Vol. 15 No. 8 - December 17, 2014
Recall efforts forge ahead
BRADENTON BEACH – The efforts to initiate a special election to decide the fate of Mayor Bill Shearon took another step forward Friday morning.
Former Bradenton Beach Commissioner Pete Barreda personally presented to the city clerk’s office a statement of organization of a political committee on behalf of the Committee to Recall William Shearon.
“The issues have been well documented. Instead of all the back and forth, let’s have a recall vote. Let the citizens decide and then move forward one way or the other, and get back to normalcy” Barreda said, when discussing the matter Saturday afternoon. In addition to being a former commissioner, Barreda is a longtime local restaurateur and a current member of the Gulf Drive Café management team. His family has a long history of political involvement in the city, and his mother, Dahlia, also served on the commission.
“As a lifetime citizen of Bradenton Beach, I love my city, and I hate to see what’s going on,” Barreda said.
He added that he respects all the commission members and has no history of disagreement or conflict with Shearon. Like many citizens who have spoken at recent city meetings, Barreda believes a decision rendered by city voters is preferable to a decision rendered by Shearon’s fellow commissioners.
“Let’s try to do it this way; it’s more civil,” he said.
Barreda declined to name the specific political action committee (PAC) behind the recall committee.
“I’ve been appointed as the president of the committee and the face of it, and I want to keep this as simple as possible,” he said.
The next step in the recall process is to gather the signatures of least 100 Bradenton Beach residents who are registered to vote in the city. As of August, there were 763 active city voters.
Barreda said the Gulf Drive Café is not part of the recall effort, but he will be sitting outside the restaurant, 900 Gulf Dr. N., Wednesday and Thursday afternoons from noon until 4 p.m. gathering signatures. Those interested can also get more information by e-mailing RecallShearon@gmail.com.
Once the first dated signature is acquired, the committee has 30 days to submit them to the Supervisor of Elections office for verification. There is no limit on the number of signatures that can be presented for verification, but they must all be presented at the same time.
If the elections office cannot verify at least 100 signatures, the recall effort dies. No additional signatures can be gathered and submitted, and that would be the extent of this particular political committee’s efforts; although a new recall committee could be formed and the process could be begun again.
If 100 or more signatures are deemed legitimate, the process moves forward to a second round of signature gathering that would require approximately 115 signatures, and those who signed the first petition would be allowed to sign again.
If a second round of signature gathering were successful, a recall election would be scheduled. If Shearon was voted out of office, Vice Mayor Jack Clarke, would serve as mayor until November 2015, and the commission would appoint a Ward 1 resident to fill Clarke’s commission seat.
“If someone wants to pick up a petition paper and collect petition signatures, that’s great too. We welcome that,” Barreda concluded.
Residential parking plan taking shape
HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners put in gear a proposal to eliminate street and right of way parking in residential areas, but at least one resident wanted to put the brakes on it.
“We’re losing our sense of hospitality. This is not a way to ease congestion. You’ll increase congestion because you will reduce the number of places people can park. More people will be driving around looking for places to park,” resident and restaurant owner Sean Murphy told the board.
Jayne Christensen, the new chair of the Island Congestion Committee, presented the plan to commissioners, giving each one a binder that included the proposal, a resident parking permit application, examples of resident parking decals and prices and examples of ordinances from other beach communities that ban residential street parking. Commissioner Carol Soustek, the former chair of the Island Congestion Committee, said, “We’d like to proceed and have worked out all the details.”
Christensen said the proposal is the result of residents’ concerns about the increase in traffic on residential streets due to the influx of tourists and the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and children.
“There are problems with emergency vehicles being blocked, driveways and sidewalks being blocked, trespassing, trash, public urination,” Christensen pointed out. “There’s a real need to control what’s going on and save our neighborhoods.”
Resident parking passes
Christensen said residents would pay $10 for two-year parking decals for their vehicles and must have a current vehicle registration to a Holmes Beach address and a current driver’s license.
Residents having guests or a party could advise the police that they are having guests and the day and hours of the event
There would be exceptions for vehicles with a handicap tag; commercial vehicles on the job; government, law enforcement, emergency and Coast Guard vehicles; and private vehicles conducting animal rescue such as Turtle Watch or Mote Marine.
“Any kind of change takes time to understand and get used to,” Christensen concluded. “When we first started talking about this, thought I would hit a brick wall, but people like it.”
There was some question about golf carts, with Soustek stating that the committee agreed to require permits on them, but Christensen calling for more discussion on the issue.
Police Chief Bill Tokajer said he thought “the parking permit allowed you to park in front of your house, not on any residential street in the city,” but Soustek said resident vehicles with decals could park in any right of way.
Christensen suggested holding a town hall meeting to explain the proposal to the public.
Commissioner Pat Morton said he likes the idea, and City Attorney Patricia Petruff said she is an advocate of permit parking, but she would no longer be able to park on her favorite beach street.
“It’s not fair to the people who live here to put up with all the people who come here.” Commissioner Marvin Grossman said. “I would like to try it out.”
Chair Judy Titsworth said, “The way I look at it is living here 50 years, never did I think that we’d have to become a permit parking city. It’s sad that it’s become this.
“As far as the beach accesses, my father always said every street needs to have an access for everybody to be able use that beaches. People used to be considerate if they parked in a residential area. Now they’re blaring their radios and yelling at their kids. People have changed and it’s too bad.”
She asked if they should try the proposal in neighborhoods west of Gulf Drive first, and Planner Bill Brisson replied, “It could just drive them one block over.”
Tokajer added that the problem occurs in other areas not just in areas west of Gulf Drive.
Fines, fishers and visitors
Tokajer asked about fines, and Soustek said the committee discussed a $50 fine with a new ticket each day the vehicle is in the same spot. Tokajer suggested issuing a ticket every two hours the vehicle is in the same spot.
Christensen said in addition, they should close the beach accesses to overnight parking, but Petruff pointed out that many people come to fish at night. Titsworth said they could address that issue later.
Brisson suggested that they limit the number of decals for each residential property to three and asked how they planned to address resort housing.
“They have parking spaces for their cars,” Grossman replied.
Brisson countered, “They have many people on weekend, probably far in excess of the parking, and they are in residential neighborhoods.
“Other places have neighborhoods, so a residential parking permit is just that, but it’s different here, so you might want to consider that.”
Petruff said they also should consider events such as the Island Community Center’s Tour of Homes, where “parking was madness,”
She also cautioned the commission to consider that “every person who pays ad valorem taxes has the right to a parking pass,” not just those with vehicles registered in the city.
Just say no
Titsworth asked about the Beach Bistro that offers valet parking. Murphy said it’s not a problem because his valets have places to park vehicles, but he is opposed to the proposal.
“Why are we doing this?” he asked. “This community is not the same as other communities.”
He pointed out that long time residents and families from Manatee County have come to the Island for many, many years and “now we’re telling them that they can’t come.
“The other thing is the kids of Manatee County own the beaches, and they are entitled to get to them and we’re telling them they can’t come. A third of them are black and Hispanic. So this policy is racist. That’s what you’re doing.”
He said when his kids are home from college, their friends drop by to see them, and he asked if he has to inform the police every time someone drops by.
“It will be incredibly difficult to administer,” he continued. People that I talk to don’t like it.”
The next step
“Look five years down the road,” Soustek stressed. “If you don’t control some of your growth, you’ll be a parking lot.”
She also pointed out that the city made an agreement with Hancock Bank to allow parking there on weekends and holidays and it has worked so well that other locations might be willing to allow it.
“We’re not discouraging people from parking, we’re just telling them where,” Morton added.
“There’s a lot of parking available,” Grossman said. “We’re only talking about parking in front of residences, It’s easy for people who aren’t affected by this to complain about it.”
“I feel we have to move to the next step,” Titsworth said and asked Petruff and Brisson work on an ordinance.
Resident David Cheshire pointed out that the three Island cities are having a study done by the Urban Land Institute, which will focus on problems the three Island cities are facing, such as parking and rentals, and come up with suggestions for relieving or resolving those problems. He suggested that the city not act until the study is complete.
Holiday spirit shines in Anna Maria
maggie field | SUN
Tilly Outhwaite, 6, of England, enjoys
the snow at AMI Sun Plaza during
Anna Maria's Holiday of Treasures.
ANNA MARIA – The air was filled with holiday spirit as crowds gathered along Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue to Bayview Plaza to celebrate the Holiday of Treasures on Friday night.
Valerie Wilson, of the AMI Historical Society, which sponsored the event with The Sun, said, "The Historical Society would like to thank the participating businesses for their generous gifts which made the two prize tote bags so valuable.
“We hope all the stores had the same wonderful turn out that we had at the museum. We thank that Roser children's choir for their great performance. The children sounded terrific despite the chill in the air."
The event’s traditional opening was at the AMI Historical Museum with Roser’s Joyful Noise Children’s Choir singing holiday favorites.
Carol Clements, who came to hear her granddaughter sing, said, “This is a really wonderful event.”
Nearby, Judy Hildman confided, “In October, I start looking forward to this event. It’s such a fun evening.”
Meanwhile across Crescent Drive at Vinny and Cheryl’s Italian Kitchen revelers were making short work of a 225-square-foot margarita pizza that Vinny said took him about four hours to make.
Although they missed the pizza, Sandee Pruett and Mark Kimball still declared the evening “magical,” and Sandee said, “Spectacular. The spirit is alive in Anna Maria. I wouldn’t miss it because we look forward to seeing all our friends.”
At A Room with a Hue, AnnMarie and Ed Nichols were busy pouring wine, while Bob and Elaine Carley declared, “We come every year; we really like it.”
At Shiny Fish Emporium people delighted in falling snow and at Pink and Navy, Jennifer Davey was signing bingo cards for customers while Jen Laney was wheeling 3-month-old Bryce, the evening’s littlest shopper, in his stroller.
“It’s great,” Jen said. “It puts everyone in a holiday spirit,” and her mother Laura O’Donnell, added, “I’ve never seen it this busy.”
At Poppo’s Taqueria, Patrick Coleman was pouring a spiced pumpkin ale from Sarasota’s Big Top Brewery for happy visitors, and at The Studio, people were having their caricatures drawn by Michael Wory.
On the other side of Pine Avenue, Ava Harlan admired the headbands at Salon Salon while her mother, Morgan, said, “We came for the kids. Everything is so festive and everybody is so friendly.”
At the Anna Maria Olive Oil Outpost, Tom Aposporos was pouring Campari and the lines were out the door to sample Kelly Kary’s gourmet delights. Down the road, visitors also lined up at Beach Bums, but this time for tasty grilled hot dogs and burgers.
On Gulf Drive, snow fell in The Sun Plaza parking lot while Santa listened to children’s wishes and dreams. Merchants there offered pulled pork sliders and rice and beans catered by Ezio Piccione, while Dips added ice cream and Lava Lava served pineapple upside down cake.
The winners of the decorating contest were Olive Oil Outpost, first, and Duncan Real Estate, second. Lisa Boleen and Alesha Branden won totes filled with gifts donated by merchants.
joe hendricks | sun
From left, Alyce Brady, Chantelle Lewin, Dee Brady, Pat Roberts
and Karen MacKay celebrate Dee Brady’s boat, Voyager,
winning the boat parade’s grand prize for best decorations
BRADENTON BEACH – The 11th annual Cortez Yacht Club Holiday Lighted Boat Parade featured a brightly decorated, 12-vessel boat brigade that included power boats, sail boats, a trawler, a former Navy vessel, a well-known support boat, and a canoe piloted by Island visitors Jennifer Gosselin and Pierre Pépin.
The group departed Moore’s Stone Crab restaurant around 6:30 p.m., after parade leader Randy Stewart, captain of the Karen Jane, gave the radio command to “light ‘em up.”
Aboard the Bradenton Beach Police boat, Officers Eric Hill and Steve Masi accompanied the boaters along the Intracoastal Waterway, passing by the Historic Bridge Street Pier, underneath the Cortez Bridge lined with cheering spectators and over to the Seafood Shack in Cortez where the vessels circled offshore as judges aboard Ray Simmons’ yacht, Deep Cover, determined who had the best decorations.
In addition to the fun and the beautiful display of lights, the real purpose of the boat parade was to collect Toys for Tots to be distributed throughout Manatee County. Collection points were set up at Moore’s and at the Bridge Tender Inn, where the raucous after-party and awards ceremony took place.
“We’ve been collecting the toys for a while now, and Annie’s Bait and Tackle, First Bank and the Bridge Tender have been among our biggest toy contributors,” said parade coordinator Laura Ritter.
Members of the Marine Corps League Desoto Detachment #588 and the Desoto Unit of the Marine Corps League Ladies Auxiliary attended the ceremony and their presence prompted local musician Doug Bidwell and Bridge Tender Inn owner Fred Bartizal to lead the crowd in a heartfelt acappella rendition of “America the Beautiful” before the awards were handed out.
The $500 grand prize and plaque went to Dee Brady and the crew of Voyager, whose traditional style decorations included a snow machine, a decorative kayak and a multitude of colored lights. Brady and Voyager gained local and international attention while accompanying swimmer Diana Nyad on her record-setting swim from Cuba to Florida.
Cathy Cartier received a plaque and a $200 cash prize for the best decorated sail boat, Moonstruck.
Capt. Jeff Stephens and his mate, Lisa Bean, were awarded the same for the best decorated power boat, the Island Pearl, an old Navy vessel that now serves as a commercial party boat. The Island Pearl carried passengers in the parade and shuttled folks from the Seafood Shack to the Bridge Tender Inn afterwards.
The canoers earned $50 for their efforts that included the use of a borrowed generator that powered borrowed holiday lights and decorations.
Ritter presented yacht club member and Gulf Auto Clinic owner Pat Roberts with the first place sponsor’s plaque. The boat parade was organized by the Cortez Yacht Club and co-sponsored by the Bridge Street Merchants and The Sun.
“We had a good parade, a good after-party; we collected a lot of toys and we thank Mother Nature for the weather. It’s a lot of work for the boaters, and it’s appreciated that they do this at their own time and expense; and it’s nice for the community too,” Ritter said afterwards.
Tourism up, future favorable
CINDY LANE | SUN
The new visitor information center at Manatee
Public Beach is nearly complete and expected to open soon.
HOLMES BEACH – Tourism is up, and part of the reason is that visitors feel at home here, the county’s tourism consultant, Walter Klages, told the Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) last week.
“You still have this quaint type of old-time Florida, not overrun by high rises,” said Klages, who included high quality restaurants and agritourism among the reasons for the increase.
In the fourth quarter of the county’s fiscal year 2013-14 – July through September – visitation was up 7.2 percent from the same period in 2012-13, and direct expenditures were up 11.7 percent, according to Klages.
Occupancy was up 3.5 percent to 64.2 percent, while average room rates were up 5.9 percent to $141.10 a night from the same period in 2012-13.
In October, Floridians comprised the largest group of tourists to the county, but Europeans were close behind, comprising almost 21 percent of the market, he said, adding that Dutch and Czech tourists are among the visitors for the first time.
Klages said he expected 5 percent growth in tourism in the near future.
“I think it all comes down to two things that ought to be part of our message – this really is an authentic place and it’s sustainable,” TDC member and Island restaurant owner and developer Ed Chiles said. “I don’t think there’s another market I know of that’s preaching sustainability, and I think we ought to be talking more about it.”
In other business:
• A new Bradenton area visitor’s guide has been published with two different covers, one featuring Robinson Preserve aimed at prospective eco-tourists. They will be available free at chambers of commerce, city halls and online at www.bradenton gulfislands.com.
• The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau won three Adrian awards, two silvers and a bronze, for marketing efforts directed at sports tourism, summer tourism and “mancations” (men’s vacations, particularly for fishing).
• Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore advised the TDC that marketing efforts should be made to educate visiting fishermen not to use sabiki rigs, which frequently hook pelicans.
Resort tax funds pledged to AMI in 2014
• Bridge Street Pier
(one-time expenditure) $1,000,000
• Beach renourishment $709,414
• Manatee Public Beach/Coquina Beach cleanup
• Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce $85,950
• Manatee Public Beach/Coquina Beach
Bayfront Park changing stations
(one-time expenditure) $50,000
• Manatee Public Beach visitor center
(one-time expenditure) $45,000
• Manatee Public Beach restroom renovation (one-time expenditure) $45,000
• Symphony on the Sand event
(one-time expenditure) $30,000
• Manatee Public Beach/Coquina Beach
Bayfront Park bike racks
(one-time expenditure) $25,000
• Manatee Public Beach sign replacement (one-time expenditure) $20,000
• SandBlast event
(one-time expenditure) $6,000
• Manatee Public Beach visitor center
operations(per year for 5 years) $5,000
City to allow rentals to continue
tOM VAUGHT | SUN
Attorney David Levin discusses the city's situation in regard
to controlling rental properties with the city
commission while Commissioner Nancy Yetter reads notes.
ANNA MARIA – The attorney hired to determine whether the city can control short-term rentals, faced the city commission at a work session last week, explaining his findings and making suggestions for the city to consider.
David Levin said when the city’s ordinance defining single-family detached homes was drawn up, it did not include short-term rentals. That same ordinance, which was written in 1996, was in effect on June 1, 2001, when the state enacted statute took away a city’s right to control rentals unless the city had controls already in effect. He said not defining short-term rentals as single-family detached under that ordinance made them an illegal use.
After explaining his findings, Levin said if the citizens want to effectuate what is written, they could enforce that prohibition through their elected officials. If the citizens want to move forward with rentals, he would want to see the city change the working of its ordinance.
He said if commissioners allow rentals that already exist and make the owners get licenses, they should amend the code so that short-term rentals could be a use in residential neighborhoods. Levin said if the citizens want to effectuate what is written, they could enforce that prohibition through their elected officials. If the citizens want to move forward with rentals, he would want to see the city change the working of its ordinance.
Levin said they could give owners time to stop renting their houses and he said he does not see any legal impediment to enforce the ban now.
Commissioner Doug Copeland asked if they enforce the law now, would they need a declaratory judgment from a judge as to the legality of the ban? Levin said no, because the owners could appeal in the second district court of appeal.
“I’m not going to try to sugarcoat this, if someone with money fights it, they could make it expensive if the city wins because the city cannot regain its expenses if it wins,” Levin said. “The city could make what’s there non-conforming and stop the new ones.”
When asked about the possible expense, Levin said he thought it could be $100,000 or more, but not much more.
Levin said the city could make it less painful for rental owners.
“You could regulate but it is easier to enforce a prohibition,” he said.
Levin said they could grandfather what’s there or give a grace period.
Levin’s opinion drew various responses from attorneys representing rental owners and their letters were in the city’s read file. Commissioner Nancy Yetter said some of the responses from attorneys were like apples and oranges.
Mayor Dan Murphy said he had a series of meetings with residents and a vacation rental group.
“We came to an understanding, he said. “I feel our communication is better than before.”
He said resident Maureen McCormick drafted an ordinance and the group was working to refine the process of handling rentals.
McCormick said they would talk with rental agents about a regulation plan.
“We don’t want to move without their input,” she said.
Commissioner Chuck Webb said in the past, people said let’s ban all rentals but if the owners could prove a property was a rental before 1996, it would be no problem for them to continue.
“We could regulate this with a special exception,” Webb said. “I think the way to handle the ones after that date would be by special exception. We could put a statement in there that we want to reduce rentals.
“On new structures, we will have to address that situation,” he added. “With controls and restrictions, it could be allowed. They could be required to get a license.”
The commissioners agreed to work toward grandfathering properties that were rentals before June 1, 2001 and requiring rentals established since that date to apply for special exceptions.
Man charged with trying to lure AMI children
HOLMES BEACH – Police arrested a 22-year-old man from Ellenton and charged him with trying to entice three 10-year-old children into his vehicle in the 2800 block of Avenue at about 9:40 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13.
Enrique Machuca was arrested, booked and released on bail totaling $9,620 later. He was charged with enticing a child under 12 years old three times, possession of methamphetamines and synthetic marijuana, possession of a prescription drug without a valid prescription and driving with a suspended license.
Holmes Beach Police responded to the 2800 block of Avenue C on a report of a Hispanic man with a thin moustache driving a pearl colored sedan asking three children if they wanted a ride. An officer saw the suspect turning turn onto Gulf Drive from 3200 block of Sixth Avenue. He failed to stop on a red light before making a turn. The officer had to turn around to catch up with the suspect, who accelerated rapidly on Gulf Drive. The suspect stopped after seeing the officer’s red lights and hearing his siren. A backup officer arrived saying the man allegedly tried to lure the kids into his car.
As the officer approached, he noticed the suspect was sweating profusely and the odor of burning marijuana came from the car’s interior. He noticed the suspect’s pants zipper was down. When asked why he was sweating, Machuca said he was nervous because his license was suspended. He said he had just paid off some citations to get it back. The backup officer observed what appeared to be marijuana cigarettes inside the car.
A computer check showed Machuca’s license was suspended for seven instances of not paying traffic fines and one count of failure to appear on a traffic summons. In addition, this was his third stop for driving without a license.
The victims identified the suspect and he was arrested. He said he had been at a yard sale and saw one of the kids playing basketball after leaving the sale. Machuca said he only waved at him and two other children with him. When the officer asked Machuca why his pants zipper was down, he said it just falls down.
Holmes Beach Police Sgt. Brian Copeman searched the car and found two homemade pipes, a small white pill later identified as methamphetamine in the car’s center console, two bags of synthetic marijuana, two credit card scanners and 18 unidentified pills believed to be Omeprezole.
The report said one of the victims told an officer that Machuca was, “holding a sausage in his pants area.” A police report indicated Machuca could not provide a reason why the juveniles stated he was holding a sausage.
Machuca was released on $9,620 bond Sunday, according to a Holmes Beach memo police news release.
City leaders react to recall plan
BRADENTON BEACH – Mayor Bill Shearon and Vice Mayor Jack Clarke rarely see eye-to-eye these days, but they both agree that the mayor’s future should be decided by city voters.
When contacted Friday afternoon, Shearon and Clarke shared their views on the recall effort being initiated by former City Commissioner Pete Barreda.
“I’m not happy that it’s happening, but this way the voters get to have their say. If you like the job I’m doing then keep me, if you don’t like it, that’s the voter’s choice,” Shearon said.
That said, the mayor feels the commission should rescind the recently adopted forfeiture resolution that was created to provide the procedural framework for removing an elected official from office.
“That resolution should not be hanging over any commissioner’s head; and that would address my lawsuit,” he added, making reference to the lawsuit he recently filed against the city in an effort to prevent the commission from suspending him.
Shearon pointed out that he has yet to see the forfeiture charges Clarke intended to present against him, which makes it more difficult for him to address the vice mayor and commission’s concerns regarding his job performance and leadership of the city.
Clarke said he too prefers a recall election to a commission-led forfeiture hearing, and he agrees that the voters should decide Shearon’s fate. He said he is willing to put the forfeiture discussions on hold while the recall effort unfolds, but he is not yet ready to cast aside the forfeiture resolution.
“Not yet. Ask me this question when the date is set for the recall election,” Clarke said.
“Other commissioners have stated that there are problems, and we need to get to the bottom of them. The recall election will not get to the bottom of these specific problems, and there are items other commissioners felt needed airing out. If we forego the option of forfeiture at this point, and some requirement of the recall process is not met, then we no longer have recourse,” he added.
“We can stop the forfeiture proceedings without rescinding the resolution. The resolution is good, and we needed it because the charter did not address the situation. The resolution was not written just for the mayor, and we never adopted the charges against Mr. Shearon because the whole thing got sidetracked when he refused to recuse himself (at a recent forfeiture meeting).”
Shearon questions whether the recall petitioners can even gather the required number of petition signatures.
Clarke said if that were to happen, it would send a clear message to him that the citizens do not want the mayor removed from office, which, in turn, would discourage him from re-initiating the forfeiture process.
Clarke also said he would respect the wishes of the voters and not continue with the forfeiture efforts if a special election takes place and Shearon is not recalled and removed from office.