The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 33 - June 5, 2013


City makes noise about amplified music
Carol Whitmore

pat copeland | sun

The music at the Barefoot Tiki Bar across the street from
city hall is not as loud as music from events in the
city hall park, commissioners said.


HOLMES BEACH – Calling themselves the worst offender for allowing all day amplified rock music in the city hall park, commissioners agreed to completely overhaul the city’s noise ordinance.

“The ordinance is not consistent with the city park and other establishments and amplified and non-amplified music,” Mayor Carmel Monti pointed out. “For example, the decibel level in the park is 110 and across the street (at the Barefoot Tiki Bar) or one of the restaurants it is 60. We are the worst offender by allowing the park a decibel level double what we allow anywhere else.”

He said if there is an all-day event, a band can play for two hours at 110 decibels and then take a break, which restarts the clock, and they can play another two hours at 110 decibels.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth said amplified music is not allowed for outdoor dining.

Chair Jean Peelen said, “Café on the Beach has amplified music every night. We need to look at the level of amplified music you can Decide what you want

“We need to pick a decibel number that you are comfortable with for the park and a distance from where we measure,” Police Chief Bill Tokajer suggested. “We may have different levels for day and night.

“We don’t allow amplified music for outdoor dining, but other restaurants have music inside that you can hear outside. With regard to outdoor dining, is that something you want enforced? If not, we need to change it.”

City Attorney Patricia Petruff said the city noise ordinance dates from 1978 and is archaic.

“This commission needs to have an open discussion about what your goal is, and then the chief and I can do the research on how to get you there so it will not be challenged in court,” Petruff advised.

Titsworth said her goal “is to not listen to anybody else’s play list in my home. As a commissioner, I’m embarrassed because we’re the worst offender.”

She said the Tiki Bar is allowed to have amplified music outside, but Eat Here was notified when it did the same and that they should enforce the ordinance equally.

Monti said he asked the owner of the Tiki Bar to “stay within a certain level, but we haven’t been enforcing it at the park and the beach. It’s wrong.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said they could have different decibel levels for different times of the day.

Other voices

Titsworth introduced letters from neighbors of the city park who are concerned about the noise level from the music.

“The sound from some of these groups extends for blocks in all directions when ideally it should be limited to the audiences who choose to attend the performances,” they wrote.

They asked the commission to ban amplified music in the park or limit the decibel level. They also said parking should not be allowed on the sidewalk along the park because it blocks baby walkers, wheelchairs and walkers.

Resident Dick Motzer said he would rather hear amplified music from the Tiki Bar than “yelling and screaming from the mega houses because they’re overloaded with people.”

“We are responding to complaints from people about the music from the various places, so we have to send an officer out when we get a complaint,” Monti replied.

Nicole Heslop, owner of the Barefoot Tiki Bar, said the business has undergone many changes to keep up with the market and adding the music to the outdoor flea market has made it a success.

She asked commissioners to amend the code to allow amplified music for outdoor dining areas that are zoned C-3 and are not adjacent to residential property.

Peelen asked Monti and Tokajer to bring back specifics for a new ordinance. Monti said the current ordinance would be enforced until a new one is approved.

Tokajer added, “Which includes no amplified music for outdoor dining.”

Tree house debuts on Today Show
Carol Whitmore

maggie Field | sun

Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran watch the Today show
segment about their tree house in their living
room at Angelino's Sea Lodge in Holmes Beach.
The segment was filmed on Wednesday and
Thursday last week and aired Thursday.


HOLMES BEACH – The clear blue waves lapped at the white sandy beach in the background as the television cameras on the roof of Angelino’s Sea Lodge focused on Today Show correspondent Gabe Gutierrez perched in the tree house.

“This is not your ordinary kids’ playground,” he said for a segment that aired live on Today Thursday and later on MSNBC. “The couple who built it call it a work of art, but the city calls it a safety hazard. Now a major legal battle is underway.”

Gutierrez was referring to Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen’s now famous tree house at 103 39th Street that has appeared in local and national news shows and newspapers. An Australian television station is set to do a story this week.

Building Official Tom O’Brien has ruled that it is a structure and requires a building permit. He has also said it is too close to the erosion control line and that it must be demolished. City Attorney Patricia Petruff advised city officials not to comment for the television segment.

“They’ve been following this story, and I got a call on Monday that they wanted to come and do something for the Today show,” Tran explained while the camera crew was setting up. “Yesterday they did interviews with Richard and I and took photos.

“This media thing is exciting, but kind of scary because you don’t know what people will say. It’s all new to me. I never would have expected it.”

The tree house was built in 2011, took six months to build and cost $20,000. Tran said it rests on one live tree and several man-made pilings and is constructed of all new building materials.

“Maybe the more people who like it the harder it will be to take it down,” she theorized. “I hope the mayor and commission will step in and stop this.”

Their case is set to go before the Code Enforcement Board at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 20.

Mayor explains jump in professional fees

HOLMES BEACH – Mayor Carmel Monti said there are many variables to explain why the city’s professional fees are higher in the first six months of the 2012-13 budget than the entire budget for 2011-12.

“There are so many variables and unknowns that it is difficult to know what the final impact will be,” he said. “To date, we are under budget in the city and in every department, even with the accelerated legal fees.”

In the first six months of the 2012-13 budget, which began in October 2012, professional fees were $88,056.16 for the city attorney and $38,797.50 for the city planner, or a total of $126,853, nearly the entire amount budgeted for the fiscal year.

In the general government budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, $116,00 was approved for professional services, and in the public works budget for the fiscal year, $20,000 was approved for planning services, for a total of $136,000.

In 2011-12, the city paid $86,631.60 for legal services and $7,825 for planning service or a total of $94,456 for the entire fiscal year.

Inherited problems

“We inherited a lot of circumstances,” Monti explained. “One was the 27th Street or Sandpiper lawsuit that has cost us $35,000. From Day 1, I tried to stop it because I thought it was a total waste of money.”

He said the problems with the size of buildings and the proliferation of rentals, issues that he and two other commissioners campaigned on, also have generated attorney and planner fees.

“We felt we had to tighten up the laws,” he said. “Now we can enforce the laws on the books.”

Those problems also required additional meetings and the presence of the attorney and planner at those meetings, but he said their involvement would lessen now as problems are being resolved. Unfortunately, he said, the Mainsail issue could prove to be costly.

“I wanted to work it out with Mainsail," he pointed out. “ I have control over the budget, but when the commission votes on something like that it’s beyond my control.”

He said money could be moved within a department budget or by resolution between departments.

“We have areas that are under budget and areas that are over budget,” he said. “My ultimate responsibility is to balance the whole budget.”


Outdoor dining added to parking change

Holmes Beach commissioners added outdoor dining to their ordinance increasing the number of parking spaces required for new restaurants, assembly halls and changes of use.

When City Planner Bill Brisson said the number of parking spaces would increase from one for five seats to one for three seats, Commissioner Judy Titsworth asked about adding outdoor dining to the ordinance.

Brisson said there currently are no parking requirements for outdoor dining, but they could be added. Commissioners agreed that up to eight outdoor dining seats would be allowed without a parking requirement, but after eight, one parking space for every three seats would be required.

The ordinance will be sent to the planning commission for review.

PTO seeks to stall layoffs

tom vaught | sun

Manatee County School District Director of Elementary
Schools Joe Stokes speaks with parents and PTO
members at Anna Maria Elementary School’s auditorium
about planned payoffs that will be enacted to reduce
the school district’s financial shortfalls.

HOLMES BEACH – The fight is on to save teaching jobs at Anna Maria Elementary School.

A contingency to the school’s PTO, headed by PTO Past President Monica Simpson, parent and Holmes Beach City Commissioner David Zaccagnino and parent Karen Riley-Love attended last Wednesday’s Soup with the Supe luncheon where they listened to Manatee County School Superintendent Rick Mills outline his financial recovery plan.

After the talk, Riley-Love handed Mills a petition with more than 1,200 signatures saying teacher layoffs should not be part of the solution. On Thursday, they met with Director of Elementary Schools Joe Stokes, who spoke of the situation at AME from the district’s viewpoint and fielded questions from about 30 parents, teachers and other school personnel.

By the end of the week, they appeared to have two plans of action. One involved raising the money from parents and other residents to pay the salaries of the laid off educators or raise the school’s enrollment by recruiting kids from other school zones to AME via School Choice, the program that allows that.

At risk are two to three teaching positions plus full time teaching positions for art, music and physical education.

The drastic layoffs are part of a plan to cut more than $21 million from the budget to make up for a budget shortage that evolved out of inefficient use of money and other budgeting mistakes that became apparent last year.

The interim school superintendent resigned when the amount of the shortfall was disclosed. After a search for someone with the ability to turn things around, Mills was hired from Minneapolis and his first day was March 20. Since then, he has visited the schools while the district staff worked out the financial recovery plan.

One goal of the plan is to be in the black by next month and work on a state mandated balance surplus to handle emergencies, such as unexpected major equipment breakdowns and weather-related losses.

After Riley-Love handed over the petitions, one attendee Mary Anne McDevitt asked a poignant question.

“Why are you getting rid of good teachers and not evaluating the teachers instead of getting rid of teachers who are not performing?” she asked.

“We are broke as a school system,” Mills answered. “We need a new system of evaluating teachers, and we needed to make these cuts immediately.”

After the Soup with the Supe, Zaccagnino said the district is moving in the right direction, but they still want to save those teaching position.

Simpson said she was impressed and felt Mills was getting the system into good shape.

“In our own school, we’re really tied to our people,” she said. “Things like this really bring our community together.”

Enrollment on a downslide

On Thursday evening, Zaccagnino spoke of his meetings with district officials, and he told the crowd that because of changes in class size requirements that now allow more students in a classroom, the school is losing 1 1/2 teaching positions.

“A lot of students are here on School Choice, but those numbers are dropping,” Zaccagnino said. “That might be because Palma Sola (Elementary School) is doing a better job.”

AME Principal David Marshall outlined the school’s enrollment plight.

“Last year, we were projected to have 287 students,” he said. “When we did our official count after 10 days of school, we lost one teaching position because we never reached that number.”

Marshall said the school enrollment this year was 256. He said there is another wrinkle in the teacher situation.

“Two years ago, Lauren Waite took a leave of absence to teach in Italy, and we brought in another teacher to fill in for her spot,” he said. “She has informed us that she wants to return to her position next school year.”

He said one teacher would be dropped to make room for Waite. He also said when teachers are let go, they will be considered for teaching at other schools since some schools are projected to pick up students and their teaching staffs might increase. A total of 182 teachers will lose their jobs in the district, however.

Marshall said if enrollment is up in August, when they make the 10-day count, they might be able to hire back laid-off teachers, although there is a snag.

“Normally when a teacher loses a job, that teacher will find a new one,” he said.

The cutbacks include making some full-time jobs part-time. He said guidance counselor Cindi Harrison told Marshall she would accept a cutback to part-time. He said they would be making physical education, music and art part-time positions and they traded away a part-time position to keep the media specialist fulltime.

Stokes said this year’s cuts are deep because they needed to get within their budget and start building a reserve or risk having the state come in and take over.

The parents talked about bringing in more students, and Zaccagnino said they had printed handouts to attract kids from other schools. He said numerous people who work on the Island but live on the mainland drop their kids off at AME and pick them up at the Anna Maria Island’s After-School Program when they get off work. He said employers on the Island could help by talking with employees who have elementary school age children.

Until the school district unveils its final financial recovery plan, the PTO won’t know how many teachers might be asked to leave, but they are ready to fight those layoffs.

Chief recommends more crosswalks


The new crosswalk signs
will tell people to stop
for pedestrians.


HOLMES BEACH – Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer recommended to commissioners that the city add crosswalks at the following streets:

• City line at Bradenton Beach
• 28th Street and Gulf Drive;
• 3200 block of East Bay Drive;
• 3900 block of East Bay Drive;
• Marina Drive and 59th Street;
• Marina Drive and 63rd Street;
• Palm and Clark drives;
• Gulf Drive and 72nd Street;
• Palm Drive and 81st Street.

“Most of the signs that are up now say yield for pedestrians,” he added. “State law says you are to stop. So I want to make it more clear so people do stop.”

He showed commissioners a new sign that says, “State law, stop for pedestrians within crosswalk” that will replace the old ones.

Tokajer also recommended adding crosswalks and a light system with walk and don’t walk signs at Gulf and Marina drives and flashing lights at the 5300 block of Marina Drive.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth said her father, who owns the Holmes Beach Shopping Center, had agreed to give land at the corner of Gulf and Marina drives by Holmes Beach Auto Service for the landing of a crosswalk between the shopping center and Wells Fargo Bank.

Parking and speeding

Tokajer said the police department put up no parking signs along the north side of Manatee Avenue between East Bay Drive and the public beach.

“People were parking in the bike lane and on the sidewalk and forcing the bicyclists onto a state road,” he said. “They’re putting peoples lives in jeopardy.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said some visitors consider the cost of the ticket a parking fee.

“I was thinking what we could do to curb that, and originally I thought about a second ticket that would cost more (than the original ticket of $20),” Tokajer replied, “Because it is a safety factor for the people we came up with a better idea – underneath the no parking we put it’s a tow away zone. That will get their attention.”

Chair Jean Peelen said she got an e-mail from residents complaining about receiving speeding tickets and asked Tokajer if he has a philosophy on that.

“Officer discretion,” he replied. “This last couple of weeks and the next week to come, you’ll see more people pulled over because we’re doing Click it or Ticket because the state has asked us to as an impact on safety for seatbelts.”

“We don’t do any quotas. It’s not like you give five tickets and get a toaster,” he added, generating laughter from the audience.

Zaccagnino asked Tokajer to consider eliminating unnecessary signs, and he agreed. He also said the department is looking at drivers who park too closely to stop signs and crosswalks.

Cell tower committee sets goals

ANNA MARIA – The committee charged with helping the city commission rate the three applicants for planning and installing a cell phone tower near city hall held a meeting last week, minus City Commissioner Dale Woodland and Mayor SueLynn, who were at the original meeting. The city commission decided it might be best if the committee worked without the presence of elected officials who would vote on the issue when it comes before the commission.

The other members, Jon Crane, former mayor Mike Selby and former commissioner Tom Aposporos, attended along with Building Official Bob Welch and Public Works Director George McKay. Jim Eatrides, representing one of the bidders, Ridan Industries, was in the audience.

The city’s request for proposals (RFP) attracted three companies’ bids. F and L Towers, LLC; Vertex; and Ridan all submitted lengthy packages, and the committee wants to be able to rate them.

“Looking at some of these proposals, I’ve come to the conclusion we need to formulate some questions on them,” Welch said.

The RFP had a list of 13 items pertaining to the scope of the request. They dealt with what the respondents should address, and they ranged from a statement of what they will build and how, the size and shape of the tower, where the electrical service for the device will run underground, a site plan, a work schedule to the proposed length of the lease, anticipated cell service providers who will rent tower space and a sample lease agreement to references and a statement of financial stability.

Crane said he figures if a bidder makes a bad proposal, it would be marked down in the evaluation process, and Welch said he found some of the proposals lacking. He said one of the most important items in the scope of proposals was the financial consideration for the lease. That involved the term of the lease, renewal options and how revenues would be shared with the city. That could include a one-time payment at the start and then annual or monthly payments.

Selby said he did not think there was a bad proposal in the three, but only one bidder addressed trying to name which service providers would use the tower. Selby said many providers are merging, so it’s hard to determine.

Eatrides said he expects most of the large companies to merge into two, with a number of local providers still there. They discussed a large lump sum payment up front and smaller annual payments or a small lump sum and larger regular revenues.

Welch said he would request more detailed information on payments from the three bidders and ask a few more questions supplied by committee members in emails to him. They will meet again on Monday, June 10, at 2:30 p.m.

Home limits pass, historic ordinance delayed

ANNA MARIA – The city commission passed the lot, yard, bulk ordinance on second reading last Thursday defining allowable home sizes in relation to their lots, signaling an end to the moratorium on building permits.

Before the unanimous vote to accept the limits, Commissioner Chuck Webb said he met with Building Official Bob Welch and City Planner Alan Garrett about a portion of the ordinance that allows homeowners to apply for variances before suing the city for loss of value. He said the ordinance wording does not tie the variance with the Bert Harris Act, which allows such lawsuits. Webb said he wants it added to the ordinance.

City Attorney Jim Dye said he wants a complainant to try for a variance before suing the city. Dye wanted to delay passage of the ordinance until he worked out the change. The only public comment before the vote came from Pine Avenue developer Micheal Coleman, who said he saw nothing that would stop them from passing the ordinance now. Commissioners decided to pass it and then amend it, if needed.

Dye got his request to continue the second reading of the historic preservation ordinance saying he needed to add some definitions to clarify the law.

In another vote, the commission rejected a variance request for 871 North Shore Drive to allow the owners to make the house more presentable from the street and allow them to use a stairway that lands in the neighbor’s yard. Commissioner Gene Aubry, an architect, drew a plan that would allow them to move the stairs to avoid using the neighbor’s yard.

Commissioners discussed amending the sign ordinance due to the proliferation of signs, some of them illegal, according to Welch. He said the city would send notices to the mainly real estate and rental agents responsible for the illegal signage. Woodland wanted to find a good sign ordinance from another city and adopt it, but Aubry disagreed, saying they should be leaders, not followers.

“Do I hear a volunteer?” Woodland asked.

“Damned right,” Aubry answered.

Mayor SueLynn said she spoke with a real estate agent who said if they lower the allowable size of signs, they should give the real estate professionals time to get new signs, and then she said some were suggesting banning all signs except for traffic control. She was asked about garage sale signs and suggested they be allowed, but Dye said that could be a first amendment violations to control signs by what they say.

The commission decided to have Welch explore changes but Dye suggested they just make changes that would control the number of signs allowed.

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