The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 16 - February 12, 2014


Rod and Reel redo
Carol Whitmore

A fisherman in a kayak prepares to buy bait at the newly
reopened Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria.



ANNA MARIA – Without fanfare, the Rod and Reel restaurant opened its doors to the public on Friday, Feb. 7, for the first time since a fire damaged it four months ago.

The fire, which started near the stove, produced thick smoke, but few flames, as it burned inside the walls, but the damage was just part of the reason it took so long to get it back into shape.

“The reason it took so long was it had to be brought up to 2010 code,” said assistant manager Ted Pasquantonio. “That’s why almost everything in there is new.”

The stove was on, and the staff was anxious and glad to be back to work as customers came in and ordered breakfast.

Charlene and Rick Doll, of Anna Maria, were the first customers through the door. Rick had the first cup of coffee and after breakfast, they went downstairs to the redesigned bar and had the first beer.

Becca and Tom Lieb, from Philadelphia, were glad it reopened before they left for home.

“One reason we come to the Island is the Rod and Reel Pier,” said Becca Lieb. “We’re leaving today and we’ve been coming here for the past four years.”

Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Sellitto was there when the dining room filled with smoke. He inspected the facility at that point and when he saw smoke in the kitchen, he asked the customers to leave. For his actions, the Sheriff’s Office named him its deputy of the month for October.

He returned for breakfast Friday.

“It’s a big improvement over the old one,” he said. “I’m glad it’s the same format as the old one, but they had to make changes to meet the code.”

Marie Marsh, from Marion, Ohio, was the last customer to leave the restaurant, and she returned Friday for breakfast and to check out the new interior.

“This is a new beginning, a new chapter,” she said. “I’m glad it’s still here.”

Marsh and her family have been coming to the Island for 34 years, and they always ate at the Rod and Reel when they came, she said.

Jerry Hill, from Indiana, ate breakfast also. He has been coming to the Island for several years.

“I enjoyed the meal this morning and I’m glad it’s open,” he said.

After the fire, J&J Graphics owner Joan Carter drew up a T-shirt design using the one the restaurant uses for its shirts. She added funny descriptions to the food on the logo in the theme of the fire, for instance, “roasted oysters” instead of “fried,” and “scorched jalapeno peppers” instead of “hot.” She made an agreement with All Island Denominations to give the proceeds, after her expenses, to them to help the employees, who were suddenly put out of work, with their expenses. She said to-date, the blue colored shirts have raised $15,000 for the cause, and she still has shirts in stock in all sizes. Kandy Kerekes, of Three Island Monkeys in Island Sun Plaza is also selling shirts.

“I’m going to print more and sell them through the first week of March,” she said. “After that, they become collector’s items.”

Carter said people have been very generous in buying the shirts, which are available for a $20 donation.

“I had one man who wanted a shirt in a different color, so I printed it for him, and he got one for his wife,” she said, “After I gave them to him, he gave me a check for $1,000.”


Agreement to finish renourishment before county
Carol Whitmore

Sand and water spew out of the renourishment pipe
near 22nd Street in Bradenton Beach Monday evening
as tourists snap photos of the project at sunset.



BRADENTON BEACH – The Manatee County Board of County Commissioners was to vote Tuesday on a new agreement to have renourishment contractor Great Lakes Dredge and Dock continue covering our shores with new sand in Cortez and Coquina beaches to the tune of $5.75 million.

The agreement was announced at the meeting by County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.

Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker was scheduled to present the agreement to the county commission later in the meeting. If approved, the agreement would have Great Lakes renourish Cortez and Coquina beaches, beginning at 13th Street South and moving south to the end of the Island.

Supporting documents from Tuesday’s commission meeting included a contract for the project, but monetary amounts were left blank. The agreement calls for placing sand along the two public beaches and three sand-filled geotextile containers, or tubes, north of Longboat Pass, just north of an existing tube, to limit sand from the Coquina Beach segment from passing through the existing jetty into the pass.

Hunsicker said earlier Great Lakes was going to leave the area after finishing the first portion of the project because it had another job waiting. He said it was unclear whether they would return and that’s when he started negotiating with the contractor.

The renourishment arrived in Bradenton Beach on Sunday and will proceed toward the end of the first leg of the project by mid-March, barring any unusual delays. After that, the county had asked Great Lakes to stay and renourish Cortez and Coquina beaches, the second leg of the overall project.

Meanwhile, the pipe stretches down the beach for several blocks and as they progress south, they move the entry point for the pipe to come out of the Gulf regularly and take away the pipe that is no longer part of the operation so tourists and other beach-goers can enjoy the new sand. Where there are pipes, they construct sand walkovers.

Crime down in Anna Maria

ANNA MARIA – Mayor SueLynn is happy about the latest crime statistics for her city but the man charged with leading law enforcement in the city is not satisfied.

Sgt. Paul Davis said this is a good first year for him. There were 87 crimes reported in 2012 and 56 in 2013. Rape went from two incidents to zero, there were no robberies in both years, aggravated assaults went from four to zero, non residential burglaries stayed the same at three, residential burglaries went from 16 to 10, vehicle burglary went from 20 to six, larceny from 39 to 36 and motor vehicle thefts from three to one.

Davis has stressed getting the community involved with crime prevention by asking everyone to report anything they see that is suspicious. You can call the office directly at 807-8899 or 911 for dispatch downtown.

“If it makes your inner alarm go off, give us a call,” Davis said. “Let us figure out if it is suspicious.”

Davis said he was happy to see calls for service increase and crime drop. He said the drop is directly attributable to the increase in calls.

“If we get a call and contact a suspicious looking individual who might be planning a crime, the odds are good that that person will leave before committing a crime,” he said.

Davis commended his staff.

“They are a dynamic group of deputies who are always looking for better ways to protect the community,” he said. “Every deputy has a bike now, and they use them a lot.”

Davis said the Sheriff’s Office also purchased a Kawasaki Mule, a four-wheel-drive all terrain vehicle that can be used on the beach to check for criminal activity. He said that crime prevention is a community responsibility as well.

“I really like to emphasize community policing,” he said. “We try to talk with people and educate them on ways to prevent crime.”

Davis praised the community and the staff at city hall for their support.

“We’re all working together to keep paradise the way paradise should be,” he said.

Cortez festival this weekend

CORTEZ – Wishin’ you were fishin’? Join 25,000 other fishing fans at the 32nd Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival this weekend from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Seafood stars against the backdrop of the authentic, working historic fishing village, including the famous “Cortez hot dog” – fried mullet in a hot dog bun with cole slaw.

For those who – gasp! – don’t eat seafood, there will be other choices, including something new this year – Mexican food, said Linda Molto, one of the organizers.

Also new are 20 percent of the artists displaying nautical arts and crafts, she said, adding that even the trash bins will look like pieces of art.

An exhibit at the Florida Maritime Museum, "Art from the Archives," will feature works from the off-display collection, and volunteers will be out front decorating Silly Sea Creatures for the kids. More children’s activities, live music, marine life talks and exhibits on commercial fishing round out the festival.

This year’s slogan - “Wishin’ I was Fishin’ ” - appears on souvenir T-shirts. The artwork was created by Shannon Perkins, a recent State College of Florida graduate. Carol E. "C.P." Pantas, a Cortez resident who passed away last year, invented the slogan. If you would like a free T-shirt and $10 worth of food tickets, volunteer on Sunday; call Jane von Hahmann at 941-794-0043.

Admission is $3 with children under 12 free. Festival proceeds are used by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) to expand and restore the FISH Preserve east of the village on Sarasota Bay.

The festival gate is at the museum at 4415 119th St. W. in Cortez, at the corner of Cortez Road and 119th Street West. Park east of the village in the FISH Preserve, or look for Cortez residents allowing people to park in their yards for a fee. You can also take a shuttle bus for $2.50 round trip from Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach or from G. T. Bray Park, 5502 33rd Ave. Drive W. in Bradenton.

For more information, visit

BeachHouse joins parking lawsuit

BRADENTON BEACH – On Thursday, Feb. 6, attorney Robert Lincoln, acting on behalf of ELRA Inc., the restaurant ownership group led by Ed Chiles, filed a motion to intervene in a 2012 lawsuit filed by (now Mayor) Bill Shearon, Tjet Martin and former planning and zoning board member Jo Ann Meilner. The lawsuit pertains to the beachfront lot south of the BeachHouse restaurant and its use for parking.

Lincoln filed the motion to intervene the same day he filed a complaint, on behalf of ELRA, alleging various abuses of power by Shearon.

In 2012, while serving on the planning and zoning board, Shearon, Meilner and two other board members opposed the parking lot-related major development application submitted by ELRA.

City commissioners later discarded the planning board’s recommendation for denial and entered into a joint development agreement that allowed Chiles to make improvements to his property. The agreement also called for the construction of a small city-owned parking lot on the undeveloped lot south of and adjacent to the BeachHouse property.

In objection to this decision, Shearon and Meilner resigned from the planning board.

In November, after being elected mayor, Shearon voluntarily withdrew from the 2012 lawsuit, leaving Martin and Meilner as the remaining plaintiffs.

The case is now awaiting the appointment of a new judge after the previous judge recused herself, at the request of the plaintiffs, because of her connections to the Chiles family.

The motion to intervene allows ELRA to join the city of Bradenton Beach as co-defendants and is expected to speed up the legal process.

Chiles says he has already spent $150,000 on improvements to his property, including the construction of a dune that serves as a barrier between both lots and the beach.

Because of the 2012 lawsuit, the city never initiated construction of a city parking lot that was supposed to include shared entrance and exit points with the BeachHouse.

According the complaint filed against Shearon, the entire joint agreement project required permitting from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and that permit is set to expire in April.

If the city fails to complete its portion of the development project or fails to modify the permit to remove the city portion, ELRA could be found in violation of the FDEP permit.

According to the motion to intervene, Chiles has used the south parking area since 1993, and its use for parking dates back to 1989. The document states that the city determined that parking for 40 cars was either a permitted use or a nonconforming use grandfathered by the comprehensive plan and zoning code.

The 2012 joint development agreement allowed ELRA to grade and configure 37 parking spaces.

The unresolved Martin-Meilner lawsuit seeks to overturn the major development application that preceded the joint agreement and thus prevent parking in those locations.

The suit contends the preservation land use designation disallows parking on either property.

Meilner says she and Martin are not seeking monetary compensation, but simply trying to prevent parking from taking place on land they feel should remain undeveloped because of its land use designation.

“We want the agreement terminated and no parking on the beach. We don't really mind the dune, because any good storm is going to take it away anyway, but the suit calls for it to be removed,” Meilner said.

Concerns have also been raised about the parking lots’ potential impact on nesting sea turtles.

In December, Meilner appealed to the newly-configured commission to address the issues concerning the BeachHouse property and the proposed city parking lot.

“I’d like this committee, with three new members, to determine if this agreement violates our city codes. If they find it does, they should terminate the agreement,” she said at the time.

The commission did not act on her request.

Intervening in the Martin-Meilner lawsuit means Lincoln, in addition to defending Chiles’ right to use his property for parking, will, by default, be defending the city’s position as well.

Lincoln was asked if he sees any conflict in defending the city’s position in the parking lot suit while attempting to sue the mayor in the lawsuit filed last week.

“We think it’s completely consistent,” he said. “We are representing and protecting ELRA’s interests, but we are also protecting what we believe to be the larger interests of the city.”

Restaurant ownership files complaint against mayor

BRADENTON BEACH – ELRA Inc., the ownership group headed by Ed Chiles that owns the BeachHouse, Sandbar and Mar Vista restaurants, has filed a circuit court complaint against Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon alleging he threatened and tried to intimidate city employees.

The complaint says Shearon threatened and intimidated employees and contracted city officials, has attempted to install himself as a strong mayor in a weak mayor form of government and has misused his position to direct city officials and staff to take positions adverse to the BeachHouse and its ownership.

It also says Shearon will continue to take actions adverse to the rights granted to ELRA by the city charter and city ordinances, and that doing so violates the mayor’s powers and duties as stated in the charter.

The complaint cites Shearon’s opposition to recent BeachHouse major development applications, saying the mayor’s actions cost Chiles and his partners $15,000. ELRA is not seeking monetary compensation, but is seeking declaratory and supplemental relief from the mayor interfering with their development requests.

The complaint also goes into detail about Chiles’ efforts to use his property for parking and to make future renovations to his restaurant. At the Jan. 16 commission meeting, ELRA withdrew a major development application that included plans for a second story, open-air dining pavilion.

When asked about the allegations made against him, Shearon said, “I’m shocked and surprised. In my opinion, the allegations are unfounded.”

So far, the mayor’s comments comprise the extent of any official response from the city. Because City Attorney Ricinda Perry is referred to in the ELRA complaint, she recommended to the commission that Bradenton attorney Charles Johnson represent the mayor in this matter. The commission approved this recommendation, and also approved Perry’s suggestion that the city pay the mayor’s legal fees.

Johnson’s office has yet to respond to the ELRA allegations.

The ELRA complaint alleges that Shearon threatened or suggested that he would not renew the contracts of Building Official Steve Gilbert and Planning Official Alan Garrett unless they took positions unfavorable to BeachHouse development applications and requests.

The complaint also claims Shearon instructed Code Enforcement Officer Gail Garneau to cite the BeachHouse for code enforcement violations even if none existed. According to the complaint, Garneau asked the mayor to put those orders in writing, and the comlplaint says he refused to do so.

When asked about the basis of the allegations put forth in the complaint, ELRA attorney Robert Lincoln said, “We have good reason to believe all of the allegations in that complaint are true, but I am not going to disclose to the source of this information.”

Lincoln did acknowledge that his sources may be called upon to testify if the complaint is not resolved before being heard by a county judge.

On Thursday, Lincoln sent an e-mail to Perry stating his opinion that any efforts made by the mayor to “uncover who’s talking” would be considered “a threatening and hostile act.”

Board recommends part of Sandbar plan


Outgoing Planning and Zoning Board
Chair Tom Turner has been replaced by
board member Lou Ellen Wilson. Turner
was honored for his service to the city.


ANNA MARIA – By a unanimous vote, the city’s Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) voted to accept a modified site plan for the Sandbar restaurant without a new lot at Spring Avenue and Gulf Drive.

P&Z member Micheal Coleman recused himself from voting because of his ties with Sandbar owner Ed Chiles and the Pine Avenue Restoration project.

The additional parking lot would be designed to require vehicles to exit the lot onto Spring Avenue, turning right to avoid conflicts with traffic at the intersection, but board members felt the restaurant does not need this much more parking, even with the city’s recommendation to restrict the use of the lot to restaurant employees.

P&Z member Gene Aubrey said the Sandbar already had adequate parking spaces and asked, “How much is enough?”

While recent rains showed how drainage improvements were working, engineer Lynn Burnett said she incorporated another change in the plan that would use landscaping to keep headlights from shining into an adjacent residence.

Prior to considering the change, the board voted Lou Ellen Wilson as chair, replacing Tom Turner who stepped down for health reasons. They also voted for Gene Aubrey as vice chair.

Even though the plan would lose one parking space as it directs pedestrians away from traffic, the board felt the additional lot would be a liability.

Sgt. Paul Davis, of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said the additional lot was his biggest concern because it would create more traffic problems.

Aubrey moved to recommend accepting the site plan without the extra lot and the board agreed. The issue now goes before the city commission.

Whitmore honored by TDC

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council presented Carol Whitmore with a surfboard-shaped plaque on Monday for her service as chair of the advisory board to the Manatee County Commission.

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Director Elliott Falcione praised Whitmore for speaking her mind and for her honesty.

“At one point we thought you had forgotten about the Island,” Whitmore said. “Wow, has that changed.”

Tourism Consultant Walter Klages told the council that 2013 was an “exceptional” year with “very significant economic impact,” and predicted that the upscale domestic and European markets will continue to grow between 4.5 to 6 percent this year.

In December, the European market grew by 17.7 percent, he said, adding “You have a tiger by the tail.”

Dr. Chris Sforzo, of Florida Orthopedic Specialists and Sports Medicine, and Antonio Servano, of Premier Sports Campus, told the TDC that they expect to bring visitors to the area to play lacrosse from May through January, when the county is looking for business, Falcione said.

“Sports is a major segment for us,” Klages said, adding, “Of course we still do have the beaches… which is the core of our industry. What we have added is all these diversified activities that give us a much better competitive bite.”

The CVB is working on the first annual Bradenton Film Festival, set for May 15-18, CVB marketing manager Debbie Meihls told the board. Venues will include Manatee Technical Institute, the South Florida Museum, the Crosley Estate and the Bradenton Convention Center, she said.

The council, under the new leadership of Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, elected member Vernon DeSear as the new vice chair to replace David Teitelbaum.

The board also viewed short videos on the Orbitz website featuring Manatee County.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper