The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 41 - August 7, 2013


Long Bar Pointe compromise reached during marathon meeting

Map Amendment Vote:
Whitmore - Yes
Benac – Yes
Baugh - Yes
Bustle - Yes
Chappie - No
DiSabatino - No
Gallen - No

Text Amendment Vote:
Whitmore - No
Benac – No
Baugh - No
Bustle - No
Chappie - No
DiSabatino - No
Gallen - No

BRADENTON – After twelve and a half hours of discussion that included five and a half hours of citizen input, Manatee County Commissioners and Long Bar Pointe developers reached a compromise granting a requested mixed-use land use designation, while denying changes to the county comp plan that would have allowed for the construction of a publically-opposed marina.

Commissioners unanimously denied a text amendment request that would have allowed for a marina by removing environmental protections for mangroves, sea grasses and Sarasota Bay.

After further discussion, commissioners approved a modified map amendment to the county comp plan by a 4-3 measure – an amendment granted only after Long Bar Pointe attorney Ed Vogler asked that the marina be removed from the proposal.

The mixed-use designation allows developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman to move forward with design plans for a revamped project that would likely include residential units, a hotel, commercial, retail and office space, restaurant space and a conference center – all mentioned in the original comp plan proposal.

With the controversial marina now off the table, it remains to be seen if the conference center will remain part of the plan.

The mixed-used designation allows for a wide variety of commercial uses beyond those previously mentioned by the developers. These potential uses range from a bowling alley or a movie theater to a hospital or animal clinic – none of which were included in the original comp plan amendment documents submitted by developers.  

The bureaucratic drama played out inside the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto – a venue chosen to accommodate the large crowd.

An estimated 800 people were on hand when the meeting commenced at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. By the time commissioners handed down their map amendment decision at 1:55 a.m. Wednesday morning only 100 or so diligent audience members remained.

Many Long Bar Pointe opponents wore “Save Our Bay” t-shirts, while supporters donned green buttons or baseball caps that simply said, “Yes.”

Of the 150 citizens who signed up for public comment, only eight spoke in favor of the proposed development.

Citizen concerns included mangrove removal, natural habitat destruction, dredging, damage to sea grass, increased traffic, hurricane evacuation, noise and light pollution, soil erosion, flooding, increased blight and negative economic impacts.

Supporters of the development touted “bold” design, positive economic impact, job creation, increased tourism, confidence in the ability to mitigate environmental impact, the benefits of urban design and greater access to the waterfront.

Commissioners Carol Whitmore, Betsy Benac, Vanessa Baugh and Chair Larry Bustle voted in favor of the modified mixed-use map amendment once the marina was removed.

Whitmore encouraged developers to “go above and beyond” county standards when designing their mixed-use project, while throughout the evening checking her phone for updates pertaining to her daughter Janae’s pending childbirth.

Benac expressed her desire for something other than just another gated community while expressing confidence that protections remain in place to prevent the construction of a marina, boat ramps or any other means of accessing the water – other than a scenic boardwalk, which would likely be allowed.   

Commissioners John Chappie, Robin DiSabatino and Michael Gallen voted against the modified map amendment and expressed concerns about remaining consistent with the county comp plan, assuring continued environmental protections and avoiding future legal action.

Gallen repeatedly conveyed apprehension about the degree and accuracy of the staff analysis pertaining to the project, due in part to the lack of specifics provided by developers.

While leaving the convention center, some opponents of the proposed development expressed disappointment with the decision to grant the mixed-use designation, hoping instead for complete denial of the map and text amendments requested by developers.

With the mixed-use allowance in hand, the Long Bar Pointe development team now has the opportunity to present more detailed plans and documents to commissioners as the design process moves forward. Beruff and Lieberman could also sell the newly designated property to another developer if they decide they want out.

Should the design process continue, commissioners and county staff would have additional input on how the final project would look.

(Community reaction and follow-up coverage of the Long Bar Pointe decision will appear in the Aug. 14 print version of the Anna Maria Island Sun)


Mixed messages on Long Bar project

MANATEE COUNTY – County commissioners received strong messages from both sides of the Long Bar Pointe debate prior to the Aug. 6 public hearing expected to determine the scope of the controversial development proposal.

On Thursday, July 25, attorney William Moore, acting on behalf of Long Bar Pointe developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman, filed a lawsuit with the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Manatee County.

The suit names Manatee County as the defendant in seeking compensation for land used to build the El Conquistador Parkway that borders the Long Bar Pointe property formerly owned by Lieberman and now owned by Beruff.

The lawsuit contends that Lieberman did not receive proper written notice of the right of way land exaction required for the road construction prior to a predetermined 2010 deadline – although e-mail conversations dating back to 2009 suggest otherwise.

In response to the lawsuit, County Attorney Mickey Palmer, said, “We are mindful of the filing and I have read the complaint, but until such time as we file an answer to the complaint, I would say no, we don’t have an official response. The county was not expecting this lawsuit. It was a surprise.”

He then said, “I am unwilling to speculate as to what the motivations of the developers are in bringing this lawsuit, but I can assure you that I will advise my client (the county commissioners) not to be impacted, swayed or affected in any way in their deliberations in terms of the filing of this lawsuit.”

Surmising developer intent, Palmer said, “The developers seem to be seeking to have the local development agreement that was entered into a number of years ago declared unconstitutional or unlawful by a circuit judge. They are basically asking a judge to make a determination that the additional right of way for El Conquistador Parkway that we asked them to dedicate was essentially an unlawful exaction, that their hand was forced.”

The 20-page legal document does not list specific compensation sought for the 102 acres mentioned in the suit.

“They are presumably looking to be compensated for the fair market value of that real estate, whatever that might be,” Palmer explained.

At one time Lieberman considered paying for the road himself, but the expected cost nullified that scenario. In 2011, construction of the parkway began, with county taxpayers footing the bill.

Efforts to contact Long Bar Pointe attorney Ed Vogler proved unsuccessful, but Vogler recently told a Bradenton media outlet that the lawsuit had nothing to do with the comp plan amendments sought by Beruff and Lieberman.

Many question the timing of the lawsuit, but Vogler claimed it was simply a matter of necessity brought on by a pending statute of limitations.

The next step in the process entails scheduling a preliminary hearing so a judge can determine if there was an unlawful taking of property.

No Conflict for Benac, attorney says

In an action unrelated to the El Conquistador Parkway lawsuit, Palmer issued a memo on July 26 pertaining to County Commissioner Betsy Benac’s former role as a paid consultant to Lieberman.

“It is thus my considered conclusion that Commissioner Benac does not have a voting conflict,” Palmer wrote, also expressing his opinion that campaign contributions made by Lieberman and Beruff do not create a conflict of interest for commissioners in regard to the Long Bar Pointe development proposal.

Petition drive fueled by citizen concern

On Thursday Aug. 1, Long Bar Pointe opponents personally delivered 1,000 petition signatures to the office of Manatee County commissioners.

When Save the Manatee County Shoreline activist and former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann was asked what message she hoped the action sent to commissioners, she said, “People are very interested in what happens – everyday citizens, not just those that contributed to their campaigns.”

According to Long Bar Pointe opponent Ed Goff, 5,489 petition signatures opposing the development had been collected by various groups as of Friday Aug. 2 – a figure that included 1,637 paper petition signatures and more than 3,800 signatures collected online by various opposition groups.

Tree house declared in violation

HOLMES BEACH – After a daylong hearing, code enforcement board members found tree house owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen, 103 29th Street, in violation of 10 sections of the land development code.

The city has maintained that the tree house was constructed without a permit and encroaches 20 feet into the erosion control line. The couple was ordered to remove the violations or demolish the structure by Aug. 28.

“We knew it would happen,” Tran said. “Our attorney prepared us for it, but we had hoped something would change. I’ll fix what I can, but they need to be reasonable about what will work now.

“Three city commissioners saw it being built, and I told them there was no permit. Now they put it all back on us. It’s frustrating that they don’t accept any responsibility.”

The hearing began at 10 a.m. on July 30 with Tran’s attorney, David Levin, introducing three motions – one for continuance in order to hear from Tran/Hazen’s engineer, one to stay the case or continue it pending outcome of Tran/Hazen’s court case against the city and one for denial of due process.

All were denied, but Code Board Attorney Michael Connolly pointed out that the hearing could be continued at any point in order to introduce additional evidence.

City’s case

City Attorney Jim Dye presented the city’s case and said, “It’s a simple case of construction next to the Gulf without a permit, and it creates a lot of violations.”

Dye first questioned Building Official Tom O’Brien, who said the issue was brought to the building department’s attention in November 2011, when Code Enforcement Officer David Forbes observed the structure and contacted Steve West, of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

In a statement dated May 31, 2013, Forbes said he was directed by the department head to issue a letter requesting a survey and engineering report, and “in this letter, it was implied that the city would consider issuing a letter of no objection to Hazen/Tran after review of the requested documents.”

He said the city did not receive the documents until January and April 2013 and noted, “During this lapse in time, the DEP issued several deadlines for Hazen/Tran to voluntarily remove the structure” which were met with motions filed by their attorney.

“After over a year, it was made known to the city that an application for an after the fact permit would be accepted for review by the DEP, if the letter of no objection was obtained from Holmes Beach.”

However, in May, O’Brien said his office would not supply that letter and made the determination that it is not in compliance with the Florida Building Code. In addition, he said they could not obtain a variance because according to the floodplain management code, the city could grant an after the fact variance.

In a June letter, he advised Hazen/Tran to contact his office and begin the process of removing the violations.

O’Brien also maintained that Hazen/Tran had altered the dune system in front of their property. Chair Don Schroder asked how that affected the building permit issue, and O’Brien said the structure creates damage to the dune system and is it his duty to require replanting.

Hazen/Tran respond

Levin questioned O’Brien about his reference to the structure as a recreational facility, site plan review requirements, code interpretations and special exception uses. He also discussed the verbal approval for the structure given by former Building Inspector Bob Shaffer.

He then questioned Hazen, who said he asked Shaffer about building a tree house in an Australian pine, and “he said there’s nothing in the books, make it safe, don’t let anybody fall out of it; it’s your responsibility.”

When questioned by Dye and Levin, Shaffer said when Hazen inquired about building a tree house, he told them there were no regulations concerning the construction of tree houses.

Hazen said Shaffer did not ask to see plans or the size of the structure and did not advise him to submit a site plan application. He said two professional carpenters began work with in a week, and Levin asked numerous questions about the construction of the structure.

Dye asked about use, and Hazen said it is for family and friends only, and it is secured by locks, a security light that blinks if anyone approaches and security cameras.

Board members questioned Hazen about use, size, furnishings, stability, prompting him to declare, “It’s just a tree house. It’s not a home.”

Levin asked Tran about the beach and its history of erosion. She said when they bought the property in 1999, there were no dunes or plants, and they had to sandbag the property during major storms.

She said they landscaped it, and West advised them to plant sea oats to establish a dune system, but Hurricanes Debby and Isaac washed out the vegetation and dune area last year.

Arguments and deliberations

“It is the policy of the city that you cannot do construction without approval,” Dye stressed. “How can someone come in and say, ‘You have to forgive us. We’re just building a rustic little tree house?’ This is not a kid’s tree house. The city cannot allow it. The violation has been proven.”

Levin said, “There’s no question that had the building official asked for further information, Mr. Hazen would have provided it. We relied in good faith on someone in a position to know and spent thousands of dollars to build a structure in plain view. The city never saw it or didn’t tell the Hazens it was in violation until it was too late.”

Board member Tom Creed asked if it is the responsibility of the city to see the violation and stop it or the property owner’s obligation to go to the city and ask if it is allowed.

Levin said it did not occur to them to go to the city and ask, but Dye said. “The law puts the obligation on the property owner to stay in compliance with the law.”

After a brief discussion, board member John Wize moved to dismiss the charge regarding the dunes – development activities contiguous to the coastline and environmentally sensitive lands – and it was approved by a vote of 6-1.

As they began to discuss the other violations, Levin urged them to defer judgment until the court rules on their lawsuit, which, in part, maintains that the city’s ordinance amending the LDC is defective and conflicts with Florida Statute regarding construction within 50 feet of the ECL.

However, Dye urged them to continue.

Once board members agreed on the violations, Connolly crafted the board’s order, which ordered Hazen/Tran to:

• Pay the city all fines and penalties as a result of constructing or substantially altering a structure with out building permit;

• Contact the building department and begin the process of removing the violations or if the structure cannot be constructed within code, obtain a demolition permit and remove it;

• Pay the city’s costs.

Levin objected to the third point and cited a city of Sarasota case in which it was ruled that charging staff time is not appropriate for code cases. Dye agreed if Levin provided the case.

Kayak, paddleboard rentals approved at Gulf Drive Café
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


The Gulf Drive Café now offers kayak and paddleboard rentals.


BRADENTON BEACH – Commissioners approved Kayak Jack’s request to rent paddleboards and kayaks at the Gulf Drive Café until Dec. 31, allowing time to monitor the operation in light of opposing neighbors’ concerns about traffic and safety.

The board voted 3-1, with Jan Vosburgh opposed, to allow the business to open with several stipulations, including that all customers must use the Gulf Drive Café beach access, not the public beach access, and if the business has any adverse impacts, the commission may close the business as it did with a beach market at the café last year.

Other stipulations recommended by the planning and zoning board and adopted by the commission are the hours of operation, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., a limit of eight kayaks and paddleboards on display, no motorized watercraft, no watercraft larger than 21 feet, two-sided signs are not to exceed six square feet per side and must be set back 25 feet from Gulf Drive and no items may be stored on the beach, according to City Planner Alan Garrett.

The business is expected to open this week, said Michael Benson, manager of the Gulf Drive Café.

“We’re trying to give a young entrepreneur the chance to have a small business,” he said. “It’s a few paddleboards and a couple of kayaks, and it’s not going to have a negative impact on traffic.”

Mostly restaurant customers are expected to use the service, he said.

During a trial run of the business, all customers walked up from the beach, John “Kayak Jack” Glennon said.

“I don’t anticipate parking anybody,” he said, adding that the kayaks will be set up and taken down each day, and will not be available on days when the water is too rough, to prevent accidents and people kayaking in on waves, making hard landings.

“I don't think people are going to drive to the Island to specifically rent a paddleboard or kayak,” said Commissioner Ric Gatehouse, who suggested the conditional approval.

A friend and customer of Glennon’s told commissioners that Glennon has a high regard for safety and regulations and that the business will allow people who can’t afford to buy kayaks or paddleboards an opportunity to enjoy them.

Opposition speaks

Vosburgh opposed the business, saying that the city lost 20 percent of its residents between 2000 and 2010 because the Island is becoming a resort.

“It’s time we start thinking about our citizens,” she said, noting her main concern is the business’ impact on traffic on Gulf Drive.

Several neighboring residents also spoke against the business, saying it would pose safety hazards for swimmers and beachgoers and would generate more traffic in an already overcrowded area.

Many of them had previously complained to the planning and zoning board that Gulf Drive is too congested at the café, where a traffic fatality occurred in the pedestrian walkway last year.

Bonnie Ladewski said the business is too close to the kayak rentals at a nearby resort. A kayak rental truck also is available at the Palma Sola Causeway, said Barbara Hug, a neighboring resident.

“We’re constantly chasing cars off our property,” she said, adding that beachgoers often trespass on her condominium’s property looking for restrooms. “It’s just not something that we want across the street from us.”

Glennon’s girlfriend/co-worker suggested that neighbors concerned about trespassers should install gates or hire security guards.

People learning to kayak and paddleboard will pose a safety hazard to swimmers, Hug said, echoing the concerns of other neighbors.

Another neighbor said that the Gulf Drive Café already monopolizes the public beach in front of its property when it hosts weddings there and expressed concern that the business will further reduce access to the beach for residents.

Glennon had requested a continuance from a previous meeting hoping for a vote by the full board, but only four members of the commission were present, including Vosburgh by Skype. He decided against asking for a second continuance after learning that Commissioner Gay Breuler would not be present at the next meeting.


Monti makes proposal to police Anna Maria

HOLMES BEACH – Mayor Carmel Monti has submitted a proposal for Holmes Beach to police the city of Anna Maria.

Monti made the proposal to Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn last week. Both he and Chief Bill Tokajer declined to comment other than to say that they made the proposal and now it’s up to Anna Maria to respond.

The cost for the first year is listed as $485,000, as opposed to the Sheriff’s Office 2013-14 proposal to Anna Maria, which is $615,543.73.

According to Holmes Beach’s proposal, “In order to adequately provide law enforcement coverage for the city of Anna Maria, HBPD will hire four additional officers, bringing the total police coverage for both municipalities to 19 officers, including four sergeants, one detective, one police chief and seven dispatch/clerical personnel.”

The proposal said the cities would be divided into three zones – one from 27th Street to 52nd Street; one from 53rd Street to 77th Street, including Key Royale; and one from 77th Street to include all of Anna Maria city. Patrols would be in 12-hour shifts with one officer per zone supervised by a sergeant.

Benefits and cost breakdown

The proposal lists the benefits as:

• Increase manpower;
• Local dispatch;
• Consolidation of services;
• Lower cost;
• Around the clock, on site supervision.
The cost breakdown is:
• Four patrol officers @ $93,000 per year, $372,000;
• Support staff/dispatch, $35,2450;
• Overtime (capped), $4,000;
• Training and per diem (capped), $4,000;
• Vehicle and maintenance, $45,750;
• Uniforms and equipment, $24,000.
The contract would increase by 6 percent annually to $514,00 in the second year, $544,946 in the third year, $577,643 in the fourth year and $612,302 in the fifth year.

Sheriff’s proposal

The Sheriff’s Office proposal shows the following figures:

• Salaries and benefits, $556,448;
• Professional services, $$3,819.89;
• Training/travel, $3,500
• Communications, $464.64;
• Vehicles, $0;
• Insurance and bond, $5,194;
• Auto repairs, $2,800;
• Radio repairs and depreciation, $5,026;
• Office supplies, $135;
• Gas, oil and other, $34,095.60;
• Ammunition, $525;
• Uniforms and accessories, $1,575;
• Uniform cleaning, $1,960.
This is a reduction of $55,355.38 from the Sheriff’s Office 2012-13 budget.

Lifeguards produce rip current safety video

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – They’re smaller – and deadlier – than you think.

Rip currents are usually only 10 to 20 yards wide, but they have caused more than 250 deaths in Florida waters since 1995, according to a new safety video produced by Manatee County’s Marine Rescue Division.

Florida is number one in the U.S. for rip current deaths, according to Marine Rescue Captain Joe Westerman, who advises always swimming at one of the two lifeguarded beaches, Coquina Beach or Manatee Public Beach.

If the water is rough, chances are there are rip currents, one of the tips highlighted in the three-minute video on the county’s YouTube site, The video will be webcast on MGA-TV, and will be on cable at Bright House channel 622, Verizon channel 30 and Comcast channel 20.

If you’re caught in a rip current, you will feel a strong pull that weakens as you get farther from shore, he said, advising that once you feel it weaken, begin swimming parallel to shore or at a 45 degree angle to shore, not directly back into the current.

Check beach warning flags at the lifeguard stands for rip current conditions, and always stay near children in the water, lifeguards advise.

Marine Rescue staff members are available for public presentations on drowning prevention and beach safety. Call 941-749-3500, ext. 8355.

Bidding open for pier


The former Rotten Ralph’s restaurant on the
Bridge Street Pier and its two out buildings are
up for bid.

BRADENTON BEACH – The city commission has published its request for proposals seeking concessionaires interested in leasing the Bridge Street Pier restaurant, bait shop and harbor master’s office.

The minimum required bid is set at $5,500 a month plus 12 percent of gross sales for the restaurant and at $750 a month for the bait shop and $550 a month for the harbor master’s office, with no percentage of profit for those buildings, according to the RFP.

The lease is for two years with a three-year renewal option and a subsequent five-year renewal option.

Commissioners last week set common area maintenance costs at 60 percent for the city, 20 percent for the restaurant tenant, 10 percent for the harbor master’s office tenant and 10 percent for the bait shop tenant. The commission defined the common area as extending from the front of the restaurant to the end of its parking lot, excluding the pier, but did not discuss actual dollar figures for the maintenance costs.

The restaurant has 1,041 square feet inside and 855 square feet outside, with an occupancy limit of 60 people inside and 50 people outside. The bait shop has 214 square feet and the harbor master’s office has 160 square feet.

A pre-proposal conference for bidders to learn more about the RFP is set for Thursday, Aug. 15, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the restaurant with Police Chief Sam Speciale and city Building Official Steve Gilbert.

Bid packages are available at The deadline to bid is Friday, Sept. 6, at 3 p.m.

Traffic delineators returning

BRADENTON BEACH – Beachgoers parking on private beachfront property across Gulf Drive from Bridgeport, Gulf Watch and Imperial House condos prompted condo residents last week to ask the commission to replace reflective traffic delineators there.

George Turner, president of Gulf Watch, made the written request and presented it at the commission meeting last week on behalf of all three condo associations.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will not allow the condos to install rocks or posts along the beach, he said, adding that previously installed traffic delineators were removed without the condo associations being consulted.

Barbara Hug, a member of the Imperial House board of directors, told commissioners that the stake-and-tape fence that the condos have installed is a temporary measure to keep people off the property, where native vegetation has been trampled, she said.

The commission denied funds for a landscape plan to keep cars off the strip of beach along Gulf Drive earlier this year, she added.

The delineators were removed because they threatened the integrity of Gulf Drive’s Scenic Highway designation, according to resident Janie Robertson.

The commission agreed to contact the Florida Department of Transportation to have the delineators reinstalled.

Fuel tanks

The commission approved a proposal for Florida Tower Partners to pay up to $30,000 for an environmental study on the fuel tanks buried at the proposed telecommunications tower site on city property.

The site contains three buried fuel tanks – one 1,000-gallon leaded gas tank, one 1,000-gallon unleaded gas tank and one 500-gallon diesel gas tank – and a partial test on one of them showed no contamination, according to Kevin Barile, of Ridan Industries.

Police Chief Sam Speciale said that the tanks were filled with cement about 30 years ago, but the DEP permit was never closed, adding there is no other place in the city suitable for the tower.

Ridan and Florida Tower Partners are willing to fund the study to close the permit, and will deduct the cost from the $350,000 payment it would owe the city when it begins the tower’s construction, he said.

In other business, the board agreed to write Manatee County commissioners a letter of objection to the proposed Long Bar Pointe development in Bradenton.

Meteors coming soon to a sky near you

The annual Perseids meteor shower will peak on Aug. 11-13 this year, NASA predicts, with the best viewing times between 10:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.

With lights out for sea turtles on Anna Maria Island and the moon just a crescent, the beaches should be a good vantage point to see the phenomenon, which happens when the dust trailing behind the comet Swift-Tuttle hits the Earth’s atmosphere.

The meteors, smaller than a grain of rice, can come as fast as one per minute and sometimes leave lingering trails.

Fireballs – or meteors at least as bright as the planets Jupiter or Venus – are expected to hit the atmosphere at 132,000 m.p.h. in the early morning, just before sunrise.

For the best viewing, Bishop Planetarium in Bradenton recommends using a reclining beach chair and reminds viewers to bring water and insect repellant.

And don’t use flashlights, lanterns, cell phones or flash cameras to allow everyone’s eyes to adjust to the dark and to avoid disorienting sea turtles; if you see turtles, don’t approach them – it could disturb their nesting or hatching.

Instead, look up, and watch the children of the Greek god Perseus, whose constellation produces the meteors.

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