The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 47 - September 18, 2013


Peace Day comes to AME
Carol Whitmore

Students carry the flags of different nations during
a previous Peace Day celebration at AME.

HOLMES BEACH – As the war and revolution make the news from the Middle East, students at Anna Maria Elementary will hopefully be learning how to make peace on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

The event, which occurs three days after the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, first began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island donated a Peace Pole and flags from many countries to the school in 2002 and the enrollment of students from a New York school that was near the attacks acted as the catalyst for the celebration of peace.

AME Guidance Counselor Cindi Harrison put the first celebration together and has planned all of the Peace Day events since then.

The theme for this year’s Peace Day celebration, which starts at 8:45 a.m., is “How do YOU speak peace?” Students will write down their answers and share some of them with the crowd. Everyone is welcome to attend at the front of the school where the Peace Pole is on display. There will also be music and artwork from the kids.

In past years, Harrison has said she uses the annual Peace Day to show kids how there are other solutions to disagreements besides war. She said she wants students to figure out those solutions and share them with others in hopes peace will “break out” in countries that are now at war.

AME Principal David Marshall said there will be some surprises at this year’s event.

‘Day trippers’ - it’s all in the name

ANNA MARIA – After receiving letters and reading letters in The Sun about a certain class of visitor that Mayor SueLynn calls day trippers, the mayor said she is changing the name she gives them,

SueLynn has said in past meetings that the day trippers are people who come for a day at the beach with their own food and don’t spend any money on the Island. She has said the city should collect something for the wear and tear on the roads and other infrastructure and used that as a basis for discussing the implementation of paid parking.

During the city commission meeting last Thursday, Commission Gene Aubrey said he has a real problem with the term day tripper.

“To me, it is a slang word, and I don’t know where it came from, but it is very discriminatory and very embarrassing to sit in this room and talk about day trippers,” he said. “Day tripper is a term that people have given people who come here and if you have a truck with beat-up tires in the back and you have a bunch of kids yelling and screaming, those are day trippers.

“I find it insulting and I would like to see this city do away with the term,” he added, “or if not, define it because it’s a slang that we’ve brought up, and it’s in the newspapers all the time and I find it embarrassing in this day and age to use terms like that.”

Commissioner Dale Woodland suggested calling them “towners,” saying he used to call his friends from the mainland that and they were not insulted, but Aubry said years ago, they didn’t think the “N” words was bad either. Woodland said he thought Aubry’s answer was, “a bit of a stretch.”

“My definition of day trippers, which I am changing to day visitors, is much broader than Gene described,” SueLynn said. “My definition is anyone who comes out to the Island for the day.”

On another subject, SueLynn updated the commissioners on the six lots at Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, which she unofficially called City Pier Park.

“The well is done and in, and the next phase of the project is putting in the sprinkling system,” she said. “Did any of you see the gorgeous trees they’ve selected? They’re absolutely magnificent.”

Aubry said the trees would be installed in two weeks.

Tree house owners fined

HOLMES BEACH – Code enforcement board members imposed a fee of $100 per day beginning the date of their hearing, Sept. 12, on tree house owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen for failure to come into compliance with city code.

The city’s building department has ruled that the tree house at 103 29th Street was constructed without a permit and encroaches into the erosion control line. In July, the board found the couple in violation and ordered them to remove the violations or demolish the structure by Aug. 28, which they did not do.

The fine accumulates until Tran/Hazen come into compliance. They also have two appeals in the courts. One is an appeal of the code enforcement board’s order, which they filed in July.

Another appeal filed in June, maintains that

the city’s ordinance conflicts with Florida Statute regarding construction within 50 feet of the erosion control line (ECL) and that the tree house is an accessory structure that may be located within 50 feet of the ECL.

“Our next step is to file with the court to stop the fine until our appeal is heard,” Tran said, following the decision. “The city said I have to apply for a permit, but they said they won’t give me one because it encroaches into the ECL. It’s a Catch-22.

“If they could give me a permit with conditions, I’d do that or work with us until we get a decision on the ECL. We need some common sense to try and make it work.”

Motion to stay

On Aug. 26, Tran/Hazen’s attorney, David Levin, filed a motion to stay enforcement of the board’s July decision and he tried unsuccessfully to argue that point before the code board last week.

“Under Florida law, when a final order from a lower tribunal is filed with the circuit court, that divests this board from taking any further action,” he said. “We have the right to have the court consider those issues and either uphold or overturn the decision.”

He said to levy a fine would defeat the purpose of the appeal and pointed out, “Her options are to risk the fine until the court rules or tear it down, and to tear it down would be unfair if the court rules in her favor.”

The city’s attorney, Jim Dye, argued that the board still has jurisdiction and said, “There’s been no compliance with the city’s order, and it’s a significant threat to the city. To impose a fine is the best way to get the owner’s attention.”

The board’s attorney, Michael Connolly, agreed with Dye. Board Chair Don Schroder also agreed and noted, “The court can reverse our decision.”

Schroder asked how long it would take to get to court, and Connolly said at least 18 months

The board voted unanimously to deny the stay.

Levin then requested a 30-day continuance, which also was denied.

Hearing testimony

Connolly told board members that to determine the amount of the fine, they had to consider three factors: the gravity of the violation, any action taken by the violator to correct the violation and any previous violations. Dye said the third one was not applicable.

Building Official Tom O’Brien testified that Tran/Hazen had not come in to apply for a permit to move or demolish the structure and said the structure poses a risk to adjacent structures and properties. Levin objected and said O’Brien has never been to the property to view or inspect the tree house.

“We don’t just go out and inspect property,” O’Brien said. “When a permit application is filed, then we’ll study the documents with it and the make an inspection of the structure to see if it complies with the documents.”

“The owner did contact the building department in an effort to begin the process, but Mr. O’Brien has not been on the site to determine what portions of the structure are not in compliance,” Levin countered.

O’Brien then said the location is the primary violation and added, “Until we solve the location problem, there’s no point in looking at the documents.”

Levin again objected and said, “Now he says it’s not the building code, but the erosion control line, and we’re hearing the we’ll never be able to come into compliance because of the setback.”

Imposing a fine

Dye said the city’s position is that the structure is in violation, that the owners must go through the permit process to cure the violation and there is no evidence they ever started the process.

He argued that the board should impose the maximum fine because “there is a perception on the city’s part that the property owner is not taking this seriously” and “there is a risk to the surrounding property owners.”

Board member Andy Sheridan made a motion to impose a $250 per day fine from Aug. 28 plus any fines and penalties and the city’s costs of $4,271.40.

Board member Michael Klotz objected to the amount and said, “The violation is not that drastic, and they are first time violators. As much as I do agree they are in violation, I think the city could have done more to get that process started.”

Schroder and board members Dick Motzer and John Wize agreed. Schroder suggested giving Tran/Hazen 10 more days to begin the permit process before starting the fine, but O’Brien said 30 days would be more appropriate.

However, Connolly pointed out, “Someone else would have to decide if the condition has been met. That would be a delegation of the board’s authority. I think the board in a public hearing process needs to make that decision.”

Dye added that it would be a new enforcement action.

The board agreed to proceed with only a fine.

Klotz said if that if there is a fine of $50 per day and it runs for 18 months, that would be approximately $30,000 and added, “We shouldn’t lose control of what this structure really is. It’s a structure in a tree and it’s dangerous and not safe, but we have to be reasonable.”

After a motion of $50 per day by Klotz failed, a motion of $100 per day by board member Ted Geeraerts was approved, which would be a $54,000 fine over that 18-month period.


Occupancy, rates up in July

July tourism was up 3.8 percent this year over last, with 56,900 people visiting Manatee County, according to the county’s tourism consultant firm, Tampa-based Research Data Services (RDS).

Year to date, tourism is up 5.6 percent, with 377,800 visitors to the county so far in 2013, according to RDS.

Occupancy was 74.3 percent on Anna Maria Island, up 1.2 percent from July 2012, while room rates were up 3.7 percent to nearly $154 a night on the Island, averaging $139 a night countywide.

Most visitors (47 percent) came from Florida, with more than 10 percent visiting from Europe.

In July, the most recent month for which statistics are available, visitors spent 120,900 room nights in the county, up 1.2 percent from last July, and spent 8.7 percent more in direct expenditures than last July, for a total of just over $36 million, with a total economic impact of nearly $60 million.

The total economic impact of tourism to the county so far this year is more than $486 million, according to RDS.

Bridge Street set for barbecue, blues

The Bridge Street Merchants will present the Blues Backyard BBQ on Saturday, Sept. 21, from 5 to10 p.m., featuring live music, crafts, a full bar, food, games and more.

“With fewer art and craft vendors, there will be plenty of space for folks to bring their own blankets and chairs and sit back and enjoy the band with a cold beer and tasty BBQ sandwiches and platters provided by Island Time Bar & Grill and Bridge Street Bistro,” event coordinator Melissa Enders wrote in a press release.

The free event will feature blues, funk and jazz by Sarasota band AJ and the Automatics from 7 to 10 p.m., and blues from George Worthmore from 5 to 7 p.m.

The family-friendly event will be held in the vacant lot on historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach where Sunday Markets are held from November through April and Summer Saturday evening markets are held.

Parking is available at the Bridge Street Pier or in the city lot behind the Bridge Street Bistro, but organizers suggest parking at the beach just south of Bridge Street and using the free Island trolley, which runs until 10:30 p.m. and stops at Bridge Street.

Island beautification groups honored

Privateers Mary Ann "Maz" Zyla and Roger “Hoodat” Murphrey
with Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore at
the awards ceremony.

Several groups from Anna Maria Island won awards from Keep Manatee Beautiful at its annual awards ceremony last Thursday at the Polo Grill Ballroom in Lakewood Ranch.

Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker was the keynote speaker talking about future beautification in the county.

The local winners were:

• The Anna Maria Island Privateers for their Adopt A Road performance routinely cleaning 2.75 miles of Gulf, Marina and Palm drives since 2000.

• The Historic Green Village on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria won the Business and Industry Partnership award for a small business for restoring and repurposing locally historic buildings using modern sustainable building practices with a commitment to energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.

• Pine Avenue Restoration won a public service award for its business and industry partnership for its focus on energy and water efficiency practices plus stormwater management.

• Local native landscape expert Michael Miller, from Anna Maria, was honored for his personal contribution to keeping the landscape native, drought resistant and salt resistant. The news release called Miller the “go to” guy for the city of Anna Maria and other cities and neighborhood for selection and care of the proper landscaping.

“His passion, dedication, ambition and knowledge make him a vital asset to our community and an overall great person to learn from,” it read. “Mike constantly exceeds expectations on his work and is highly recommended by the City of Anna Maria and all of his clients.”

Also on a local note, Southeast High School Key Club became stewards of Kingfish boat ramp along the Intracoastal Waterway on S.R. 64 by adopting it for periodic cleanups in 2000.

Budget and millage questioned

HOLMES BEACH – Several residents had comments regarding the city’s millage rate and budget, which were the subject of the first public hearing last week.

Treasurer Lori Hill announced that the proposed millage rate was the same as last year or 1.75.

“This rate is 5.5 percent more than the roll back rate,” Hill explained. “The roll back rate is the millage rate that would have to be levied to get the same tax revenue as last year.”

Mayor Carmel Monti said it is the lowest in the area.

“Regardless of it being the lowest in the area, our taxes are going up,” Bill Shuman pointed out. “I believe the millage should be reduced as well as the budget being reduced.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino agreed and said the commission should use the roll back rate of 1.6588, and noted, “If it’s only $50 (savings to each taxpayer), it’s the right thing to do.”

Commissioner Marvin Grossman said the majority of the money goes to the county and added, “I want to keep it at a level where we can provide the best service.”

“The other option to look at is raising revenue,” Monti added.

Budget questioned

Commissioners also considered the proposed budget of $9,003,727, which prompted Shuman to ask, “Why vote on the millage and then talk about the budget because you’ve already established what the taxes are going to be?”

Zaccagnino said it is only the first reading and they can make changes before the second reading.

Shuman said he looked at major expenses including personal services, which have increased 9.24 percent and represent 47 percent of the total budget. He also cited the increase in retirement, insurance and legal fees and the decrease in carryovers/reserves.

Hill said the reserves are the same, but the carryover was reduced, and Monti said the legal fees are the result of the Mainsail and Sandpiper issues.

Former Commissioner Ron Robinson suggested they eliminate the dispatch system and use the county’s 911 system.

“If you call 911 anyplace but Holmes Beach, it goes to the dispatch center and a screen comes up with all the information and they dispatch a policeman,” he said. “In Holmes Beach you have to call a seven-digit number.”

Police Chief Bill Tokajer said he is trying to get the same screen system the county uses and that the police department has stickers with the phone number that people can put on their phones.

Chair Jean Peelen pointed out that the dispatch system was established by referendum and would have to be eliminated by referendum.

“I don’t see why we should have it,” she said. “We’re paying for five full time employees and other cities aren’t.”

Tokajer said studies have shown it would not save money to go with the 911 system.

The budget and millage rate were approved on first reading. The second budget public hearing will be on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m. Copies of the budget are available at city hall.

Island Time says thanks

The wait staff at Island Time Bar and Grill
served the drinks, and the visitors enjoyed
a buffet lunch.


BRADENTON BEACH – The breeze inside Island Time Bar & Grill was incredibly cool, thanks to the restaurant’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, as Doug Bidwell sang to a group of people whiling away the afternoon watching college football.

Cars passed by on Gulf Drive, inching around the roundabout and stopping for pedestrians, many in swim suits and carrying beach gear.

It was the third annual salute to the heroes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and those who serve us everyday and everywhere.

A group of tall, athletic looking, young men came in, paid the $15 for the buffet and enjoyed lunch. They were basketball players from IMG Academy who were enjoying a day at the beach, and they were unaware of the commemoration and fundraiser. They were heroes on the basketball court while the firefighters, police officers, EMS technicians and military personnel and veterans ate the pulled pork, chicken strips, hot dogs, baked beans, corn on the cob and salads for free.

“We do this to thank those who sacrifice so that we can be here,” said Island Time co-owner and manager Bill Herlihy. “We also do it to remember what happened 12 years ago.”

John and Pat Balerna sat at a table listening to music and eating. John, 90, and his wife, 92, have been married 63 years, and John fought in World War II. Like many vets, they remember their wars, but don’t talk much about them. That was a different era, and they have each other now as they enjoy retirement, and it looks like it has been good to them because they don’t look like they are in their 90s. Their daughter, Paula Riley, works at Island Time and worked the entrance, taking money for the buffet or raffle tickets and giving out wristbands for those eating free.

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