The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 43 - August 8, 2012


City cracking down on ground floor living areas

HOLMES BEACH – The city is cracking down on property owners who are using enclosed ground floor rooms for anything other than access, parking or storage in violation of FEMA regulations that prohibit ground floor living areas in some elevated homes.

“A great many of these places are in violation” of Federal Emergency Management Agency rules, Code Enforcement Officer David Forbes said, adding that some owners openly advertise first floor “game rooms” or “family rooms” to vacationers on the Internet.

The city has sent a notice of violation to Brian Wien, owner of 203 69th St., Unit B, Forbes said, adding that Wien is required to remove both the door and the door jamb of the illegal living area, to prevent easy reinstallation of a new door.

City officials are working on a letter to send to property managers listing the dos and don’ts of ground level usage, Forbes said, adding that vacation rentals are “the bulk of the problem.”

Pending approval by the city attorney, the letter will include the following rules:

• Electrical equipment such as switches, outlets and junction boxes must be located above base flood elevation plus one foot.

• A minimum of two flow-through vents are required, enough to provide one square inch of flow for every square foot of floor space.

• No permanent plumbing or waste drains are permitted below base flood elevation plus one foot.

• All construction material below base flood elevation must be water resistant.

• Floors shall not be a finished product, such as tile, laminate or carpet.

• Air conditioning equipment shall be located above base flood elevation plus one foot.

• Air conditioned access areas must be under 299 square feet.

• Any advertisement alluding to ground floor rooms as “bonus” or “game” rooms will be considered prima facie evidence that the room is being used as habitable space.

• Enclosed ground floor rooms are to be used for access, parking or storage only.

Forbes said he also will request that he be allowed to do random inspections after a reasonable compliance period expires.

The 69th Street violation was discovered through a complaint by Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen, who has urged the city to crack down on property owners illegally using their ground floors as living areas.

“It is way past time for the mayor and the city to get serious about flagrant violations of the FEMA rules that could threaten all of our flood insurance,” Peelen wrote in a recent newsletter to constituents. “I hope this will serve as major notice to the investor/owners of the big rental houses and to the real estate and other rental agencies that have been advertising illegal rooms.”

Peelen wrote that she saw “one of these game rooms in a former ‘Kaleta house.’ Indeed, there is an enclosed room with a ping-pong table and a pool table. Our regulations state quite clearly that the ground floor of raised houses can be used only for garage and storage, and may not be ‘livable’ space.”

According to Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office sales records, Wien purchased Unit B in 2009 from Anna Maria Paradise LLC, an inactive corporation for which he served as manager, according to the Florida Division of Corporations.

Wien also is listed as president of the inactive Anna Maria Paradise Condominium Association, according to the Florida Division of Corporations, which lists Anna Maria Island developer Shawn Kaleta as secretary. Kaleta owned the unit next to Wien’s, 203 69th St., Unit A, in 2010, according to the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office.


Anglers save barracuda victim
Carol Whitmore

tom vaught | sun
Bill Allen shows the hand that the barracuda was chewing on.
He said he got one of the top surgeons in the area to
operate at 8 p.m. on a Saturday. He is getting intravenous
doses of antibiotics, which explains the white dressing
on his other arm.

HOLMES BEACH – A four-foot-long, 25-pound barracuda got some revenge on a fisherman who hooked it recently, but two fellow anglers made sure it was short-lived.

Bill Allen, of Holmes Beach, ironically an associate broker of Big Fish Real Estate, awakened Saturday morning, July 28, undecided how to spend the day. The choice was simple – yard work or fishing.

“I put on an old shirt and shorts and my shoes with duct tape over the holes and loaded my boat,” he said. “Against common sense, I took the boat out to one-mile reef alone.

“I baited my big rod and reel and immediately hooked a reef shark, which seemed to jump a lot,” he said. “I didn’t want it to jump into my boat so I cut the line and before I could put on a new leader, I put the line on my small rod into the water.”

In about five minutes, the small rod’s reel started spinning and he knew he had a big fish because it almost bent the rod in half.

“I turned around and immediately got body slammed,” he said. “I got up and realized something had jumped into my boat.”

He said he felt something warm on his leg and on his fist. When he looked, he saw blood and when he looked at his right hand, he could see his knucklebones.

“I tried to clench my fist, I felt pain but when I tried to unclench it, I couldn’t because the barracuda had chewed my fist,” he said.

Allen said he first thought it was a kingfish when another boat with Jerry Martinek, who lives near Orlando, and his nephew, Danny Markou, a college student from Texas, came over.

“We heard what sounded like an explosion and heard somebody call for help,” said Martinek. “We asked him what happened and he said the fish jumped in his boat.”

“I tried to pull up the anchor but couldn’t so they tried to help, but the line was snagged,” Allen said. “I got a sharp knife and cut the rope with one swoop.”

Martinek got back in their boat and told Markou to head for the (Manatee Public) beach because Allen was feeling weak and they felt he needed immediate care.

“When we got there, people were trying to wave us off because we were coming into the swimming area, but Markou told them I might bleed to death,” he said. “The lifeguards got there quickly and put me on an ATV. There were a lot of people around us, and one lady thought to call 911 on her cell phone.”

“On the way, he told me his address and asked me to take his boat to his canal front home,” Markou said.

Stolen boat call

“Danny called me and said they were piloting two boats and they asked what they should do,” said Tom Pechous, of Holmes Beach, who is Martinek’s uncle, Markou’s grandfather and owns the boat they took fishing. “I told them to bring it to my house and I would find his house, which was a few blocks away.”

“When we got to my grandpa’s house, we cleaned the man’s boat,” Markou said. “There was a lot of blood in it.”

Pechous arrived and figured out how to get the boat to Allen’s dock, with the help of charter captain Mark Howard, of Sumo Time Charters, who knew Allen, and they put it on Allen’s lift.

“We got the fish out of the boat and left it on the dock,” Martinek said. “Neighbors came over and put it on ice for him.”

But the saga wasn’t over.

“That’s when the police showed up,” Pechous said. “His (Allen’s) wife thought it had been stolen.”

The police figured out what had happened after Howard explained and left.”

Allen commended the ambulance crew and Blake Medical Center, where they took him.

“I got Dr. David Cashen, a renowned surgeon, to come out at 8 p.m. to patch me up.”

Did he have any regrets?

“No, but it unnerves me to know I didn’t think to dial 911 when it happened,” he said. “Also, I shouldn’t have been out there alone.”

He said he is eternally grateful to Martinek, who leaves soon for Afghanistan as a helicopter repairman working for a military contractor, and Markou, a Texas college student, for coming to his aid so readily.

“The whole thing didn’t bother me,” he added, “but I get emotional when I mention those two.”


Board sets millage at 2.05

ANNA MARIA – At last week’s budget work session, commissioners set the 2012-13 millage at 2.05, which would generate $28,696 more in ad valorem revenue than the previous year. The millage is the same as 2011-12.

Commissioners continued their discussion on the proposed budget with Commissioner Dale Woodland asking that the city develop a plan for road maintenance similar to Holmes Beach, which paves 10 percent of its roads per year.

“We need to plan ahead, not behind, for these things. Right now, we’re putting out fires all the time, and every five or six years the public starts to complain,” Woodland said.

Mayor Mike Selby said Public Works Supervisor George McKay has been trying to coordinate paving with Holmes Beach to save on mobilization costs. Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said it doesn’t make sense to mobilize every year for small projects.

Woodland also questioned the 2011-12 expenses for stormwater maintenance, which were budgeted at $72,000 but to date were $104,000.

“I didn’t realize these budgeted items were coming out of the ESU (stormwater utility fee paid by every property owner) reserve funds,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether it comes out of the dedicated reserve or not, it shouldn’t be happening without some kind of heads up.”

“That’s a real problem,” Chair Chuck Webb agreed. “It’s not an administrative process. Your budget is engraved in stone.

“There should be no expenditures over the budgeted amount unless it comes back to the commission so we can identify where the money is going to come from.”

Since the beginning

“We’ve been doing it since the beginning,” Finance Director Diane Percycoe replied. “We didn’t go over what we’ve collected since 2008-09, but we went over this year.

“We had all this money collected and we had projects to do, but you’re right, we should have come to you with it.”

“All we were trying to do is to get caught up with the projects we have,” McKay added. “I have projects that need to be done, but I can spread it out over five years if that’s what you want.”

“That line is dedicated for maintenance and improvements, and that’s what we’re doing,” Commissioner John Quam said. “It’s just that you’re not coming forward (for approval to do it).”

Selby also pointed out that the commission approved Phase I of a stormwater corrective action plan.

Woodland said when the city established the ESU fund, he lobbied to have 50 percent of each year’s collection put aside for large projects.

“Why do we need a huge project if we’re doing maintenance and replacement all along?” Mattick asked, and Percycoe pointed out that the ESU fund must be used for maintenance projects.

“Jo Ann makes a good point,” Woodland said. “Maybe I’m wrong, but any time we go over our budget, we need to know.”

Webb said the board never took official action on Woodland’s suggestion to save 50 percent.

The next budget work session is set for Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 6 p.m.

Beach raking efforts expanded
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Pat copeland | sun
The north parking lot at the Anna Maria City Pier
is generally filled by early morning and remains
that way throughout the day.

Manatee County workers have expanded their seaweed removal operations from Anna Maria Island’s two public beaches to the Island’s entire Gulf coastline.

Beach rakers began cleaning up the sargassum last month at Manatee Public Beach and Coquina Beach.

On Friday, the operation expanded to the rest of the Island’s Gulf beaches when the county obtained a required permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said Cindy Turner, director of Manatee County’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“The seaweed is coming in droves,” she said. “I’ve been here 25 years and never seen it like this.”

While it’s unsightly and smelly, the seaweed is not harmful, like red tide, according to Mote Marine Laboratory spokeswoman Hayley Rutger. A water sample collected last week alongshore of Manatee County contained background concentrations of Florida’s red tide organism, Karenia brevis. Background concentrations typically are not enough to cause respiratory problems or fish kills.

Raking seaweed is normally kept to a minimum during sea turtle nesting season, May 1 to Oct. 31, to avoid disturbing nests, said Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

The seaweed also provides a buffet for shorebirds, she said.

“We’re being careful of the many sea turtle nests out there,” Turner said. “We also don’t want to take up every piece of nutrient that shorebirds feed on.”

But complaints from beachgoers prompted county officials to authorize raking, under the watchful eye of Turtle Watch volunteers, said Fox, adding that funds for the operation came from the parks and recreation department, not tourist tax coffers.

Both of the county’s beach rakes are being used in the cleanup, mostly in the vicinity of the wrack line, where high tides leave lines of seaweed, Turner said.

In areas where heavy equipment is not permitted, crews are picking up the seaweed by hand and putting it in a front-end loader for disposal.

Beachfront dwellers can clean up seaweed by hand without a permit, placing it in trash bags for collection with yard waste or garbage, Turner said. Those with large numbers of bags can contact the Parks and Recreation Department for help hauling it off, she said. Call 941-742-5923, ext. 6001.

Chief asks for suicide review

BRADENTON BEACH – Published news reports about a woman found dead in a local resort almost four years ago drew about a dozen people to last Thursday’s city commission meeting to ask for that investigation to be opened.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to have a specialized multi-agency review of the investigation that has left so many questions unanswered for Kelly Osborn, the mother of Sheena Morris, who was found hanging from the shower of a Bradenton Beach hotel room on Jan. 1, 2009.

According to Speciale, a leash for one of Morris’ two yorkies was attached to the shower with the other end around her neck. He has repeatedly said it appears she slumped down and her body weight caused her to suffocate.

According to police reports, Morris and her boyfriend, Joe Genoese, got into an argument that night and he left her and reportedly returned to the Tampa area, where he lived.

Osborn has repeatedly said she believes her daughter was murdered, and that the perpetrator staged the scene to make it appear as a suicide.

When her body was found, Bradenton Beach Police Det. Lenard Diaz investigated and determined Morris’ death was a suicide, but Osborn, and a crime scene investigator she hired, said the police failed to perform an adequate investigation.

Speciale, however, has stood behind his detective’s findings, and has refused to reopen the case, even after Osborn had her daughter’s body exhumed so an independent investigator could examine it. At last week’s meeting, Mayor John Shaughnessy told the packed meeting room he sympathizes with Osborn.

“I can’t imagine losing a son or a daughter,” he said. “It is my understanding the FBI won’t intervene but the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will, and they will be here next week.”

Kelley Caldwell, of Jamesville, N.Y., was the first speaker during the public comments period of the meeting.

“We are frustrated with the way the Bradenton Beach Police Department has handled this investigation,” she said. “I am asking the chief to formally invite the FBI to investigate.”

John Minder, of Sarasota, suggested the city fire Speciale and Diaz and have the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office fill their spots until the city can hire replacements. He said he had contacted Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office and they recommended contacting the 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s office. He was also told to contact the medical examiner’s office.

Cheryl Tilese, of Tampa, urged Speciale to reconsider.

“We all make mistakes in life,” she said. “I don’t understand why they are so adamant about not giving some resolution to this case because so many things about it are not right.”

Kelly Osborn’s husband, Kevin, said if the FDLE rules the investigation was not done correctly, the city should not let its police department conduct a further investigation.

Kelly Osborn pointed out irregularities in the investigation.

“They did not apprehend Morris’s boyfriend when they passed him on the way to her room,” she said. “Sheena’s message said she felt she made a police report, but there was none.”

Osborn said the FBI would get involved if Speciale would ask them, but he hasn’t. Speciale has contended she told him she had additional evidence in the case and he has asked her to provide it, but never has. Osborn secondly asked the city to punish the police for not doing their job.

Longtime fire officers to retire

Deputy Fire Marshal Kurt Lathrop and Battalion Chief Dennis Dotson announced their August retirement from the West Manatee Fire and Rescue District.

Lathrop began his career with the West Side Fire District in 1981 as a volunteer firefighter and was hired in 1986. He was promoted to deputy fire marshal in 1998. Lathrop has received awards and recognition for 25 years of service, including meritorious service, lifesaving, hurricane deployment, exceptional duty, unit citation and officer of the year.

He was recognized by the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office in 2006 for distinguished service and by Florida’s governor and cabinet as the 2008 Florida Fire Investigator of the Year.

Dotson began his career with the Anna Maria Fire District in 1985 as a volunteer firefighter and was hired in 1992. He rose through the ranks to his current position as the A-Shift battalion chief. Over the years, Dotson has received awards and recognition for unit citation, meritorious service, wildfire deployment, military service and 25 years of service.

Both Lathrop and Dotson hold numerous fire certifications. They will retire with 57 years of combined experience and dedication.

Bowling tourney coming our way

The 22nd Annual O’Connor Bowling Challenge is coming up on Saturday, Aug. 25, at AMF Bowling Lanes, 4208 Cortez Road W., starting with signups from 5 to 6 p.m. when bowling starts.

You must pre-register at Duffy’s Tavern in Holmes Beach to get a lane guaranteed. Registration is $25 per bowler and includes three games and shoes.

Every year the Island’s bowlers travel to the lanes to see who can get the highest and the lowest scores in individual games or series. There will be beer and snacks for sale and lots of fun.

Once again, the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, 65696 Cortez Road W., will provide the after-party with food and drinks at special prices, an awards ceremony and raffle drawings. The Anna Maria Island Sun will donate a big screen television for one lucky raffle ticket holder.

For more information, contact Sandee at 778-1908, ext. 9200, or at

Clockwise from left, Wyatt Sevin, Luke Sevin,
Caleb O'Connor and Quinton O'Connor are ready
for the O'Connor Bowling Challenge on
Saturday, Aug. 25.


Nallys seek concrete sidewalks on Pine

ANNA MARIA – In a new motion, William and Barbara Nally, of Lakeland, have asked the court to require Pine Avenue Restoration (PAR) to install concrete sidewalks at its properties on Pine Avenue.

Since early this year, the Nallys, through their attorney Jeremy Anderson, have objected to the experimental filter mix pathways installed on Pine Avenue by PAR last fall. Anderson claims that the mediation agreement of April 2011 requires the installation of permeable concrete sidewalks.

“The mediation agreement mandates that existing properties owned or controlled by PAR shall comply with Ordinance 11-716 which, in pertinent part, states the following with regard to the construction of pedestrian sidewalks:

“Pine Avenue shall have a sidewalk on both sides of the street. Sidewalks shall be a minimum of five feet wide constructed of permeable concrete.”

However, PAR Attorney Andrea Mogensen maintains that the mediation agreement “does not contain any provisions regarding sidewalks or standards relating to the construction of sidewalks” and that the parking ordinance is voluntary.

In 2010, the Nallys sued the city over parking and density issues in the residential/office/retail district along Pine Avenue.

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