The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 46 - September 11, 2013


Paid parking foes seek alternatives
Carol Whitmore


Some residents have begun putting up their
own signs in the right of way.


HOLMES BEACH – Some members of the Island Congestion Committee, as well as a couple of residents, put the brakes on a plan to promote permits for residents and paid parking at the public beach.

“Saying no to parking and not inviting people is not how we all got here,” committee member Peggi Davenport stressed at Thursday’s meeting. “Slamming that door on people’s faces is rude.”

“People are beside themselves about meters at the public beach,” added resident Nicole Quigley. “Charging for parking turns us into a gated community.”

Chair Carol Soustek began the dialogue by advocating resident stickers to solve the parking and congestion problem that some feel is adverselyaffecting residents.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that permits (should be given) to residents only,” she explained. “The reasoning is to encourage visitors to use public transportation – bikes, walking. If they don’t have permits that allow them to park, they’ll leave their cars home.”

Identify the problem

Committee member Bob Johnson asked, “What problem are we solving?”

Soustek said to discourage visitors from parking on side streets.

When asked if it is a problem, Police Chief Bill Tokajer said the department has been issuing a considerable number of parking tickets, and he gets complaints from residents who don’t think people should park in front of their houses.

Johnson asked if Tokajer had data to identify how extreme the problem is, and Tokajer said he has daily reports.

Jaynie Christenson, of 49th Street, said when the public beach lot is full, visitors park in their neighborhood, and create a safety issue for children and urinate and leave trash in their yards. She said there also has been an increase in robberies.

Mayor Carmel Monti asked if people park in the right of way, and Christenson said they do. Monti said they have right to do so.

“I don’t think there’s one solution,” Soustek said, “but permits are the easiest to start with. I think we would offer it to the entire Island.”

Monti said he also is advocating a parking garage at the public beach, and resident Lance Spotts said, “People would still park in the street because more will come.”

“Why don’t we find ways to park as opposed to ways you can’t park,” Johnson said.

Other solutions

“Have you ever lived in a zoned parking area?” Quigley asked. “I did in Washington, D.C., and it’s terrible. You can’t have people over for Thanksgiving dinner or Sunday lunch because you don’t have a parking space at your own house to have the most basic family events. It’s a solution that just pushes the problem to other areas.”

She said one solution would be to offer more opportunities and incentives for people to park in town.

Spotts said the city could sponsor golf cart shuttles and pointed to Gulf Boulevard in Anna Maria that has an off loading area where a shuttle could pick up people.

Davenport suggested offering parking at churches, the library and banks that are not open on holidays and weekends and added, “Solving the problem is finding parking spots for them, so they can come and enjoy the beautiful beach that God gave us. Some things should be free.”

Spotts agreed and said, “People have the right to go to the beach. The underpaid laborer should have a place to take his wife and kids and go to the beach.”

“Why should tourists have a problem paying?” Monti responded. “Every single town along this coast is charging for parking and many have tolls.

“Why should we be the exception when we have the best and most beautiful beaches? Why do we not have the ability to try to deal with congestion by charging and/or giving more parking spaces””

“Because you’re putting the burden on the backs of the working families and the poor,” Quigley responded.

“A lot of Manatee County residents are very upset with this Island,” Davenport said.

“I know that,” Monti acknowledged. “I got about 20 hate mails last night.”

Acting on options

Tokajer said St. Bernard Church has closed off its parking lot because of problems, and Davenport suggested that the city provide the church with trash cans. Tokajer said they also could offer port-a-lets.

Monti said it wouldn’t be as convenient for people to use offsite lots without a shuttle to pick them up, but the Manatee County Tourist Development Council might provide money to offer that service.

Tokajer suggested free parking in the offsite lots and paid parking at the public beach because it would help pay for officers to patrol the offsite lots.

Johnson said they should take one step at a time by first “offering the overflow areas and then assessing that.”

Carol Carter, an Anna Maria commission candidate, said she agreed with Tokajer, but would add eliminating parking on one side of narrow streets.

Soustek asked for volunteers to explore options. Davenport and Quigley said they would approach St. Bernard Church, Carter said she would check with the Church of the Annunciation, Monti said he would find out about liability insurance and work with Spotts on golf carts and bicycles, Christenson said she would approach the school and Johnson said he would work with the library and some other locations.

Soustek said she is pleased that people are offering options and asked more residents and visitors to add their input.

Agreement reached on Mainsail project
Carol Whitmore


Some of the Mainsail project has been scaled back,
including the number of boat slips in the marina, cut from 75 to 50.



HOLMES BEACH – Those who said this wouldn’t happen until hell freezes over better get out their parkas because the two opposing parties came to an agreement on the Mainsail issue at last last Wednesday’s mediation hearing.

The main concessions made by Mainsail Development Company’s representatives to city officials were the removal of Building D, which is the proposed unit nearest Sunrise Lane, and parking requirements.

The deal was four hours in the making at this second hearing before Special Magistrate Steve Seibert, the first of which was in June. The company had requested the mediation after the city commission revoked its site plan for its development near the corner of Gulf and Marina drives.

At the outset, Seibert explained, “I am not a judge, This is not a trial. This is not a public hearing, but a public proceeding. I will take public comment.

“We are not here to relive the past, but to talk about the alternatives on the floor and find some common ground. My job is to create a forum for people to have a meaningful conversation. My responsibility is to facilitate a resolution of the conflict between the owner and the governmental entity.”

The amended offer

Mainsail attorney Robert Lincoln first stressed that Mainsail relies on certain rights regarding density and setbacks that were approved in a special exception in 2001. He then outlined the company’s latest amended offer responding to the city’s requests, which included:

• A reduction of the total number of units;
• The removal of Building A from the spit that juts into the boat basin;
• The removal of a portion of Building B on the spit;
• The reorganization of Building C to stair step the units and lessen their visual effect;
• The modification of Building D by removing one level and stair stepping the units away from Sunrise Lane
• The reduction of restaurant seating in the lodge from 120 to 80;
• The reduction of boat slips in the marina from 75 to 50.

Regarding parking, Lincoln said all tandem parking has been removed, and there are now 97 parking spaces on site with parking under Building C, the lodge and Buildings D and E. Once the final design for the project is completed, he said they plan to assign spaces to the specific uses and asked that it be evaluated based on the current code.

He said there would be no habitable space above 36 feet in the lodge, but the code allows for screening of equipment on the roof up to one third of the roof area.

Along Sunrise Lane behind Building D, the company plans a row of 6-foot cedar trees. Lincoln said the company owns 20 feet of the street, which it would use for emergency access and offered to participate in maintenance of the street.

“Now you’ve got a plan that responds to the requests,” Mainsail President Joe Collier concluded.

Parking position

Commissioner Judy Titsworth questioned the parking proposal and said, “All the parking was specifically stated in the first resolution. That needs to be decided now instead of later.

“When they provided for parking, they used the new parking standards. When the original resolution was made there were different standards. It’s like they’re picking and choosing what codes they want to use.”

“We have 30 percent more spaces than we need,” pointed out Mainsail Development Director Brian Check, adding that some uses are accessory uses, not stand alone uses, such as the restaurant in the lodge, and the requirements are different

Titsworth said she wants each use to have a designated amount of parking, and Lincoln said it would be part of the site plan and she is being unreasonable.

“If they have 10 extra parking spaces and they want to use them to add seats to the restaurant, we would let any other restaurant do that,” City Attorney Patricia Petruff pointed out. “What difference would it make if they came in after the fact?”

Titsworth said they have not proven they can provide parking for all the uses. Check said they need the site plan to make that determination and noted, “If we don’t have the spaces, we don’t get the uses.”

Collier added, “If we’re going to designate parking today, I don’t see how we can get there. I can’t spend any more money on drawings. These things all have to go through building official approval. We’ve given up all the things you asked us for.”

Titsworth said they spent money to have Lincoln send them what she perceived as a threatening letter.

“Why is it OK for you to revoke my site plan and leave me with nothing, but when I defend my position it’s a threat?” Collier asked.

Reaching an agreement

During public comment, commission candidate Carol Soustek said they should make the project smaller and more exclusive. Commissioner Marvin Grossman suggested that they eliminate Building D.

Following that, Lincoln said he wanted to meet with his representatives to “clarify what we have on the table.”

Petruff agreed and said, “We need to completely understand what their final offer is and see if we have something to take back to the city commission.”

The two groups left the room to confer separately.

When they returned, Lincoln reported that Mainsail representatives agreed that the 2001 parking regulations would apply to the lodge, restaurant and commercial uses of the marina, but “any later modifications would be based on the code at the time of the modifications.”

In addition, he said they would agree to remove Building D from the plan if they could connect Buildings B and C to the lodge to get two more units at each corner connection. Representatives also agreed to some of the stipulations in the original special exception.

Petruff and Lincoln said they would write up the agreement to take to the city commission for approval.

“This is great!” Seibert declared. “I’m thrilled and grateful to you all.”

Renourishment may be delayed
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


A visitor watches the beach renourishment in this 2005 photo.

Sandy has left her mark on our beaches as they await the arrival of more sand.

Hurricane Sandy hit the northeastern United States in 2012 causing damage to private and public property. The damage was so widespread, renourishment firms are still trying to rebuild the beaches there, and that might delay the scheduled renourishment on Anna Maria Island, according to Manatee County Department of Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker.

“The US Army Corps of Engineers has moved back the completion date for our renourishment to August 2014,” he said. “Instead of delaying the start dates, they are allowing for the heavy workload in New England in order to give them more time to sort out how best to respond to the requests for bids.

“Most of the contractors have jobs in New England and after they finish, they will be able to move their operations down here,” Hunsicker added. “That way they won’t have to deal with unnecessary relocation costs.”

The renourishment was expected to begin this fall, and the county is now studying bids submitted for the job by the companies. He said the beaches appear to be in good shape, thanks to the light hurricane season we’ve had so far this year.

“The beaches are still strong, and depending on how the rest of storm season goes, should be able to withstand another year before getting new sand,” he said.

Hunsicker said they can work during turtle nest season here because of the smaller scale of turtle action.

“Although we’ve had a good turtle hatching season this year, we can manage it by relocating nests, thanks to the relatively small number of nests compared with the Northeastern United States,” he said. “There are a lot more nests up there, and it could be overwhelming to work there during season.”

The cost of the next renourishment is estimated to be around $20 million. Hunsicker said the county should be able to decide on a renourishment contractor by the middle of September.


BeachHouse renovation launched
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


The BeachHouse, an iconic Gulf front restaurant at
the western end of Cortez Road, will change its
image from rustic to sleek in a renovation scheduled
to begin this month. The top drawing shows the front
of the building, the bottom shows the side facing the Gulf.

BRADENTON BEACH – The rustic, wooden BeachHouse restaurant will be transformed into a sleek, two-story version of itself in a renovation set to begin this month.

Improvements will include a new kitchen, bathrooms, dining room, bar and furnishings in phase one, Chiles Group spokeswoman Caryn Hodge said.

Phase two, set to begin in August 2014, will change the two ground floor outdoor decks where customers watch sunsets into one covered pavilion with a second story, covered outdoor bar added on top, she said.

“We are excited about the new design and the opportunity to have a new state of the art kitchen and dining facilities so our staff can continue to provide great experiences for our guests,” restaurant owner Ed Chiles said in a press release.

The project architect is Barron Schimberg, of Sarasota, the designer is Patti Schimberg, of Sarasota, and the general contractor is Whitehead Construction, of Cortez.

The Bradenton Beach City Commission approved a temporary use permit on Thursday to set up trailers and tents to serve as restrooms and the kitchen during the renovation.

No additional seating will be added in the renovation, Hodge said, eliminating the need for more parking spaces. City ordinances do not require businesses to provide parking spaces for outdoor dining.

Chiles completed a sand valet parking lot on the beach south of the restaurant in April. A lawsuit is pending against the city of Bradenton Beach over the lot, alleging that the city’s approval was inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, which prohibits parking on land designated for preservation.

Chiles recently completed renovations on the Sandbar in Anna Maria and has renovations planned for Mar Vista Dockside in Longboat Key.

Public input sought on parking plan

BRADENTON BEACH – Commissioner Ric Gatehouse has requested public comment on his parking plan, detailed in The Sun’s Wednesday, Aug. 28, edition, at a department heads meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 9 a.m. at city hall.

Elements of the plan include paid parking, timed parking, permit parking, off-Island parking, the use of Coquina Beach for overflow parking and new parking spaces on Cortez Beach.

“We've been discussing it for 20 or more years,” he said. “Now is the time to act. We’re being swamped, and if we don't do something soon, we’ll be crushed.”

Commission candidate Janie Robertson said she supports Gatehouse’s parking plan, parts of which she said have been around for more than 10 years, but have not been acted upon.

“The city has spent more than $22,000 on parking studies,” she said. “They get funded and passed by the commission and go on a shelf.”

In other business:

• The commission unanimously passed an ordinance granting a five-year option and land lease to Ridan Industries II LLC with a right to extend the lease term for nine successive five-year periods to build and operate a telecommunications facility.

Commission candidate Janie Robertson said that the city charter does not allow an exception to its 33-foot height restriction for telecommunications towers.

City Attorney Ricinda Perry responded that it is premature to decide whether the telecommunications lease is in violation of city ordinances, adding that the lease is void if it violates city ordinances.

• Craig Watson, who plans to open a new pizza restaurant at the corner of Bridge Street and Gulf Drive, requested permission to install a new freezer at the site. Watson, who also operates Fire and Stone Pizza in Cortez, purchased the property in January and painted it bright green and has ordered a wood burning pizza oven from Italy, he said. The dine-in restaurant also will feature paninis and salads in the $8-$12 range, he said.

• Resident Rhoda D’Ambra requested that the city commission consider taking back the ownership of the former fire station across the street from the Tingley Library. The city owns the land but gave the building to the West Manatee Fire District, which does not want it, she said, adding that since Fire Station 1 was built, the old building has only been used for private parties and could be better used for city purposes. The commission agreed to discuss the matter at a future meeting.

• Jake Spooner of the Bridge Street Merchants requested and received approval for several events planned for Bridge Street designed to raise funds for decorations and lighting at the annual Christmas on Bridge Street event. He requested that the city consider waiving at least part of the $226 fee for each event. The commission made no decision.

• The commission appointed resident Fawzy Makar to the planning and zoning board for a three-year term. The seven-member board was down to four members due to members moving off the Island, City Planner Alan Garrett said.

• Garrett reported that the draft noise ordinance is nearly finished.

Mayor receives ‘hate mail’

HOLMES BEACH – At a meeting of the Island Congestion Committee, Mayor Carmel Monti said he has received what he called “hate mail” as the result of newspaper reports of remarks he made recently regarding paid parking and visitors to the Island.

“I made a general response to the e-mails,” he said, but I personalized some responses depending on the subject. My words were definitely taken out of context.

“I have never said we don’t want anybody from Manatee County. That’s absurd. We want visitors who are respectful of our citizens’ rights.

A sampling of the remarks is as follows:

• Most people do not have the fiscal means to live on the Island, so they live in town with the hopes of being able to enjoy the luxuries of living so close to the beach. It will be a sad day if the toll and parking fees become a part of our day to day … You will not only hurt your businesses, but also the employees who work so hard in making sure that people continue to visit this tourist destination town.

• So, you think Bradenton residents are not good enough for your beaches. Maybe we are not good enough to go spend money in your shops and restaurants either. How about a charge for you and yours to leave your precious Island? I will continue to go to the beach and hopefully irritate the hell out of you uppity Islanders.

• … it is the mainlanders that keep your Island running. And for that matter, do not use our airports, roads or businesses on the mainland … One reason I do not visit the Island that often is because the residents that do live there year ‘round are pretentious and rude. Apparently you are a longtime resident.

• I have no problem with tolls or paid parking, but only if it applies to everyone and only if the intent is to support infrastructure and public services. If the intent is to discourage other county residents, day trippers, from enjoying the entirely of our county, I will take my money, my many annual friends and family tourists, my tax dollars and go elsewhere.

However, after responding to the e-mails, Monti received numerous return e-mails. A sampling of the remarks is as follows:

• My initial reaction after reading about this was honest and one that many locals might have after reading what is being published online, in the paper, etc. I wish you the best in your endeavors to rectify this for our community.

• It is my hope and prayer that a solution will be found that will not exclude a class of people, but that will take care of the problems going on.

• Please remember, others want to enjoy what you all enjoy. They just are not as fortunate as people on the Island financially, so they can’t live there. I hope you all find other solutions rather than tolls and parking fees.

• … I do completely agree with visitors near and far respecting the neighborhood and cherishing the God given beauty of AMI. I guess what I don’t understand is charging a toll to visit this local gem. I do hope this was a misrepresentation of your intent as well.

Monti invited people to call, e-mail or visit him at city hall to discuss the issues.

Two vie for city pier restaurant


Bids for the contract to operate the restaurant
on the Bridge Street Pier will be ranked on Tuesday,
Sept. 17, at 1 p.m. in city hall.



BRADENTON BEACH – Two entrepreneurs made bids to operate the empty restaurant at the Bridge Street Pier, vacated in May by Rotten Ralph’s owner Dave Russell, and the empty harbormaster’s office and bait shop buildings next door.

Calling his restaurant Fisherman Joe’s after a downtown Bradenton restaurant he used to operate, Joe McDonald came in higher than the city’s minimum bid, offering $6,000 a month in rent for the first year of operation and $6,500 a month for the second year. The offer for the 110-seat, 1,900-sqaure-foot restaurant also included $750 a month for two years for the 214-square-foot bait shop and $550 a month for two years for the 160-square-foot harbormaster’s office, City Clerk Nora Idso said at the opening of the sealed bids on Monday afternoon.

Calling their restaurant Starfish on the Bay, competitors Tami Kemper-Pena, former owner of the now closed Starfish Café in Holmes Beach (unrelated to Star Fish Co. in Cortez), her husband, Roland Pena, and their partner, chef Christopher Ulmer, offered the city’s minimum bid of $5,500 a month plus 12 percent of the gross sales for the restaurant, $750 a month for the bait shop and $550 a month for the harbormaster’s office. They also specified that they would pay common area maintenance costs only until the pier repairs are completed.

The city’s minimum requirements include the tenant’s obligation to pay 20 percent of common area maintenance costs, including the parking lot, which remains open to non-patrons, with the city paying 60 percent and the bait shop and harbormaster’s office tenants paying 10 percent each.

The city specified no percentage of profit to be paid on the two accessory buildings in its minimum bid requirement, and neither bid included such a percentage.

Tami Murphy, owner of Fun ‘N’ Sun boat tours in Bradenton Beach (unrelated to Fun N Sun Parasail in Bradenton Beach), who had previously expressed interest in bidding for the pier, may work with the Starfish group, Kemper-Pena said, adding that the group also anticipates offering paddleboard, bicycle and fishing pole rentals.

McDonald told the Bradenton Beach pier team last week that while researching the restaurant, he discovered that property taxes had not been paid by the previous tenant, possibly because the city is exempt from paying property tax, and that the property is not on the tax rolls. The team decided to consult the city attorney about the issue.

The bids are scheduled to be ranked in the commission’s order of preference on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 1 p.m. at city hall.

Pier repair

Repairs on the Bridge Street Pier probably will not begin until Spring, 2014, the pier team learned last week. Half of the pier remains closed after storms damaged pilings.

Engineering drawings are in hand and a request for proposals is forthcoming for contractors to bid for the repair job, team leader and Police Chief Sam Speciale said.

Meanwhile, Mayor John Shaughnessy is working with the Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) to secure funding for the renovations, approaching the board last month and meeting with county officials this month

“I told them we want to put it back the way it was with the T-end and three cupolas,” he said, adding that the city is going to be “a little short.”

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn also requested funds for the Anna Maria City Pier at the August TDC meeting.

The pier team suggested that Shaughnessy request $500,000 of the more than $1 million needed for the repairs, which would exhaust the $1 million in Community Redevelopment Agency funds the city has earmarked for the pier, Idso said.

Other pier expenses include a new $5,000 air conditioner for the harbormaster’s office and new signs, according to Public Works Director Tom Woodard, adding that decorative lighting to match the lighting on Bridge Street would cost $100,000.

Two of the higher awards made by the TDC from resort tax funds include $250,000 for the Manatee Players in 2012 and $125,000 to the Ringling International Arts Festival in 2009. The funds must be used for tourism-related projects, according to Manatee County ordinance.

Possible competitors for the funds are Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, which will host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

More boat trailer parking proposed


The south Coquina boat ramp will feature more boat
trailer parking and better drainage when the
county finishes renovations.


BRADENTON BEACH – More parking for boat trailers is one of the upgrades proposed for the South Coquina boat ramp on the Intracoastal Waterway just north of Longboat Pass.

The expansion will increase the number of parking spaces for boat trailers from 18 to 49, and will provide 13 parking spaces for vehicles without trailers, including one handicap space, adjacent to the ramp, according to a plan presented by Manatee County staff at a public information session last week at the site, 2651 Gulf Drive S.

To make room for the new spaces, the picnic pavilion and playground at the popular park will be relocated closer to the water and 13 Australian pine trees will be removed.

The plan will organize the current “free for all” parking, allowing more people to access the park, said Cindy Turner, director of the county’s parks and recreation department.

Other improvements include expanding the shell parking lot, creating traffic lanes, adding a drainage swale and pond with a pedestrian bridge leading to the water and planting native landscaping.

The boat ramp, which will remain in place along with the personal watercraft launch and restrooms, will be extended to help direct stormwater runoff away from the ramp.

County staff agreed to use sea turtle friendly lighting similar to lights at Kingfish boat ramp in Holmes Beach at the suggestion of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox. While the lights are more expensive to purchase, they are cheaper to operate, she said.

The project, which does not yet have a start date, will be funded by the West Coast Inland Navigation District and the Florida Boater Improvement Program.

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