The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 1 - October 30, 2013


Halloween goes to the dogs
Carol Whitmore


Sami and Su Ling as a clown and a lion,
finished first in the Most Original category


ANNA MARIA – With everybody wearing costumes this time of the year, many of The Sun’s readers came out last Saturday to show off their pooches’ outfits in The Sun’s 11th Annual Canine Halloween Costume Contest.

The event, as usual, brought out all sorts of characters – owners included. The contest was staged in the parking lot of Island Sun Plaza and the crowd of onlookers sat and stood in front of the shops, applauding new entries as they walked around the lot. There were pumpkin bowls of water for the dogs to stay hydrated.

There was Superman, complete with a portable pay phone booth for getting into his superhero outfit, a lion and clown duo accompanied by their owner dressed as a circus ringmaster, an Elvis, a Winnie the Pooh, a Beetlejuice and a Nemo, just to name a few.

The judges, Bridge Tender Inn General Manager Sue Shinka, The Feast restaurant owner Chris Dale and Dawn Stiles, Director of the Anna Maria Island Community Center, had their hands full filtering through the entries for the best in each class - Most Original, Cutest and Best Celebrity. Every dog entered got a ribbon and the winners received trophies.

The only complaint came from one particular cat, apparently miffed that felines were excluded from the competition. (See today’s Letters to the Editor on Page 6.) And we want to hear from you on how to make next year’s event even better. Email suggestions to, put Halloween Contest in the subject field and you might just see your ideas put into action in 2014! Woof!

The Winners

1st Place

Sami and Su Ling – Clown and Lion
Owner(s): Pat McLaughlin and Sandy Mullon

2nd Place

Bay Breeze – Harry Potter
Owner(s): Charlene Doll

3rd Place

Precious, Mr. Fred & Dora –Bride, Groom and Bridesmaid
Owner(s): Vickie Hubenberg , Vickie Slaughter and Ruth Rauchra

Honorable Mention:

Ceasar and StellaRose – Cowboy and Cowgirl
Owner(s): Kandi Kerekes

1st Place

Digby- Elvis
Owner(s): Brian Hayes

2nd Place

Muffin, Biscuit – Beetlejuice
Owner(s): Stephanie Gemperline, Shawn Duvall

3rd Place

Gracie - Nemo
Owner(s): Lilnda Mayberry

Honorable Mention

Bruschi – Superman
Owner(s): Judy Fraser

1st Place

Princess – Winnie The Pooh
Owner(s): Shawn Staton

2nd Place

Winston – Dinosaur
Owner(s): Bernadette Hayes

3rd Place

Chi Chi – Anne Bonny & Mary Read Female Pirates
Owner(s): Mary Stockman

Honorable Mention

Pancake – Ladybug
Owner(s): Casey Steele


State updates Cortez Bridge plan
Carol Whitmore


The Cortez will remain open during its scheduled rehab
in late 2014, according to transportation officials.


CORTEZ – In its present state, the Cortez Bridge might fail before it is replaced, if it is replaced. That’s why the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is planning a refurbishment of the 57-year-old drawbridge starting in late April 2014.

FDOT engineer Jim Jacobson gave a presentation to the Manatee County Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 22, where he got a positive reaction.

Jacobson told the commissioners this project, estimated to cost up to $4 million, is not related the FDOT’s Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study on the future of the bridge. That study is looking at all alternatives, from replacing it to rebuilding it, and Jacobson said FDOT would come back later next year with a plan for public review.

The Cortez Bridge was rehabbed around 2000 and it was shut down for several weeks, which caused hardships on the businesses along Cortez Road. Jacobson said this project would only close the bridge during the nighttime hours.

“We would have to close the bridge to auto traffic for approximately 15 minutes duration between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.,” he said. “We won’t close the bridge during the daytime.”

Jacobson said the dates of the project were chosen during the slow time of the year.

“We will begin on April 28, 2014 and end early in 2015,” he said. “We have an incentive/disincentive contract that encourages an early finish so we might be done by early December.”

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, an Island resident, asked about turtle nesting season and lighting the project at night when lights might cause the hatchlings to become disoriented and not go into the Gulf of Mexico.

“We will have to use our best practices police and not shine the lights on the beach,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said the project would be bid at the end of January 2014.

Net ban back in play
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


Cortez fishermen used to catch mullet with gill nets
until 1995, when Florida voters made it illegal.

CORTEZ – Commercial mullet fishermen won a court victory in Tallahassee last week allowing them to use gill nets for the first time since 1995, but before they even learned about it, an appeal filed by the state Attorney General pulled the nets back out of their hands the same day.

Leon County Second Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulford prohibited the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) from enforcing the 1995 state constitutional gill net ban amendment on Tuesday, Oct. 22, saying that it creates a “legal absurdity.”

The constitutional amendment was intended “to protect saltwater finfish, shellfish and other marine animals from unnecessary killing overfishing and waste,” the judge wrote, pointing out that the smaller mesh cast nets that fishermen are now restricted to using entangle “…massive amounts of juvenile fish that are unlawful to keep, thus causing significant unnecessary killing” and waste.

“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose for which the net ban amendment was enacted?” wrote Fulford, who went fishing with a group of commercial fishermen before her ruling to better understand the nets.

Florida voters approved the constitutional amendment banning nets in 1994 after supporters widely publicized photographs of dead dolphins and sea turtles, blaming gill nets, which they called “walls of death.” Commercial fishermen failed in their efforts to discredit recreational fishing special interest groups who backed the amendment and offered evidence from fisheries regulators who estimated that fish populations were declining due to overfishing.

“By outlawing all nets except hand thrown cast nets, they have lost the tools of their trade, and thus, the ability to earn their living,” Fulford wrote in her opinion, explaining that her ruling would “temporarily stop what appears to be the unfair application (of the net ban) against the commercial mullet fishermen until the legal confusion is corrected.”

But the same day that Fulford ruled on the case, Wakulla Commercial Fishermen’s Association Inc., Ronald Fred Crum, Jonas Porter and Keith Ward vs. the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office appealed on behalf of the FWC, keeping the net ban in place just as the first cold front hit local waters, signaling the start of mullet season.

The fishermen’s attorney quickly responded, asking the Second Circuit Court to bypass the normal appeals process to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

“We have asked the court to find this is a matter of great public concern affecting tens of thousands of fishermen, and it should only be heard by Florida Supreme Court,” attorney Ronald Mowrey told The Sun.

He also said he hopes to meet with the Governor and members of the state Legislature to “make the amendment do what it says it does, avoid unneccesary overfishing.”

Hope floats

News of the ruling raised faint hopes, brought back bitter memories and provoked healthy skepticism among Cortez commercial fishermen, few of whom knew of the litigation.

“Let me get my jaw off the floor,” said former fisherman Mark Taylor, who has worked raking Manatee County’s beaches since the net ban put him out of business. “Here we are with our lives set in another direction and who’s going to lend us $100,000 to get back in business only to maybe go out again?”

“It’s absolutely phenomenal. I hope it keeps going,” said Kim McVey, president of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) in Cortez, adding that she predicts the state will find a way to keep the ruling from taking effect.

“I believe in people power,” said Mary Green, of the Cortez Village Historical Society, referring to Cortezians successfully stopping marinas, bridges and condos from being built in the fishing village. “I think they’re really going to start to work on it.”

“It might never happen, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Plum Taylor, whose husband, Alcee Taylor, fought the net ban along with most of Cortez. A single catch of mullet with a gill net by Alcee, Blue Fulford and Tink Fulford paid the hospital for the delivery of the Taylor’s first child, she said.

“They just don’t know what it means to us,” Taylor said.

If the state allows gill net fishing again, only the fishermen who had permits when it was lifted should be allowed to use them, to make up for destroying their livelihood, said Kathe Fannon, a fourth generation commercial fisherman.


The ruling echoes what Cortez fishermen have been saying since the net ban went into effect, said Mark Green, of the Cortez Village Historical Society, adding that the judge is no relation to the Fulford fishing family of Cortez.

The constitutional amendment bans gill nets, which allow small fish to escape while catching mullet, he said. The nets the FWC rules require, with smaller mesh, “don’t let any fish through, which is illogical,” he said.

“I know the (plaintiff) Crum family. Their grandfathers were commercial fishermen just like mine were,” Green said. “They decided they were going to keep fighting until they had some success. Hopefully this will force some logic, and allow commercial fisherman to provide food.”

While most fishermen disposed of their gill nets when they were made illegal by the net ban amendment, “I’m sure there will be some folks who have a net who will try their hand at it,” he said.

The FWC intends to enforce the net ban while the appeal is pending, spokeswoman Amanda Nalley said, adding, “The rules and regulations remain the same.”

“The big problem we have is that the FWC violates the due process rights of commercial fishermen,” said Dave Grix, vice president of Fishing for Freedom, whose co-presidents are two of the plaintiffs in the case.

The constitutional net ban amendment gives the FWC constitutional authority to make rules on nets and the courts have no jurisdiction over them, he said.

“They’re trying to regulate the fishermen out of business,” he said.

“We’ve been trying to change the way the regulations have been enforced for years,” said Bob Jones, executive director of the Southeastern Fisheries Association in Tallahassee.

“There’s substantial room for the FWC to work with fishermen, but the (recreational) Coastal Conservation Association, who are very well connected, will do everything they can to keep us from catching fish. They have no comprehension of how the nets actually work.”


Developers, city close to Mainsail agreement

HOLMES BEACH – The Thursday, Oct. 24 commission work session was dedicated to a single topic: reviewing the Mainsail settlement agreement.

The two-and-a-half hour session produced only one point of unresolved contention: the requirement for a six-foot high opaque (non-transparent) wall built along the east property line, between the pool and the waterfront.

Chair Jean Peelen explained that the intent of the evening was to ensure that the settlement agreement document drafted by Mainsail attorney Robert Lincoln was an accurate representation of the terms agreed upon during two mediator-assisted negotiation sessions that took place in June and September in an effort to avoid a developer-initiated lawsuit being filed against the city.

More than a decade in the works, Mainsail is a proposed waterfront resort that would include 37 guest units, a 50-slip marina, an 80-seat restaurant, a guest lodge, a pool and other amenities located on a 4-acre lot northeast of the Gulf Drive and Marina Drive intersection.

Commissioners reviewed the 10-page document line-by-line, with input provided by City Attorney Patricia Petruff, Mayor Carmel Monti and Mainsail representative Brain Check.

The agreement addresses building configuration, height and setback distances, design and aesthetics, parking, landscaping, Sunrise Lane access and how long a guest can stay. It also establishes a completion schedule for the project.

Building heights will be restricted to 36 feet. Side setbacks will be 10 feet and front setbacks 25 feet. Guests can stay a maximum of 120 days. The property will have a locked or gated emergency access point at the north end of Sunrise lane. The project design will resemble the Mainsail AMI Beach Resort and developers will have three years to complete the project once an agreement is reached.

Wall or no wall?

The pool wall appears under the landscaping category in the summary of settlement terms. When the wall was mentioned, Check said, “I don’t think we actually agreed to a six-foot wall.”

Commissioner Judy Titsworth, who lives next to Lance Spotts at the end of Sunrise Lane, and played a key role in the negotiation sessions, said her notes clearly indicate an agreement to build a four-foot wall along the eastern property line to serve as a noise barrier between the pool area and Spotts’ residence.

The wall dates back to a settlement Spotts reached with the previous developers, Tidemark. In exchange for the promised wall, repairs to his seawall and other concessions, Spotts dropped the suit.

Addressing commissioners, Spotts said, “The four-foot wall would be very effective in keeping the sound off the water,” noting that noise carries over open water. He also reminded commissioners that building a resort next to his home negatively impacts his property value.

“I feel we owe it to Mr. Spotts. I don’t think that should be a deal killer,” Titsworth said.

“For us it is,” Check said in response. “It ruins the entire ability to use that pool deck.”

Peelen questioned the need for a wall that would prevent pool users from viewing the waterfront and suggested landscaping might accomplish the same goal.

Monti questioned whether a four-foot wall would accomplish the desired noise buffering and suggested that enforcement of the city noise ordinance would be a more effective noise deterrent.

Titsworth remained steadfast, in part because the wall was included in preliminary plans submitted by Mainsail developers. Commissioners Marvin Grossman and Pat Morton supported her position.

“That is a pretty major issue for us, putting a wall in that exact location.” Check replied. “I’m perfectly happy to work on the issue with the noise. We don’t want to be a bad neighbor. All we want to do is ensure that it doesn’t remove the use of that space.”

When Peelen sought commission consensus, it was agreed that the wall would remain in the agreement, but Petruff would incorporate language into the revised agreement that allows for the possibility of an alternative solution.

After the meeting, Titsworth approached Check and suggested a transparent Plexiglas wall. Friday afternoon, she said Check was open to the idea and she expressed optimism that a settlement would be reached.

Friday evening, Check said, “When we took this over, that wall was a component of an agreement with a previous developer. We can’t do something that would completely hinder or negatively impact the project, but we need to make sure the neighbors don’t feel like their interests are being ignored. We are working together to find a solution, whether it’s a glass wall or landscape buffering.”

City contractor gets court date

There will be a case management meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14 in the courtroom of Judge John Lakin for a man arrested Thursday, Sept. 19 and accused of not performing work for which the city of Holmes Beach paid him.

The defendant, Chris Arnold, likely will face a trial late this year or early next year on charges of scheming to defraud. He has pled not guilty and has hired attorney Jason Reid to defend him against the charges, which the city of Holmes Beach brought after a crew member working for Services by Chris Arnold told authorities he felt Arnold only performed half the work to repair and replace curbing in Key Royale and on Flotilla Drive. The informant said Arnold allegedly told the crew to paint over some of the curbing to make it look new. The city paid Arnold $215,551 to do the work. He is charged with defrauding the city of $92,830.

The complaint also alleged that former Building Official Joe Duennes never inspected the work. According to a Holmes Beach Police press release, Duennes admitted he did not inspect the job and admitted to signing off on the project so Arnold could be paid.

Duennes recently retired and has not been charged with any crime.

The police are inspecting other city contracts for any evidence of fraud on city contracting jobs, according to the press release.

Arnold remains free on bail.

Campaign contributions on the rise as election nears

HOLMES BEACH – The third quarter of the campaign finance reporting cycle reveals an increase in fundraising activity in Holmes Beach from Sept. 28 through Oct. 11.

Incumbent Commissioner Pat Morton brought in $1,150 in additional contributions, bringing his total contributions to $1,975.

Holmes Beach residents Nancy Deal, Hugh Holmes, John Hutcherson, Margaret Burch, Barbara Marcheck, Catherine Van Velzen and Barbara Kitchell contributed to Morton’s campaign, as did Bradenton resident Ronald Travis and Holmes Beach-based Shoreline Builders.

Challenger C. Melissa Williams garnered $1,062 in third quarter contributions, bringing her total to $2,552. She received support from Holmes Beach residents Frederick Sullivan, Jennifer Chatt, Frank Williams, James Hug, Thomas Rushmore, Frank Leggio and David Welch, Bradenton residents Annie Flanagan and Donald Roberts and Sarasota-based Clean Step Linens.

Challenger Carol Soustek received $965 in third quarter donations, bringing her total to $2,550.

Like Morton, she received support from Hutcherson, Holmes, Van Velzen, Marcheck, Burch, Kitchell and Travis.

She also received contributions from Holmes Beach resident Alex Richardson, Holmes Beach-based My Garden Products, former Bradenton Beach Mayor Katie Pierola, John Clarke and the Sandpiper Resort in Bradenton Beach.

Hutcherson, Burch and Van Velzen also donated to incumbent Jean Peelen’s campaign, along with Holmes Beach residents Daniel Hazewski, David Hines and Kim Rash, Bradenton resident Karen Clark and Michigan resident Gary Hudkins. Peelen raised $550 during the third quarter, bringing her total to $2,200.

With the original $5,000 he loaned himself at the outset of his campaign, incumbent David Zaccagnino maintained his desire to self-finance his campaign.

“This was a conscious decision on my part,” he said. “I have been approached by probably three dozen donors and I am flattered, but this is a small Island and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression on my votes. I want to be as independent as possible.”

In terms of campaign expenditures, Zaccagnino has spent $1,458, Peelen $1,426, Soustek $1,314, Williams $1,133 and Morton $1,236.

Fourth quarter reports are due on Friday, Nov. 1.

Bradenton police probe tree house Sunshine Law allegation

HOLMES BEACH – According to Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer, the alleged Florida Sunshine Law violation reported by David Levin, attorney for tree house owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen, will be investigated by the Bradenton Police Department’s Professional Standards (Internal Affairs) division.

Tokajer said he contacted Chief Michael Radzilowski and asked him to handle the Sunshine Law investigation into allegations that city commissioners violated the Sunshine Law when they met on Aug. 29 to discuss litigation strategy pertaining to the tree house dispute.

Tokajer said he turned the investigation over to another department so there would be “no appearance of impropriety” or “allegations of trying to cover anything up.”

Levin claims that a shade meeting of this nature, conducted in a non-public setting, is a legal method for commissioners to discuss settlement negotiations or strategy sessions related to litigation expenditures only.

Levin questions whether the term “litigation strategy” falls outside of the expenditure-related guidelines and whether non-expenditure-related legal strategies were discussed.

The shade meeting took place in response to Tran and Hazen’s appeal of the Code Enforcement Board’s decision to fine them $100 per day for being in non-compliance with city code.

Public notice was given by the city clerk’s office prior to the city’s Aug. 29 attorney-client special session.

In a letter dated Sept. 5, Levin also states his opinion that the verbatim record created by a court reporter during that meeting should be made available to the public.

Tokajer said he has no timetable as to when the investigation will be completed.

Pirate Invasion runs the length of the Island

A nasty band of pirates will be on the Island Saturday, Nov. 2, for some fighting, looting, drinking and other sorts of unacceptable behavior and whether you want to watch it or avoid it, you’ll need a schedule.

The celebration begins Friday night, Nov. 1 with the Grande Pirate Masquerade Ball from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Seafood Shack, 4110 127th St. W., in Cortez. Formal attire is appropriate and in fact, anything less might earn you a walk down the gangplank. The cost is $40 per person and it’s open to the public 21 years of age and older. Tickets must be purchased in advance as they will not be sold at the door. For tickets or information, contact Lisa "Lash" Ritchey at 941-238-8974 or

There will be heavy appetizers, a limited edition Masquerade Ball keepsake, fun, surprises, a silent raffle, entertainment, games and a cash bar. For an additional $10 per person, you can sit at the Captain’s Tables for extra special treatment.

Saturday’s activities start in the city of Anna Maria as they search for Capt. Jean LaFitte, who supposedly left a treasure chest buried on one of Anna Maria Island’s beaches.

The Privateers and their parade ship, Skullywag will weigh anchor at 10 a.m. at the Anna Maria City Pier at the east end of Pine Avenue. They will head south in search of LaFitte's Ghost Ship, and they’re not without competition. The Crewe of Hernando De Soto will take the Privateers on at Rudy’s Subs and More, at 9906 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, at approximately 10:10 a.m.

Fifteen minutes later, the chase will be at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive and they expect to be at the Island Gourmet Grille at 5910 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach by 10:45 a.m.

By 11:15 a.m., they’ll be at the Manatee County Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach and finally, the battle will culminate at the Bradenton Beach roundabout, at Bridge Street and Gulf Drive. From there, the survivors will assemble at Coquina Beach at high noon for the first-ever Pirate Invasion.

There will be a festival at Coquina Beach with live music from Big Daddy, Steve Arvey and the Lauren Mitchell Band on Saturday and Patti B and the Gamble Creek Band on Sunday.

In addition to the festival, Keep Manatee Beautiful will host SandBlast 2013 on Saturday at Coquina Beach from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with judging from 1 to 2 p.m. and awards at 2 p.m.

Kids will enjoy the invasion too. Along with the rip-roaring action during the skirmish Saturday morning, there will be a Cap’n Kid’s Area featuring activities for all kids.

The schedule is:

On Saturday, a treasure dig at 11 a.m., followed by a story teller reading “The Devil Whale” at 1 p.m. Pirate Sack Races start at 3 p.m., with “Erik the Terrible” read by a story teller at 5 p.m., and a balloon toss at 6:30 p.m. A fire show begins at 8 p.m.

On Sunday, a kid’s costume contest starts at 11:30 a.m., followed by story telling of “Gray’s Sword” at 2 p.m. and Pirate Sack Races at 4 p.m. In addition, there will be games and attractions, face painting, a “put your face here” Pirate photo area, Captain’s and Cabin Boy’s Jenga, the Privateers’ world famous Rat Toss and Shark Toss games and Calico Jack Corn Hole.

Mote Marine will have their live exhibit there and the Pittsburgh Pirates will have their pitch game.

Finally, The Anna Maria Island Community Center Murder Mystery Dinner will be held on Saturday with a pirate theme. The name of the production is “Murd-Arr!!!” The audience will enjoy dinner from LeeRoy Selmon’s and a post play party with DJ Chris Grumley. There will also be a cash bar. Call 941-778-1908, ext. 9207 for tickets.

This is the first Privateers Pirate Invasion and they hope to make it an annual event. For more information, go to

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