The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 19 - February 20, 2013


Mainsail hearing continued
Carol Whitmore

From left, architect Steven Smith talks about the
project’s coastal design as Mainsail President
Joe Collier waits to speak.

HOLMES BEACH – All eyes were on Commissioner Marvin Grossman, who made the deciding vote to allow the Mainsail development discussion to continue to March 26, at last week’s public hearing.

Commissioners called the hearing to decide whether “to consider amending by establishing a termination date or terminating the special exception and site plan approval” for the project at the corner of Marina and Gulf drives, which began as the Tidemark development in 2001.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff said when the project was first suggested it was controversial and generated numerous pubic hearings and comment.

“It was approved in 2001 by a resolution that granted a special exception and a site plan approval,” Petruff explained. “The resolution contained a lot of conditions, and the site plan that was approved was an integral part of the project.”

Between 2001 and 2012, 20 permits were issued, she said, for projects including a marina and sales office, dock work, fencing, signs, a seawall and a foundation and boat lifts. In addition, the developer leases a portion of submerged land along Marina Drive from the city in order to accommodate the docks.

“While we have technical violations of the city code, in that permits weren’t issued within six months of the special exception, the city arguably waived that by continuing to issue permits,” she said.

Mainsail presentation

Joe Collier, president of Mainsail Lodging and Development Company, said it was formed in 1998 and projects include the Mainsail Hotel and Convention Center in Tampa and Scrub Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands, in addition to the Beach Inn in Holmes Beach.

Collier said he wanted people “to get a sense for the fact that this project is in good hands from an artisan standpoint” and said they sought out the architect because of his previous projects.

“We’re new to the game here,” Collier pointed out. “There’s been a parade of folks who owned this project and tried to pull something off. We’re different from those guys and don’t want to be lumped into that group.”

He said as the team worked with the site plan, they found that some aspects did not work, but they had to use the existing footers. Changes included decreasing the number of units from 40 to 37 and lowering the height of the lodge from three to two stories. He said the company has a lease with Wells Fargo for parking and would be willing to help revitalize that corner area.

Development Manager Brian Check said they hope to be significantly under way by midsummer.

“I would love to talk about ideas with the city commission to make it a great project, but if there’s the mentality of trying to revoke our site plan, we’d have to go down a different path, and we don’t want to do that,” Collier said.

“We’re not some sharks out of New York. We don’t want to build something that we’re not going to be proud of. I just bought a house here and plan to retire here.”

Commissioner’s queries

Commissioner David Zaccagnino asked if they would work with the city’s special requests, and Collier said they would as long as “it’s not costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Commissioner Judy Titsworth said the use has changed and added, “Now it’s a hotel. I feel it adds more noise and congestion.”

Collier responded, “ “It’s designed for commercial lodging. With the zoning we have, you can’t live there. You can only stay there for a short period of time.”

Petruff confirmed, “In C-3 zoning in the special use resolution, the lodging units are limited to transient guests of no more than 120 days.

“No residential use shall be allowed on site. I agree with Mr. Collier; it was never meant to be an owner occupied condo.”

Chair Jean Peelen asked if there would be a minimum night stay, and Collier said no. Grossman asked the size of the units, and Collier said they are two and three bedrooms.

“The units are huge and don’t really lend themselves because of our pricing to one night stays,” Collier replied. “It’s cost prohibitive. This is meant to be a very high end place.”

Mayor Carmel Monti said he wants to see a build out plan with time frames. Collier said his team could meet with the building department and develop a schedule.

Site plan issues

“I’m disappointed that nothing was brought to the city until tonight, and we’re supposed to act at this public hearing,” Titsworth said. “You’re trying to use somebody else’s site plan.”

Collier said his team had multiple meetings with former Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes to discuss the site plan and have explained details of the project to commissioners.

“In terms of disappointing, there were times when it would have been nice for someone to pick up the phone and call me,” Collier stressed. “The first time I heard about any concern, was when I got a phone call from the newspaper reporter.

“From an economic standpoint, a headline that says ‘H.B. seeks to revoke Mainsail site plan’ without a call to the property owner, I can tell you what that has done to the valuation of my property. It’s treacherous ground.

“I think we’re ready to do the positive and right thing for the city and make something everybody’s proud of.”

“I agree with you,” Monti said. “We get hammered all the time in the press with things that aren’t true; that are taken out of context.

“Nobody that I know ever said anything about revocation of a permit. How that ended up in the newspaper, I don’t know.”

However, Peelen corrected Monti and said, “In defense of the newspapers, the headline was there after we voted to have a pubic hearing and the purpose of a public hearing was to revoke a permit.”

Commissioner Pat Morton said the previous administration did not share project information with the current administration and commissioners want to see the project plans for themselves.

Collier said he provided updated site plans prior to the meeting, and the original site plans are still in the building department.

The public weighs in

“I have supported this since day 1 because I felt tourists need to be in the commercial area,” Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said, stressing that she was speaking as a resident.

Mainsail partner Ed Chiles said the project is right for the site because it reflects the quality of life and low-rise character of the Island.

“We need revitalization in Holmes Beach, and this is the spot for it,” he continued. “I’m willing to put my money in this project, and I'm proud of this project.”

Dan Howe, who was involved in a lawsuit against the city over the original project approval, said the city shouldn’t allow the site plan to be modified. Petruff said there is no application to modify the site plan.

Resident Lance Spotts, who was involved in the lawsuit with Howe, said, “It looks very nice on paper, but I see five buildings crammed into that little space with all those people and all those parking spaces. I’d love to see it happen the right way.”

Fishing guide Justin Moore, who has his boat at the Mainsail marina, said, “I think this project would be a great thing for the Island. There’s going to be some change, but these guys are willing to keep the Island atmosphere.”

Planning Commission Chair Sue Normand said she was prepared to say the project should not move forward, but after hearing the presentation, she said she felt it would work in the C-3 district, but the site plan should be revisited.

Zaccagnino asked Normand if an Econo Lodge could be built there, and she said yes, and she added that a bowling alley or large marina also could be built there.

Hugh Holmes, Sr. said he was impressed with the presentation, but the project “is the wrong thing for the location. I looked over the site plan, and there are many violations of the building and zoning codes.”

Collier stressed that the company must follow the building codes, and Petruff added, “We need to be very cautious about trying to talk about how this project did or did not comply with the land development code.”

Motion to revoke

Titsworth made a motion to revoke Resolution 01-03, the special exception and site plan approval, and said, “It’s giving us a chance to look at it again. We need to do this for the community.”

Morton seconded it.

Zaccagnino argued to continue the public hearing so the developers can work with the city.

Peelen said she did not agree with revoking the site plan and that the intention of the public hearing was “to get their attention and get them moving.”

Monti advocated working with the developers to get a build out plan with specific milestones and tie in the whole corner area.

“I’m listening to both sides, and I’ve heard some comments that bring up serious concerns in my head,” Grossman said. “I would like more time to look at it.”

Peelen asked if Titsworth wanted to amend her motion, and she declined. Peelen called for the vote, which was 3-2 against the motion.

Zaccagnino made a motion to continue it to March 26, and Peelen passed the gavel to Titsworth and seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.

Petruff said the next step is for the building department to meet with Mainsail representatives to compare site plans and review other issues.

Pool, bedroom limits passed

ANNA MARIA – The City Commission has voted to require adequate parking for homes according to the number of bedrooms they have.

The problem is a result of developers buying old homes, razing them and building multi-bedroom homes that bring in more than one family with additional cars parked up and down the block. The ordinance commissioners passed Thursday also limits the number of swimming pools per lot to one – a law that would apply mostly to duplexes.

One of the required parking spaces would have to be beneath the elevated home, a move that would preclude people trying to make the ground-level space into a living area.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said under the ordinance, homes would be required to have a certain number of parking spaces online, but they would not be required to use them. They could park on the street.

“Until you can regulate parking in the right-of-way, you have nothing,” said Commissioner Gene Aubry.

During public comment, resident Jill Morris asked if they could define what a bedroom is.

“I could see someone doing a construction project that had a couple of sitting rooms and dens, but they will make them into bedrooms,” she said.

“Listening to discussion, this is not going to work to limit large houses,” said Mayor SueLynn. “It would take other things to make this function.”

The commission voted 4-1 for the second reading of the ordinance with Aubry voting no.

In other news, the commission voted unanimously for a plan for the six lots at the end of Pine Avenue that the city bought. The plan would include some parking, landscaping and room for events. Aubry said he has an anonymous donor who would pay for the work.

As the meeting drew to a close, several people said they are planning on building owner-occupied residences in the city and expressed concern over what the existing moratorium and proposed laws restricting the sizes of structures will do to their plans.

Chair John Quam informed them the moratorium is being discussed by the Planning and Zoning Board on March 5 and the commission will discuss it this Thursday, Feb.21.

Sandbar easement continued

ANNA MARIA – The city commission feels it hasn’t heard enough about a proposed easement move at the Sandbar restaurant after somebody suggested they might need a site plan amendment, so they continued the second public hearing until Feb. 28.

The easement swap was requested by W.E.L.D., Inc., owner of the restaurant. It would move the existing pedestrian easement from a north-south walkway between the closest parking rows to the restaurant entrance to a north-south walkway east of the easternmost row of parking in the on-site parking lot.

It would accommodate pedestrians walking to a beach access that runs between the restaurant and the wedding pavilion. The new easement would be a wooden walkway that would span a swale that would be improved to handle rainwater runoff.

Engineer Lynn Townsend Burnett spoke at the hearing saying the Southwest Florida Water Management District is interested in the project.

“They told me they have grants that what we spend on this project could apply as a match for matching grants in city rainwater improvement projects,” she said.

“Why would you move the easement further away from the beach,” asked Commissioner Dale Woodland. “Residents have been complaining that they are giving up the current easement while the Spring Avenue access remains.”

“I’ve gone out there a number of times during the day and there really aren’t a lot of people using the current easement,” said Commissioner Nancy Yetter. “I don’t really see a problem with this relocation.

When they previously moved the easement in 2005, there was a hardship, they had to move the bathrooms,” said Commission Chair John Quam. “I don’t see that in this case. I see it as an attempt to keep the beachgoers away from the restaurant.”

Burnett answered this isn’t a hardship, it’s a swap of land.

“The 2005 transaction dedicated to the city the use of the alleyway; it was the right-of-way that was being vacated,” said City Attorney Jim Dye. “What is being proposed now is a full alley for pedestrian access only. I wondered why this wasn’t done during a site plan amendment. That’s what is going on essentially now.”

Ricinda Perry, attorney for W.E.L.D., Inc., disagreed with Dye, saying this is not different from the 2005 action.

“In the original papers, they called it public pedestrian access, but in my opinion, you are not giving away anything more than what you did in 2005,” Perry said. “In this case, Ed Chiles is willing to give money for the city to get a grant. The plans call for a boardwalk and that’s better than what’s there now.”

Perry said she was upset that she did not get a plan from the city up to two days before the meeting and that there was any indication that this should be done as a site plan amendment.

During public comment, engineer Jan Norsoph, representing William and Barbara Nally, said the plan is more circuitous and the planned walkway is not the same as the existing one. He said it appears the proposed walkway and parking lot spaces are narrower than they should be.

Attorney Jeremy Anderson, also representing the Nallys, who own a rental house adjacent to the restaurant property, was more direct in his criticism.

“I think it will make pedestrians less safe because more people would have to walk behind the traffic,” Anderson said. “This isn’t about safety; this is a land grab. Parking spaces could be moved away from the restaurant, leaving more space to expand the restaurant.”

Micheal Coleman, who worked with W.E.L.D. owner Ed Chiles in developing the Pine Avenue commercial district, said he has seen Chile candidly, and Chiles had never talked in a self-centered way about any project. About the Nallys, he said neither Norsoph or Anderson had referred to their clients’ property as a home.

“This is a commercial piece of property that is rented,” he said. “When they talk about anything that affects their home, I think you should discount that.”

After closing public comment, the commission voted 4-1 to continue the issue with Yetter as the dissenting vote.

Thousands catch fishing festival
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Seafood starred at the 31st Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing
Festival last weekend, whose 2013 theme,
“Better Fish to Fry,” says it all.



The 31st Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival entertained thousands despite a cold front breezing through the fishing village last weekend.

Organizers said about 19,000 visitors attended the two-day celebration, though Saturday’s numbers were down some due to late afternoon rain, wind and falling temperatures.

Still, the festival delivered fresh seafood, music, art, crafts, marine life exhibits and children’s activities, bringing visitors and locals alike to the historic Cortez fishing village.

Festival proceeds go to FISH, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, to enlarge and improve the 95-acre FISH Preserve east of Cortez.

FISH recognized several people and organizations with community service awards for their contributions:

• Patty Banyas, Swordfish Grill, Cortez Kitchen;
• First America Bank, ATM providers;
• Compass Self Storage, golf cart providers;
• Soupy Davis, Cortez commercial fisherman and fiddle player;
• Cathy Slusser, Manatee County Historical Resources Department ;
• Cindy Lane, Anna Maria Island Sun.

The winner of the FISH raffle this year was Anna Maria resident Dennis Uhl, who won his choice of a handmade wooden skiff or a 22’ Catalina sailboat. Sales of the $5 raffle tickets make about $1,500 a year for FISH.

Get your tickets now

HOLMES BEACH – Get your tickets now for "Celebrate Winter!! Island Style" on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria. The event has been moved from April, when it was the Spring Fling, to avoid conflict with other events.

This is the Anna Maria Elementary School PTO’s largest fund-raiser each year, and it features a live auction for the first time. ABC Channel 7’s Chief Meteorologist Bob Harrigan will be the auctioneer.

The menu for the dinner buffet is expansive. The PTO went with a tapas-style cuisine, but will also have many of the same items that it has had in the past, including beef tenderloin from The Waterfront, lobster mac and cheese from Ezra's Cafe and Mr. Bones' baby back ribs.

Other dishes include the Sandbar restaurant's Island salad and New England clam chowder, seafood gumbo from the Rod & Reel Pier, chopped salad from the Island Gourmet Grill, coconut shrimp from The Feast, an assortment of sushi from Ocean Star and crab pasta from the BeachHouse restaurant.

Moore's Stone Crab, The City Pier Restaurant, Tortilla Bay and Lee Roy Selmon's are also donating popular menu items. Ginny's and Jane E's is baking some sweet treats, Harry's Continental Kitchen's is providing his famous brownies and a few others will round out the dessert selections.

The cost per person is $40, and it includes dinner, a silent auction, a live auction, a cash bar and dancing. Tickets for a table of eight are $280 and for tables of 10 are $350. The event runs from 6 to 11 p.m.

For parents, the School for Constructive Play is offering babysitting for $25 for the first child and $5 for each additional related child. That service runs from 5:30 to 11 p.m.

Visit the school for tickets or call 7098-5525 for more information.

New book on Sandpiper at museum

Ted Baird, a member of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society and museum volunteer, holds his recently published book, "Sandpiper Resort." The cover shows an aerial view of the park at 2601 Gulf Drive.

He and his wife, Luanne, have lived in the mobile home park for 10 years. His research was mainly with longtime residents of the park that borders on Holmes Beach.

The development of the park began with Ruric Cobb, the original homesteader in 1906. In 1914 it became a trailer park.

The book is available at the museum, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Ted will sign his books on Island Heritage Day at the museum March 30 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also signing their books will be authors Don and Carol Thompson, who wrote "Egmont Key, A History," and Carolyne Norwood, who wrote "Early Days" and “Tales of Three Cities." For information call 778-0492 or visit the website

Ted Baird shows the cover of his new book, “Sandpiper Resort.”

Jazz to support classical

Ted Young, Judy Lynn and Bil Bowdish, of Gulf Drive, and Koko Ray

Some folks spend their retired years playing golf. Retired math teacher and Holmes Beach resident Bil Bowdish spends his golden years playing saxophone and flute, singing with with the musical group Gulf Drive and giving back to the community he has called home since 2004.

Joined by Ted Young on piano, vocalist Judy Lynn, and special guest Koko Ray on sax, Gulf Drive will host the Ninth Annual Jazz Fest taking place Thursday Feb. 21, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Sandbar wedding pavilion in Anna Maria.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO).

“I’ll support any non-profit that I can, and we like to help the non-profits,” Bowdish said of his philanthropic efforts that have in the past also benefited the Anna Maria Historical Society and the local artists guild.

Describing Jazz Fest as a listening experience with a focus on improvisation rather than dance music, the Feb. 21 performance will still lean heavily on songs from the swing and bossa nova eras.

Young and Bowdish formed Gulf Drive in 2004. Young, a retired high school chorus teacher, spends four months a year on Anna Maria Island. He and his wife spend the rest of the year in their hometown, Greenville, Penn.

Hailing originally from Cleveland, Lynn has contributed her vocal talents and lyrical arrangements to Gulf Drive since 2007.

The group sound is enhanced by computerized backing tracks com posed and aranged by Bowdish.

Known for playing two saxophones at one time, Koko Ray will join Gulf Drive for its second Jazz Fest set.

Bowdish said he is expecting 150-200 people to attend this year’s event and he thanks Sandbar owner Ed Chiles for donating the space.

Gulf Drive offers Bowdish a return to the musical passion he set aside for nearly three decades during his teaching tenure in Boston.

“Once I got into my mid-30s those days had to end,” he said of earlier times spent teaching during the day and playing music part-time at night.

Bowdish and his wife, Thea Kelley, began visiting Anna Maria Island in 1998 and relocated after his retirement.

Expressing his fondness for the Island lifestyle, Bowdish said, “It’s a community – that’s the thing that’s important to me. Anywhere you go, you’re probably going to run into someone you know. We also have some lovely venues here.”

Looking ahead, Gulf Drive will perform at City Fest on Saturday March 2, from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Holmes Beach city field.

The band will break out the dance material for the Oldies Beach Dance taking place Tuesday, March 12, at the Sandbar from 3 to 5 p.m., once again benefitting AMICCO and featuring another guest appearance by Koko Ray.

Gulf Drive is currently performing at the Mannatees Sports Grill in Bradenton from 5:30 to 8:30 on Tuesday nights. The Sports Grill gigs see the group exploring many aspects of a musical repertoire that includes “a danceable mix of swing, oldies from the 50s and 60s.

The group also plays private events, including a recent gig at the Bradenton Elks.

When asked about the unique spelling of his first name (Bil instead of Bill), Bowdish laughed and said, “I’m a big one on brevity, so I dropped the second L when I was a sophomore in high school.”

Ninth Annual Jazz Fest
Thursday, Feb. 21
3 to 5 p.m.

Sandbar Restaurant
wedding pavilion
100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria

$8 before noon Feb. 21 or $10 at the door

Pooch finds love, a home and new sight

Tom Vaught | Sun
Ruth Uecker holds Annie Muffin, her first foster dog,
who get a new lease on life after being found in a field.
Her new owners paid to have her cataracts removed
so she could see again.


ANNA MARIA – Her coat was filthy and had to be removed, she was covered in fleas and cataracts were taking away her sight. But some loving hearts on and off the Island turned her life around for the better.

The story begins a year ago when two Picture Them Adopted (PTA) volunteers – Rita Boyer and Barbara Nellis – noticed a new dog taken from a field off State Road 70 in east Bradenton and sent to the Manatee County Animal Shelter.

The small cocker/poodle mix was covered with long hair to the point where she could not see. She was also weak and could hardly walk or eat. Boyer and Nellis trimmed away some of the hair, but the little pooch was still extremely stressed, dirty and scared. Nellis sent e-mail to the PTA mailing list asking for help.

Ruth Uecker, of Anna Maria, read the e-mail and went into action. She called Dawn Keene, owner of DK Grooming in Bradenton, who agreed to clean up the little dog at no charge. Uecker picked her up and named her Muffin. She noticed Muffin was crying as she took her to the groomer, afraid of what would happen.

At the groomer’s, Keene looked Muffin over and determined she would have to cut off the dog’s hair. She told Uecker to come back in a couple of hours.

Uecker decided there was no way Muffin was going back to the pound, and she would have to become a foster owner. Uecker called Lisa Williams, another PTA volunteer and owner of Moonracer Rescue, and asked her for help in getting Muffin.

“Just call the shelter, tell them to release the dog to me at Moonracer and then take her home with you,” she said. That’s what Uecker did.

When Uecker picked up Muffin at DK Groomers, she looked like a skinned rabbit. Her eyes were running and it was obvious she had cataracts. She was covered with red whelps from the fleabites. She was shaking from fear. Uecker immediately called Dr. William Bystrom at Island Animal Clinic in Holmes Beach and made an appointment for a complete physical examination. Then she went shopping for a bed, leash, collar, food and toys.

Bystrom found out Muffin had been spayed, weighed in at 11 pounds, was suffering from flea bites over her entire body, did not have heartworm, but had a severe respiratory infection. In other words, she was a sick puppy.

She received her necessary vaccinations, was put on antibiotics and given a special diet. She also needed a lot of love and attention, which Uecker gave in loads. She was fed three times a day with special food, given all the prescribed meds and walked twice a day.

The only problem was that Uecker’s own dog, Molly, was jealous. She would have to find Muffin a new home.

One March afternoon, Laurie Crawford, an Animal Network member and no-kill activist, called Uecker and told her she might have a family interested in Muffin. Enter Carol and Jim Plymire. They fell in love with Muffin, and she left with them. She ended up moving North with them to become a Wisconsin dog.

The Plymires renamed her Annie, and Muffin became her middle name. Their vet thinks she is about 2 1/2 years old. When they took her, she was almost completely blind.

“It was sad because she would walk right into things, and she might have been able to see shadows in her peripheral vision, but she could not see anything else,” said Carol Plymire.

When they got to Wisconsin, Carol got a job offer that paid the same amount of money as the cataract surgery cost.

“I had no intention on going back to work, but this fell in my lap just before Annie had her surgery,” she said. The surgery was successful, and Annie Muffin began to re-explore her world with her eyes.

Carol Plymire had nothing but praise for Ruth Uecker, who spent a considerable amount of time and money on Annie Muffin.

“Ruth did an absolutely awesome job of nursing her back to health,” Carol Plymire said. “Annie Muffin has gained weight, and the vet said she weighs what she should weigh.”

Plymire said they had a treat after the dog got her sight back.

“It was fun to watch her use her eyes,” she said. “She discovered all the little lizards here, and she is just exploring and learning.”

They found she is a good traveling dog, which is a necessity for their annual drive from Wisconsin to Florida and back.

“She’s a sweet dog, and we love her,” Carol Plymire said. “We like to say she was lost, and then she was found, and she was blind, but now she sees.”

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