The skies over Anna Maria Island will come alive with fireworks this week as the Chiles Group hosts two shows on the beach.
The first starts after dark on Wednesday, July 3, at the BeachHouse restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., in Bradenton Beach. You can watch the fireworks from anywhere on the beach or, if there are still tickets available, you can celebrate at the restaurant as part of a dinner package. The number to call for more information is 779-2222.
The next day, the Anna Maria Island Privateers stage their annual parade from Coquina Beach to Bayfront Park starting at 10 a.m. This is regularly one of the largest parades on the west coast of Florida. Bring a chair and watch from the side of the road. You’re bound to catch some candy and beads.
After the parade, the group gathers again at the Anna Maria Island Beach Café from noon to 3 p.m. with live music from the Tangled Mangos, food and drink specials and the Privateers’ scholarship award ceremony, where they announce the winners and present them with checks.
That night, the fireworks show moves to the Sandbar restaurant, 100 Spring Ave. in Anna Maria. The show starts here shortly after sunset and is on the beach as well, so bring a blanket and beach chairs, but be sure not to leave those chairs out there overnight. It is sea turtle nesting season and abandoned chairs and umbrellas easily can prevent mama turtles from nesting.
A caution for those bringing fireworks to shoot on the beach - anything that explodes or soars through the skies is illegal and law enforcement will be out in force so think before you act.
Finally, there will be a beach cleanup Friday morning, July 5, at 7 a.m. in Anna Maria. Everyone meets at Ginny and Jane E’s. The event is being sponsored by the North End Merchants Organization (NEMO), which will provide gloves and trash bags. Call Diane at Beach Bums, 778-3316, for information.
ANNA MARIA – Saying time is running out on life as we knew it in the city, Mayor SueLynn is asking the City Commission to take some drastic steps to make it safer for all and more advantageous to the city’s residents.
The mayor read a three-page memo to the City Commission meeting on Thursday night calling for lowering the speed limit on Pine Avenue and Gulf Drive plus Spring and Magnolia avenues for the safety of other drivers and pedestrians. She also asked for no parking on the rights of way, except by permit and except in the commercial and ROR districts. She also wants an annual beach permit and paid parking in certain areas.
SueLynn said the Tourist Development Council’s successful marketing of the Island has created an enormous amount of congestion and the influx of day-trippers, who come for the beach and don’t spend money on the Island, is the result of the fact that everything is free here. There are no toll bridges to the Island, parking is free and so is admission to the beach.
SueLynn said she and the other mayors on Anna Maria Island will be asking for funds from the bed tax to help deal with infrastructure that is being used at an increasing pace, thanks to the sharp rise in tourism.
Finally, her letter explained the urgency of the situation.
“These are items I would not have considered when I was in office before or even when I took office in November, but I believe we must now take actions that would have appeared drastic even a year ago,” the letter said. “The commission needs to do this for the sake of Anna Maria’s future and to assure that residents who are still here have the quality of life they deserve.”
After reading the memo, Suelynn said she was once proud of the city because it did not charge for parking, but people are taking advantage of it.
After hearing her address, the audience applauded.
ANNA MARIA – Ridan Industries LLC will build a cell phone tower in the parking lot at city hall and lease space to cell phone providers if negotiations with the city go well.
The city commission voted last Thursday to have Building Official Bob Welch and Mayor SueLynn negotiate the details with Ridan, and if they cannot agree, two other vendors might have their chance.
While Ridan held an advantage in experience and was the choice of the ad hoc committee formed to go over the bids, F&L Towers LLC was a close second and Vertex Development LLC was also in the running.
Committee member Tom Aposporos said they recommended negotiating with Ridan and F&L at the same time, but City Attorney Jim Dye said that would not be a good idea.
Commissioner Dale Woodland wanted the city to hold a work session and negotiate with the top two bidders, but Commissioner Nancy Yetter disagreed, saying the city needs to move forward with it.
On another issue, the commissioners voted 3-1 to accept the offer from Rex Hagen to pay for trees and restrooms in the four lots the city owns at Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard, near the city pier.
Debate centered around parking on one and a half lots and the restrooms, which many people objected to saying they feared the restrooms would become filthy and smelly.
Developer Micheal Coleman, who talked with Hagen, said Hagen would pay to take out the restrooms if they don’t work out.
The commission agreed to go for the parking, the trees and the restrooms with Yetter voting against them.
Commissioners also discussed the sign ordinance, which is under review after SueLynn said she wants to end sign clutter brought on by the growing number of rental houses.
Welch said he wanted to give owners of signs that are in violation of the ordinance two years to come into compliance, but Yetter said two years is too long. Dye said two years is adequate so the real estate professionals could get some use out of the signs they have.
Vice Chair Doug Copeland, who ran his first meeting because Chairman Chuck Webb was absent, told Welch to meet with the professionals to work on the changes. Real estate agent Jason Sato, of Sato Realty, thanked the city for considering the real estate professionals in the discussion.
Finally, the mayor released her list of liaison assignments for herself and the commissioners.
• SueLynn gets the Coalition of Island Elected Officials, Island Transportation Planning Organization, the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Manasota League of Cities.
• Doug Copeland gets the Anna Maria Island Players and the city pier.
• Nancy Yetter gets the Anna Maria Island Community Center and the Environmental Enhancement Education Committee.
• Chuck Webb gets the Island Chamber of Commerce.
• Gene Aubrey gets the Anna Maria Island Historical Society.
HOLMES BEACH – David Levin, attorney for tree house owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen, has filed a lawsuit in circuit court regarding the structure.
The city’s building official has ruled that the tree house at 103 39th St. is a structure that requires a building permit, in addition to other violations of the city’s land development code (LDC).
Levin filed an action for declaratory and injunctive relief on June 21 and in it, he maintained that:
• The tree house is actually a cabana or enclosed deck;
• The building official at the time it was built advised Hazen that no permit was required;
• The city has stated that the tree house is in violation of the 50-foot setback from the erosion control line (ECL) and the LDC;
• The city’s ordinance amending the LDC is defective and conflicts with Florida Statute regarding construction within 50 feet of the ECL;
• The tree house is an accessory structure that may be located within 50 feet of the ECL.
• Tran and Hazen requested an official interpretation of the LDC which they did not receive.
The suit asks the court to stop the city from enforcing its codes against Tran and Hazen “as a consequence of their good faith reliance and expenditure of substantial funds after being advised that no permits would be required by the defendant before construction of their tree house.”
It also seeks costs of the court action.
ANNA MARIA – The Anna Maria Island Community Center is in a state of flux somewhat as the new executive director tries to get a handle on where the Center is headed and how best to fund it.
The board of directors met on Friday, June 21, and Executive Director Dawn Stiles said a needs assessment team of 10 to 12 people is being assembled to figure out how best to serve the community. She said one team member, a snowbird from Michigan, is going to be a valuable asset.
“He does grant writing, and we need to look toward grants to help finance our goals,” she said. “In looking around this community, I am amazed at the talented people living here.”
Stiles said assistant executive director Scott Dell is chairing the needs assessment group.
“We’re expecting a good return from the members we have,” she said.
The income from the annual Affaire to Remember was much lower than expected, and Stiles said she put together a budget for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, which will cover the bases. She said the Center has done well to cover its expenses, pay down the mortgage on the new building and offer scholarships for youngsters who cannot afford to pay tuition on sports leagues there.
“In July, we’ll have a more comprehensive development plan with a list of sources for grant writers with a calendar so we can make timely grant requests,” she said. “We’ll come back in September with a better budget.
Board treasurer Stewart Moon, Jr. distributed a report on budgeted items with a year-to-date look of expenditures. The group agreed that they are in good shape so far.
Dell said with school out, the emphasis is on kids, and he talked about the current programs at the Center.
“We have 78 kids in elementary school at our Summer My Way program and 39 teens at the summer teen program. They are taking a field trip Friday to Adventure Island,” he said. “We have a mentoring program involving teens working with counselors and serving as teachers’ aides.”
Dell ran down the sports programs, many of them for adults, and he said they have an agreement with the city of Holmes Beach to use the sports field north of city hall. He said they also have a deal with the Island Gourmet Grill so adults who play in the softball league in the evenings can go there after games.
They talked about transferring some of the sports scholarships into the state system to take some of the financial liability off the Center. Board member Cindy Thompson had more information on that.
Development Director Sharen Pittman said she is putting together a comprehensive plan for the Center’s website. Website chair Erin Heckler said she would work with Pittman on that.
The Community Center is also investigating a form of payback from the BP Oil Spill fund for businesses that incurred expenses or lost income after the spill. The board directed Dell to sign the contingency agreement on their claim.
Finally, the Center is holding a salsa dance in a few months. After the meeting, Stiles said they would love to find a dance teacher who could teach salsa dancing to draw more people to the dance. For more information on that, call 778-1908.
HOLMES BEACH – Chris Lesser, assistant director of Manatee County’s Mosquito Control District, has responded to a visitor who was upset over a recent aerial spraying mission over the Island and complained to Mayor Carmel Monti.
John Adam, of Atlanta, questioned what he called “a military assault of a runaway sky jockey pilot that managed to spray an area from what appeared to be south of 69th Street up to the north end of the Island.”
He said he has been an Island visitor for 40 years and questioned why he was not notified of the spraying mission. He said it was a safety issue “that Anna Maria would allow the blatant disregard of human safety by allowing a sky jockey to pilot an errant spray of hundreds, if not thousands of humans just before sunset.”
Lesser explained to Adam that the MCD was responsible for the mission and approximately 1,800 acres on the Island and 100,000 acres county-wide were sprayed the third week of June.
He said the spraying was due to “requests that the agency was receiving from the public in response to a large number of adult mosquitos following TS Andrea two weeks earlier and the ever present threat of disease such as dengue and West Nile virus spread by these mosquitos.”
Chemical is safe
Lesser said the chemical MCD uses is a 97 percent malathion product, a public health insecticide, which has been EPA tested and “has been determined to present no adverse impacts to human health (including children, toddlers and infants), wildlife or the environment.” He said it also recommended for such use by the World Health Organization.
“We do not file flight plans,” he said, “because the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) doesn’t require it. We operate under the local FAA flight safety officer. We contact him and the local government offices and police departments.”
He said notice of anticipated spray missions is posted on the MCD’s website, but are dependent on the weather and mechanical complications. He said log onto the website, manateemosquito.com for a day and night fogging/spraying schedule.
“We do this for pubic health and safety,” Lesser concluded. “We have no financial interest in spraying more than we need to.”
ANNA MARIA – After meeting with individual members of Cultural Connections, Pam Truitt, of the Patterson Foundation, reported her findings to the group last week.
“You told me that Cultural Connections is a positive force and that there’s willingness to explore,” she told the group.
In May, Truitt first met with the representatives of the Island’s arts and culture groups to explain how the foundation helps non-profit groups learn ways they can collaborate to become more efficient and profitable.
In June, she met with the individual members including the AMI Art League, the AMI Concert Chorus and Orchestra, the AMI Historical Society, the AMI Community Center, the Artists’ Guild of AMI, the Island Players, the Gulf Coast Writers, Island Gallery West and The Studio at Gulf and Pine.
Truitt said the administrative needs of the members include:
• Internet technology;
• Using social media;
• Grant writing;
• Joint marketing;
• Planned giving.
She said there also are opportunities for sharing space and contracting for services among members.
Problems that the organizations share include:
• Tired boards of directors with competition for the same volunteers;
• The need for paid staff to promote growth;
• Leaders burned out due to lack of succession planning and a shortage of volunteers;
• Changing demographics on the Island including wealthy residents replacing seasonal residents.
“This happened on Longboat Key in that wealthier people don’t stay as long and are not as invested in the community,” she explained. “You can’t change it; you just have to deal with it.”
She said the foundation would provide a facilitator to meet with two or three representatives of each organization in a group session to continue the discussion on how to collaborate. This exercise was set for July 15.
BRADENTON BEACH – Despite safety and traffic concerns expressed by 28 residents in person and by letter and e-mail, the Planning and Zoning Board voted 3-1 last week to approve a kayak and paddleboard rental business at the south end of the Gulf Drive Café.
The board voted to allow Jack Glennon, of Kayak Jack, to display up to eight non-motorized watercraft between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and to post a two-sided sign up to 6 feet square facing the beach at least 25 feet from Gulf Drive. They also stipulated that no items such as vessels, trucks, kiosks or signs be stored on the beach.
The board approved several findings of fact about the business, saying it would cause no substantial injury to the value of other property in the neighborhood, it would not cause substantial noise, it would have adequate loading areas for pedestrian safety and traffic flow and that the public’s safety would be protected.
The City Commission will have the final say on the issue, which was not yet scheduled for a hearing at press time. The next commission meeting is set for Thursday, July 11, at 7 p.m. at city hall.
Neighboring residents who saw Glennon rent kayaks and paddleboards during a recent two-day trial run said they feared for the safety of swimmers in the water with inexperienced kayakers and paddleboarders and for the safety of walkers on the beach where the vessels take off and land.
They also said that the Gulf Drive Café, where a traffic fatality occurred in the pedestrian walkway last year, already is too congested. The city put a stop to a beach market at the café last year due to an increase in traffic at the restaurant.
Glennon, who is working with Gulf Drive Café owners George and Wendy Kokolis, said that most customers during his trial run came from the beach, the cafe or the nearby condos and did not need parking spaces.
Resident Janie Robertson, of Imperial House, said she saw people carrying kayaks over jagged concrete and rock during the trial run.
“Maybe it’s not the city’s liability, but for city to give permission for the public to be coming up over rocks is irresponsible,” she said, adding that she has also seen wedding parties at the café posing for photos on the rocks.
City Building Official Steve Gilbert said the liability rests with the property owner, not the city.
“I can tell people not to climb on rocks, but there is no one patrolling that,” Glennon said, adding that he is insured for more than $1 million.
Nothing will be carried overhead by customers, he said.
Since the second tiki hut at the Gulf Drive Café was recently completed, traffic has been “tremendously worse,” said Nancy Gavrilis, a Ninth Street resident who is concerned that the rentals will crowd residents off the narrow beach, where weddings already take up space.
“We’re residents and we have to maneuver through traffic to get in and out,” she said, adding that she also is concerned about safe places to sit on the beach with people learning how to use the watercraft. “It creates an uneasy feeling getting in and out of water.”
“It’s nice we have a quiet area of the beach where you don't have to be worried about people who don't know how to run boats,” said Nancy Chastain, a Bridgeport resident, who said she has “great concern for the integrity of Florida.”
People come to Anna Maria Island for the “quaintess and quietness” and lack of commercialization, she said, adding that kayak rentals are “a foot in the door for other things to happen.”
People already are illegally parking across Gulf Drive from Bridgeport, where the condo has installed no parking signs and temporary fencing and has plans to install ropes and bollards, she said.
Half of the beach access that Glennon plans to use belongs to Imperial House condos, resident Barbara Huff said, adding that the condo is in the process of fencing it off because people illegally park in vacant spaces at the condo to get to the beach.
“It will be unsafe for residents,” she said, adding that severe erosion in the area is causing people to walk on jagged rocks and on the protected sand dunes. “Kayaks will come in and out of that beach access.”
Most of the 70 owners at Imperial House condos did not receive notice of the hearing, she said. City Planner Alan Garrett said the required notice was sent to 143 addresses within 300 feet of the property.
David Miller, a resident of Summer Sands, brought letters from 13 owners opposed to the plan.
People illegally park in the condo parking garage to use the beach, and it’s hard to confront them, he said, adding, “We haven't even hit summer season much less winter season.”
With kayak and paddleboard rentals at Coquina Beach Bayside, the Palma Sola Causeway and Silver Surf Resort, more rentals are not needed, Huff said.
“Why do we need more kayaks?” asked Bonnie Ladewski. “Are we going to have these kiosks everywhere?”
Resident Jo Ann Meilner questioned whether the new business’ signs will count towards the signage allowed to the café. Gilbert said that the special exception permit that the board approved provides for a sign without requiring it be consistent or conforming.
Meilner asked what would stop other temporary uses such as a wood carver or jewelry maker from bringing in more signs. Garrett said the signs are permitted under special exception permits.
“Why would this be in favor of him and not the people? Gavrilis asked. “We are important too, and we hope you listen to us.”
The property is commercial, and the board’s stipulations address safety and signage, P&Z board member Bob Dale said.
Most residents’ concerns are with the Gulf Drive Café’s past issues, P&Z member Dan DeBaun said, adding that he doesn’t think the business will create more traffic problems.
P&Z board member Barbara Curtis expressed concern about the safety of swimmers in the water and people walking on the beach, especially when kayakers come ashore at a fast clip.
“I'm worried about somebody being hit,” she said.
“I’ve never seen anyone get hit. I'm out there when they come in,” Glennon said, adding that he asks customers not to land fast because it can damage the watercraft.
In other business, the P&Z board approved a plan to change the zoning of a city parking facility on Church Street from R-3 (residential multiple family) to PSP (public/semi-public), as designated by the city’s comprehensive plan. The re-designation would not allow any commercial activity on the lot, Garrett said.