The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 10 - January 1, 2014


Long Bar developers nix mixed-use
Carol Whitmore

joe hendricks | sun

The future use of Long Bar Pointe property might
remain a subject of debate until the cows come home


BRADENTON – On Thursday, Dec. 19, attorney Ed Vogler, submitted a letter on behalf of Long Bar Pointe developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman to Manatee County officials regarding the future use of 463 acres of environmentally sensitive land located along El Conquistador Parkway in southwest Bradenton.

The property is comprised of large tracts of bay front property and mangrove forests that serve as a vital natural habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife.

“On behalf of the applicant of the comprehensive plan map amendment, we wish to withdraw the comprehensive plan map amendment from further consideration or action at this time,” Vogler’s letter states.

The county comp plan and future land use map determine which uses are allowed for specific areas and specific properties.

During a 12-hour public hearing that took place in August, commissioners tentatively approved on first reading, by a 4-3 margin, a mix-used map amendment that could potentially have led to the construction of a hotel, conference center and various other commercial structures, as well as a maximum of 1,086 single-family residential units and 2,531 multi-family residential units.

Commission Chair Larry Bustle and Commissioners Vanessa Baugh, Betsy Benac and Carol Whitmore voted in favor of the mixed-use map amendment request only after the developers offered to remove a controversial marina from their plans.

Commissioners John Chappie, Robin DiSabatino and Michael Gallen voted against the mixed-use map amendment, even with the marina removed.

That night, commissioners unanimously denied an accompanying text amendment that would have altered the county comp plan and loosened environmental protections countywide.

After being reviewed by the Department of Economic Opportunity and other state agencies to determine if the county map amendment was consistent with the state comp plan, a second public hearing was scheduled for Jan. 23. That meeting was cancelled when the developers withdrew their mixed-use request.

Opposition groups were already plotting their strategies in hopes of convincing at least one more commissioner to vote against the map amendment on second and final reading.

In 2004, commissioners granted Lieberman the Residential-9 (R-9) land use designation needed to build a maximum of 4,168 residential units. R-9 is the most intense residential use permitted by the county and remains in place for the property now owned by Beruff.

“The applicant looks forward to working with you, your staff, and all interested parties as plans for development of the property are presented and considered from time to time in the future,” Vogler’s letter concludes.


Year in review 2013
Carol Whitmore

File photos

The tree house in Holmes Beach still stands.

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

Never-ending stories

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.

Breaking records

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.

Charlie Hunsicker, Rick Spadoni: The Sun’s 2013 Persons of the Year

For more than 20 years, Manatee County has counted on renourishment projects to keep the beaches pristine. Since then, there have been four projects, not including the current one and it was a learning process as Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker and Coastal Planning and Engineering Senior Vice President Rick Spadoni will attest.

“I’ve been involved in projects throughout Florida, and Anna Maria Island’s beaches are one of the worst for erosion that I’ve ever seen,” Spadoni said. “This is a wonderful project for the Island.”

Because of their dilligence in making sure the Island gets the best sand possible and because they have always put the Island first in considering the future of our beaches, The Anna Maria Island Sun names Charlie Hunsicker and Rick Spadoni its Persons of the Year.

It all began in 1989 when Bradenton Beach Mayor Katie Pierola convinced Manatee County that it needed a beach management plan.

Efforts began to assess the condition of the beaches and a project was put together for the beaches from the BeachHouse restaurant north to the border between Holmes Beach and Anna Maria. The project was funded by the federal government, the state and the county and the US Army Corps of Engineers handled the design and quality control.

Jack Gorzeman was to be the county’s liaison to the project, but he resigned and moved to another job before the project began and it fell into the hands of Hunsicker, who was working for the county in natural resources at the time.

The contractor for the first job in 1993 was Great Lakes Dock and Dredge and its dredge, the Illinois, drew sand off the shore of Bradenton Beach. When the project ended, The sandy expanse was longer, but not as white with rocks and big shells in the mix – great for keeping down erosion, but not so pleasant for tourists looking for a sandy playground.

Hunsicker said the sand did its job, as witnessed days after the project ended. With renourishment equipment anchored offshore, a no-name storm came through the Island bringing high winds and a storm surge. The entire beach west of Gulf Drive near the Cortez Bridge entrance to the Island was underwater. There was anticipation of a job wasted, but when the water subsided, the beach was still there. Rocks buried in the beach helped keep the sand from leaving in big chunks, and the way the water withdrew actually smoothed the sand down to the waterline.

“It showed that a job done well and properly designed, would protect the beaches from storms,” Hunsicker said.

But the complaints persisted. Hunsicker said the county reached an agreement with the Army Corps that the it would spend its money to have engineers search for a better sand source, and they found it off the northwest end of the Island near the mouth of Tampa Bay.

Better sand the next time

In 2002, the county sought another project to renourish the portions of beach that were covered in the initial nourishment nine years earlier. It hired Coastal Planning and Engineering again and again, Great Lakes was the contractor using the same dredge, the Illinois. When it ended, the beaches were bigger and whiter. The pattern was set, with the county monitoring the quality of the sand via its engineering contractor as it came ashore.

The third renourishment was funded by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the county hired a smaller company with lighter equipment to renourish beaches after a series of tropical storms exacerbated the normal erosion of the beaches. The project was cut short as the contractor was unable to work in the rough seas over the area where the sand was taken and a miles long chain of pipes were left on the beaches for months, hurting the tourist industry.

Great Lakes returned in 2011 to cover beaches not covered in the first two projects. Portions of Coquina Beach and areas along the Gulf in Anna Maria were covered for the first time leading to the project on the beaches today. Beaches in Anna Maria are being skipped because they don’t need it, and portions of Bradenton Beach that have been missed are included. It has been a goal of Hunsicker’s to get the whole Island’s beaches on a 10-year beach maintenance plan.

Hunsicker is proud to say, “the contractors have brought in superior sand and done their job below budget and ahead of time.”

Spadoni said he has a sentimental interest in this Island.

“I love the beach here, and I love the Island,” he said. “Charlie is terrific to work with, and he has so much energy. His heart is in his work.”

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore had praise for the two men.

“I’ve been working with Rick since the renourishments started,” she said. “”Charlie is nothing but a jewel for the county who is perfect for renourishment, Robinson Preserve and Grassy Point.”

The two people who have strived to make the beaches the best they could be have done their jobs and for their efforts, the Anna Maria Island Sun honors them as its persons of the year.


Home sales expected to pass 400

As the clock wound down, it looked like home sales on Anna Maria Island for 2013 would be above 400 units for the second year in a row, according to Island Real Estate agent Alan Galletto.

Galletto’s monthly sales report, taken from the records of the Manatee County Multi Listing Service and county figures, showed 375 units sold as of Nov. 30, 2013.

Galletto, who publishes the figures in a monthly Internet report (, said sales for November 2013 were up nine percent over a year earlier, 34 to 31. Year-to-date (Oct. 31) figures were 375 for 2013 compared with 393 in 2012.

“Based on where we are in the year and the healthy pending sales activity, it looks like we will again go over 400 sales for 2013,” he wrote in his report.

Inventory continues to run at historic lows due to strong demand, but has popped above 300 for the first time in six months to 305. Properties under contract were strong at 55, and that bodes well for continued strong sales in the near future, according to Galletto. Distressed properties are only one percent of the sales, at four units.

Galletto had more good news for potential sellers.

“For the eleventh month in a row, sales for 2013 continue to show an increase in average and median prices in all types of properties as well as increased activity in the higher price ranges,” he reported. “By the end of December, there are going to be a bunch of sales over $1 million, and I have six sales in December ranging from $1 to $3.1 million.”

He said 51 percent of the sales in the first 11 months of 2013 were under $500,000 compared to 89 percent of the homes sold in the first 11 months of 2012.

“In the last couple years, although sales activity was at record levels, only two-to-three percent were over $1 million,” he said. “You can see that this year the number of sales over $1 million has more than tripled to 8 percent.”

He said that percentage would increase when the December figures are added, thanks to some pending sales of high-end properties in December. He said the prediction is rosy for the market.

“In summary, last year at this time I was saying sales for 2012 would be over 400 for the first time since 2005 and we ended the year at 430,” he wrote. “Here we are again with only one month left in the year, and we again are poised to record sales for 2013 over 400. If we only match sales for December last year at 38, we will end 2013 with sales at 413.”

Galletto’s year-end figures will be available in a few weeks.

Renourishment stops after it starts


Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie
Hunsicker joins Santa for a version of “Let it Sand,
Let it Sand , Let it Sand” as they wait for the project to begin.


HOLMES BEACH – The beach between 67th and 69th Streets was fenced off Saturday morning and the equipment inside was quiet as the beach renourishment shut down for maintenance, according to Coastal Planning and Engineering spokesperson Michelle Pfeiffer.

The pipe came ashore near the equipment two weeks ago from the dredge California, some 4,000 feet from the northwest shore of the Island, and sand was flowing two Fridays ago, but some much needed maintenance on the dredge and other equipment meant a delay for now. Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said Saturday that they hoped to be back up either Sunday or Monday. He said they would likely work on the New Year’s holiday.

The first portion of the renourishment actually runs north from 68th Street, where the pipe comes ashore, to 78th Street. The second stage will then proceed south from 68th Street past the BeachHouse to Coquina Beach where the third phase, financed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) due to erosion damage from recent storms, will start. The first two phases, financed by federal, state and county funds, will cost $13 million and the last phase is set at $3 million.

There was a report of oil in the water around 6th Street after the project first started. A beach visitor reported it to the staff of the contractor, Great Lakes Dock and Dredge, but an inspection found nothing.

Officials hope to wrap up the renourishment project by April.

Air & Energy expanding to mainland


Trudy and Stewart Moon Jr. celebrate the expansion
of their Island business, Air & Energy, at their
new warehouse in Bradenton.


HOLMES BEACH – 2014 will be a year of growth for the Holmes Beach-based Air & Energy firm owned by Stewart, Trudy and Stewart Moon Jr.

The family business that provides air conditioning, plumbing, electrical and connected home monitoring services is in the process of expanding its company operations by adding a mainland location in Bradenton’s warehouse district.

Trudy serves as company president while her husband, Stewart Sr., enjoys his share of the ownership role from the perspective of a retiree.

Saturday afternoon, Vice President Stewart Moon Jr. discussed the company’s future plans. He said the goal is to move into the recently-purchased warehouse located at 715 Sixth St. W. in Bradenton in late 2014.

“For our company operations, it will be wonderful. We’ll have room to grow and room for proper training centers, warehousing, inventory and office space conducive to our business. We will also have the ability to host functions for our customers and public events,” Moon said.

“It’s an existing building, but right now it’s just shell, and there’s nothing inside our 12,500 square foot empty warehouse, so we’ll be able to build it out exactly how we want it to be. We’ll have space for customers to come in and see and feel and touch what they’re buying prior to making a purchase. We’re planning to have our own air conditioning units sitting out front, so people can hear them running and see them working, so they’re not just buying from a catalog,” he explained.

Air & Energy already serves all of Manatee County, but when the time came to purchase additional warehouse space there was none available on the Island, so the move to the mainland warehouse district seemed like a perfect fit.

“We’ve been growing at a consistent rate, and it’s wonderful problem to have,” Moon said of the need for more space.

“We’re really looking forward to making a space that is welcoming to customers, where we can also hold Chamber functions or fund-raisers and bring the community into Air and Energy, so we can be a central part of Manatee County,” he added.

Although he and his family are excited about the expansion plans, Moon wants Island customers to know that the Air & Energy’s 8,000 square foot home base at 3018 Avenue C in Holmes Beach will remain fully operational and will continue to provide the same services the company has provided Islanders for the past 30 years.

“We’re going to maintain our quality of service and response times. Our current customers won’t notice anything different, other than being invited to more events. And our services will only get better because we’ll have our expanded training facility at the new location,” Moon said.

Moon said the new space will allow Air & Energy to double its current operations and he expects the company will eventually need to hire additional service technicians to help accommodate that growth.

In addition to the traditional AC, electrical and plumbing services, Moon sees tremendous opportunity in company’s increased focus on the automated home monitoring and control systems that allow a home owner to operate door locks, lights, thermostats, security cameras and other home functions from afar, using smart phones and computers.

“That’s really exciting,” he said.

Rollin,’ rollin,’ rollin’ at Robinson

cindy lane | sun

The very thorny nickerbean plant provides
shelter for rabbits at Robinson Preserve.



BRADENTON – Rolling through Robinson Preserve in a covered wagon is like riding in the passenger side of the car – you’re surprised at the things you see when you don’t have to pay attention to where you’re going.

During the popular one-hour tour on Friday, passengers saw an endangered wood stork, a tri-colored heron (a state species of special concern), turkey vultures circling carrion, or perhaps just riding thermals, mockingbirds, white pelicans in the water (winter snowbirds from the north) white ibis and snowy egrets resting in the mangroves, a reddish egret using the shadows from its wings to herd fish and a very territorial kestrel that claims a palm tree as its exclusive home.

Also residing in the preserve is a pair of bald eagles, which are sitting on an egg, tour guide Melissa Nell said, along with snakes, fiddler crabs, coyotes, raccoons, possums, rabbits, foxes, bobcats, mullet, snook, barracuda, shark and perhaps an occasional rare alligator.

The preserve in northwest Bradenton is surrounded by water – the Manatee River, Anna Maria Sound, Perico Bayou and Palma Sola Bay and links the waterways purposely with man made ponds and canals that flush with the tides, keeping them vibrant, and allowing kayakers to explore the whole preserve. Some of the waterways have artificial reefs made from the non-native Australian pines that were removed from the preserve during its restoration.

Manatee County purchased the property in 2002, removed invasive plants and installed native plants, opening in 2008. The original 487 acres is being expanded by the acquisition of another 149 acres of former farmland that was previously planned as a subdivision and golf course. Under an agreement between Manatee County and the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, the not-for-profit corporation will raise funds to buy the land from private owners Robinson Farms Inc. and transfer it to the county.

The county plans to build an education center, playgrounds, another kayak launch, a tree canopy walk, more nature trails and boardwalks and a 5K running track on the addition within the next five years.

To be notified of upcoming wagon rides and other activities at Robinson and other county preserves, e-mail

Classes begin at Artists’ Guild


“Lagoon,” a collage by Marie Garafano


The Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island will offer classes and workshops beginning the week of Jan. 6.

Most classes and workshops are designed for artists of all levels and do not require previous experience. Classes are offered Mondays through Thursdays, and workshops are on Wednesdays and Fridays from January through April.

Classes include Values in Watercolors”with Island artist Cheryl Jorgensen, The Beauty of Colored Pencil with Roger Rockefeller, Collage: Paint a Picture with Paper with Marie Garafano, Acrylics Island Style with Kathy Sparks and Explorations in Graphite: The Basics with Margo Chick.

Workshops include Mark Polomchak's Sails in Paradise, Friday, Jan. 31, Jim Ladd's Abstracts in Watercolor, Friday, Feb. 7, Cheryl Jorgensen’s Yupo and Watercolor, Friday, March 14, Ellie Barber’s Fun with Paper Beads, Friday, March 21 and Friday, April 11 and Kay Johnson's Weave Your Own Basket on Wednesday, Jan. 15, Wednesday, Feb. 12 and Wednesday, March 12.

Daytime classes and workshops are held at CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach. Kathy Spark’s evening class is held at the newly renovated Artists’ Guild Gallery in the Island Shopping Center in Holmes Beach.

All classes are $75 for Artists’ Guild members and $90 for non-members. Workshops range in price from $30 to $125. Pre-registration is required. To register, or for more information, call 941-778-6694, or visit www.amiartists

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