The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 12 - January 15, 2014


Bimini Cove lots sold; luxury homes to follow
Carol Whitmore


Aerial view of Bimini Cove

The 15 vacant lots from the partially built Bimini Cove project, formerly called Villa Rosa, have been sold to FH Anna Maria LLC, a real estate development group managed by Brad Baldwin, of Sarasota, and Eric Howell, of Bradenton. The transaction was closed on Dec. 30.

The developer plans to proceed with the project, which was interrupted by the bad economy around five years ago. Only one house was constructed, and it reportedly was never given a certificate of occupancy. Fourteen of those home sites are on a canal and one fronts South Bay Boulevard.

Bimini Cove will be a deed-restricted community, and is going to feature coastal style homes in the 2,200- to 3,200-square-foot range with prices starting around the $1 million mark.

The development was under scrutiny when the city commission enacted a moratorium and approved house-to-lot size ratios to control the size of new homes being built. At that point, the homes offered by a different developer would have all fit those ratios.

J.B. Baldwin, licensed real estate agent with Baldwin Properties, said they met with Anna Maria Building Official Bob Welch to discuss the project, and he said they did not have any floor plans at that point to see if the home to be built there would be allowed.

“We won’t have any plans for a few weeks,” he said. “We will, of course build whatever is allowed.”

According to a news release, Baldwin, who has completed similar developments in Boca Grande, understands the value of building a unique product while keeping with the style of the surrounding island community.

“There aren’t many streets on the Island where the homes are all of a similar style and caliber like they will be in Bimini Cove, and the location is key,” Baldwin said.

For more information on homes or lots in Bimini Cove, contact JB Baldwin at (941) 815-1595.


Tourism funds flow to Island
Carol Whitmore


The Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach will get a
facelift costing up to $2 million, half in resort tax funds.


BRADENTON – Manatee County commissioners answered a longstanding Anna Maria Island complaint that resort tax funds are not reinvested on the Island that produces most of them, also voting to implement criteria to limit future requests for the funds.

The commission voted unanimously last week to amend the county’s Tourist Development Plan to approve $1 million to rebuild the Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach, $65,000 for improvements at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach and $100,000 a year to keep the county beaches clean.

The money will come from Manatee County’s 5 percent resort tax fund. Also called the tourist development tax, tourist tax or bed tax, the resort tax is collected from owners of accommodations rented for six months or less who charge the tax to their renters, in most cases, tourists. For every dollar visitors pay to a hotel or private condo or home rental, five cents goes to the fund.

For the 2012-13 fiscal year that ended in October 2013, nearly half of the county’s resort tax revenue was produced on Anna Maria Island, according to the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office.

The tax funds the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) tourism marketing efforts and beach renourishment, and the expansions approved last week.

Pier repairs funded

The county’s partnership with the city of Bradenton Beach to repair the Bridge Street Pier was initiated by former Mayor John Shaughnessy, who approached the Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) for the funds last year.

The council, an advisory board to the county commission, unanimously approved his proposal that the county contribute a dollar for dollar match up to $1 million for every dollar the city spends on pier repairs.

The pier was damaged by boats that were blown from their moorings by storms, and by normal wear and tear. City pier team officials have struggled with budgetary constraints for years, at one point, considering rebuilding fewer shade structures and other amenities. The new funds will enable the city to replicate existing pier amenities, according to pier team leaders.

The pier is “an iconic amenity in our community,” Elliott Falcione, executive director of the CVB, told commissioners on Tuesday.

The city “has some skin in it,” said Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon, promising that the city will improve the pier “not only for our residents, but Manatee County residents and visitors from all over the world.”

Piers are a big tourism draw in Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria, “and used to be in Holmes Beach,” before the county demolished the aging pier at Manatee Public Beach, County Commissioner and former TDC Chair Carol Whitmore said.

Manatee Public Beach improvements

In a partnership with United Park Services (UPS), the county’s tenant at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach, the county pledged a dollar for dollar match up to $45,000 for every dollar that UPS spends on the renovation of the public restrooms at the south end of the pavilion.

Years of visitors rinsing sandy feet in sinks and otherwise misusing the facilities has caused plumbing and other problems in the aging structure, according to UPS.

The county also pledged $20,000 to replace the entrance sign at Manatee Public Beach, which Whitmore has disliked from its installation.

“The new sign has eroded away the character of the beaches with neon,” she said, adding that Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen also has expressed concern about the sign. “The operators have tried to turn it down, but it just looks like St. Pete and Clearwater, and I know that’s not the impression we want to give.”

The Holmes Beach Commission approved the sign in 2011 after rejecting a 19-foot-tall version proposed by UPS partner Alan Kahana.

A new sign “will accent the destination’s brand,” Falcione said.

“Let’s hope we can get it back… to the character of a laid-back, non-commercial setting,” Whitmore said.

The commission also voted to use up to $100,000 a year to clean up Manatee Public Beach and Coquina Beach when a storm, red tide, mullet dumping, surplus of visitors or other event leaves debris on the beach.

New criteria for future requests

The commission also unanimously voted to establish seven new criteria to apply to future requests for resort tax funds, which Falcione presented last month to the TDC, which unanimously approved them.

“We need to reinvest to continue to grow our community and our amenities within our community,” Falcione said. “We created some criteria so we continue to make good investments.”

The criteria are:

• Is the requested project an eligible use of tourism resort tax funds under Florida law?
• What level of investment will the project proposer be making?
• Is the project in a tourism high-impact corridor?
• Will the project generate short-term rental room nights?
• Will the project generate marketplace impressions?
• Is the project similar to an existing project?
• Will the project help diversify the county in the tourism marketplace?

The county’s tourism consultant will help in projecting room nights and marketplace impressions, Falcione said, confirming Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen’s understanding that all of the criteria do not have to be met to approve a project.

“It will help the TDC when people come before the board,” Whitmore said, adding that she is glad to have the guidelines.

“This money comes from tourism so it should stay in tourism,” she said. “We’ve gotten requests that wouldn’t generate hardly any tourism funds.”

State flood insurance bill moves forward ...

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Senate Banking and Insurance Committee unanimously approved a bill last Wednesday that would allow insurance consumers to purchase private flood insurance instead of FEMA policies.

Senate Bill 542, proposed by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, would encourage private insurers to offer policies in Florida to compete with the standardized rates of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies.

It would allow policyholders flexibility not only on rates but on coverage, such as insuring for the amount of a mortgage, replacement value or cash value.

The bill also would add projected flood losses to the factors that must be considered by the Office of Insurance Regulation in reviewing a rate filing.

The bill is the state Legislature’s response to the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which aimed to make the NFIP financially sound by increasing rates. As a result, some flood insurance premiums on Anna Maria Island increased by several hundred percent last year. More increases are expected after new federal flood maps are released in March.

Several bills are pending in Congress to reform Biggert-Waters, including the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, expected to be voted on this week, which would delay flood insurance increases for four years.

The state bill had not been set for a hearing by the full Senate by press time. The Florida Legislative session begins on Tuesday, March 4.


... as agents discuss coverage changes

HOLMES BEACH – A full house greeted two private insurance agents who explained changes to federal flood insurance due to the Bigger-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and what their companies could offer to those whose premiums are slated to skyrocket.

Jamie Meirowsky, of Dick, Johnson & Jefferson Inc. Insurance, and Jeff Nungesser, of Iron City Investments, said they are multi-line independent agents specializing in homeowners and flood insurance.

Meirowsky said those who purchase homes in the A or V zones, which includes the entire Island, after Oct. 4, 2012, must have elevation certificates in order to purchase flood insurance.

“Anyone who had a flood insurance policy prior to July 6, 2012, on their primary residence will see increase up to 20 percent each year,” she said. “If it was a non-primary residence, you’ll have to get an elevation certificate and you’ll receive 25 percent increases until your premium reaches that non-subsidized rate.

“If you bought your flood insurance after July 6, 2012, and did not use an elevation certificate to get your policy, you’ll need to get one done and your premium will increase immediately at renewal. That’s where you hear about the large increases.”

Other changes

Meirowsky said another change is that buyers used to be able assume a seller’s flood insurance policy, but the new law eliminated that possibility.

“One other thing that’s important for you to know, as of June 1, the definition of primary residence is changing. If you or your spouse lives in your home for 50 percent or more of the year, you can call it your primary residence for flood insurance.

“However, if you had a claim and the whole house was a total loss, your flood insurance is only going to pay actual cash value, unless you live in that house for 80 percent or more of the year.”

Nungesser said the private policies are written the same way the federal policies are, but do not require elevation certificates. They are based on the zone and do not consider the age of the home. They are only issued on single-family and buildings with two to four residential units.


Q: Who issues elevation certificates and how much do they cost?
A: Surveyors and architects; $300 to $400.

Q: What about condos?
A: The changes for multi-family and commercial buildings have not been solidified yet.

Q: Is the base flood elevation 11 feet?
A: It depends on the home and location.

Q: What’s the difference between a primary and secondary residence?
A: Currently, if you or your spouse lives in your house for 80 percent or more of the year, it’s primary. As of June 1, that will be 50 percent. However, unless you live there for 80 percent or more a year, if you have a claim, it’s covered at actual cash value instead of replacement cost.

Q: What about damage to your lot?
A: You’re insuring the home, not the lot.

Q: What about rental properties owned by absentee owners who plan to retire here?
A: They are non-primary residences.

Q: If people drop their federal flood insurance and go to private insurers, what will that do to the National Flood Insurance Program?
A: That’s a FEMA question.

Cell tower dispute ends

Ridan Industries | submitted

Example of the stealth unipole cell
tower coming to Bradenton Beach


BRADENTON BEACH – A new cell tower is coming to the city.

That was the decision of city commissioners last week, who concluded they have a legally binding contract with cell tower company Alpha-Omega Communications to build the structure.

The move was made at a department head meeting Jan. 9, when nearly everyone involved was allowed to make their final arguments for and against the proposal.

The meeting gave those new to the commission an opportunity to weigh in on a decision rendered by the previous commission. In the end, commissioners were in unanimous consensus that the city was contractually obligated to allow construction of a telecommunications tower on Highland Avenue.

Before the decision was rendered, Mayor Bill Shearon said, “I want to let everybody have the opportunity to speak and say their piece.”

Paul Georges made a final plea to commissioners, saying, “If you look honestly at the request and vote your conscience, I really believe you will vote to stop the proposal. That is the right thing to do.”

Jo Ann Meilner posed a question, saying, “Our charter says in order to lease real city property, there must be an ordinance. Do we have an ordinance that allows the city to lease real city property?”

Questioning the legality of the tower, John Reed requested that the height restrictions stated in the city charter be addressed.

Offering support for a cell tower, resident Miriam Rayl recounted a recent incident involving a neighbor’s water heater catching fire. She said poor cell reception hindered her efforts to contact the fire department. She also said poor reception makes it difficult to stay in contact with the hospital in St. Louis where her husband, David, received a double lung transplant.

“We live in a cell phone world, so we need something to fix this problem,” she said.

Florida Tower Partners attorney Mary Doty Solik said, “This cell tower is the subject of a binding lease agreement with the city, a building permit issued to AT&T, and a building permit fairly soon to be issued to Florida Tower Partners for the construction of the tower. Most of the issues raised by the citizens were fully vetted and examined. These issues have all been addressed and from our perspective, the ship has sailed. Any decision by this commission to back away from previous approvals and contracts will lead to litigation.”

When asked by Shearon to address the charter concerns raised by citizens, Solik said, “You (the previous commission) approved an ordinance approving the lease. The height limitation in your charter applies to building structures. Your land development code qualifies the tower as a non-habitable structure, so the charter provision has not been violated.”

Vice Mayor Janie Robertson disagreed, and said, “Interpreting the charter is parsing words. We’re talking about a height restriction, period. Until someone can convince me that it’s different, that’s where I stand.”

Robertson said that in May 2011 the city had a telecommunications ordinance that complied with the city charter and she alleged that the commission in office at the time added language that violates the charter.

“The only people who have the authority to change the charter are the citizens of Bradenton Beach,” Robertson said, referring to the stipulation that charter changes require voter approval.

Solik said, “You take action as the city, not as these four commissioners or these four commissioners. Majority rules and that is the action of the body going forward, even though the individual members of the body may change.”

She also said, “The appeal periods for all of those decisions have long passed and now you have a valid enforceable contract with Florida Tower Partners.”

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh sat on the commission that approved the cell tower. “I feel that we are in dire need of a cell tower in Bradenton Beach. I was pleased to vote for it and I’d absolutely vote for it again,” she said. “I think we should just let this go.”

Commissioner Ed Straight sat on the previous commission and Commissioner Jack Clarke did not; both men have expressed support for Vosburgh’s position, with Clarke doing so during last week’s meeting.

When Shearon asked for a consensus to bring the matter to a close, it was unanimously agreed, with Robertson’s reluctant support, that it was time move on.

As he left city hall, Alpha-Omega Communications CEO Jim Eatrides said the majority of the cell tower components will be contained inside the tower; and from a distance, the tower will resemble the sailboat masts in the nearby marina. When completed, the top of the tower will measure 36 inches in circumference.

Eatrides expects the tower to be operational by mid-2014, at a cost of slightly more than $2 million, including elements provided by AT&T and Verizon.

Mayors talk about common issues


This drawing by Island architect Gene Aubry shows
a design for comfort stations proposed by
Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti.


HOLMES BEACH –Discussing a wide range of topics the four Island mayors met for the first time in Holmes Beach last week to share ideas on working together.

Mayor Carmel Monti, who initiated the meeting, said its purpose is to see if the cities can share services in areas where they overlap. He said they would begin with smaller issues that could unify the islands and move on to larger issues.

Monti said he is pursuing with county officials the concept of paid parking at the Manatee County Beach and that a TDC study said charging for parking does not affect tourism. He said only non-residents would pay the fee of $10 per day and revenue could be $11 million per year.

He said the city’s congestion committee has suggested alternative parking lots at churches and banks, but residents complained “that they don’t want people walking past their houses. I’m not sure we’ll please everybody all the time but we’ll do what’s best for the majority of people.”

Different problems

“Bradenton Beach is different because we have 1,600 parking spaces at Coquina Beach,” Mayor Bill Shearon said. “The problem we have is people that don’t want to go to the public beach; they’d rather park on Bridge Street. The main concern is how are you going to enforce it?”

Police Chief Bill Tokajer said his philosophy is to educate and enforce. He said he has alerted people through the newspapers and flyers, and his officers enforce the laws strictly and uniformly.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said her city commission asked her to present options, but they have not had the opportunity to discuss them yet.

“Everybody wants to park at the beach,” she pointed out. “We have 65 to 75 parking spaces at the city pier. All they have to do is walk over the humpback bridge to Bayfront Park, but people don’t want to walk.

“I support what you are doing at the pubic beach, but my concern is that when they find out they have to pay, some people will go for the free space. If you put parking meters in, for our own preservation, we would also have to put parking meters in, at least in some areas.”

“All three towns have very different circumstances, but I don’t think paid parking at the public beach in Holmes Beach will affect Bradenton Beach or Anna Maria,” Shearon said.

Banners and comfort stations

Monti suggested that the three Island cities display banners using the cover of the old Anna Maria Beach Company brochure featuring a young lady with a fishing pole and a beach scene in the background. He said they could change the wording to Anna Maria Island and emphasize the TDC’s Real Authentic Florida slogan.

“It’s a great idea to tie the three communities together,” Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown said. “It’s a good image.”

Shearon, Monti and SueLynn said they would take it to their city commissions.

Monti also introduced the concept of comfort stations and said, “We have seven miles of beach and only two concession stands. One suggestion is to have some rest stations where people could use the bathroom, wash their feet, change their babies, take a shower.

“We have a lot of complaints from people who say that beachgoers use their yards to take a shower and wash their feet, but at the same time we don’t offer an services.”

He showed a drawing by Island architect Gene Aubry of an open structure and said there could be three or four close to the beach that would be accessible to tourists and residents. He said he felt it could be a Manatee County Tourist Development Council project

“It would be a challenge to get that past my city commission,” SueLynn said. “If you were to do it, the TDC would have to pay 100 percent.”

Shearon also agreed TDC funds would be needed and added, “The only negative I could find is you could end up with loitering problems.

Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie said the idea was brought up years ago for Cortez Beach and neighbors protested. He suggested that they get input from residents.

Waste collection services

The mayors discussed the possibility of working together on waste collection contracts in order to improve costs and services.

Longboat Key Town Manager Dave Bullock said he is currently working on a bid package and offered, “We could include a paragraph in our contract that says other communities could join in the contract when theirs expires.”

Shearon said that would be a good idea because all of the contracts expire at different times.

Bullock pointed out, “It would be under the same terms, conditions and price as ours. You wouldn’t be able to use it to negotiate your own separate deal.”

Bullock said the procurement officers in Sarasota County cities and Sarasota County have been working together to develop a set of bids for frequently used items and also standardizing contracts with vendors. He suggested Manatee County cities and Manatee County do the same.

Chappie said he would take the suggestion to Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, and Bullock said he would send him some documents the others have developed.

Clerk issues another Sunshine warning

HOLMES BEACH – For the second time since last fall, City Clerk Stacey Johnston has issued a warning to city officials regarding meeting the obligations of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law.

After receiving notes from a preliminary meeting on the dog park held on Dec. 17 at the Coffee Haas between Mayor Carmel Monti, Police Chief Bill Tokajer and resident Renee Ferguson, Johnston issued a memo on Jan. 8.

“It appears that this new park committee will be making recommendations,” Johnston said. “If so, they will fall under the Sunshine requirements. Please let me know so that the appropriate noticing, location availability, etc. can be coordinated prior to the new committee meeting as a group.”

According to the dog park meeting notes, “The meeting was held at the Coffee Haas to discuss establishing a committee to handle some of the needs, issues and rules that need defining.”

Topics under discussion were revising the existing rules, maintaining the park, changing the opening and closing times and establishing a fee for use.

In September, Johnston issued a memo to Island Congestion Committee members about sending e-mails to each other on their personal accounts. At the same time, Johnston had to stop a meeting of the City Center Committee for not notifying the press after previously warning them that the Sunshine Law governs their meetings.

Charter Review Committee begins task

HOLMES BEACH – Charter Review Committee members last week agreed on how to approach their task before delving into the chapter governing charter amendments.

“We have a common purpose to review and propose amendments to the charter,” Chair Bob Johnson said. “Each of us should expect from each other full participation, but not necessarily agreement.

“The last thing we want to do is agree with each other because of unsound reasons and find ourselves on a bus trip to Abilene where nobody wants to go.”

Members agreed on four phases and a time frame for their work:

• January: Understand the charter and its evolution;
• February: Solicit input from city officials, employees and the public;
• March/April: Establish recommendations;
• April/May: Finalize amendments and present them to the commission for approval.

Johnson said each article would be reviewed and discussed with input from the city attorney, and they would identify the points of inconsistency. At the end of each meeting, they would summarize their discussion and agree on topics for the next meeting.

Article XII – Charter amendment

According to the charter, there are four ways to change it – the city commission can propose amendments by ordinance, which must be approved by voters; the voters can initiate a petition to propose a charter amendment if signed by 10 percent of the voters and approved by voters; the city commission by a unanimous vote can propose amendments correcting typographical errors; the charter review committee can propose amendments, which must be approved by voters.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff pointed out that because the city is involved in an initiative petition process on the tree house, several questions about the charter process have arisen.

These include the type of form used for collecting voters’ signatures on the petition, the number of signatures allowed per page and when the election on the amendment should take place, which in the charter states, “at the next general election held not more than 90 days after the certification or at special election called for such purpose.”

Johnson said the charter was amended in 1991 to change it from “not less than 90 days,” and suggested returning to the original language. Petruff said the committee also should consider election regulations and the timetable that the supervisor of elections must follow. Member David Cheshire said they also must be reasonably responsive to the petitioner.

Consider judge’s ruling

Another issue involves a 2013 amendment to Florida Statute that prohibits the use of the initiative process with regard to any development order. Petruff has maintained that the tree house ordinance would be a development order and advised the city to seek a judge’s ruling, which it is currently in the process of doing.

She told the committee that since the question has not been ruled on, they should add a cross reference in the section explaining the initiative petition process stating, “as allowed by general law.”

In the section stating that the city commission by a unanimous vote can propose amendments correcting typographical errors, Petruff suggested they change unanimous to super majority because “in other jurisdictions, I’ve seen where one person votes no on everything.” The committee members agreed.

Petruff also questioned a sentence that states that all papers of a petition “shall be assembled as one instrument for filing,” and asked, “What does that mean?” She suggested it could mean “all at one time.”

Members questioned the section regarding votes on conflicting amendments and what happens in the case of a tie.

“There is language in there that in an election, if there is a tie the winner is determined by drawing lots,” Cheshire offered. “But I think in this case it’s like our Constitution, and if there is no winner, there is no winner.”

The others agreed.

The next meeting was set for Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 10 a.m.

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