due to the meeting being a workshop, the commission could not vote on whether to extend exemption to developers in the process of getting permits.

“You can’t always get what you want,” SueLynn said. “I am sick and tired of this city being barraged by frivolous lawsuits.”

The commission agreed to go ahead with the proposed ordinance without the exemption clause. The ordinance will also be reviewed through public hearings.

Board talks waterfront uses

ANNA MARIA – While trying to save residential neighborhoods from out-of-scale rental houses, the city also wants to define uses for waterfront property around the piers and Galati Marina.

The city recently annexed the land around the Anna Maria City Pier, the Rod and Reel Pier and Galati Marina and is proposing a Historic Pier Land Use Category for the piers and a Marine Land Use Category for the Galati Marina land. The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) considered the land uses allowed in the new categories.

According to City Planner Alan Garrett, there are two definitions to consider for the Marina Use Category – boat livery and marina.

Boat livery pertains to commercial marine uses such as boat rentals, boat dock space rental, sale of boats, motors, fuel and lubricants. It also covers the sale of fishing equipment and bait, onshore restaurants and small boat hauling or launching. Boat or motor manufacturing is not allowed.

Marina use means a parcel of lot used as a commercial establishment for the provision of rental of uncovered boat slips or dock space or enclosed dry storage space, marine fuel and lubricant sales, onshore restaurants, lodgings, sundries store and sanitary facilities.

In other words, boat livery expands the permitted uses of a marina by including boat rentals and sales and boat and motor repair. In addition, a boat livery might include a launching area.

From a land use perspective, a boat livery is a more intense commercial use due to the sales and repair of boats and motors.

While a marina does allow for overnight lodging, it is considered more of a residential use and is generally more compatible with surrounding less intense land uses.

At the Feb. 5 meeting, newly elected Chair Tom Turner asked about live-aboards.

Building Official Bob Welch said they have none in the city right now, but there is a pump-out station at Galati’s.

“I really would have no objection to live-aboards for a short term as long as Galati’s has a pump-out station,” Turner said. “I would allow small kitchen items like a small fridge and oven too.”

Member Micheal Coleman asked if they wanted to have a livery or a marina classification and Garrett said he wanted a hybrid of both.

Member Lou Ellen Wilson asked if residents near Galati would have a say about what goes in there.

“If I owned property there I would be adamantly against lodging there,” she said. “Could this board recommend no lodgings?”

“I want it to be more inclusive,” Garrett said. “We could limit the number of boats or take out lodging if it becomes more intensive.”

Turner asked the members if they would prefer to take out lodgings in the definition, and only Wilson said she would.

In other news, the board elected Carol Carter as the co-chair of the board.

Coleman said he wants to start a dialogue on ways to reduce number of homes torn down by making it easier to remodel.

“Buildings get demolished sometimes when the owner wants to add a bedroom,” he said. “I would like to suggest we discuss what could be done to keep our existing neighborhoods.”

Wilson agreed.

“When my wife and I first saw Anna Maria, I said this is the old Florida I grew up in,” Coleman continued. “I’ve talked with many people who wanted to rebuild, but threw up their hands and either sold or razed their home and built a new structure.”

“We want to maintain the old Florida look,” he said. “That’s why I bought my house in 1968.”

Dog park dominates beautification meeting

HOLMES BEACH – Once again, to the dismay of board members, the focus of the Parks and Beautification Advisory Board meeting last week was on the dog park.

Chair Melissa Snyder said one problem is the lack of signage detailing the park’s rules and regulations.

“We definitely have issues over there,” she said. “We have had one person bring their dog in and attack dogs on two occasions.

“The city should make it clear that dog owners that use the dog park do so at their own risk. We need to make much larger signage with the rules.”

Bob Longworth, the board’s liaison to the dog park, said, “That’s standard operating procedure at all city-owned parks. You use the park at your own risk, and with a dog, you assume responsibility for the dog.

“You’re supposed to have your leash with you at all times. You’re supposed to have current license on your dog and your city tag on your dog.

Mayor Carmel Monti said he is in the process of having the dog park signs revised to reflect that policy.

Snyder said another problem is the area from the gate to the shelter is often muddy and there should be a shell or pebble pathway.

The dogs can tear up pebble and shell, and he has considered other options, such as artificial turf, Monti said. Board member Jerry West suggested pavers and Snyder suggested concrete.

Monti said he wants to keep the path pervious to expedite drainage and that he would work with Public Works Foreman Gary Blunden on the problem.

Outsiders use dog park

Snyder said she is concerned about people coming from the mainland to use the dog park and added, “The park should be available to the whole Island. I don’t feel people from off Island should be coming in to use our park. They have their own dog park in Bradenton, Why are they driving all the way out here?”

She suggested that people who use the park could use their reentry hang tag as proof that that they are residents.

Commissioner Jean Peelen objected and said it should be available to all, and that she used the one in Bradenton before this one was built.

West agreed noting, ‘It’s public land.”

Member Marilyn Shirley said children should not be excluded from the park as was suggested at previous meeting. But she added that a dog jumped on her when she entered the park, and small children would be vulnerable.

Longworth added, “Children under the age of 10 get excited and run around and what’s a dog going to do when it sees little kids run around?”

Snyder said sample dog park rules suggest banning infants and small children, especially running children, because they could be regarded as prey and also that dogs feel the urge to protect children, causing aggressive behavior. The same rules suggest banning puppies under 4 moths old.

Shirley said people should know they are entering at their own risk.

“We can put up the rules, but we’re not going to police them,” Monti stressed. “We’ll have to be on the honor system and assume that most people will respect them.”

Fences and fountains

Snyder said that the city would be erecting a fence to make two dog park areas – one for small dogs and one for larger dogs. In addition, she said the city must address the dog fountain issue, and she found one model that dispenses water only when a dog approaches to drink.

Monti said he has adjusted the city’s lawn watering schedule to accommodate the daytime dog park activity.

West volunteered to work with Blunden to resolve the issues of the fountain, the fence and the mud.

During new business, Longworth implored the board to alert homeowners about the infestation of whitefly on the Island.

In addition, Shirley complained that the city’s plant procurement process is flawed. However, West pointed out that it is not the board’s responsibility.

In other business, the board learned that:

• Board member Jim Dunne resigned and new members are needed;

• The Anna Maria Garden Club would adopt the traffic island at Marina and Key Royale drives that contains the city’s demonstration garden;

• The plants in the right of way at Wells Fargo Bank will be replaced;

• There was no response to the board’s query about developing a community garden somewhere in the city.

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