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Vol. 15 No. 23 April 1, 2015



headlines

Fitness fallout Residents and commissioners support business owners
Carol Whitmore

pat copeland | SUN

A crowd waits in line to enter the Cole home
on Archer Way in Anna Maria.

HOLMES BEACH – It was standing room only at last week’s city commission meeting with residents supporting two business owners who oppose the Island Community Center board’s plan to install a fitness center in the Center.

“We want to express our concern about the proposed $500,000 state of the art fitness facility taking place at the AMI Community Center and how it will greatly affect our businesses, if not shut us down,” said Brenda Canning, of Island Fitness.

Jen Crady, of AMI Health & Fitness, said the Community Center has been “dear to my heart” and “helped shape my children to be who they are – exceptional students and athletes,” but it is a non-profit organization that pays no taxes and “holds an unfair business advantage when they decide to compete with small business.

“It’s clear that the proposed fitness center plan is targeting seasonal residents as well as visitors. It is also clear that the board members own the companies that are overseeing the project. You can’t tell me that rental companies are not going to receive any profit from this project.”

She said there is a conflict of interest that violates IRS 501(c) (3) regulations regarding non-profit organizations.

“The charm of our Old Florida island that we all love so much is being destroyed before our eyes,” Crady stressed. “What happened to our Community Center? It’s not ours any more.

“I refuse to be bullied out of my business by the deep pockets of the board members of the Community Center. It is not fair. We cannot let this happen to our livelihood, our gyms or our Island.”

Their remarks were followed by sustained, loud applause and a standing ovation from the audience.

Comments

“I heard about the city’s contribution to the Community Center,” said Jeff Carson, of Bradenton Beach. “Don’t use government funds to pit a non-profit against your local businesses.”

“I understand you don’t have a lot of control over this, but the more noise we can make and the more people who are in positions of authority to say we don’t like this idea (is good),” resident Julie Krokroskia pointed out.

“It isn’t fair and it isn’t right. I’d like the Community Center to think about what we do not have that they can make money off of.”

Commissioner Jean Peelen asked how much the city donates to the Center, and Mayor Bob Johnson said $22,500 this year. He said the city of Anna Maria donated $16,000 and the city of Bradenton Beach donated $250.

“My feeling that we should not continue to support the Community Center financially if they go through with the fitness plan, and we hope it would change because we would hate to give up our support,” Peelen said.

Write a letter

Chair Judy Titsworth asked the mayor to write a letter to the Center’s board of directors stating the commissioners’ views on the issue.

“We need to do it as soon as possible; they’re planning on getting a permit,” Commissioner Marvin Grossman said.

Carol Soustek, the commission’s liaison to the Center’s board of directors, said she sat in on their meeting the previous night and “they are gung ho” on the project.

Johnson suggested another approach – to increase the city’s contribution with a condition. He also said they could offer to negotiate.

“My concern about that is they did not come to us and ask for help,” Chair Judy Titsworth said. “If we give them more money, what’s to stop them from trying to do something else?”

Peelen said Center board member David Teitelbaum came to the commission last summer and asked for more money.

“It was when it was runaway funding, and we couldn’t contribute to something that was unstable,” Titsworth replied.

Easter the time to celebrate

THE ISLAND – Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ and on Anna Maria Island, it is also a time to pray on the beach as the sun comes up.

Once again, the Kiwanis Club of Anna Maris Island will hold its 51st Sunrise Service at Manatee County Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, at the end of Manatee Avenue on Easter Sunday, April 5, starting at 6:30 a.m.

Bring a chair or blanket and a flashlight to read the program as Easter falls earlier this year, and the sun won’t be present for much of the service.

All of the Island’s churches will participate in the service, and they share the offering. There is plenty of parking, but the best bet is to leave the car at home and take the trolley. The Anna Maria Island Beach Café will sell coffee and after the service, it will sell breakfast for those who want to stay at the beach.

Church services

The six churches on the Island will hold services, some of them at their regular time, and others have bigger plans.

• CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, 778-0719, will have its regular Sunday service on Easter, starting at 9 a.m.

• Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, 4408 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-1638, will celebrate Good Friday on April 3 at noon and on Easter Sunday, Easter Service Rite I at 9 a.m. and Rite II at 11 a.m.

• Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-1813, will celebrate Holy Communion and the Stripping of the Altar on Maundy Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m.; The reading of the passion according to St. John on Good Friday, April 3, at noon and 7 p.m.; Service of Light, the Word, Baptism and Eucharist on Easter Vigil, April 4, at 9 p.m.; Festival Worship at 9:30 a.m. followed by a pot luck brunch.

• Harvey Memorial Community Church, 300 Church St., Bradenton Beach, 779-1912, will have a service at its regular time, 9:30 a.m.

• Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, 778-0414, celebrates a Maundy Thursday service April 2 at 7 p.m. in the Roser Memorial Chapel; a Good Friday service April 3 at noon in the Chapel; Easter Sunday Services April 5 at 8:30 and 10 a.m. in the Roser Community Church Sanctuary, Bring a flower to place on the cross. As worshippers arrive they are invited to place a flower in the chicken wire of the old rugged cross, transforming it into a beautiful cross covered with flowers.

• St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-4769, celebrates Friday, April 3, Good Friday, no morning Mass, Passion of our Lord, 3 p.m.; Saturday, April 4, Holy Saturday, no morning Mass, Vigil at 8 p.m., Sunday, April 5, Easter Sunday, Masses at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.

In addition, Longboat Island Chapel, at 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, 383-6491, holds special Easter Services starting with Thursday, April 2, at 5 p.m. simple supper and communion; Sunday, April 5, 7 a.m. sunrise service in Fellowship Garden, 10 a.m. Flowering of the Cross and Traditional Easter service in the sanctuary with special music by the Jensen Family.

A children's Easter egg hunt will be held in the garden.

Easter fun for kids and family

The Easter Bunny will be up early on the beach leaving eggs on the sand in time for the 29th Annual Easter Egg Hunt at the Sandbar restaurant for ages 10 and under on Saturday, April 4, beginning at 9 a.m.

Bring a basket for each child and don’t be late, because the Easter Bunny is always very punctual. In fact, the Sandbar will have refreshments under the pavilion beginning at 8:30 a.m.

After the last Easter egg has been found, join the Easter Bunny (also known as Anna Maria’s Mayor) for a walk down Pine Avenue to the parking lot at 317 Pine where the Easter egg roll will be set up along with a coloring station and face painting. This will end at 11a.m.

At 10:30, they will hold the Easter bonnet contests – one for adults and one for children. First prize for adults is a free stay at one of the Anna Maria guest houses on Pine and the Children’s first prize is lunch with four of their friends including ice cream sundaes.

The Sandbar will be serving refreshments on Pine Ave along with cupcakes by Hometown Desserts. DJ Chuck Weirich will provide music and Shooting Star Photography will be taking free photos of kids with the Easter Bunny.

The Easter egg hunt is sponsored by the Chiles Group of Restaurants and the Anna Maria Island Sun. Other activities are sponsored by Pine Avenue Restoration.

Corps rejects mangrove removal

submitted

If approved, Pat Neal’s family compound would be located
along the eastern shores of Perico Island, shown here in the early
stages of Harbor Isle development.

PERICO ISLAND – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) objects to developer Pat Neal’s request to destroy coastal mangroves on the eastern shore of Anna Maria Sound in order to build the Harbor Sound subdivision for use as a family compound.

On March 19, Kevin O’Kane, Chief of the Army Corps Tampa Section, sent a letter to Neal’s 97-12 land trust informing him that the ACOE does not intend to issue a permit to allow 1.05 acres of environmentally sensitive mangroves to be filled in to accommodate the construction of four single-family homes near the Harbour Isle community on Perico Island.

“Permitting the destruction of mangrove wetlands for a non-water residential development project, while less environmentally damaging alternatives are available, would set an unacceptable precedent,” O’Kane’s letter states.

Denial justified

O’Kane’s letter lists 14 reasons for denying the request, including a failure to define the need to build four homes ranging in size from 9,000 to 12,813 square feet, and the failure to explain why a project that is not water dependent needs to be located near a mangrove wetland.

O’Kane referred to the National Marine Fisheries Service opinion that the project proposes direct impact to an Essential Fish Habitat area the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council identified as being an essential habitat for shrimp, red drum, Spanish mackerel, snapper, grouper and migratory sharks.

“The NMFS has determined the proposed non-water dependent project will individually and cumulatively result in an adverse impact to Anna Maria Sound and dependent fisheries, and may adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat that supports fisheries managed under the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” O’Kane’s letter states.

O’Kane went on to say the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers mangrove wetlands to be vital components of estuarine and marine environments because they provide aquatic food chains, nesting sites, cover, foraging grounds and habitats for birds, reptiles, mammals and organisms, as well as nursery areas for fish, crustaceans and shellfish. Mangroves also serve as storm buffers and wind breaks, while stabilizing shorelines, reducing water turbidity and improving water quality.

“They are one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. The cumulative loss of this habitat has reduced overall water quality and fisheries production within the western Florida ecosystem. The EPA considers these mangrove wetlands to be aquatic resources of national importance and believes the proposed project may have substantial and unacceptable adverse impact to the mangroves,” O’Kane’s letter states.

“You have not clearly demonstrated to the Corps that practicable on-site and off-site alternatives are not available. You have not considered alternate site plans or other measures that would avoid and minimize impacts on the site wetlands. Therefore, my staff will be recommending that the permit be denied,” O’Kane’s letter concludes.

Neal was given 30 days to provide additional information to the Corps.

O’Kane’s position coincides with the June 2014 opinion provided by the Jay Herrington, field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Permitting the destruction of mangrove wetlands for a non-water residential development project while less environmentally damaging alternatives are available would set an unacceptable precedent. Because of the high value associated with the mangrove wetlands that would be impacted by the proposed project, and the presence of practicable alternatives, we recommend the Corps not issue a permit for the project as currently proposed” Herrington wrote.

Additional challenges

Neal’s request to build a family compound on 2.47 acres of his 40-acre parcel would eventually require approval from the Bradenton City Council and is currently subject to an administrative challenge of a permit issued by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud).

The permit challenge was initiated by former County Commissioner Joe McClash and supported by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, ManaSota 88 and the Sierra Club. The hearings took place in mid-February, and a judge’s ruling is expected within two months.

Former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann serves on the FISH board of directors and she attended the Swiftmud hearings.

“What I found most interesting was how much of their reasoning matched the expert information we, as challengers, presented at our hearing, challenging the Swiftmud permit,” she said in regard to the Army Corps’ letter.

“The key comments I took away from the ACOE letter was the statement that the project is not in compliance with the Clean Water Act and their finding that the proposal is contrary to the public interest,” von Hahmann said.

Neal response

When recently contacted about the Swiftmud challenge, Neal’s representatives provided a five-page Environmental Benefits of Harbor Sound report prepared by ECo Consultants.

The document states that the developer must avoid protected habitats to the greatest extent possible and minimize and mitigate adverse impacts to protected habitats, while still being allowed reasonable use of the land.

“Due to the size, shape and constraints of the property, it cannot be reasonably developed without some impact to native habitats occurring,” the report states.

It ends by describing Neal’s request as a “proposed project which the professional environmental scientists, biologists and wetland scientists have agreed will result in an overall environmental benefit to Manatee County and the state of Florida.”

Commission approves pier survey

FILE PHOTO
The Anna Maria City Pier will get its first comprehensive
checkup in a while, financed in part by the county's bed tax,,
to make sure it is safe.

 

ANNA MARIA – The city commission gave a thumbs up to a proposed survey of the pilings and stringers of the city pier.

Mayor Dan Murphy said such a survey had never been conducted. He said members of the Tourist Development Council suggested the survey and it would cost around $60,000, with the county and city each paying half.

“We have $11,000 in our pier contingency fund and we can get the other $19,000 from the cell tower rent money,” Murphy said.

Commissioners Doug Copeland and Carol Carter agreed. Commission Chair Chuck Webb said the pier is rickety, and Commissioner Nancy Yetter drew laughs when she said the pier sways with the waves so much it makes her seasick. They approved survey unanimously

The commission also unanimously voted to have Murphy negotiate with the developers of Angler’s Cove about selling a lot to them to develop as a park.

The lot is the only one without water exposure, and the developers came to Murphy suggesting the city sell them the lot, which the original developers gave to the city to they could make it into a park for their homeowners to enjoy.

Commissioners passed a resolution setting policy for the city to accept unsolicited gifts without strings attached. The city would not accept money earmarked for any specific

New bridge design input sought

HOLMES BEACH – Mayor Bob Johnson got an e-mail last week from Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Project Manager Kati Sherrard asking for a volunteer to serve on a Bridge Aesthetics Committee.

According to the e-mail, “We have an opportunity to work with the local community to design a bridge that will fit in harmony with the surrounding environment and embody the character of the community both now and in the future.”

Sherrad’s e-mail said the committee would be consensus based and meet at various times throughout the design process and she invited Johnson to name someone from Holmes Beach to represent the community. He has until April 30 to do so.

The e-mail also says FDOT has found the funding for the design process and will seek money to construct the bridge when the design is complete.

FDOT completed a project development and environment study in 2010. In 2009, it announced its preference, a 65-foot-tall, fixed-span bridge with two lanes and two safety lanes that will be constructed just south of the existing bridge.

There was one attempt to replace the drawbridge with a high-level bridge. Built in 1957, the bridge showed its age in 1992, when FDOT Regional Director David May came to the city governments and told them that FDOT had decided to replace the drawbridge with a 65-foot-high, fixed-span. That announcement created a public uproar, due mainly to the fact that there had been little, if any, news that a replacement was being considered.

Some of those opposed banded together to form Save Anna Maria (SAM), which hired an attorney and finally proved that FDOT had not followed procedure in alerting the public to the project, and it was scrapped.

When FDOT announced in late 2007 that it was going to refurbish the bridge to the tune of almost $10 million, members of the public asked FDOT to consider replacing the bridge, instead. The highway department said it could not because the funds were set aside for the rehabilitation, not replacement of the bridge, but they did agree to do a study on replacing it and said they would seek funding later. The newly refurbished structure is expected to last up to 25 years.

Blue Fulford now a legend

Irene pearman | Submitted

From left, founders Carolyne Norwood and Pat Copeland
were honored by the AMI Historical Society at the
group's 25th anniversary luncheon Thursday.

CORTEZ – Like a number on a baseball jersey, the Cortez nickname “Blue” will be retired after the passing last Saturday of Thomas Rollan “Blue” Fulford Jr., 84.

The Manatee County Agricultural Hall of Famer was known for turning a phrase, as in, “Florida voters swallowed the net ban propaganda hook, line and sinker.”

He could command attention in a room full of shouting fishermen by tapping his cane on the wooden floor.

And, most essential of all, he was a commercial fisherman, a good one, they say.

Fulford’s legacy is knotted into the history of the Cortez fishing village like the mesh in one of his handmade nets.

He learned to fish as a boy by watching his uncle, Tink Fulford, later passing it on to his sons, Larry and Paul.

Fishing allowed his family to eat during the Depression, since Cortez bordered the Kitchen – Sarasota Bay. Fulford used to say that Cortezians had fish and grits for breakfast, fish and grits for dinner and leftovers for supper.

He attended the 1912 Cortez schoolhouse, and was active in its conversion to the Florida Maritime Museum.

Too young to serve during World War II, he fished, grateful that he would not lose an arm or leg in the service. But tragically, a fishing accident cost him a leg in 1987.

He went right back to fishing.

The gill net ban

When he was inducted into the Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2004, he thanked Providence and spoke of being humbled in the company of “the elite of Manatee County,” then said that there was one thing that would have been even better – the reversal of the commercial gill net ban.
In 1994, voters passed a state constitutional amendment eliminating gill nets, used to catch mullet, a Cortez staple, forcing fishermen, including Fulford, into other occupations.

Fulford opened Cortez Quality Castnets, which he operated from a shed in back of his home, where he could watch the mullet jumping. His business card labeled him a “dispossessed net fisherman.”

He maintained for the past 20 years that the net ban was wrong, saying that more fish have been killed by red tide than by commercial fishermen. He called fishermen an easy target, saying their activities are more easily regulated than polluted runoff, mangrove destruction and other causes of fishery declines.

He served as director of the Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF), advocating for significant fishing laws that were passed, including reserving fisheries regulation to the state rather than local governments.

He served as the first president of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage – FISH – which has used funds from the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival for 33 years to buy 95 waterfront acres east of Cortez village as a preserve to build up fish stock.

Each year at the festival, he demonstrated making and mending nets, mourning the loss of the knowledge of net making and net fishing, and the loss of pristine coastline to development.

Last of his kind

With his passing, Cortez village mourns the loss of one of the last members of his generation, said Mark Taylor, who worked on one of Fulford’s boats for several years.

“He was a pillar of the community and a good fisherman,” said Taylor, who followed Fulford as state president of OFF.
“He was a very colorful person in Cortez and a persuasive speaker,” said Linda Molto, who worked with Fulford at FISH.

“I am going to miss him,” said Capt. Kathe Fannon, whom Blue called “Kitten” ever since she was a child. Fannon’s father, Frank Tupin, fished with Fulford, but had a doctor’s appointment the day Fulford lost his leg on the boat, she recalled. “My heart is so broken.”

Fulford will be remembered at one of his favorite events, the Cortez Community Picnic, on Saturday, April 11, at 11:30 a.m., at the Few-Miller dock on the Cortez waterfront. No other services are planned.

He was known to sing at the picnics with his pal, Cortez harmonica player Wyman Coarsey. Last year, he and his wife, Juanda, sang a duet in the video production “Gone Fishing for Old Florida: Voices of Cortez,” which aired on the WEDU series, “Diamonds Along the Highway.”

Most people think that Fulford got his nickname because of his very blue eyes.

But Fulford said the name was a result of his mother making him recite the rhyme, “Little boy blue come blow your horn.” He did it so often, “People would say, ‘Here comes little boy Blue,’ ” he recalled a few years ago.

A grandson proudly bears his name, carrying on the heritage of the unofficial mayor of Cortez.

But there will never be another “Blue.”

 

Silver Affaire promises exciting changes

su bmitte d

The nine-person band, MPiRE, will perform hits from the
last four decades
with a mix of current material added.

ANNA MARIA – Guests attending the Silver Affaire to Remember can expect some new touches and exciting changes at the 25th anniversary of the annual event to be held in the Center’s Grand Ballroom on Saturday, April 18.

Executive Director Cindy Thompson said special recognition would be given to those who have made the Affaire a success through the years. They include former Executive Director Pierrette Kelly and former Assistant Director Scott Dell. Trudy Moon, the Affaire’s chair for 23 years, and Center benefactors Chuck and Joey Lester will be given special awards.

The Affaire had a humble beginning as a dinner auction with food booths by local restaurants. People donated used items to be auctioned and attended in shorts and T-shirts. The highlight was a cheesecake contest.

In 1990, it raised $5,000, but after Moon took over the event in 1993, it began to evolve into the Island’s premier social event. By 1998, it had broken the $100,000 mark. It surpassed $200,000 in 2003 and $300,000 in 2004 and then came its best year, 2005, with nearly $800,000.

Center officials are planning to bring back that past excitement with some of this year’s changes. One of those will be online and mobile bidding for the silent auction. People can bring their own cell phones or use one provided by the Center, and instructions will be provided at the event.

The live auction will be pared down to eight to 10 fabulous packages, and paddles will be used for this portion of the event. Guests also can swipe their credit cards when they enter to make checkout quicker.

Food and fun

“We have a new food purveyor this year. The Chiles Restaurant Group will be providing all the food for the event,” Thompson said.

Owner Ed Chiles said he plans to do “something very impressive” with the menu and it would be “a world class event," so guests can expect some exciting surprises there.

In addition, a nine-person band, MPiRE, will provide entertainment and perform hits from the last four decades with a mix of current material added.

Members include Meredith Walker, lead vocalist and co-creator; Carmen “Sunny” Harrell, lead vocalist; Tony Manna, keyboard, drums, percussion and vocals; Jordan Itzkovitz, guitar and vocals; Eric Van Lugo, bass and vocals; Dru Betts, drums; Gary Anstey, trombone and vocals; and Joe Bolero, saxophone; and Steve Falkner, trumpet.

Tickets at $175 per person are nearly sold out, and sponsorships are still available. The black tie event begins with social hour at 6 p.m., and dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m.

Sponsorships are still available and include Affaire, $10,000; Entertainment, $6,000; Gold, $5,000; Silver, $2,500; Bronze, $1,500; and Friend, $500. To become a sponsor, contact Affaire Chair Dawn Mishler at 941-518-4997 or by e-mail at dmishler@tampabay.rr.com.


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