Vol. 15 No. 14 - January 28, 2015
Bradenton Beach Pier reopened
joe hendricks | sun
About 100 people walked the renovated Historic
Bridge Street Pier when it reopened Friday morning.
BRADENTON BEACH – The newly-reconstructed Historic Bridge Street Pier is open.
At 10 a.m. Friday, former Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy cut the ceremonial ribbon and opened the entire pier to the public for the first time since it sustained storm damage in 2012.
“1921, 2015 – for 94 years the spirit of this pier has been here. How beautiful it is; I hope I look this good when I’m 94,” Shaughnessy said, before cutting the ribbon.
He thanked the Pier Team and its chair, Police Chief Sam Speciale; city and county commissioners and staff; Elliot Falcione and the county’s Tourist Development Council and Convention and Visitors Bureau; County Administrator Ed Hunzeker; and the engineers and contractors who renovated the structure.
“It goes to show what happens when people work together for a common cause. My hands on the ceremonial ribbon represent all those who made this possible,” Shaughnessy said, before cutting the ribbon and raising his arms in jubilation.
Assisted by City Clerk Nora Idso, Shaughnessy’s administration laid the administrative and financial groundwork for the $1.4 million restoration project co-funded by Manatee County and completed during Mayor Bill Shearon’s administration.
In recognition of the variety of people who will enjoy the pier, Shearon asked for a Bradenton Beach resident, a county resident, and an out of town visitor to be among the first to walk it, and he presented each with a piece of the old wooden pier.
Pines Mobile Home Park manager and city resident Brien Quinn said, “I think it’s fantastic. A lot of our snowbirds like to fish here and come out and enjoy the restaurant to catch a sunset.”
Rasa Rezgiene, from Lithuania, also received a piece of the old pier and walked the new pier.
As the 100 or so people gathered for the ceremony headed out onto the pier, Speciale smiled and said, “I’m in awe. I’ve been here almost 30 years and saw the pier when it was in good shape and when it was in bad shape. We’ve pulled boats off this thing and held it together with Band-Aids and bubble gum. This will be here long after we’re gone and this is a historic moment.”
County Commissioner and former Mayor John Chappie said, “This is amazing. This is an example of the county partnering with the city and investing in infrastructure, and I can’t stress this partnership enough.”
Chappie also reflected on the efforts of Idso, the longtime city clerk who passed away last year.
“She was able to keep track of the funds to get us where we are today,” he said.
Vice Mayor Jack Clarke said, “I’m blown away by the end result.”
On behalf of the TDC, Falcione said, “We need assets like this to showcase something more than just the sugar-white beaches, and this is something for the visitors to enjoy that represents old Florida, the bay, and the Island.”
Tour boat captain Sherman Baldwin said, “I’ve been waiting for at least two years. I used to go on this pier with my father when I was a little kid, so this is special.”
Cast-n-Cage restaurant owner Roland Pena said he hoped the increased foot traffic would be good for business, and his business partner, Rusty Roberts, said he planned to open the pier bait shop the following day.
A grand opening ceremony will take place next month.
Recall petitions verified
BRADENTON BEACH – Although she was unable to provide an exact number of verified recall petitions, Sharon Stief, chief deputy for the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, confirmed that enough petition signatures have been verified to move forward with the efforts to recall Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon.
“We’re seeking clarification on one of the petitions, but basically they are all certified,” Stief said Friday afternoon.
Stief said her office had a call into Eric Robinson, the head of the accounting firm that represents the Committee to Recall William Shearon, regarding a question about one of the 119 signed petition forms submitted to acting City Clerk Terri Sanclemente on or around Jan. 14. One hundred signatures from registered city voters were needed in order to move the recall effort to a second and final round of signature gathering.
Stief said she hoped to have the remaining petition determination made and return the petitions to Sanclemente early this week.
Once the petitions are returned, Shearon will five days to submit a 200-word rebuttal of the original recall petition charges levied against him. His rebuttal will accompany the two alleged Sunshine violations contained on the original petition form.
The amended petition form will be used by the recall committee that is headed by former City Commissioner Pete Barreda, in their efforts to collect the 115 verifiable signatures required to initiate a special recall election that would allow city voters to determine if Shearon is removed from office or allowed to finish the second year of his two-year term as mayor.
According to one recall committee member, the goal is to conduct the special election as early as April, if not sooner. Shearon’s term expires in November.
Forfeiture attorney in limbo
At the request of Vice Mayor Jack Clarke, the idea of hiring outside legal counsel to assist the commission in the not yet dead forfeiture of office proceedings still possibly facing Shearon was discussed at last week’s meeting.
Clarke provided the names of three attorneys he felt were qualified to review the forfeiture resolution and represent the commission at a future forfeiture meeting, but the other commissioners said they too wanted the opportunity to suggest attorneys, so no formal action was taken.
Just about everything you ever wanted to know about Anna Maria Island is included in a draft version of the briefing book prepared for the Urban Land Institute to use in its study of the Island next month.
The ULI, a not-for-profit consulting group, plans to survey more than 100 people being selected now about Island problems and potential solutions that will be detailed in a presentation and a comprehensive report in February.
To inform ULI staff about the area, a local committee has been assembling background information in book form to help them understand the issues the Island faces.
Among the highlights:
• The Island’s transition from a residential to a rental population;
• City government efforts to address vacation rental problems;
• Parking, traffic and congestion problems;
• Environmental concerns;
• Island history;
• Island demographics;
• Real estate and housing statistics;
• Major employers and businesses;
• Annual events.
The briefing book also asks the ULI to address several questions, including:
• How to redevelop while balancing residential and vacation rental populations
• What’s the long-term viability of positioning the Island as “Old Florida” and how does current land use policy affect that characterization?
• How can the three Island cities leverage a shared vision for the Island to influence lawmakers, and gain efficiencies by sharing services?
• How can traffic problems be improved?
• What are some design considerations for recreation and business areas?
• What could the Island look like in 10, 20, or 50 years?
If you are interested in applying to be interviewed by the ULI in February, applications are available at www.cityofannamaria.com.
Mayor avoids dredging mess
tOM VAUGHT | SUN
Workers started laying out bladders at City Pier Park
last Friday before they were told the
job was cancelled at the request of Mayor Dan Murphy.
Mayor Dan Murphy used the power of persuasion last Friday to divert the C & D Dredging Co. from cleaning out Lake LaVista and placing the dredged material, known as spoil, on City Pier Park for up to five months in bladders that allow the material to drain and dry.
Faced with this possibility, which was unknown to him until a few days earlier, Murphy called officials from the company into city hall and talked with them about the project.
“I told them this would be a smelly mess right in our commercial district, and we are in season right now,” he said after the meeting. “I asked them if they could use that money somewhere else, and they agreed to abandon their project.”
Murphy told the city commissioners at their Thursday night meeting that the West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) made arrangements with Manatee County for the project, leaving the city out of the loop.
At Friday’s City Pier Park Committee meeting, he said things changed since the county and WCIND agreed to the project in 2012.
“At the time that decision was made we had no trees and no no-trespassing signs in the empty lot,” he said. “I don’t understand why they decided to dredge the lake because most of the people who boat there know where the shallows are, and it really isn’t that bad to navigate.”
Park plans continue
At Friday’s meeting, the committee members decided to continue with their planning for the future of the park. Knoxville-based interior designer Lee Tweedle brought some plans for the area, if they wanted to make it a gathering spot. She offered plans for benches, an elevated area with stairs, a water park type fountain, a stage, structures for vendors and a swimming pool. Member Stevie Coppin had invited her, and committee chair Bob Patten said that was an example of thinking outside the box. He urged others to do the same.
Member Jack Brennan said he liked the ideas and urged the committee to investigate uses that could make money for the city.
Member John Chambers ran the numbers and said the city will pay $4.251 million.
“It’s a huge investment,” he said. “The annual expense is about 10 percent of the city’s budget.”
His recommendations were sell the park, sell half the park and install parking or sell half and make a park out of the other half.
At earlier meetings, committee members surveyed people for their suggestions. Committee member Ruth Eucker turned in a detailed survey of people from telephone calls, personal contacts, local businesses and cold contacts at the entrance to the city pier. She reported responses ranging from selling half of the property to installing a gazebo.
Some favored open space or a passive park and others wanted a place for community events smaller than Bayfest. She said only one local respondent wanted to see the space reserved for parking, although 33 percent wanted to use at least some of it for parking. Only six interviewees wanted bathrooms at that site. Three of them were locals.
Liza Walker suggested moving the parking for the City Pier to the lot and develop the current parking lot as a park.
“It’s on the water, and all you can see are parked cars,” she said. “That land is too valuable to be used for parking.”
Coppin said she interviewed neighbors and friends and got suggestions including one to make it a happy place.
“It should be a destination, a spot where people could rest after shopping,” she said. “Some people suggested a carousel, put in a lake or pond, utilize the waterfront, have a small stage or gazebo and an open space for yoga or a community garden.”
Dusty Crane said she surveyed city residents, and suggestions ranged from a walking path to moving the shuffleboard court and horseshoe area from city hall to the park.
Chambers talked with locals who suggested selling the park, and making it dog friendly.
Injunction request denied
joe hendricks | sun
Plaintiff Tjet Martin, far right, and the attorney for the city,
Charles Johnson, left, prepare to leave the courtroom after
Thursday’s injunction hearing.
BRADENTON BEACH – Circuit Court Judge John Lakin dismissed Tjet Martin’s and Jo Ann Meilner’s request for an emergency injunction that would have prevented the city’s construction of a five-space public parking area west of Gulf Drive and south of the BeachHouse restaurant.
Represented by former Bradenton Beach City Attorney Ralf Brookes, Martin attended the Thursday, Jan. 22, hearing that took place in downtown Bradenton. She was the only witness to testify and respond to cross-examination, and Meilner was not present.
The city of Bradenton Beach and Ed Chiles’ ELRA Inc. restaurant ownership group were listed as co-defendants in the injunction request filed on Jan. 11. Attorney Charles Johnson represented the city, and ELRA Inc. was represented by Robert Lincoln and Andrea Flynn Mogensen, and Mogensen was assisted by non-attorney Michael Barfield.
Chiles attended the hearing, joined by former Anna Maria City Attorney Jim Dye. City Engineer Lynn Townsend-Burnett was also present in case her expert testimony was required. City Attorney Ricinda Perry did not participate in the hearing.
The small amount of supportive evidence Brookes succeeded in getting admitted consisted of photographs Martin took of the undeveloped city property she referred to as a pocket park – a description Johnson objected to and Lakin sustained – and copies of the city’s comprehensive plan and development code.
Johnson successfully challenged Martin’s right to testify regarding the native and non-native plant species found on the city property because she is not a certified botanist. On a personal level, Martin was allowed to testify that replacing the plants, trees and wildlife with a parking lot would affect the personal enjoyment she derives from visiting the property.
A soon-to-expire Florida Department of Environmental Protection permit dictates the invasive plants must be removed, which played a factor in the commission’s 3-2 decision on Jan. 8 to construct the $14,500 public parking lot the city is contractually obligated to build, according to the development agreement ELRA Inc. and the city reached in 2012.
Lakin refused Brookes’ request to enter the development agreement as evidence, and he was critical of an injunction filed more than two years after that agreement was reached.
“We do not think the Preservation category is a silver bullet and smoking gun to block development west of Gulf Drive,” Johnson said of the zoning designation that is at the heart of the lengthy development dispute.
Before making his ruling, Lakin sought assurances from Burnett, via Johnson, that the city parking lot, if built, could be removed pending the outcome of the 2012 lawsuit Martin, Meilner and Bill Shearon filed against the city in opposition to the commission-approved development agreement that allowed the construction of a dune and the 34 unpaved parking spaces that lie east of it.
That suit has yet to be argued in front of a judge, but Lakin was recently assigned to the case after two previous judges recused themselves due to prior associations with Chiles.
Lakin said there 2,400 cases on the docket, about 500 of which should not be, which unnecessarily add to the court’s workload.
He then admonished Brookes for the lack of witnesses and evidence he provided.
“I am concerned about the lack of preparation; come in prepared, with the witnesses we need. This is time consuming and costly,” Lakin said, before denying the injunction without prejudice.
Lakin thanked Martin for her volunteer efforts and concern for community, but reminded her that the legal process is based on laws that have guided this country for 200 years. He also thanked Chiles and the attorneys for their involvement.
Afterwards, Brooke’s questioned Lakin’s refusal to allow the development agreement to be entered as evidence, and said it was possible that a second injunction could be filed in a manner that allowed the inclusion of the 2012 agreement.
Johnson said the case boiled down to a lack of evidence, and he doubted admittance of the development agreement would have impacted Lakin’s ruling.
Board to discuss
allowing alcohol in public
HOLMES BEACH – City commissioners plan to discuss allowing the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on public property at their Jan. 29 work session.
The issue came to light when questions arose regarding whether the sale and consumption of beer and wine was allowed at Manatee Public Beach.
According to a memo from Planner Bill Brisson, “The city commission authorized the sale and consumption of beer and wine on a limited area of Manatee County Beach. I believe this is generally the area of the Manatee Beach Cage and pavilion. The specific areas are delineated on the approved site plan.”
However, Brisson pointed out that the city’s code:
• Specifically prohibits the consumption of any alcoholic beverage on any publicly owned park or publicly owned recreation area within the city, except as provided in 6.3 (b);
• Provides for city commission approval of a temporary use permit for the sale and/or the consumption of alcoholic beverages on publicly owned property.
“At this time there is no provision in the code allowing the city to approve a long term permit for the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages on public property,” Brisson concluded.
He said the commission could:
• Recognize the prior approval for the Manatee Public Beach;
• Provide for a long-term permit;
• Expand the opportunity for a temporary use permit on public property and/or on privately owned recreation properties in the Private Recreation/Open Space zoning district;
•Require a special exception permit in Public/Semi Public and Public Recreation zoning districts.
Flyers OK’d for congestion committee
HOLMES BEACH – City commissioners gave Island Congestion Committee Chair Jayne Christenson permission to produce flyers to explain the committee’s residential parking proposal to the public.
The plan would eliminate street and right of way parking in residential areas, except for residents, property owners and renters that obtain decals from the city. Christenson said the committee wants to educate residents about the plan, so they can comment when the commission discusses the plan on Jan. 29.
“I suggest we put these flyers with ‘draft’ written on them in the lobby of city hall or wherever you feel is appropriate and possibly uploading them to the city ‘s website,” she told the board. ‘We also want to hold a town hall meeting once the ordinance is in the final stage.”
Commissioner Jean Peelen said they should only post the page explaining the plan and not the permit application form and added, “Make it really clear it’s your committee’s proposal and not ours.”
Peelen said they have not communicated the plan to the other two Island cities for feedback, and Chair Judy Titsworth said they could do so at a meeting of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials.
Christenson said they have made that presentation in the past, but could do so again. Commissioner Carol Soustek, the former chair of the committee, said if Christenson is not available for the presentation, she could make it.
However City Attorney Patricia Petruff cautioned, “It’s a sticky issue for an elected commissioner to represent a committee. You can’t wear two hats.
“You could authorize Commissioner Soustek to attend the meeting and provide the perspective of what the city is doing to see if there’s any opportunity for comment.
Commissioner Pat Morton said he disagrees with charging residents $10 for a two-year decal.
Christenson said the money is to be used to implement the plan and that residents don’t have to buy a decal.
the real Deal
joe hendricks | sun
Bob Deal, third from bottom left, is surrounded by sponsors
of the Sun’s 2014 Football Fever Contest as he collects the
grand prize package won by his son, Steve Deal. Front row, from
left: Chantelle Lewin, Bob Slicker, Bob Deal, Brenda Canning,
Victoria Sweeney and Tanya McCormick. Back row,
from left: Kit Bradman, Chuck Williams, Bill Herlihy,
Eric Fleishman, Justin Stout, and Jeff Higgins.
BRADENTON BEACH – Steve Deal, from Jacksonville, won The Sun’s 2014 Football Fever contest, and Friday morning his dad, Bob Deal, from Ellenton, stopped by Island Time Bar & Grill to pick up his son’s winnings.
According to Sun statistician John Reitz, Steve Deal correctly picked 176 or 69 percent of the 255 games spread out over the 17-week contest.
Phil Dupee finished a close second with 174 correct game selections, followed by Bob and Marilyn Deal, who each picked 173 winners in the weekly contests that produced the winning cumulative total.
For his efforts, Steve Deal won a gift certificate for two at Island Time Bar & Grill, along with a two-night stay across the street at the Island Time Inn. The first place prize winner also took home a Budweiser/Island Time prize package that included a Budweiser beach cruiser bike, a Budweiser cooler and more.
The prize package also included a custom made AMI Destination Bracelet from Bridge Street Jewelers; free scooter, kayak, bicycle, paddle board and boogie board rentals from Island Scooter Rentals; a one month membership and two personal training sessions from Island Fitness; and a pair of $50 gift certificates from the Swordfish Grill and the affiliated Flippin’ Mullet Sports Bar in Cortez.
Those who won the 17 weekly contests earned $50 cash and a T-shirt from The Sun, $50 gift certificates to both the Swordfish Grill and Flippin’ Mullet, one week memberships at Island Fitness and a T-shirt from the Bridge Tender Inn.
When asked who he was picking for next week’s Super Bowl, Bob Deal said he was taking the New England Patriots over the Seahawks, despite the recent flap over Patriots allegedly using under-inflated footballs in the AFC championship game versus the Indianapolis Colts.
“I picked them at the beginning of the year, so I gotta stick with them,” Deal said.
He said he picked up his weekly copies of The Sun at the public library in Bradenton in order to participate in each of the weekly contests.
Island Time’s Bill Herlihy and Swordfish Grill’s Bob Slicker offered their congratulations to the winner and wanted to remind folks that both establishments will be celebrating Super Bowl Sunday with food and drink specials, prize giveaways and other festivities.