The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 44 - August 28, 2013


Bowlers help the cause
Carol Whitmore

tom vaught | sun

Katie O’Connor with Rob Alderson, the men’s high series winner.

It was a fun time at the AMF Lanes in Bradenton last Saturday night as the Island’s best showed up to bowl in the 23rd Annual O’Connor Bowling Challenge for the Anna Maria Island Community Center children’s programs.

The lanes were almost all taken for the enthusiastic crowd and the snacks, beer and sodas were plentiful, thanks to the efficient workers at the bowling alley.

At the entrance, people checked in and bought raffle tickets for the many prizes donated by the business community and for the big screen television grand prize provided by The Sun newspaper.

The bowlers were playing not only for the cause, but also for trophies for highest game, highest series and lowest game for men and woman separately.

AMICC Executive Director Dawn Stiles was there not to bowl, but to help make things flow smoothly, which they did despite a discrepancy in the scoring. In fact, a complete list of trophy winners got misplaced.

After the games, the crowd reassembled at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar for a final snack, drinks and the presentation of the trophies and raffle winners.

At press time, The Sun listed Shawn Waters as the male high game winner with a 204, Debbie Pinkley as the women’s low game winner with a 41, Rob Alderson, from Tyler’s Ice Cream, as the men’s high series winner with a 536 and Kathy Gandergripf as the women’s high series with a 487. There was a discrepancy in one of the categories when someone filled out a false card, but as Mike O’Connor said, “We actually check out those things before we award a trophy.”

The Bowling Challenge has a new generation of O’Connors, Mike and Katie, running it and the organization of the event was flawless. Mike O’Connor, once again, was hilarious as the emcee, chiding one person for their handwriting on a winning ticket.

“Oh, I see someone allowed a two-year-old to fill out his ticket,” he said, prompting howls of laughter from the audience. As the winner got his prize, O’Connor said to him, “Next time put a little space between those letters.”

The event was capped off by the drawing for the big screen TV and Kathy Vandergrift did a dance at her table when she was announced as the winner.

Mayors pursue paid parking on Island

ANNA MARIA – Island elected officials discussed what appears to be inevitable – paid parking at Manatee Public Beach and selected areas in Anna Maria, including Bayfront Park

At last week’s meeting of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected officials, Dan Honyotski, of PSx told officials that his company offers both on and off street parking solutions.

“I talked with Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti about doing something with paid parking at Manatee Public Beach,” he said. “It makes sense to do a pay and display.

“In the center of the isles in each row, you put a pay machine where people walk up and pay the rate, get a receipt and put it on the dashboard.”

He said he made a proposal to Monti, and the city would be required to supply the 3- by 3-foot concrete pads and bollards to protect the machine.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn asked if the machines take credit cards. Honyotski said they take both credit cards and change, but not bills, which don’t work during rain events.

Anna Maria City Planner Alan Garrett asked if the receipts could be color coded for the days of the week, and Honyotski said it would be too labor intensive to change the tickets each day.

Limit the number

SueLynn asked if they could limit the number of tickets issued per day, and Garrett added that the city has only 100 spaces.

“Our issue is that we have finite space, but they’re spaced out and around the city,” SueLynn pointed out, “We’re trying to help people in those residential areas, which are slammed with people parking in front of the houses. We want to prevent some of the people from parking here. We want a limit.”

“I don’t understand how you would control that,” Honyotski replied. “If the machine stopped selling tickets and people left, nobody else could park.”

Monti asked the ticket capacity of the machine, and Honyotski said 6,000 or more.

SueLynn asked the cost of the machines, and Honyotski said the machine cost $8,491, delivery and mounting is $800 and shipping is $50. He said there is a monthly fee of $55 per machine for cell service, which includes credit card processing and reporting.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen said Manatee Public Beach would require nine machines and asked about street parking.

“You have to look at every situation,” Honyotski replied. “Depending on the location you might have to put two machines on each street. Normally the rule is 30 spaces per machine.”

Bradenton Beach is different

Peelen asked Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy about his city, and he said it’s a different situation because it has Coquina Beach with ample parking and does not allow parking on the rights of way.

Peelen said if the other two cities implement paid parking, people would go to Bradenton Beach. Honyotski said Coquina Beach would lend itself to a system where drivers get a ticket on the way in and pay on the way out.

SueLynn asked Honyotski if the company would train the city staff, and he said it would. Monti said he plans on hiring a meter maid in addition to police officers issuing tickets.

SueLynn asked how fast they could get machines and Honyotski said a month.

“The reason for all this is congestion, day trippers and revenue,” Monti said. “If we did 50 percent capacity at Manatee Public Beach at $10 per day, we’d have a month and a half payback. The upfront cost is minimal to the potential return.”

Peelen said her major reasons are to cut down on the number of cars and make it expensive to park, but the county should also consider providing a regular bus from 75th Street to the Island.

Monti said Honyotski is getting back to him with a quote that he plans to take to the city commission.

“The city commission is worried that whatever we do is in the best interests of the residents,” SueLynn said. “And that it bring in revenue and be simple and comprehensive. They said to come up with a plan, but I’ll have to go back to them.”

Shaughnessy said he would take the information to his city commission.

“If we come in with a uniform thought we’ll be successful,” Monti said.

City to attempt rental ban

ANNA MARIA – Despite language in the code that could be perceived as vague, the city commission wants to see if it can ban rentals from the residential districts.

The commissioners voted to find an example of a rental home in the R-1 and R-2 districts and take the owner to court to make a test case. Their hope is the court will issue a declaratory judgment as to whether rentals are banned in those neighborhoods.

Commissioner Chuck Webb, an attorney, wants the city to enforce single-family use in those districts.

Under the code, properties in the residential districts may be used for single-family detached dwellings, group home or foster care for no more than six people, mobile homes as allowed by FEMA, community residential homes licensed to serve six or fewer clients and two-family dwellings existing prior to April 1, 2009.

The code also states, “No building, structure land or water area shall be used for any purpose except those specifically identified as permitted accessory use or special exception cases.”

Webb said he wants to see if the code has language strong enough to ban rentals in the residential areas.

“The code says a rental house with three or more lodging units is a hotel,” Webb said.

“A lodging unit is a room you rent, like in a hotel,” said City Attorney Jim Dye. “I don’t think a room in a rented house is a lodging unit.”

Test case sought

Commissioner Doug Copeland asked if they could get a judge’s opinion on that point, and Webb said they could seek a declaratory judgment. Dye agreed, but said they would need to take somebody to court in order to get it. Dye estimated it would take between eight and 15 months.

Commissioner Gene Aubry said in the past, three families might go in together to rent a house, but things are different now.

“Now they’re building mini motels,” Aubry said. “When I look at plans and see four master bedroom suites, that is what is being built here. They’re not houses you would live in. That is a joke.”

Webb said the city is not equipped to fight that.

“They’re allowed to do that,” he said. “I am confident these are hotels under our definitions and they don’t belong there.”

Dye said, however, under a new state statute, they cannot treat rentals differently than other properties, so their hands would be tied.

Attorney Scott Rudacille asked if this tactic hadn’t been tried earlier.

“They passed it and city hall was full of people threatening to sue,” he said. “They rescinded it.”

“That isn’t the way I remember it,” Webb replied.

Copeland said the last time, the city tried to enforce the code. This time, it is seeking a judgment on the code before trying to enforce it.

On long-term rentals, Dye said if they get a ruling that these rentals are hotel/motels, it would affect long-term rentals too. Webb said if that’s the case, they could modify their codes.

Copeland said he was not comfortable tackling this subject at the meeting, but Webb disagreed.

“We’ve been talking about it for some time,” he said. “Now it’s time to fish or cut bait.”

The commission approved the measure 4-1 with Copeland voting no.


Island cities want more TDC money

ANNA MARIA –They want a greater share of the money that the county collects from the tourism tax said the three Island mayors at last week’s meeting of Island elected officials.

The tourism tax is five cents per dollar for accommodations renting for six months or less. The Tourist Development Council (TDC) makes recommendations to the county commission on how to spend the money.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said her city would like money for the city pier and parks; Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti said he would like money for beach improvements, such as beach access shelters and help with policing; and Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy said he would like money for the city’s pier.

Shaughnessy said the TDC money could only be spent for certain things.

“You need to get a specific proposal to the TDC,” Holmes Beach Commissioner and TDC member Jean Peelen advised. “Piers are fundable.”

SueLynn said she didn’t understand how the TDC could give money for the Manatee Players’ new theater, and Peelen said the rationale is to develop tourism in underdeveloped areas.

The Island cities contribute more than 50 percent of the tourist tax funds to the TDC.

HB 883

In other business, Peelen reported that she and SueLynn are continuing their efforts to have HB 883 repealed. This legislation states that local governments cannot single out vacation rentals for regulation,

“It’s a terrific attack on home rule,” Peelen said. “It took away our ability to stop big rental houses from being put in the middle of neighborhoods. Once you get one or two, neighbors start moving away.”

She said they have talked to the Manasota League of Cities that plans to approve a resolution asking legislators to repeal that section of the law, and they are speaking to other city commissions and lobbying local legislators.

SueLynn also suggested that the cities have their public works directors meet to discuss areas where they can work together, such as maintenance dredging of the canals.

Monti asked them to think about a uniform Island speed limit.

No takers yet for Bridge Street pier eatery

BRADENTON BEACH – Less than two weeks from the deadline for prospective tenants to file bids to operate the Bridge Street Pier restaurant, the city has received none.

The former restaurant, Rotten Ralph’s, closed in May when tenant Dave Russell paid $15,000 to the city to settle back rent that the city said amounted to $266,000.

The city commission finalized the terms of the new lease last week for the 110-seat, 1,900-sqaure-foot restaurant and two other commercial buildings at the pier. Some terms were designed to avoid the problems Rotten Ralph’s had, including allowing the new tenant to make partial payments on past due amounts with 18 percent interest, requiring written notification of any problems that lower sales and providing that the city will own any improvements the tenant makes free of liens.

Russell had said he fell behind on payments because his lease did not allow partial payments, and that storm damage to the pier had reduced his sales; he also had to get liens cleared on his equipment during the eviction.

Two interested parties who wished to remain anonymous said the lease terms would not leave enough of a profit to offset the startup costs of the restaurant.

The commission set the restaurant rent at $5,500 a month plus 12 percent of gross sales, with 3 percent increases per rental term. The initial lease is for two years with the option to renew for longer terms. If the city allows the tenant to sublease, the percentage for the new tenant would increase to 14 percent of gross sales.

Under the new lease, the tenant also will have to pay for daily garbage pickup, if necessary, to avoid odors annoying nearby residents; pay to have greasy mats cleaned off site, if unable to use the tight space provided on site; and pay for an air conditioning service contract.

The tenant also will be obligated to pay 20 percent of any common area maintenance costs, including the parking lot, which remains open to non-patrons, with the city paying 60 percent and the harbor master’s office and bait shop tenants paying 10 percent each. The common area extends from the front of the restaurant to the end of the parking lot, and excludes the fishing pier, but includes the restaurant patio on the pier.

Rent for the other buildings was set at $750 a month for the 214-square-foot bait shop and $550 a month for the 160-square-foot harbor master’s office, with no percentage of profit for those buildings. Bidders can bid on any or all of the buildings.

The deadline for bids is Friday, Sept. 6, at 3 p.m. Bid packages are available at under “News and Notices.”

Anna Maria considers lower millage

ANNA MARIA – The bad news for homebuyers is the value of homes and property on the Island is going up, but that’s good news to the three Island cities as they figure their budgets.

The city of Anna Maria initially proposed raising its millage, the property tax rate, from 2.05 to 2.10, which they calculated would raise $1,319,155. But after getting new figures from the county assessor’s office showing an 8 percent rise in the value of taxable land in the city, they applied that value to the original 2.05 figure. They found that it would bring in $1,287,747, a difference of $31,408.

At their final budget workshop last week, the commission worked on a budget that included a 3 percent pay raise for employees who worked a full year. Finance Director Diane Percycoe figured in 3 percent more for health insurance. The city also is planning on replacing part-time public works employees to four full-time employees with full benefits.

Commissioner Dale Woodland asked Mayor SueLynn to explain why the city is hiring full timers for public works, and she said the city needs to spend more man-hours on a daily basis to keep up with the workload.

“The bottom line is to keep people,” Public Works Director George McKay added. “We’ve gone through a number of part-timers in the last few years.”

Commissioner Doug Copeland asked how long it takes to train a new employee, and McKay said three months. Copeland said he understands why the high turnover since as part-timers, they have to reserve money from their paychecks to pay taxes and that means instead of making $10 per hour, they actually make about $7 per hour.

Woodland was concerned the increased income from the higher assessed values was being eaten up by higher salaries.

“It’s something we all should be concerned with,” he said. “I don’t feel this is a fiscally conservative budget.”

McKay said money was being set aside to fix up some of the beach walkovers, “because they are out in the elements all the time.”

The commission approved the budget at the 2.05 level. The city will hold two public budget hearings at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11 and 25.

Food Bank donations to be matched up to $100,000


Community leaders participating in the 2013 Grand Challenge.



Grand Challenge organizers announced that Mosaic Company Foundation and Manatee Community Foundation are offering significant financial support to the community’s effort to raise food and money for the Food Bank of Manatee County.

The Mosaic Company Foundation will match community contributions to the Food Bank of Manatee, dollar for dollar and dollar per pound, of donated food up to $100,000 throughout September.

The Manatee Community Foundation will contribute $30,000, which will be doubled as a result of the Mosaic Company Foundation match. For every dollar or pound of food the community contributes during September, the Mosaic Company Foundation will match it up to $70,000.

The Grand Challenge is asking local businesses, clubs and civic organizations to each raise 1,000 pounds of food, $1,000 in cash or a combination of the two throughout September.

Anyone interested can obtain a Food Bank food collection barrel by calling (941) 747-FOOD. Food Drive Kits can also be found on the website Throughout September a participating group can simply call the Food Bank to retrieve food from full collection barrels.

Committee considers permit parking

HOLMES BEACH – With only three members present, the Island congestion committee discussed a variety of topics last week, but made no decisions.

Chair Dick Motzer said he researched permit parking and suggested that it could be imposed from the 300 block of Gulf Drive east, with non-permit parking allowed in the 100 and 200 blocks, possibly on one side of the street.

“If they did permit parking, they’d have to map out where permit parking is allowed and not allowed,” Police Chief Bill Tokajer said. “Each residence would be allowed a certain number of permits.”

Motzer said some cities issue permits according to the number of bedrooms.

“If you have a three bedroom rental, you’re supposed to have three parking spots,” Tokajer said. “If it’s residential, you have what your driveway allows, and you can park in the road wherever it’s permitted.

“If we do permits, we can say if you have three bedrooms and two cars in your driveway, we’ll give you one permit (to park in the right of way), not three.

Member Carol Soustek said in Indian Rocks Beach, residents with permits park in the street, allowing guests to park in the driveway. She felt they should pursue permits to “to relive the residents of this problem. It’s getting close to tourist season, and it is just overload.”

She suggested they research cities that have permit parking to see how they manage it.

Tokajer said they could implement a bar code system and noted, “You want it to be something that’s easily monitored.”

Motzer asked what police do if a visitor leaves town and doesn’t pay a parking fine, and Tokajer said the department can put a hold on their driver’s license and tag.

Beach parking concern

Tokajer continued to express concerns about the safety of beachgoers parking close to the road on the south side of Manatee Avenue leading to Manatee Public Beach.

“We looked at the possibility of angle parking there, but state law prohibits a municipality from implementing it on a state road,” he explained. “I looked at where the actual problems are, and the area where you get to the bank going east, it’s very narrow.”

He asked committee members to look at the area and give their input and said he would put no parking signs in the narrow area and see how it works.

Motzer sad he received six e-mails from residents and four were in favor of fees and permits. One person was concerned about vehicles blocking driveways, excessive noise, keeping children safe by keeping strangers out of neighborhoods and preserving the character of the residential districts.

“We’re trying to keep people from using the residential neighborhoods as their bathrooms and trash deposits,” Motzer aid.

Tokajer said people who see visitors leave trash or use their outdoor showers or hoses can call the police department and they will respond.

Motzer asked about the required parking spaces for beach renourishment, and Tokajer said he did not get the figures from the building official yet. Soustek said she got the numbers from a Commissioner Marvin Grossman, and there are 2,100 in the project area that includes all three cities.

Soustek said the document shows 281 at Manatee Public Beach, and Tokajer said one of his officers counted 400. He said there are 1,200 at Coquina Beach.

Motzer announced the committees meeting dates for September through November: Sept. 16 and 30, Oct. 7 and 21 and Nov. 4 and 18.

parking permit or business parking permit. Handicap parking would be exempt with a valid handicap placard.

• Timed parking on Bridge Street: Enforce timed parking restrictions on Bridge Street to promote a turnover of clientele and prevent day trippers from parking all day while on the beach. Bridge Street business owners who wish to park in front of their establishment all day could pay a small fee for a permit that would also be valid for free use of municipal lots.
• Employee parking at Coquina Bayside Park: Provide employee parking at the north end of Coquina Bayside using independent shuttle operators to transport workers to and from businesses.
• Land development code changes: Changes in the LDC would address outdoor dining and parking requirements to ensure the city does not add more seating without adequate parking provisions.

Robertson said she plans to discuss the feasibility of a priority lane on Cortez Road east of the Cortez bridge on Monday, Oct. 7, at 3 p.m. at the Scenic WAVES meeting at city hall.

“A call will go out to all residents, resort owners, commercial establishments, rental property agents, etc. who provide private parking on their premises and would be interested in having priority access to the Island,” she said.

“My focus will not be on trying to provide parking spaces to day trippers. My focus will be on providing priority access to those who live and do business here and their clients and guests.”

Day trippers should be directed to park at Coquina Beach and use the trolley system, she said, and if they choose to drive a vehicle on the Island, they would have to stay in traffic gridlock until the priority lane clears.

The cost is “remarkably low,” she said, requiring FDOT approval to have personnel on Cortez Road on weekends and holidays to direct traffic.

Robertson said that some of Gatehouse’s proposals were generated by studies done through the Scenic WAVES Partnership, adding that the city has not complied with the Waterfronts Florida and Scenic Highway mandate that all projects be presented to the Scenic WAVES board for approval.

She also said that she agrees that police should enforce the three-hour parking limit on Bridge Street.

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