Vol. 17 No. 20 - March 1, 2017
Water ferry service tentatively approved
SARASOTA – The Sarasota City Commission has unanimously approved a conditional city-issued water taxi permit that will allow Sherman Baldwin and Tevatan LLC to operate a water ferry service between Sarasota and the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.
The conditional elements of the permit approved Tuesday, Feb. 21, include Baldwin still needing to acquire sublease rights for a city of Sarasota-owned dock building near Centennial Park and the 10th Street boat ramp. The dock and adjacent city-owned building are leased to the all-volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary flotilla. Baldwin also plans to inquire about subleasing and sharing the sparingly used auxiliary building for use as a lobby area.
Baldwin was scheduled to meet with Sarasota Parking General Manager Mark Lyons this week to discuss the subleases and to further clarify the parking situation. Depending on the outcome of these discussions, Baldwin hopes to begin his ferry service as early as next month or as late as July. He originally hoped to begin service in mid-February, until he encountered unanticipated delays in the permitting process. More...
Rental-inspired LDC amendments proposed
BRADENTON BEACH – Last week, the Planning and Zoning Board completed the second phases of its efforts to regulate vacation rentals.
After previously crafting recommended vacation rental regulations aimed at addressing occupant behavior, the volunteer board embarked on a secondary effort that involves amending the city's land development code (LDC) as a means of potentially limiting home sizes, lot sizes and the size and number of bedrooms allowed.
The proposed LDC amendments are directed primarily at the future construction of vacation rental homes, but if adopted by the city commission they would apply to all properties in the R-1 and R-2 residential zones. More...
FDOT approves Holmes Beach speed changes
HOLMES BEACH — It didn't take long for the Florida Department of Transportation to respond to Holmes Beach commissioners' request to return the speed limit to 35 miles per hour west of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.
Holmes Beach was in an uproar after the FDOT, without notice, lowered the speed limit across the bridge from 45 to 35 mph and reduced speed west of the bridge from 35 to 25 mph.
During a special meeting convened Feb. 16, commissioners voted unanimously to request a reversal of the FDOT decision. More...
P&Z member leaving AMI over rentals
Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board member Frank Harrison tendered his written resignation last week after recently announcing that he would soon be leaving the board because he and his wife, Priscilla VonAhnen, are selling their house on 11th Street South and leaving their Island home of more than 40 years.
The couple is moving across the bridge to the north end of Longboat Key. In recent years, Harrison has repeatedly expressed displeasure that he and his wife gradually became the only permanent residents left on a street that is now populated by vacation rental homes. The couple spearheaded the citizen-led efforts to enact the voter-approved, six-month building moratorium that is scheduled to expire in May. More...
WGI first choice for pier design
ANNA MARIA – The Wantman Group Inc. (WGI) engineering firm from Palm Beach has been deemed the city's first choice to handle the design and permitting phases for the rehabilitation of the Historic Anna Maria City Pier.
When presenting his bid rankings at the Feb. 23, commission meeting, Mayor Dan Murphy said WGI ranked highest, followed by Taylor Engineering from Sarasota and the McLaren Engineering Group from Orlando.
Murphy said City Clerk LeAnn Addy and new City Planner Robin Mayer conducted their own independent reviews of the three proposals and ranked the firms in the same order, with slightly different point totals. More...
Tickets now available for Tour of Homes
ANNA MARIA - Preparations are under way for The Center of Anna Maria Island's 24th annual Tour of Homes.
This year's event takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 18, opening five Island properties in Holmes Beach and Anna Maria to the public. Each property was specially selected for its reflection of Island living, distinctive architecture and elegant interior.
Along the tour route, attendees will have the opportunity to shop the Tropical Treasures Boutique featuring arts, crafts and culinary delicacies all created especially for the tour. The boutique also will be home to "The Mermaid's Journey" during the Tour, a quilt created especially for the event by the Eyeland Needlers. The quilt will be raffled during the event. More...
What it takes to change a bridge timing
ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Michael Lieberum, Chief of Bridge Operations for the United States Coast Guard's Seventh District, explained last week how the bridge timing requests for two Island bridges will be processed.
On Feb. 13, Lieberum e-mailed the three Island mayors and informed them that Friday, April 14, is the deadline to submit public comment on the proposed reduction of bridge openings for four draw bridges along the Intracoastal Waterway. Dating back to 2015, the requests pertain to the Cortez Bridge, the Anna Maria Island Bridge and two bridges in Sarasota. The requests were made in order to reduce traffic congestion created by bridge openings.
The proposed rulemaking calls for the bridges to be opened on the quarter hour and the three-quarter hour, from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m., when requested by passing boat operators. The bridges would still be opened at any time for an emergency vessel or a tug boat. The Island bridges being considered can currently be opened three times an hour from January 15 to April 15, and twice an hour for the rest of the year. More...
Visit Florida bill passes last committee
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has voted 18-12 to pass HB 7005, a bill that would reduce funding for Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency, and eliminate funding for Enterprise Florida.
An amendment proposed by bill sponsor, House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O'Lakes), and approved by the committee would cut Visit Florida's budget by two-thirds to $25 million and impose new budget transparency measures, salary caps and other fiscal reforms.
If the bill passes, funding for Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency, would be eliminated, along with funding for the state film commission. More...
Thirty years of rescue in Bradenton Beach
BRADENTON BEACH – The Wildlife, Inc. Education and Rehabilitation Center sits in a very unlikely spot – an established residential neighborhood on Anna Maria Island. The home of Gail and Ed Straight, hidden behind shrubbery and trees as well as a fence, looks like any other residence, but there are many surprises inside.
Neighbors are used to the noises from parrots, owls and other injured critters who live there in cages. Some of them are on the mend and will be released back to the wild, while others are too injured to survive on their own, and they will spend the rest of their days there.
Wildlife Inc. has been around 30 years and many residents and government workers of Manatee County know to call 941-778-6324 if they find an animal in distress. The Straights have accepted all types of animals in need of care, from magnificent raptors such as eagles to owls otters, turtles and recently, an 8-foot snake found in Robinson Preserve. More...
Sarasota Bay Watch begins clam restoration
Since its beginning, a decade ago, Sarasota Bay Watch (SBW) has focused much of its efforts on scallop restoration. The organization has already released over 21,000,000 scallop larvae. Newly acquired funds will ensure the continuation of this long term, community-driven restoration effort.
While scallop restoration will remain a priority of the group, SBW is enthusiastically beginning a clam restoration initiative. Like bay scallops, southern hard clams (aka quahogs) were once abundant in our bays and waterways. Due to the same factors that affected scallops – over harvest, water pollution, sewage, dredge and fill and storm water run-off – clams no longer thrive in local waters.
The decision to add clams to the restoration effort springs from their unique and hardy life cycle. These shellfish inhabit the flats along the eastern seaboard from Canada to Florida. They range in size from 1 to 4 inches wide, and vary in color from gray to white. Depending on their size, they are also known as Cherrystone, and Littlenecks. More...
Flood insurance - it just never goes away
Take a look out your window or walk to the end of the street or take a very short ride to the beach, no matter where you go on Anna Maria Island you're looking at water. And what happens when the beautiful water you're looking at gets too high or starts to overflow your pool or starts seeping under the front door. Well, folks, that's called a flood.
Thanks to the Flood Disaster Protection Act, everyone who lives in a flood zone can purchase flood insurance, and the majority of those people are mandated to purchase flood insurance by their mortgage lenders. The Flood Protection Disaster Act is a government subsidized program and as we know, the premiums for this insurance has been going up consistently for several years now and will continue to increase.
Rates are going up because The Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 was passed in order to phase out government discounts to homeowners by gradually increasing their rates until they achieve their full risk level and actuarial rates. Annual flood insurance rates in our area are increasing from 5 percent to 18 percent for primary residences and more for non-primary residences. More...
Mermaid showing no signs of slowing down
ANNA MARIA – Ed Spring wants folks to know that it's business as usual at his Sign of the Mermaid restaurant, even though the restaurant property was recently sold.
"I wanted to stop the rumors going around. In a nutshell, we sold the property a few months back due to a divorce that had to settled through the court. I leased the property back from the new owner for six years and our goal is to continue on with the Sign of the Mermaid as we have for the last 25 years," Spring said.
"The new owners have no intention of tearing the building down because they're into the old style of Florida, and they want the operation to continue on," he added. More...
Reverse mortgages worth another lookInvestment 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...
Tyler's Ice Cream churns it up
In a battle between the #4 ranked Team Tyler's Ice Cream and #5 ranked Team Anna Maria Oyster Bar (AMOB), the 11- to 13-year-old youth flag football league season starts to wind down with Team Miller Electric as the clear leader. Coach Rob Alderson, of Tyler's Ice Cream, called in systematic plays his team has practiced all season. The practice paid off.
AMOB coach Zac Yost and coach Alderson both stress the importance of continuing to play hard despite their season records. With Team AMOB slated to play the top team in the first round of the playoffs, Yost works on honing plays and coordinating his team.
Driving the football down the field with Josh Waldo as the quarterback, Devin Calderone was the designated receiver on the first offensive drive of the game. Three completed passes, including a first down right at the goal line, paved the way for Tyler's Ice Cream to get on the scoreboard early with a touchdown by Cash Carter. The failed extra point attempt left the score at 6-0. More...
Balloon release concerns Turtle Watch
BRADENTON BEACH – Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring was notified through an anonymous tip that on Friday, Feb. 10, at sunset, about 50 people walked out of a restaurant and released "dozens of green and yellow balloons over the sea."
Other callers reported to Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox that the balloons were delivered to the restaurant around 4:30 p.m. that night in a minivan, she said.
Fox said she is asking city officials to remind business owners that they should not allow balloon releases from their business.
Florida Statute 379.233 makes it unlawful to intentionally release 10 or more balloons in 24 hours; violators can incur a $250 fine. The law calls balloons "a danger and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals." More...