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Vol. 15 No. 5 - November 26, 2014



headlines

Lights of the season
Carol Whitmore

SUBMITTED

Pictured, from left, are: Melissa Enders, Bill Herlihy,
Sam Speciale, Jake Spooner, Angela Rodocker and Angie Cuervo.

Saturday night the Bridge Street Merchants honored Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale and asked the chief to throw the switch on the ceremonial lighting of the merchant sponsored Christmas tree that stands in the Bridge Street Market lot.

“I appreciate them thinking of me like that. It was an honor, and the clock and pen set they gave me was really nice,” Speciale said.

“I thought it was great that Sam could be here. We wanted to honor and recognize him for all his years of service, and for all that he and his department do for our businesses, our residents, our visitors and our entire community,” said Island Time owner Bill Herlihy.

Saturday night also marked the annual holiday lighting of Bridge Street itself, courtesy of the Bridge Street Merchants.

$1.6 million facelift planned for Coquina
Carol Whitmore

SUBMITTED

 

BRADENTON BEACH – On a rainy Monday night not fit for outdoor recreational activities, Manatee County officials unveiled preliminary plans for an estimated $1.6 million worth of improvements to North Coquina Boat Ramp.

The meeting took place at the nearby Manatee County Marine Rescue headquarters, where county representatives Angela Houts, Alan Lai Hipp and Debra-Lynn Leavenworth, and Josh Bryant, from the CPH engineering firm, addressed a sparse gathering that included Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon, Vice Mayor Jack Clarke, Scenic Waves advisory board co-chair Tjet Martin, County Commissioner John Chappie and Marine Rescue Capt. Joe Westerman.

Honts, the project manager, said the North Coquina project would include replacing the existing boat ramp and docks, decreasing the steep angle of decent and the adjacent drop off area at the end of the ramp, paving the unpaved parking lot with shell-topped concrete, installing new American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant restrooms; constructing a 1,800 square foot storage building, installing drainage improvements and enhancing the landscaping features.

Lai Hipp, the environmental program manager, said the project would be jointly funded by West Coast Inland Navigation District grant money and boater fees collected by the county as part of the Florida Boating Improvement Program.

Honts said the anticipated start date would be no earlier than October 2015. Once the work begins, it is expected to take approximately 180 days to complete.

Parking renovations

The North Coquina boat ramp plans call for the installation of 28 paved boat trailer parking spaces, 14 paved standard parking and two ADA complaint parking spaces.

Lai Hipp said paving the parking area will save the county money in the long run because it currently spends $30,000 a year on materials alone to maintain the unpaved parking area.

Shearon, Martin and Chappie inquired about the possibility of adding turn lanes to Gulf Drive to accommodate boat ramp and beach traffic. Lai Hipp said the county plan includes no funding for Gulf Drive traffic lane reconfiguration, and this would be a matter to address with the Florida Department of Transportation.

After the meeting, Chappie summed up his thoughts on the plans presented.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous improvement for our boaters in Manatee County. It’s going to be an expansion of an existing facility, and it will have a lot more amenities that we don’t have now. It’s part of an overall plan the county has for our boat ramps throughout the county, and it’s going to be a great addition,” he said.

The proposed project is part of the county’s boat ramp master plan that includes $600,000 for South Coquina boat ramp improvements planned for next summer, beginning in June or July.

Major renovations to the Kingfish boat ramp in Holmes Beach are expected in 2017, and the plan is to finish the Coquina ramps first, so they can help accommodate the additional boat traffic generated by the Kingfish ramp closing.

Kingfish on deck

According to Houts, the renovations to the Kingfish boat ramp are estimated to begin in October 2017.

A cost estimate has not yet been determined, but the anticipated scope of work includes replacement of the existing seawall, the construction of a new boat ramp designed to be a four-lane launching facility and the installation of a freestanding wooden dock and paved parking areas and drive aisles, with the parking and docking facilities brought into full ADA compliance.

City ponders rental permits

ANNA MARIA – At a workshop on Wednesday, Nov. 19, the city commission debated terms of a draft ordinance that would install a permit system for rental homes requiring the owner of a newly built owner-occupied home to sign a covenant preventing them from converting it to a rental except when the owner’s situation changes.

If the ordinance is passed, the city’s moratorium on permits for new homes with more than three bedrooms or rooms that could serve as bedrooms will end.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb said he did not like the language of the proposed ordinance that defines bedrooms, saying the commission needs to define a room that could serve as a bedroom.

Building Official Bob Welch said the definition of a bedroom includes having two ways to leave a room in case of an emergency, for example a door and a window. He also said 110 to 120 square feet is a normal size for a bedroom.

“You’ve got to give me a solid definition of a room that could be used as a bedroom,” he told Webb.

He said he wants a definition by size just for the moratorium.

Commissioner Dale Woodland wanted Welch to use permit applications to develop a definition, but Welch said he needs to rely on something based on the codes today.

Webb said they need a solution that solves the problem and he’s busy and can’t go over the applications. Welch said the commissioners could go over it themselves.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said they need a definition of a bedroom because if it is a room that could be used for sleeping, his three-bedroom house could suddenly become five bedrooms.

Planning Director Alan Garrett said under the vague definition, they could call a living room and even a dining room a bedroom and they would not be able to approve any permit application.

An escape clause

The commissioners expressed a desire to allow a homeowner to change the occupancy of a home in case of a change in the owner’s status, such as health or income, so that the owner could rent the home and not have to sell it.

City Attorney Jim Dye said he doesn’t want to name specific events that would trigger a change of occupancy and suggested “extraordinary hardship based on catastrophic event” for the wording in the ordinance.

The commission also addressed occupancy as an intensity problem. Commissioner Carol Carter said intensity is one word they could quantify. Webb said the higher the occupancy, the greater the intensity, which is the problem.

Webb said he doesn’t know if using a single-family definition would help them, so they gave it up. They said they might use square footage to determine the number of occupants.

Webb said he could see occupancy based on square footage of the house or number of bedrooms, but not square footage of the lots. He told Dye to make a list of ways to control occupancy, such as the number of bedrooms, the number of people and the number of parking spaces. Garrett said they should set standards for each of those.

Inspections

Using the permit process to allow rental homes is a way the city can control the process and commissioners wanted to be able to follow-up with inspections. Webb said they could catch cheaters with pop inspections, but one commissioner didn’t think those inspections would surprise anyone for long.

Copeland said when the state inspector is out on the Island looking at restaurants, they show up and then the first restaurant calls the others to let them know, taking out the element of surprise.

The commissioners called for staff to put together a final ordinance for first reading on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. and a final hearing on Thursday, Dec. 18.

Last chance for Cast-n-Cage

joe hendricks | sun

Cast-n-Cage owners Roland Pena and
Tammy Kemper-Pena propose an alternative payment
plan to the commission

BRADENTON BEACH – The city commission is giving Cast-n-Cage restaurant proprietors Roland Pena and Tammy Kemper-Pena one more chance to catch up, and stay caught up, on their rent payments.

During the Thursday, Nov. 20, meeting, commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of giving the couple until Dec. 20 to pay their November and December rent in full. They also must pay accrued interest, a returned check fee and renew their expired occupational licenses in order to continue doing business on the Historic Bridge Street Pier. The amount due will be approximately $12,000.

In reaching this agreement, the commission also declared the Penas to be in habitual default of their lease, because they missed or have been late on three rent payments. This designation will remain in effect for 12 months and grants the city the right to initiate eviction procedures immediately should the Dec. 20 payment, or any future rent payments, be missed.

“That puts them on notice that this is fair and final warning,” said City Attorney Ricinda Perry.

Pena said he plans to make good on his debt to the city using money generated from the pending sale of a residential property in Bradenton Beach. He said he expects to close on the sale by Dec. 10.

Most of the commission felt it was in the city’s best interest to keep the restaurant space occupied, if possible, and Mayor Bill Shearon expressed concern that would take 90 days or more to find a new tenant.

“It’s Christmas. Let’s give him an opportunity to pay the rent after he sells his property, and give him no other chances after that,” Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said.

“Just the thought of vacating that property immediately is ridiculous. I’d rather take a chance on the Penas going through our season and trying to be successful,” Commissioner Janie Robertson said.

“It would be best to get the money if we can,” said Commissioner Ed Straight.

Vice Mayor Jack Clarke disagreed, and later cast the lone opposing vote.

“It’s less than 60 days to the planned opening of our reconstructed pier. We need to have a solid tenant in that restaurant,” he said.

“When you have somebody that is so far down in their pockets that they have to sell their other assets, this is not going anywhere good. We need to part as amicably as possible with the Cast-n-Cage and go forward with someone who can better represent the city; and I think it is possible to find a viable tenant in the seven or eight weeks until the pier reconstruction is scheduled to be completed,” he added.

Shearon later informed the commission that he and Police Chief Sam Speciale obtained a copy of the concessionaire’s agreement used by Manatee County, and this would serve as the basis for the next pier lease if needed.

“We’re going to have all of our ducks in a row, so if the event comes, we’re going to be ready to fill the vacancy as fast as we can,” Shearon said.

“I’ve already been contacted by someone who’s interested,” Vosburgh said.

After the meeting, Pena cited the pier reconstruction, delays in approving signage and a lack of parking as contributing factors to the restaurant’s struggles. He also mentioned a leaky roof, a faulty fire suppression system and an electrical panel shared with the city as ongoing concerns.

Beach soccer tournament approved

submitted

The Major Beach Soccer League will host a qualifying tournament
at Coquina Beach next summer.

 

 

BRADENTON BEACH – Major Beach Soccer (MBS) is coming to Coquina Beach next summer, and the Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) affiliated Bradenton Area Sports Commission had a hand in making it happen.

The two-day MBS qualifying beach soccer tournament will take place on Coquina Beach Saturday, July 25, and Sunday, July 26. Participating team members will range in age from eight years old and up, and compete in 12 different divisions and age brackets, one of which is an over 30 co-ed division.

MBS events take place under the administrative umbrella of the United Soccer League (USL) which falls under the umbrella of the Major Soccer League (MSL).

Winners of the Bradenton Beach summer qualifying tournament will advance to the MBS National Championship taking place in Clearwater the following December. Qualifying tournaments will also take place next spring and summer in Cocoa Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, Clearwater and Fort Myers.

Last week, Bradenton Beach commissioners approved a special event application submitted by Longboat Key resident Peter Mellor and the Longboat Key based PM Soccer Enterprises.

On behalf of Mellor, Sean Walter, director of sports for the Bradenton Area Sports Commission, appeared before the commission when the special event permit application was presented for their consideration.

TDC member David Teitelbaum also attended the meeting and offered his support for the event.

Walter said he expects 300 to 350 participants and 400 to 500 spectators at the two-day event.

According to the event description, six temporary soccer fields will be located north and south of the beach pavilion. The description notes that event organizers are aware of the turtle nesting season and the fields and gear will not be set up until the area has been cleared by a Turtle Watch patrol.

Walter also touted the tournament’s economic impact and promotional values.

“My responsibility is to market our county as a destination and create new economic impact dollars. With the beach renourishment at Coquina Beach, we have that opportunity to do so here,” he said.

“This creates a market impression for the city. We hope people will come the week before the event and stay after the event; and also come back later to visit this beautiful area. People may also want to move here and work here,” he added.

When asked about the potential for producing traffic congestion, Walter said 90 percent of the spectators are friends and family members, and arrive with the participants, as opposed to bringing separate vehicles.

Walter also discussed the timing of the tournament.

“We’re not going to put an event here in season. We look to do the shoulder months, focusing on how to get more heads in beds during those slower times, and July is an absolute great month for this event,” he said.

On behalf of the commission, Mayor Bill Shearon thanked Walter for that consideration.

“We’re getting plenty of advance notice and that means a lot. It’s in the off season and brings us some extra revenue, and creates good congestion and traffic problems,” the mayor said.

Attorney provides litigation update

joe hendricks | sun

City Attorney Ricinda Perry brings commissioners
up to speed on a multitude of lawsuits filed against the city.

 

BRADENTON BEACH – During last week’s city commission meeting, City Attorney Ricinda Perry provided commissioners with an update on five lawsuits currently pending against the city of Bradenton Beach and/or Mayor Bill Shearon.

“The city has been the recipient of a good number of lawsuits the past couple months and a number of these suits are without legal representation at this point,” Perry said.

Perry said she considers the lawsuit Shearon recently filed against the city regarding the forfeiture of office proceedings to be premature, thus requiring no legal work at this time. She said that could change if forfeiture proceedings are formally initiated and non-criminal charges are brought against Shearon at the special commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday Dec. 2, at 10 a.m.

Perry then addressed the public records lawsuit recently filed by Shearon’s significant other, Tjet Martin.

“This is a lawsuit; we’ve been sued, and we have to defend it,” she said.

Perry suggested securing the services of an attorney who has had previous success suing a city for public records failures.

“There’s talk of turning this around and bringing in experts who sue cities and have them work for the cities instead. They’re the ones filing these things and they know all the tricks,” Perry said, recalling conversations that took place at a recent legal conference she attended.

The city is still defending a 2012 lawsuit filed by Shearon, Martin, and Jo Ann Meilner, but Perry said there has been little movement in that suit of late, and it has required little in the way of legal work.

In regard to the 2014 countersuit ELRA Inc. and restaurant owner Ed Chiles filed against Shearon in his capacity as mayor, it was agreed that Perry would continue to serve as the city’s initial point of contact regarding communications between Shearon’s city-appointed attorney, Chuck Johnson, and Chiles’ attorney, Robert Lincoln.

Perry also informed the commission that the city has been named in two separate legal appeals of variance requests granted by the city’s special master, attorney William Robinson Jr.

One appeal was filed by John Arcadi in opposition to a setback variance granted to Wendy and George Kokolis for the potential construction of a two-unit hotel on Ninth Street North. The other appeal was filed by on behalf of Marie Pracht in opposition to multiple setback variances Robinson granted to Lora Ann Kennedy for the construction of an elevated home at 1101 Gulf Dr. S.

The commission agreed that Special Master Robinson would serve as the city’s first line of defense against Pracht’s Gulf Drive appeal and be assisted by Perry, if needed. Holmes Beach City Attorney Patricia Petruff is representing Pracht in her appeal.

In the Arcadi appeal, Petruff finds herself on the other side of the legal ledger, representing the Kokolis’ in defense of the variance granted. The commission agreed that Perry would work with Petruff on this matter, with Pertruff doing most of the legal legwork in defending her client, and the city, against the appeal.

These ongoing legal challenges occur at a time when the city has already spent more than $50,000 of the $89,000 budgeted legal fees for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 and ends on Sept. 30, 2015.

City legal fees climbing

BRADENTON BEACH – During last week’s commission meeting, Mayor Bill Shearon expressed concern that the city has already amassed more than $50,000 in legal fees during the first six weeks of the 2015 fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.

The city budgeted $89,000 for legal fees for the entire 2015 fiscal year, and to date has already spent more than 60 percent of that budgeted amount.

On Friday, City Treasurer Sheila Dalton confirmed the figures cited by Shearon.

“We have spent $38,794 out of the $89,000 budget. However, this does not include any attorney bills that were approved yesterday,” she said, via e-mail.

During the Thursday, Nov. 20, commission meeting Dalton referred to, commissioners approved payment of a $12,128 invoice from City Attorney Ricinda Perry, for legal services rendered in October. This brings the city’s year to date total for legal expenditures to $50,922.

Last year, the city spent $130,543 on attorney fees, compared to $56,113 in 2013. The $74,430 increase equated to a 133 percent increase.

Shearon attributed some of the 2015 fiscal year legal expenses to the $9,300 he said the city paid labor attorney Matthew Westerman to investigate work place complaints filed by three Public Works Department employees.

Shearon referred to the employee complaints as “unfounded.”

Westerman’s reports concluded the complaints had some merit, but did not rise to the level of creating a hostile work place or engaging in employee harassment, as stipulated by the federal Civil Rights Act.

Follow the money

According to Perry’s invoice, $2,136 of the $12,218 she billed the city in October pertained to the forfeiture of office proceedings brought forth by Vice Mayor Jack Clarke and supported by Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Ed Straight. Of that $2,136, about $1,260 was attributed to work performed for Shearon and his neighbor, John Metz, regarding the proposed forfeiture resolution adopted by the commission and the rejected alternative ordinance presented by the mayor.

According to the invoice, $1,750 was spent on the dismissal of former City Clerk Gia Lancaster, and the city incurred approximately $750 in additional legal fees pertaining to Tjet Martin’s public records requests. On Nov. 6, the commission approved payment of $4,084 in legal fees attributed to Martin and her records requests.

Comp plan amendment discussed

joe hendricks | sun

This property owned by Ed Chiles remains
at the center of an ongoing land use debate

BRADENTON BEACH – City commissioners remain divided on the adoption of a proposed ordinance that would address land use issues associated with parking on properties that carry the Preservation land use designation, but they agree that a workshop is needed to further discuss the matter.

Last week, City Planner Alan Garrett presented a proposed ordinance that would serve as the basis for a comprehensive plan amendment that would address inconsistencies that exist between the Future Land Use map and the map language that jointly dictate allowed property uses.

Parking is not allowed in areas designated Preservation, but is allowed in Park/Recreation Open Space.

“The proposed language in the ordinance allows the existing parking areas along the west side of Gulf Drive to remain designated Park/Recreation Open Space, and not Preservation, as the current land use policy states,” City Planner Alan Garret explained, in a memo sent to commissioners prior to last week’s meeting.

The draft ordinance Garrett presented to commissioners was based in part on suggestions made by Robert Lincoln, the attorney representing Ed Chiles and the BeachHouse restaurant ownership group that is a co-defendant in a 2012 lawsuit filed against the city by Bill Shearon, Tjet Martin and Jo Ann Meilner.

The suit contends the previous commission violated the city comp plan when it entered into a development agreement that allowed Chiles to use the southernmost end of his property, which is designated Preservation, for parking.

Lincoln has suggested that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could have unintended consequences elsewhere along for the potential construction of a two-unit hotel on Ninth Street North. The other appeal was filed by on behalf of Marie Pracht in opposition to multiple setback variances Robinson granted to Lora Ann Kennedy for the construction of an elevated home at 1101 Gulf Dr. S.

The commission agreed that Special Master Robinson would serve as the city’s first line of defense against Pracht’s Gulf Drive appeal, and be assisted by Perry, if needed. Holmes Beach City Attorney Patricia Petruff is representing Pracht in her appeal.

In the Arcadi appeal, Petruff finds herself on the other side of the legal ledger, representing the Kokolis’ in defense of the variance granted. The commission agreed that Perry would work with Petruff on this matter, with Pertruff doing most of the legal legwork in defending her client and the city against the appeal.

These ongoing legal challenges occur at a time when the city has already spent more than $50,000 of the $89,000 budgeted legal fees for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 and ends on Sept. 30, 2015.


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