THE ISLAND – Tourism and related issues dominated the Island news in 2013.
As county officials aggressively marketed the Island, the three cities struggled with the influx of visitors straining their infrastructure and affecting residential neighborhoods.
Nightmare on my street
Some developers took advantage of the opportunity to buy up existing cottages and aging duplexes and build multi-bedroom vacation rentals capable of housing multiple families. Island officials, alarmed at the proliferation of multi-bedroom rentals that created problems with noise, parking and overcrowding, passed ordinances aimed at addressing the problems.
At the same time, they learned their options are limited by a new state law that prohibits a municipality from creating legislation that would regulate rentals. Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen and Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn begin a campaign to have the state law repealed. The movement gained steam and in November a state senator filed a bill to repeal the legislation.
Build it and they will come
Officials declared the winter tourist season one of the best ever, and the good fortune continued through the year, much to the delight of Island businesses.
However, an influx of visitors created gridlock on Island streets during Memorial Day weekend and caused Island officials to call for parking solutions, including permit and paid parking. Holmes Beach convened a committee, which proposed alternative parking lots near the public beach and nixed permits and paid parking.
Island officials told county officials that the Island has exceeded its capacity for attracting tourists thanks to the county’s marketing campaign, and asked for a greater share of the resort tax money for improvements to piers, parks and beaches. Bradenton Beach is slated to receive up to $1 million in matching resort tax funds to renovate the historic Bridge Street pier.
I fought the law and the law won
Police and AMI Chamber officials received numerous complaints about Michael Carleton, of Coastline Accommodations, renting property he didn’t control. Subsequent investigations by Holmes Beach police, the U.S. Postal Service and the state resulted in Carleton’s business license being suspended and Carleton being charged with acting as a real estate broker without a license.
Dave Viens, former owner of Island Gourmet Kitchen in Bradenton Beach with his wife Dawn, was sentenced to 15 years to life in California for his second-degree murder conviction in Dawn’s disappearance.
A second degree murder trial was set for July 2014 for William Cumber, accused of causing the death of Haley’s Motel co-owner Sabine-Musil Buehler in 2008.
Yes, I’m gonna be a star
Tom Sousa, of West Manatee Fire Rescue, was named Fire Inspector of the Year by the Florida Fire Chiefs' Association .
Holmes Beach Officer Joel Fleischer was named the department’s Officer of the Year and received the 16th Congressional District Law Enforcement Preservation of Life Award.
Anna Maria Elementary School custodian Todd Persinger was named Manatee County School District Service Employee of the Year.
Chef Andrea Spring made history winning the American Pie Council/Crisco National Pie Championship for the third time. Spring, with her assistant, Sam Major, then captured two top 10 finishes in the World Food Competition in Las Vegas, Nev.
Nicole Quigley, of Holmes Beach, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Carol Award for best in young adult fiction for her novel, “Like Moonlight at Low Tide,” set on the Island.
Connor Bystrom, of Holmes Beach, was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal by the U.S. Coast Guard for pulling his friend out of the water after he was bitten by a shark.
The AMI Sun received first place in its division for best performance overall in the 2012 Florida Press Association Better Weekly Newspaper Contest and staffers received 17 individual awards including six first places. In addition, six staffers received eight awards on the 2012 Florida Press Club’s Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards.
They say its your birthday
The Island Branch Library turned 30.
Roser Memorial Community Church celebrated its centennial.
Just the facts, ma’am
ABC’s 20/20 program featured the Sheena Morris case in which her mother rejected the Bradenton Beach Police Department ruling that she committed suicide in 2009 and claimed her death was a homicide. After a thorough review, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded there was no evidence of homicide.
Going to the dogs
In January, users sought a small dog park, a wish that was realized in December, thanks to donors
Holmes Beach City Commissioners revoked the site plan for Mainsail Development Company for its hotel, lodge, restaurant and marina near the corner of Gulf and Marina drives, leading to a request by the company for hearings by a special master. Hearings led to a settlement agreement still being negotiated. The project began in 2001 as the Tidemark Resort.
Holmes Beach ordered the demolition of a tree house at Angelino’s Beach Resort at 103 29th Street, built in April 2011 after owners were told that they did not need a permit.
The Today show featured the tree house giving it national exposure, and owners began initiative proceedings to propose an ordinance approving the structure. The city maintained that the ordinance is in opposition to state law and sought a judge’s ruling.
The code enforcement board ruled that the structure is in violation and ordered the couple to remove the violations or demolish the structure. The couple appealed the ruling, and the board imposed a fine of $100 per day for failure to comply with the order.
Yes and no
Anna Maria commissioners approved restrooms and parking for six lots at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, purchased by the city in 2011, and then rescinded the approval. Pine Avenue Restoration pledged $100,000 over four years and resident Rex Hagen pledged $60,000 for park improvements. In December, commissioners again reversed their decision, nixing parking and restrooms, and voted to refund any donor money already spent.
A Tallahassee judge lifted the 1995 ban on gill nets, which was appealed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The judge again lifted the ban, which was again appealed by the FWC, leaving fishers reeling.
Not in my back yard
Members of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage raised concerns about Long Bar Pointe coastal development that called for 1,086 single family homes, 2,531 multi-family units and a 300- room hotel and a 300-berth deep water marina, and opposition to the project mushroomed.
In August, Manatee County commissioners approved the developer’s request for mixed-use designation to allow more intense development, but nixed the marina. In December, the developer withdrew his request.
On the menu
Bradenton Beach terminated its lease with Rotten Ralph’s on the city pier and sought a new vendor. Starfish on the Bay won the pier bid, but owners changed the name to Cast and Cage after a warning from Star Fish Co. owner Karen Bell.
The Rod and Reel closed after a fire that damaged the historic structure. The community rallied for employees as repairs continue.
Water, water everywhere
The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act is passed, and Island residents are slated to drown in insurance increases that would cause premiums to rise faster than a storm surge. State and federal lawmakers seek to stall increases.
The shifting sands of time
$16 million beach renourishment project began in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach in December.
Ring me up
Anna Maria selected a company to build a cell tower at city hall, giving residents hope that they could get cell service without going to the end of their driveways. The same company is approved to build a cell tower in Bradenton Beach.
The sea turtle season broke records with 23,234 hatchlings and 369 nests.
Passing The torch
New Community Center Executive Director Dawn Stiles took over from Pierrette Kelly, who retired after 22 years.
MSO Sgt. Paul Davis is named head deputy in Anna Maria.
Bill Tokajer is named police chief in Holmes Beach, replacing Jay Romine, who retired after 26 years.
Incumbents won in Holmes Beach, but were ousted in Bradenton Beach, while Anna Maria voters stuck with experience.