The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 28 - April 24, 2013


The search ends
Carol Whitmore

The family of Lamontea Taylor listens as Bradenton Beach
Police Chief Sam Speciale tells them what has happened.

After two days of searching the waters between Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, the family of Lamontea Taylor was seeking new areas of shoreline in which to look.

But when the police chief showed up Monday morning, the cautious optimism turned to despair.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale walked up to Lamontea’s mother, Laketa Taylor, put his hand on her shoulder and gave her the bad news. Her son’s body had been recovered 3/4 miles west of Longboat Pass by searchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Plans were made quickly to bring the body to the Manatee County Marine Rescue Headquarters at Coquina Bayside. As the family watched the boat come in, Laketa’s composure had come to an end and she broke down and sobbed.

The young Samoset Elementary School student disappeared around 6 p.m. Saturday as his family was enjoying a cookout. After he disappeared, authorities launched a search that went until dark and resumed again Sunday morning.

Members of Lamontea Taylor’s family say he was a hero before he drowned. Amanda Jones, mother of Lamontea’s half sister, Natallie Porter, 5, said her daughter was also in the water and she told her mother he helped keep her head above water as they were swept along by the current, according to sources at the scene.

A passerby, Ezequiel Isaac Espinosa, 31, of Bradenton, pulled Natallie and two other children from the water, but they could not find Lamontea.

Searchers from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Bradenton Beach Police, Longboat Key Police and Florida Fish and Wildlife searched all day, and around 3 p.m. Sunday, Bradenton Beach Sgt. James Gill said it had changed from a rescue to a recovery.

Monday morning, family members were anxious to search shorelines in hopes that he was only unconscious and would be alive when found. Then they got the news.

Head Lifeguard Capt. Joe Westerman said the region near the pass is well known as dangerous.

“For as long as I can remember, and I have been with the county for 25 years, that area of our beach has never been open to swimming,” he said. “To add to the problem Saturday, there were rip tides and a high surf, so the current was stronger than normal.”

Westerman said the lifeguards had gone home for the day, but Rex Beach and another lifeguard came back and searched in a personal watercraft Saturday night.

Speciale called for a grief counselor for the family after the body was recovered. He was visibly shaken after notifying the mother that her son was dead.

“This is never easy,” he said. “I feel sorry for her and hope the family can recover from their loss.”

Bradenton Beach Detective Lenard Diaz said no charges would be filed in the drowning and they are treating the incident as a “terrible accident.”

Ralph’s stays open while payment negotiated
Carol Whitmore

Rotten Ralph’s, which saw hard times after last year’s
Tropical Storm Debby damaged the Bridge Street Pier
and floating dock, never caught up on rental payments.
Repairs are still not completed.


BRADENTON BEACH – Rotten Ralph’s on the Bridge Street Pier will be allowed to stay open for a month while its owner negotiates with the city over the amount of money he owes on his lease.

Through his attorney, Bill Kaklis, owner Dave Russell asked the city commission on Thursday, April 18, to let him stay in business for 30 days while negotiating the amount of the payment, somewhere between $54,000 and $266,000.

“At the end of 30 days, if we don’t agree to pay, we will agree to leave,” Kaklis said.

The commission agreed to allow Kaklis, City Attorney Ricinda Perry and Mayor John Shaughnessy to negotiate the amount owed over the next two weeks, with another two weeks to pay if an agreement is reached, followed by negotiations for a new lease.

If Russell does not pay, the city, which has already terminated the lease, is expected to evict Rotten Ralph’s from the pier.

The city claims Russell owes $266,000, including $184,000 in retroactive Consumer Price Index rent increases that were not assessed until this month, $19,000 in late fees, unpaid maintenance fees and other costs.

Russell estimates he owes $54,000 in rent plus late fees.

Russell said the late fees accrued because the city refused to take partial payments and kept adding more late fees. Perry said state law prohibits the city from extending credit.

Last month, the commission gave Russell two weeks to clear up liens on his property before deciding whether to terminate the lease or take his restaurant equipment in payment for unpaid rent. Russell paid off the liens, but the commission terminated the lease on April 4.

“I did what I was asked,” Russell said, adding that he has now obtained financing and can pay the $54,000 in 30 days, but isn’t confident that will solve the problem.

“No matter what I do, it’s going to be turned against me,” he said.

Russell owes something, but not $266,000, particularly since the city did not charge the rent increases until now, calling them past due, Kaklis said.

Perry said she revised the figure that was owed strictly according to the terms of the lease agreement after it appeared Russell was headed for eviction. But she acknowledged that recovering the rent increases would be “problematic in court.”

“If this is the way we do our accounting, we’re probably losing a lot of money,” Commissioner Ric Gatehouse said, adding that Russell had done what the city asked by clearing up his liens, but the city still told him, “Too bad, you have to go.”

“That’s not the kind of business I want to see the city doing. We need to hold up our end of the bargain,” he said, suggesting that the commission allow Russell to negotiate “appropriate” fees “rather than put a longtime community member out of business” and put people out of work.

Damage to the floating dock next to the Bridge Street Pier from Tropical Storm Debby last June kept some customers away, according to Russell. Imminent repairs to the dock and to the pier will not cause the restaurant to close, according to city Public Works Director Tom Woodard.

$15 million to be pumped into beach restoration
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

tom vaught | sun
Coastal Planning and Engineering Environment and
Infrastructure Director Tom Pierro explains to Manatee
County Commissioners plans for renourishing the
Island later this year.


BRADENTON BEACH – As the gulls and other seabirds line up to face the wind at the groins along Cortez Beach, they don’t know that the ragged structures will be replaced eventually by new, more flexible structures that will serve a bigger purpose, holding sand near the shore.

That’s part of the scenario painted by Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker at an April 16 county commission workshop.

Hunsicker brought solid news to the workshop – the approval of $9 million by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to add to $6 million already assigned to the county can renourish most of Anna Maria Island’s beaches this year, instead of 2015. The money comes as a result of damage to the beaches when Tropical Storm Debby and Hurricane Sandy produced winds and waves that scoured the beaches, leaving them low on sand in many areas.

For the new members of the county commission, this was an initiation into what the county has done for the past two decades to keep the beaches pristine. Hunsicker introduced Rick Spadoni, of Coastal Planning and Engineering, who has been the county’s engineering force for all of its renourishments since the first in 1992. He praised Spadoni’s experience and compassion for the beaches on this Island, beaches that he said were among the worst eroded he had ever seen when they began that first project.

“We love this Island,” he told the commission. “It’s not just a job for us.”

Spadoni introduced Rick Pierro, environmental and infrastructure director for Coastal Planning and Engineering, who would be involved in the upcoming project. Pierro explained why the beaches erode and said under normal conditions, the beaches on Anna Maria Island would need to be renourished approximately every 10 years.

The three gave a history of renourishment from the first project that yielded heavier and darker sand than they expected, to the subsequent projects where Manatee County got more say as to the quality of the sand. Hunsicker said the county went out and found good sand on the Gulf bottom and spent the money to monitor the projects.

As a result of the 2011 renourishment, the county installed a long flexible jetty at Longboat Pass to try to prevent sand from going into the pass. The jetty looks like a sand-filled stocking, but they said it is still doing its job.

“We might eventually redo jetty but tube is doing its job so well we aren’t in a hurry,” Spadoni said,

They introduced Lauren Floyd, senior marine biologist with Coastal Planning and Engineering. She praised Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch for its work in protecting sea turtles and shore birds as they reproduce.

“Believe me, there is nothing like this anywhere else,” she said. “If you ask them to do something, they do it and they know what’s going on out there.”

Turtle Watch will be charged with moving nests from renourishment areas on the beach to areas not getting new sand during nesting season.

With the $15 million in place, the projected cost is $20 million. Hunsicker said the county and state would share the final $5 million.

This year’s project is almost identical to the first one in 1993, which cost $5.9 million, brought 2.23 million cubic yards of sand and ran 4.6 miles. It will run from north of Coquina Beach to approximately 81st Street in Holmes Beach. FEMA funds cannot be used on the beaches there because they were originally funded by the federal government in 1992.

Other projects

Coquina Beach will get more sand with funding from FEMA. Since the central project has the funds to mobilize to get the equipment and people to the jobsite, the county will save approximately $2 million in mobilization costs by piggy-backing it with the other project.

Hunsicker said they plan to replace the three groins off of Cortez Beach with permeable adjustable groins made of plastic. These structures can be adjusted to capture more sand if need be. They would cost approximately $2.8 million.

Hunsicker said they are also considering a replacement pier for Manatee County Beach, which lost its pier when it was razed because of its dangerously deteriorated condition. He said they have permits for a 300-foot-long pier with a T-end, but they are considering making it 600 feet long. Estimated costs run from $1.74 million for the 300-foot structure to $2.938 million for the 600-foot per.

The county will also consider reconstructing a jetty at the southern tip of Anna Maria Island to control erosion that brings in sand to the pass, making it hazardous to navigation.

Hunsicker said the project will get underway in August, if everything goes as planned.


Tree house demolition on hold
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

pat copeland | sun
The tree house has been under scrutny by
the city and the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection for two years.

HOLMES BEACH – The city’s order to demolish the tree house at Angelino’s Beach Resort at 103 29th Street is on hold after a flurry of correspondence between the affected parties.

The correspondence began on April 17, when tree house owner Lynn Tran sought an official interpretation of the land development code from Building Official Tom O’Brien as provided in LDC Article II, Section 2.2 This was followed by a letter from Tran’s attorney, David Levin, reiterating the request.

“Ms. Tran wishes to exercise her right to obtain an official interpretation of how the setback regulations contained in the land development code pertain to her structure and if necessary to contest an adverse interpretation,” Levin wrote.

“Your failure to comply with this request will be considered a violation of your duties and responsibilities under the land development code.”

To which O’Brien responded, “You have received an official interpretation of the Holmes Beach Land Development Code. For you to pay $100 for a particular form is unnecessarily non-productive … You may appeal that decision in the manner provided in the code or you can present your case to the code enforcement board.”

Levin said O’Brien did not have the authority to bypass the provisions of the section, which allows the applicant to provide specific information for the building official to consider, and that O’Brien failed to identify which provisions of the code his clients are alleged to have violated.

O’Brien then asked Tran to respond in writing to specific portions of the section “so that we may adequately respond to any uncertainty as to the specific intent of the code.”

The city is currently waiting for that reply.

Tree house owners circulate petition

Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen, of Angelino’s Sea Lodge and owners of the tree house, are seeking signatures on a petition to save the structure. The website has a link to the petition at

Mainsail seeks judicial review

HOLMES BEACH – The Mainsail Development Company is seeking relief from the city commission’s decision to revoke the company’s site plan for its development near the corner of Gulf and Marina drives.

In a letter from the company’s law firm, attorney Robert Lincoln cited Florida Statute 70.51 and the city’s code Section 67.

The statute allows a party it to seek “judicial review of a local government development order or enforcement action until the special magistrate’s recommendation is acted upon by the local government.”

The city's code establishes procedures for the initiation of a dispute resolution proceeding under the statute.

According tothe code, “It is the intent of the city of Holmes Beach that the dispute resolution process be a speedy, inexpensive, and simple method for owners and regulators to settle land use and environmental permitting and enforcement disputes. To that end, owners and the city should meet face-to-face, in a nonadversarial atmosphere, to resolve disputes without the need for formal representation.”

Issues with procedure

Lincoln pointed out that the motion to revoke the site plan “has left petitioner without the ability to proceed with construction of the improvements authorized by the amended site plan or to use the property as authorized by the special exception.

“The city commission’s action erases the value of the petitioner’s drawings and previously installed foundation that are worth in excess of $1 million.”

Lincoln further maintained:

• The commission’s action deprived Mainsail of its vested right to construct and operate the lodging units, lodge and restaurant;
• The commission’s action called into doubt Mainsail’s right to use portions of the property governed by the dock lease;
• It is the decision of the building official, not the city commission, to determine whether site plan conditions are being violated;
• Procedures for the application and review of a special exception or site plan were not followed.

Diamonds reign at Island Affaire

This black diamond pendant will
be raffled at An Island Affaire.


ANNA MARIA – Put some sparkle in your life and take a chance on winning an elegant, black diamond pendant offered by Bridge Street Jewelers for this year’s Island Community Center fundraiser, An Island Affaire.

The 10K white gold, 6.56 carat, natural black diamond surrounded by 0.18 carats of fine white diamonds on a 14K white gold, 18-inch rope chain was custom made by John Krake for the event. It has an appraised value of $5,000.

Only 300 tickets are available for this beautiful treasure. Tickets are $50 each or three for $100 at the Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria. The drawing will be at the Affaire on Saturday, May 18, and you need not be present win.

Plans for the Affaire, which will be held in the Grande Ballroom at the Center, are proceeding and include a champagne reception, an open bar and a selection of hors d’oeuvres beginning at 6 p.m.; a dinner catered by Harry’s Continental Kitchens with a dessert bar; live and silent auctions and surprise entertainment.

Individual tickets are $175, and tables of eight or 10 are available. There also is the option of attending the Pre-Affaire VIP party at 5 p.m. It includes special entertainment, VIP seating and a private auction preview. Tickets are $250 per person.

Black tie is preferred. The Center will provide valet parking services.

Seating is limited, so reserve your seats today. RSVP by May 10 to Sharen Pittman at or by calling 941-778-1908, ext. 9203.

Sponsorships for the Affaire are available by contacting Pittman and include Diamond, $10,000; Gold, $5,000; Silver, $2,500; VIP Table, $2,000; Bronze, $1,000; and Underwriters, $250 to $999.

Eat and shop local at Food and Wine on Pine

The festival will highlight not only the variety of local seafood
available but also the area's unique art and culture.

ANNA MARIA – The Third Annual Food and Wine on Pine will define the independent spirit of the businesses that serve food on the Island when it opens from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, on Pine Avenue.

Enjoy art and music like only local artists can produce as you sample food and wine from the various outlets that will be there.

Sandbar and BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles established Food and Wine on Pine to showcase the variety of sustainable seafood and produce that local independent restaurants are serving and to highlight the unique and wonderful art and culture of the Island to support art and children’s charities.

As one of the developers of Pine Avenue into an eclectic mixture of green sustainability and unique shopping, Chiles is proud of the old Florida look that the new stores took on with their large porches, native vegetation and inviting set-back buildings that keep the open look that has been a hallmark of the Island.

Actors in costume will perform historical skits depicting the early Island characters. Visitors will be able to learn more about those pioneers such as George Bean, Charles Roser and Lena Phelps, the Island’s first teacher.

More than 30 musical performances will bring jazz, reggae, bluegrass, classical, blues, acoustic guitar, percussions, wind instruments and a bagpipe to the Island, and there is a Kentucky Derby hat contest in store, so get started on your entry.

More than 3,000 people are expected. Admission is free with wine glasses and plates available for purchase for a total of $3. Tickets for food and beverages are $1 each. Most items will be affordably priced. Event parking will be available at the Anna Maria Island Community Center and at CrossPointe Fellowship with complimentary trolley rides to Pine Avenue.

Event proceeds will go to local art and children’s charities such as the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra, Anna Maria Island Community Center, Cultural Connections, the Artists Guild of Anna Maria Island, the Anna Maria Island Historical Society and Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust.

For more information, call Caryn Hodge at 778-8705, or by visiting

Dune installation to begin this week

A 220-foot-long, 2.5-foot-tall sand dune is
scheduled to be built beginning this week on
the flat beach south of the BeachHouse restaurant
in Bradenton Beach, across from city hall.



BRADENTON BEACH – Beginning this week, a 220-foot-long sand dune is scheduled to be built at the BeachHouse restaurant, in part to shield nesting and hatching sea turtles from headlights in the sand parking lot and on Gulf Drive.

The 2.5-foot-tall dune will tie into an existing dune system to the south, allowing public access at two existing walkways, one at the south end of the dune and the other at the north end of the dune, near the stairway at the south end of the BeachHouse, said Lynn Burnett, of LTA Engineers. Walking over the dune will be prohibited.

The dune, which will be two feet wide at its crest, sloping to 20 feet wide at its base, will be landscaped with sea oats and other native plants courtesy of BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles, she said.

Engineers staked out the property last week, but pulled up the stakes to avoid interfering with a wedding on the beach, Burnett said, adding that work is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 22, and is expected to be completed by April 30, the day before the first official day of sea turtle nesting season, May 1.

Sea turtles nested and hatched in the area last year, said Suzi Fox of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

A nest laid before June’s Tropical Storm Debby hatched near the sand parking lot, but 50 of 83 hatchlings were unaccounted for, with eight found dead in a storm drain, she said. The numbers are determined by piecing together and counting shell fragments in the nest and following tracks.

Last summer, turtles hatched from a nest laid on a high ridge of sand in the rocks bordering the paved parking lot at the north end of restaurant, she said, adding that while eight were found dead in the street, most made it to the Gulf.

The new dune will reduce nesting habitat in the area, she said.

Turtles have never nested in the sand parking lot, Chiles said.

A lawsuit filed in June by Bradenton Beach residents Jo Ann Meilner, Tjet Martin and Bill Shearon is pending against the city of Bradenton Beach, alleging that a development order allowing parking on the sand landward of the dune site is inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Meilner read an e-mail to city commissioners last week from Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County’s Natural Resources Department, stating his preference to allow dunes to form gradually using sea oats and sand fences rather than building them, citing dunes built in 1992-93 which were swept onto Gulf Drive by prevailing and moderate winds.

The planned beach renourishment this summer will create a gentle slope that will lead to the new dune, Burnett said; storms last year heavily eroded the beach, creating a vertical drop off in some places.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper