The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 47 - August 25, 2010


Initiative signatures certified

ANNA MARIA — Questions about the sufficiency of a parking petition initiative were raised almost immediately after Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat certified the petition's signatures.

Sweat’s office certified 236 of the 250 signatures collected by the committee as being those of valid registered voters. That was more than the 205 – or 15 percent – the committee was required to obtain.

The petition committee is comprised of Larry Albert, Anna DeAugustine, Judith Chable, Charlie Daniel and Carl Pearman.

But at a work session on parking regulations, Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick questioned the process.

“I’m not sure that petition is sufficient,” Mattick said. “They were supposed to attach the whole ordinance to the petition.”

Under the terms of the city charter, a petition initiative can be used to force the commission to look at what the petition addresses and to either adopt the petition’s goals or put the concept to the voters in a referendum.

Under the city charter Section 3.11, initiative and referendum, the language provides for citizens to propose ordinances to the commission.

According to the charter, “Any five qualified voters may commence initiative or referendum petition proceedings with the city clerk or other official designated by the commission and affidavit stating they will constitute the petitioners’ committee and be responsible for circulating the petition and filing it in proper form.”

This committee was formed and began collecting signatures in response to discussions of an overall parking and streetscape idea for Pine Avenue drawn by Gene Aubry and endorsed by nationally recognized walkable communities expert Dan Burden.

“The purpose of our initiative was clearly and simply stated – to clarify the existing regulations covering on-site parking in the ROR (residential/office/retail) district of our city,” Chable said earlier.

Chable said she and her fellow committee members were confident the signatures would be certified.

“The petition is governed by statute and our city charter,” she added. “We followed the process as written in the charter as did Supervisor Bob Sweat, City Clerk Alice Baird and City Attorney Jim Dye, who was consulted by Clerk Baird before she submitted the petition for certification.”

Mattick and several other residents questioned whether the petition itself meets the requirements set forth in the city charter.

The charter language states, “Each signer had an opportunity to read the full text of the ordinance proposed or sought to be reconsidered.”

Other language in the charter states that the full text of the ordinance under consideration shall be attached to the petition — something that was not done in this case.

City Clerk Alice Baird said she’s not qualified to answer the question of whether or not the petition meets all requirements other than the certification of the signatures.

“I haven’t had experience with a petition initiative, and I want to do this right,” Baird said. “I’m consulting with our city attorney, Jim Dye, to get his opinion on this.”

Dye was not available for comment.

Under the terms of the charter, the petition must be considered at the next scheduled city commission meeting, which is Aug. 26.

Other questions about the initiative arose when Sweat’s office stated that it’s too late to get the petition on a referendum in the November election.

However, the charter is mute on the subject of the need to hold the referendum during a regularly scheduled election.

The language states simply that if the petition is deemed sufficient, and if the city commission fails to consider it or fails to address it, the matter shall go to referendum no sooner than 30 days and no later than 60 days after it was certified.

Scallops few and far between

Far left, Ronda Ryan explains the purpose of the lines
and buoys in the orange buckets to volunteers at the
Third Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search

LONGBOAT KEY – About 100 searchers found only 15 scallops during the Third Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search on Saturday.

With no oil from the Deepwater Horizon in local waters, no red tide for more than two years and good water clarity on Saturday morning, expectations had been much higher.

In the event’s first year – 2008 – a whopping 947 scallops were found by 62 searchers. Last year’s event drew 170 people who counted 131 scallops.

“There’s speculation that the first year was drier and had less runoff,” which would boost scallop populations, said Steve Fernandez, a board member of Sarasota Bay Watch, which sponsors the event.

One of the first species to be affected by pollution carried by runoff, scallops indicate the health of bay waters.

This year, the event shifted its search area slightly north of the areas searched during the event’s first two years, targeting waters from the mouth of Tampa Bay south to City Island in Sarasota.

The idea was to focus on what was thought to be a more productive scallop area to get the best amount of data over the long term, said Sarah Stephenson with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

The event, patterned after the well-established Tampa Bay Watch Great Bay Scallop Search, is not a strictly scientific study, but is intended to raise awareness of water quality issues, according to Jay Leverone, an environmental scientist with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

“Education and public outreach are equally important as data,” he said. “It gives people an opportunity to see what’s down there in the seagrasses,” including crabs, whelks, horse conchs, tulips and scallops.

John Ryan, chairman of Sarasota Bay Watch, instructed volunteers on the three types of seagrasses they might find while snorkeling for scallops, and gave tips on finding the camouflaged critters in the grass beds.

Searchers learned that scallops have hundreds of blue eyes, and squirt themselves away from predators, clicking their shells in the mild-mannered bivalve’s best imitation of a fierce display of aggression.

Volunteer Rick Pecora, of Anna Maria Island, the former secretary of the environment for Maryland, said he would like to see the scallop population rise enough to justify harvesting them again.

Recreational and commercial bay scallop harvesting is prohibited south of the Pasco-Hernando county line. Future counts documenting bay scallop population changes could lead to the lifting of the ban, wildlife regulators say.

Bay scallops virtually disappeared from local waters in the early 1970s, but Indian shell mounds indicate that scallops have long been a staple food in Florida.

The event, based at the Mar Vista restaurant in Longboat Key, was sponsored in part by the Chiles Group and the Anna Maria Island Sun.

Sarasota Bay Watch is a not-for-profit organization committed to preserving and restoring Sarasota Bay’s ecosystem through community education and citizen participation. To learn more, visit

City awaits recall ruling

ANNA MARIA — Candidates to fill City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus’ seat if he is recalled from office are keeping a low profile while they wait for the courts to decide whether there will even be a recall election.

Arguments from Stoltzfus attorney Richard Harrison and the Recall Stoltzfus Committee Attorney Fred Moore were heard in Cirtuit Judge Edward Nicholas’ courtroom on Aug. 12.

Harrison maintains that the recall petition was not sufficiently specific for Stoltzfus to have mounted an effective defense. He argued that Judge Nicholas should apply case law developed by the Garvin case, which says the charges for recall must be spelled out and numbered.

Further, he said each charge must be proven.

“If only one is insufficient, then the recall should not go forward,” Harrison argued in court. Not so fast, argued Recall Stoltzfus Attorney Fred Moore. The Garvin case doesn’t really apply here, he said.

It was Moore’s contention the recall petition should be considered as a whole and not addressed piecemeal.

The charges of malfeasance and misfeasance, which Moore said apply to the entire recall statement, do not need to be attached to each charge. Harrison claimed they do need to be attached to each charge.

“What charges are misfeasance and which are malfeasance?” Harrison asked the judge.

At the end of the three-and-a-half hour hearing, Judge Nicholas said he would take the matter under advisement.

“I’m aware that there’s a time element to this, but I don’t want to make a hasty ruling,” he said at the close of the hearing.

“I thought we would have heard something by now,” Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat said late last week. Sweat was named as a party to the suit since it was his office that certified the signatures on the recall petition.

Anna Maria City Clerk Alice Baird said she also thought the judge would have made his ruling by now.

The city is proceeding as if the recall election is going to take place.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Baird said.

The city has placed the required advertisements in advance of the election.

Absentee ballots have been sent out and continue to be available.

And the Sept. 3 date remains on the calendar as the date for the recall election, pending a ruling to the contrary from Judge Nicholas.

Bowling sign up ends Thursday

If you haven’t signed up for the 20th Annual O’Connor Bowling Challenge to reserve a lane, you’d better get to Duffy’s Tavern by Thursday, Aug. 26.

This is the last year the tournament will be hosted by twins Billy and George O’Connor and Billy noted, “We’re really look forward to it, but it’s time for the younger generation to take over. George’s son, Michael will be in charge next year.”

The tournament, sponsored by The Sun, is set for Saturday, Aug. 28, with check in from 5 to 6 p.m. at AMF Bradenton Lanes, 4208 Cortez Road, Bradenton, and bowling to begin at 6 p.m. The donation is $30 and it includes shoes and three games.

Pre-registration is required and bowlers can register at Duffy’s Tavern, 5808 Marina Drive, Homes Beach, from now until the event is sold out. In order to reserve a lane, bowlers must prepay by Thursday, Aug. 26.

All bowlers will receive a commemorative coolie cup with art by Island artist Rob Reiber and commemorative T-shirts with the same design will be for sale.

The after party will be held at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, 6696 Cortez Road W., Bradenton. Oyster bar owner John Horne will provide beer and margarita stations, a full bar and bowlers’ specials.

Raffle tickets for a big screen television donated by The Sun and hundreds of outstanding prizes from local merchants and restaurants will be available at the bowling alley. Tickets are six for $5.

In addition to the raffle, trophies will be awarded at the after party. Trophies include high and low game male and female, high series male and female and the Chuck Stearns Memorial High Game Trophy, The trophy is in honor of Holmes Beach Police Officer Charles “Chuck” Stearns, who passed away in 2005.

All proceeds will be used for youth sports at the Island Community Center. For information, call Billy O’Connor at 650-5488.

Parking plans might eliminate parks
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Bradenton Beach is pondering whether to close or
move Lou Barolo Park to make room for more parking spaces.

BRADENTON BEACH – The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) continues to ponder its options for adding parking in and around the commercial district of Bridge Street, and one option might be to do away with one or both parks within the city.

During its meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 18, the CRA approved Lynn Townsend and Associates’ proposal for professional consulting services for a plan to increase off-street parking by converting city vehicle parking next to the public works building on Highland Street into public parking.

Townsend earlier provided a plan that would include Lou Barolo Park, across the street from the public works building, for increased parking. The plan would tie the park and the parking lot together and provide a resting place for people walking between the lot and the commercial district on Bridge Street three blocks away.

The parking lot would be located adjacent to the Monroe Cottage, an historic home that the city bought several years ago. At the Wednesday meeting, talk turned to whether the cottage might be moved, or its footprint reduced, to provide even more parking space. They determined that the cottage is historic, but not the expansive back porch, a shed or a one-car garage on the property. That’s when public works director Tom Woodard mentioned that the park is rarely used. CRA member Ed Chiles said they might be able to reduce the size of the park.

“Could we move the park?” CRA member Janie Robertson asked. “How was it dedicated and did Lou Barolo donate the land?”

It was determined that Barolo did not donate the land. He was a former Bradenton Beach city councilman. The park was named after him when he died.

“What if we moved it to Coquina Beach Park?” Mayor Bob Bartelt asked. “They have more kids there than where it’s located now.”

Others discussed moving it to the other city park, Herb Dolan Park, in the northern portion of the city.

Woodard said that his crews seldom noticed people using Herb Dolan Park and he suggested eliminating it and using the land for something else.

Mayor Bob Bartelt also asked about moving Barolo Park’s playground equipment to Katie Pierola Park on the beach.

Chiles summed up what some at the meeting felt.

“We live in an area with lots of park land at the beach,” he said. “We tried these pocket parks and they didn’t work. What can you say except we tried it and it failed.”

The group asked the city clerk’s office to research the legalities of changing the status of the parks and the Monroe Cottage.

Ethics commission to decide attorney fee payment

ANNA MARIA — John Cagnina may be off the hook for Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus’ legal bills incurred as a result of a complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Cagnina filed an ethics complaint against Stoltzfus in which he accused the commissioner of attempting to fund a lawsuit against the city if his participation could be kept secret.

The charge grew out of some e-mails from his personal computer that Stoltzfus turned over to legal consultant Michael Barfield following a public records request.

In a letter to Richard Harrison, Stoltzfus’ attorney and copied to Cagnina, C. Christopher Anderson, the chief assistant general counsel of the Florida Commission on Ethics recommends dismissing Stoltzfus’ petition for costs and attorney fees incurred in the defense of the ethics complaint.

Anderson prepared a brief, which the Ethics Commission will consider at a meeting on Sept. 3 in which he states that there is no evidence that Cagnina acted maliciously in making his complaint.

“The elements of a valid claim for costs and attorney fees under Section 112.317(7) are that the ethics complaint was made with a malicious intent to injure the public official’s reputation, that the person filing the complaint knew that the statements made about the official were false or made the statements about the official with reckless disregard for the truth,” Anderson stated in his brief.

Harrison first billed the city for fees his office generated in preparing Stoltzfus’ defense.

However, City Attorney Jim Dye advised city commissioners to refuse to pay the fees, since the ethics complaint was dismissed before it ever came before the Ethics Commission, rendering any billing for fees premature.

The final ruling of the Ethics Commission will be rendered at the Sept. 3 session.

Merchants want parking crackdown – sort of

BRADENTON BEACH – Police chief Sam Speciale has a dilemma – Bridge Street merchants want the police to enforce parking limits, but they don’t want their customers to get tickets.

That’s the word from the Bridge Street Merchants Association through their liaison, City Commissioner Jan Vosburgh, who said at a city commission meeting on Thursday, Aug. 20, that they told her they would support a four-hour limit on Bridge Street parking. As for the request to not ticket offenders, Vosburgh explained.

“They said that they didn’t want to turn into a ticket-happy city like Anna Maria,” she said, referring to the city of Anna Maria’s reputation for ticketing parking offenders.

“I can’t do one without the other,” Speciale said, referring to enforcement without ticketing.

“Tell them we made you do it,” Commissioner Gay Brueler said.

“It’s an age old problem,” Mayor Bob Bartelt said. “You can’t make everybody happy.”

Bartelt said he tends to go with the majority and make the most people happy.

The parking situation has been a problem for the past 10 years as the Bridge Street commercial district became more popular with residents and visitors alike. The merchants want to restrict parking so that people visiting the beach don’t use Bridge Street for parking, taking spaces all day that could be used by customers. The city is also looking to turn more property into parking spaces.

The commissioners agreed to put the issue on a future meeting agenda.

Robinson assails fire commission

HOLMES BEACH –Following approval of the $5.28 million budget for 2010-11, Al Robinson took West Manatee fire commissioners to task for their wage and benefits package.

“I’m here because of the out of control spending and waste of taxpayer dollars,” Robinson said. “I request that you suspend this arbitrary one minute rule (for public comment) that was made specifically to stifle my comments and shut me up.”

Robinson then read from a handout regarding the wages and benefits, retirement program, capital spending and firefighter education before being stopped by Chairman John Rigney because his three minutes were over.

“Let the record show that we spent 30 minutes taking pictures and passing out awards,” Robinson said before being stopped again by Rigney.

Continuing with public comment, Kevin Hutchison, a contractor, asked about the bidding for the remodel of the building at 6717 Third Ave. W. in Bradenton purchased by the district in November.

“I would like to see the bids on the project and I’d like to know how this final bidder was selected,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison referenced Robinson’s handout and questioned the one-minute rule, but Rigney pointed out that the limit for public comment is three minutes per person, not one.

Commission response

“If you have questions about the bidding process, I’d be happy to sit down and talk to you, so I can take the contract out and show you,” Chief Andy Price responded. “We’re not going to do that during the meeting. It’s all open to public record.”

“This is the United States of America, and we have the right to assemble and to free speech,” Hutchison responded.

“Florida Statute gives agencies the right to limit the time for pubic comment,” Administrative Assistant Mary Stephens pointed out.

Fire Commissioner Randy Cooper defended the practice of promoting firefighters at commission meetings.

“To take the time to recognize the firefighters and scholarship award winners in front of their families and peers is very positive,” Cooper said.

Price said firefighters have responded to shootings, vehicle accidents, drownings and structure fires in the past month.

“It’s ridiculous to say that we just stand around and do nothing,” he stressed. “Firefighters are there when there’s a serious incident. They do a lot, they see a lot and they deal with a lot.”

“It goes on every day, but people don’t see it unless they’re involved,” Commissioner Jesse Davis added.

Price then told the board that the building remodel is progressing as planned and the district hopes to move the administration into it in November.

Counselors in training huge help at Center camp
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Some of the CITs are, left to right, back row: Moriah Goode,
Sarah Balducci, Aaliyah Mapp, Michelle Mattick, Kieran Grumley,
Blake Tedesco; middle row: Cecelia Pretus, Jake Parsons,
Josh Zawistoski; and front row: Jazmine Neff, Andrew Zink
and Jack Walters.

ANNA MARIA – As this summer’s camp sessions came to a close last week at the Island Community Center, Education Director April Jonatzke had special praise for her counselors in training.

“They have been a huge help to me,” she stressed. “They do a fabulous job. The kids and the parents love them.”

The 32 CITs ranged in age from those going into seventh grade to 18 years old. The majority are members of the Center’s teen program, and all must take a three-hour training course.

“We had 174 campers registered and about 70 per day came to camp,” Jonatzke said. “The CITs helped me with cleanup, setting up and tearing down the crafts and are an extra set of eyes.

“They started in the mornings at 8 to 9 a. m. and went to 3 p.m. They learned a lot of patience. After camp, they went to the teen program upstairs.”

CITs were graded daily on initiative, participation and completion of an activity, respect and a positive attitude, following directions and listening.

“They could get up to 12 points a day,” Jonatzke explained. “The CITs with the highest points got to go on the weekly field trip with the campers at no cost.”

She said this summer she had the largest number of CITs ever, and they performed 2,472 hours of community service during the months of June and July.

Causeway committee receives updates on preserves

BRADENTON – Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker gave Palma Sola Causeway Scenic Highway Committee members an update recently on the Neal, Perico and Robinson preserves.

In the Neal Preserve, located on the southeast side of the Anna Maria Bridge, there are eight acres of uplands and nine acres of wetlands. The entrance will be located across from the high-rise condos being developed on Perico by Minto Communities.

“There will be a series of trails, a small 20-foot observation tower looking over Sarasota Bay, a parking lot for 20 vehicles and one picnic shelter,” he said.

“In the preserve there’s a rich history of Indian settlement. The Smithsonian mapped the subsurface cultural resources, and we will be able to interpret those.”

He said there would not be a restroom because it would have to be elevated 14 feet. The county hopes to have it completed by February 2011.

The Perico Preserve is a 175-acre preserve on the northeast side of the Causeway that the county purchased from St. Joe in 2007 as part of a lawsuit settlement. St. Joe is the former owner of the Minto development.

“It will be another year for earth work there because we didn’t get the grant from Swfwmd (Southwest Florida Water Management District),” he explained.

“It will have single walking trail and an observation deck looking toward Robinson Preserve. All the parking will be up front. It will be more for wildlife than people.”

He said all the work is being done using grant funding because his department has no funding for it.

Expanding Robinson

Mark Alderson, director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, asked Hunsicker if county has had any success in acquiring land adjacent to Robinson Preserve, which is slated for a golf course development by the Robinson family.

“The Robinsons can file a final site plan and go to construction at any time,” Hunsicker replied. “I’m still hoping the county could acquire it with other funding partners. It’s a good candidate for Swfwmd to help us.”

He said with so many people using the preserve, having more land for canoe, kayak and walking trails would be wonderful.

He said the Reasoner Nursery family formerly owned the land. Family members brought cuttings of ornamental trees and plants from Africa and South America and planted them on 20 acres of the property. He said if the county acquires the land, it could create canopy walks and zip lines there.

Ingrid McClellan, executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful, said landscaping for the area between Kingfish Ramp and Westbay Cove condominiums is ready to proceed. A $1,500 grant from the SBEP and a matching grant from KMB, plus the Holmes Beach beautification board’s $18,350 forestry grant would be used to purchase trees and grasses for that area and for Kingfish Ramp.

Members learned that their application to have the scenic highway extended into Holmes Beach is on hold because the Florida Scenic Highway program has been frozen. Currently the highway begins at 75th Street West in Bradenton and ends at East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach.

The extension would include Manatee Avenue from East Bay Drive to the Manatee County Public Beach, East Bay and Gulf drives from Manatee Avenue to the city limits of Bradenton Beach and Old Gulf Drive from Manatee Avenue to East Bay Drive.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper