Vol. 17 No. 17 - February 8, 2017


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryRoad rage Lowered speed limit gets reaction

HOLMES BEACH — Drivers crossing the Anna Maria Island Bridge may have noticed a recent speed change.

The slow down going in and out of Holmes Beach via Manatee Avenue isn't all due to extra traffic. Beginning Jan. 30, the speed limit from the Manatee Public Beach on Manatee Avenue to the Anna Maria Island Bridge was slowed to 25 miles per hour. Speed across the bridge was slowed from 45 to 35 miles per hour.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer, who also serves as the city's traffic engineer, reached out to the Florida Department of Transportation in 2015 and again in 2016 about reducing the speed limit along the quarter mile stretch of road in Holmes Beach. The state agency responded by lowering not only the speed on the stretch of Island road, but also across the bridge on the approach to Holmes Beach.

Tokajer said his primary reason for requesting the change is increased safety on a shared road. With the road frequented by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, he said the speed limit needed to be lowered to help prevent accidents. Another reason for the slow down is the amount of traffic going in and out of Kingfish boat ramp. More...

Occupancy appeal being withdrawn

ANNA MARIA – The vacation rental company that unsuccessfully challenged the city of Anna Maria's eight-person occupancy limit has begun the process of withdrawing its appeal to a higher court.

Last week, City Attorney Becky Vose received notice of voluntary dismissal from attorney Randolph Smith and the Najmy Thompson law firm. Smith represents Florida Gulf Coast Vacation Homes LLC doing business as Anna Maria Vacations. Florida Gulf Coast Vacation Homes LLC is registered to Joe and Kelley Varner.

"Appellant, Anna Maria Vacations, hereby voluntarily dismiss with prejudice this pending appeal. Each party shall bear his or its own attorney's fees and costs," the notice states.

Vose acknowledged receipt of the notice, but as of Monday morning it had not yet been formally filed with the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland or the 12th Circuit Court in Bradenton where the case was first argued in April. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StorySteube's office responds to opposition

ANNA MARIA – State Sen. Greg Steube has received many e-mails and letters from Island residents and elected officials expressing opposition to the vacation rental bill he recently filed.

Steube's bill, SB 188, proposes local governments be prohibited from enacting new vacation rental regulations or enforcing rental regulations adopted after June 1, 2011.

Some who wrote to Steube received a stock response from his legislative aide, Elizabeth Bolles.

"Short-term rentals have become a vital component of Florida's tourism industry, granting property owners and visitors more flexibility when planning the duration and location of their stay. These types of rentals also help lift financial burdens off family renters by allowing them to stay together in a home instead of multiple hotel rooms that can get unnecessarily expensive. Property rights are advanced by this industry as well, giving owners the freedom to rent out their property as they so choose," Bolles' response states. More...

House threatens to cut funds for Visit Florida

The Florida House of Representatives has proposed a bill that would eliminate state funding for two public/private agencies; Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency, and Enterprise Florida, created to attract new businesses to the state.

The bill would transfer all public funds relating to programs in Enterprise Florida Inc., and the Florida Tourism Marketing Corporation (Visit Florida) to the state's Department of Economic Opportunity.

Both agencies have private funds that would not be cut. In 2015-16, Visit Florida had $74 million in public funding and $133 million in private funding, according to the agency.

The bill was filed last week, two days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked the Legislature for $76 million for Visit Florida and $85 million for Enterprise Florida, and three weeks after the resignation of Visit Florida Director Will Seccombe in the wake of a secret $1 million contract with rapper Pitbull, uncovered in a lawsuit filed by Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Increased scrutiny revealed that the agency paid $9.1 million to a partnership run by Christopher Thompson, the former Visit Florida executive who hired Seccombe. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryWater ferry permit delayed

SARASOTA – Paradise Boat Tours and Tevatan LLC General Manager Sherman Baldwin's plans to initiate a ferry service between Sarasota and Bradenton Beach have encountered bureaucratic delays.

Baldwin thought he was scheduled to appear before the Sarasota City Commission on Monday, Feb. 6, in anticipation of being granted a city-issued a water taxi license that would allow him to operate his proposed Sarasota-based water ferry service that would make multiple daily trips back and forth between downtown Sarasota and the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.

On Monday, Jan. 30 learned that his water taxi permit was not listed on the Feb. 6 agenda because city staff wanted more information pertaining to parking, insurance and other logistical details. The city of Sarasota adopted its water taxi permit ordinance in 2003, but according to Baldwin, he's the first to submit an application. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryCenter focuses on fundraising efforts

ANNA MARIA — Facing a $135,000 shortfall and with little financial help on the horizon from Manatee County or the three Island cities, the leaders at The Center of Anna Maria Island are looking to fund raising to help close the financial gap.

During a Jan. 30 board of directors meeting, board Treasurer Jim Froeschle said while The Center's activities generally break even, the nonprofit is losing $65,000 a month in overhead costs and expenses. With no government support forthcoming, The Center is looking to other sources to help offset costs.

"We are more dependent on private donations than we have been in a long, long time," he said. More...

Two venues for AMICCO young artists

The Anna Maria Island Community Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO) will break new ground as it celebrates young artists this month.

At 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11, the three artists will be featured in AMICCO's first concert in Sarasota County at Northminster Presbyterian Church. This program will be repeated at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12, at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church on Cortez Road in Bradenton.

The concerts will feature two young artists from Lakewood Ranch, violinist Gabrielle Ferra and clarinetist Michael Miller, plus 13-year-old cellist Andrew Bailey, from Sarasota.

Gabrielle Ferra is the 2016 winner of AMICCO's Young Solo Artist Competition. She graduated first in her class of 500 from Lakewood Ranch High School and was the concertmaster of the Sarasota Youth Philharmonic during her senior year. Ferra performs her favorite piece, Bruch's "Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26," at the Feb. 11 and 12 concerts. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story Slogans change, but historic Cortez festival remains

CORTEZ – In 1982, as a storm of opposition to the commercial fishing industry brewed, local fishermen had an idea that caught on – to give people a fun opportunity to learn about fishing firsthand in the historic fishing village of Cortez.

"The whole purpose was public education that net fishing wasn't the destructive force that some people were portraying it as," said Allen Garner, one of the original festival organizers.

That first year, villagers pitched in to make fish chowder, which was gone by noon, recalls another festival veteran, John Stevely, who stored the $3,500 in proceeds in his trunk until the bank opened on Monday morning. The original $1 admission has only been raised to $4 since then. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryFavorite spring pairings

Enduring these harsh, 60º Florida winters has the Motorworks Brewing team pining for warmer spring days and the delicious beers and meals that accompany them. As we gear up for the spring, our minds (and stomachs) are inevitably drawn to sweet citrus fields and flowery concoctions. We invite you to try some of our favorite spring pairings.  

Let's start with our Grapefruit IPA, with its bright citrus aroma and zesty flavors, it's truly like biting into breakfast. For lighter fare, try pairing it with a fresh garden salad topped with a mild beer vinaigrette.

Next up is our award-winning and unique Lavender Ale, brewed with a hefty helping of fresh lavender. Pair it with a slider on a brioche bun topped with feta cheese and basil for a veritable flavor explosion, highlighting the sweet and aromatic flavors present in both the beer and slider.  More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News Story Cold weather strategy

When winter weather comes to southwest Florida, anglers have to alter their strategy to meet the changing conditions. Cold fronts not only drop water temperatures, but can cloud local waters and produce shifting cold winds. Fortunately, the passing fronts yield to periods of calm and often balmy weather. While weather conditions can vary significantly, the first strong fronts put fish into a winter pattern.

One factor that remains consistent during our winters is a change in the water temperatures.  Knowing the way different species respond to the chilling waters gives anglers an advantage. While winter fishing can be challenging, excellent action is available to fishers that use their senses and think like a fish. Awareness and persistence really pays dividends when the thermometer begins to plunge.   More...

real estate

This could be a very confusing year

If you've dealt with your cold feet and are ready to walk down the aisle to the closing table, make sure you have some extra cash in the pocket of that tux. Closing costs can be the biggest surprise when purchasing a home, even bigger than the leaking roof.

One of the responses of the financial crisis is more transparency on the part of lenders when disclosing closing costs. However, there are plenty of other surprises that buyers could be facing that are not required to be disclosed. Typically closing costs can run as high as 5 percent of the purchase price, exclusive of the down payment. Here are some of the costs that may be disclosed and others that may be a surprise:

Lender fees to the bank are disclosed and specific, however, buyers may also need to pay for an appraiser, home inspectors and settlement agents the day of closing. In addition, title insurance and homeowners' insurance are required by lenders and must be in place by the day of closing. If you purchase a property without a mortgage, title and homeowners' insurance are optional but not recommended not to have. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryAcqua Aveda: a full service day spa

Anna Maria has a lot of great business stories, and I thought I heard them all, until now. But the lovely and confident young woman who recently purchased Acqua Aveda Salon in Holmes Beach has a new twist to business and family.

Ali Severson purchased Acqua Aveda On The Beach Salon in May of last year after having worked there for nine years. The transition was virtually seamless, helped by the staff, that she sincerely thanks, and that all remained with her. The talented and experienced staff some with as much as 30 years' experience, participate in continuing education classes on a regular basis. In fact, since owning Acqua, Severson has doubled her staff in preparation for the Waterline resort and marina next door set to open this year and which has chosen Acqua Aveda to be the signature salon for its guests.

Acqua Aveda has seven hairstylists, three massage therapists, two nail specialists, an eyelash specialist and three at the front desk coordinating guest services. Severson herself is a hair stylist and make-up artist. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Reverse mortgages worth another look

Investment Corner

I have written about reverse mortgages over the years, at least twice here in the Sun. My advice was that reverse mortgages were expensive for the borrower, but in the case where a retired person or couple had run out of assets, using the equity in their home through a reverse mortgage wasn’t the worst idea in the world.

I’m bringing the topic back one more time because some changes in federal guidelines have made the reverse mortgage a more attractive option for those who are over age 62, that own their home free and clear of another mortgage and who are concerned about the possibility of running low on retirement income during their lifetime

Space limitations don’t’ allow us to go into a full primer on reverse mortgages, but let’s hit some of the highlights. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryTeam Beach to Bay scores the win

In the much-anticipated final game of the adult co-ed recreational soccer league season at The Center, more than 50 fans and spectators anxiously awaited the arrival of the referees to start the championship match. With great expectations, Team Mason Martin took the initial kick against Team Anna Maria CrossFit in the battle for the Paul "Ace" Hayward Championship Cup.

Unexpectedly, Anna Maria CrossFit dominated the ball to start the game. Striking hard and striking fast, Ryan Moss took the first shot near mid-field for Team CrossFit. The soccer ball sailed just over the crossbar.

With the support of family, Mason Martin's Lexi Braxton Sato played to win, taking a shot that went just right of the post. Rico Beissert followed with shot of his own for Team CrossFit that soared just left of the post.

Lighting up the field, Beissert carried the ball down the field to find teammate Will Kretzmann in the box. Beissert's crossing pass was just out of Kretzmann's reach, resulting in a save by starting goalie Ben Sato. More...

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