The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 19 - March 5, 2014


Heritage Days
Carol Whitmore


From left, Elliot Laramee and Walter Hood, of Vermont,
watch the bees in the observation hive brought by
the members of the Suncoast Beekeeper Association.


ANNA MARIA – It was a perfect day for a festival and crowds delighted in the new concept of the first Settler’s Market at the AMI Historical Society’s annual Heritage Day Festival.

“It was an opportunity to bring back the flavor of historic Anna Maria and focus on local arts and crafts,” Lynn Brennan said. “ It was the flavor of old Florida.”

Comments heard in the crowd ranged from “This is really a great event” to “I’m so glad they brought back the old fashioned crafts. It’s so refreshing” to “You really did it right.”

Booths lined the museum complex parking lot and carried through Belle Haven garden. The Historical Society quickly sold out of produce, herb plants and bread. Rangers and volunteers told about the offerings at De Soto National Memorial and featured artifacts from the park.

Beside them, members of the Florida Gulf Coast Traditional Small Craft Association displayed a 14-foot Abaco dingy and a Cortez pole skiff beside the museum’s boat built by Sam Cobb, of Cobb’s Marine Ways, prior to 1936.

On one side of the jail, children played old fashioned games for prizes and received balloon toys made by clowns Sparky and Snowbird. On the other side, State Road 64 and the Howies kept the crowd rockin.’

In the garden, members of the Manatee County Extension Service and Master Gardeners program educated people about local plants and trees, while beekeepers Kevin Lausman and Randy Lewis, of the Suncoast Beekeepers Association, offered different types of honey for people to taste and an observation hive so they could view bees at work.

Two quilting groups were represented. The Eyeland Needlers sold tickets to their annual Tour of Homes Quilt, and the Seaside Quilters showed their handiwork and invited people to attend their monthly meetings at the Island Branch Library on the last Thursday of the month.

Earl Baker patiently demonstrated chair caning, which is quickly becoming a lost art, and Dotti Giles offered hand made bonnets and aprons for the ladies. Woodworker Chuck Baril showed his hand made cutting boards and antique furniture pieces he had restored to their former beauty.

Next were Brenda Kuluk with her exquisite woven baskets and Deb Cogan, who demonstrated a spinning wheel and a drop spindle and displayed raw cotton, alpaca, angora and wool used in spinning.

An author’s table rounded out the offerings where people could stop and get autographed copies of histories of the Island, Egmont Key and Manatee County’s lawyers.

Maureen McCormick, Historical Society president said, “The day was an amazing success. We received so many compliments, from locals and visitors alike. We made a bold decision to change the direction of our festival and our members made it work.

“The craftspersons and vendors said, ‘Sign me up,’ I want to be part of this next year. You know it is a good day when you run out of everything.”


Mainsail project approved

HOLMES BEACH – With little fanfare, commissioners approved the settlement agreement and settlement terms with Mainsail Development Company last week.

The agreement has been a work in progress since the first mediation hearing with a special magistrate in June 2013. The company requested the mediation after the city commission revoked its site plan to build guest units, a lodge and restaurant near the corner of Gulf and Marina drives nearly a year ago.

“I thank the city commission for its unanimous vote, “ Mainsail President Joe Collier said. “We’re finally getting underway. We ‘ve got a great project.

“We’ve had plenty of input from the neighbors and now we’re getting to the finish line and we can be productive.”Project neighbor Lance Spotts, who aired numerous complaints about the project throughout the process said, “Can you believe it? I think we’ve got it. I signed the agreement, notarized it and sent it off. We worked out all the issues and neither party is going to come after the city.”

“There’s been a lot of tension between city commissioners but we finally got something worthwhile,” Commissioner Pat Morton said.

Collier said the next step is to “redraw the buildings, and prepare a detailed site plan that is properly engineered and designed” and then submit the construction drawings and plans to the city.

He said there is a 90-day deadline to submit the site plan, but the company plans to have it done well before that time is up.

“I would love for the commissioners to see the quality of our hotel in Tampa and get a sense of how we commit to a theme,” Collier pointed out.

“We want to fit in. It will be an old Florida fishing lodge. We’ll carry that theme through in the way it will look and feel.”

Part 1 is done; more sand to flow

BRADENTON BEACH – Sometime over the weekend, the beach renourishment project shifted from federal funding to local money to fuel the flow of sand. There was no ceremony and the sand kept coming for the yellow earthmovers to spread, making more beach.

The line of demarcation was at Fifth Street South, although it had previously been announced as 15th Street South, but Manatee County Natural Resources and Parks Director Charlie Hunsicker confirmed it was Fifth Street South Monday.

Great Lakes Dock and Dredge, the Illinois-based company performing the project, will continue to the southern end of the Island, covering the county’s largest public beach, Coquina Beach, according to Manatee County Natural Resources and Parks Director Charlie Hunsicker who was in Washington DC Monday to lobby for federal funding for transportation needs and emergency communications systems.

“They will continue with the same equipment until the job is done,” he said. “If the weather stays good and they don’t have any major breakdowns they could be done in 15 days.”

After the renourishment is finished, they will turn their attention to replacing the three groins along Cortez and Coquina Beaches.

“We will ask for bids and try to get that part of the project going sometime in July or August,” Hunsicker said.

As for post-renourishment beach maintenance, Hunsicker said there would be no government attempt to install beach plants to retard erosion but there might be a grass roots attempt.

“We would encourage land owners along the beach to do their own projects,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be all sea oats as there are other plants that are good like railroad vines and beach sunflowers.”

Long Bar Pointe plan approved

joe hendricks | sun

Behind the public notice for last week’s meeting
sits the Long Bar Pointe property to be developed

BRADENTON – With hopes for a marina dashed, and plans for a hotel and conference center withdrawn, Long Bar Pointe developers settled for a 200-home gated community instead.

Last week, Manatee County Commissioners approved by 6-1 measure a preliminary site plan submitted by Long Bar Pointe LLP partners Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman.

Commissioner Michael Gallen cast the lone dissenting vote.

The approved site plan allows for the construction of 200 single-family homes along El Conquistador Parkway in Bradenton, at the southeast corner of the Long Bar Pointe property.

The overall density for the proposed development is less than four homes per acre in an area that allows nine.

If built, the development would be located adjacent to the Legends Bay community that contains a similar number of homes, and it would be the first parcel developed on the Long Bar Pointe property.

Now known as Long Bar Pointe phase one, the new development calls for no significant disruption to the mangrove barrier along Sarasota Bay and provides no direct marine access for those purchasing homes.

The 62-acre phase one parcel is one of six parcels in the 463-acre Long Bar Pointe property. Between 2004 and 2009 the property was approved for a total of 1,658 residential units.

Commission approval of the new site plan brings closure to a hard-fought process that began in June, when Beruff and Lieberman sought amendments to the county comprehensive plan and future land use map that would have would have allowed for a marina, hotel, conference center and up to 1,086 single-family homes and 2,531 multi-family residential units.

In August, public opposition and the prospect of commission denial led developers to surrender their hopes for a marina. This led to 4-3 commission approval of a mixed-use designation that still allowed for a hotel and conference center. A few days before Christmas, the process took another turn when developers withdrew their mixed-use request.

The new site plan discussed during the Tuesday, Feb. 25, county commission meeting encountered continued public opposition, but commissioners found little to justify denial of its approval.

Thirty citizens signed up to speak. Some felt the developers should be required to provide a master plan for the entire property; others expressed concerns about stormwater runoff, water retention, and fertilizer and pesticides seeping into the bay. Additional citizen concerns included the developer’s request to relocate an existing retention pond, the need to move existing power lines, hurricane evacuation and landscape buffering.

Some questioned the wisdom of developing coastal areas at a time when sea levels and flood insurance premiums are rising, and the most ultraistic critics suggested the property simply be left in its natural state.

County staff addressed these concerns to the satisfaction of the commission.

Robin DiSabatino voted against the mixed-use designation in August. Last week, she praised citizens for the passion, dedication and effort they exhibited during the entire process. Summing up her thoughts on the new plan, she said, “Unfortunately, folks, I don’t see any reason to deny this.”

Commissioner John Chappie opposed the previously granted mixed-use allowance, but made the motion to approve the new site plan. He asked staff to work with developers in utilizing 53rd Avenue as a primary route for construction traffic and as a preferred area for staging and storing construction equipment.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore supported the mixed-use designation granted in August. After addressing citizen concerns last week, she said, “I’ve talked to many Cortezians that have been there two, three or four generations and they support the project. They did not want the mixed-use, they did not want the marina, and they did not want their channels dug up. They said they could live with this.”

Shop owners ask for time on signs


Tide and Moon owner Laura Shely says
she needs her sandwich board sign to stay in business.

ANNA MARIA - The city commission voted Monday in an emergency meeting to forego enforcement of a ban on sandwich board or A-frame signs for 30 days so shop owner can figure out what to do to come into compliance. During that period, the business owners are urged to talk with the building official, code enforcement officer or city planner to see what can be done. Commissioner Dale Woodland called the meeting after hearing from three business owners. While giving them extra time, the commissioners did not budge on wanting to rid the business district of the A-frames, which are found many times in the rights of way.

The request Thursday night was made by the owners of Tide and Moon jewelry store, Island Scooter Rentals and Beach Fashion Boutique. The three said their businesses would suffer tremendously if the ban, which came about as a result of a change to the sign code, was enforced.

Laura Shely, who owns Tide and Moon at 314 Pine Ave., said she was surprised to learn her A-frame sign was going to be illegal.

“I was not notified, and I didn’t read about it in the paper,” she said. “I don’t have time to read the paper as I am busy earning a living.”

Shely said she needs her sign to stay in business.

“Chalkboard restaurant signs are OK, but my $500 sign that I was told I could use is now not OK,” she said. “We (the merchants) need to meet as a group and then meet with you.”

Shely said there are many days when hers is the only shop open in the building, so the foot traffic is low, and without her sign, could be non-existent.

Victoria Sweeney, who owns Island Scooter Rentals, said her location on Gulf Drive doesn’t get the foot traffic that Pine Avenue does.

“I really need my sign” she said. “I spent about $240 on my A-frame sign.”

Markus Seigler, who owns Beach Fashion Boutique, said his sign brings him business.

“It’s of paramount important,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of my customers said they found me through my sign.”

Legislative session off and running

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Legislative session is underway, with three bills of particular local interest making their ways through committees.

Rental law repeal

Two vacation rental bills, SB 356 and HB 307, would repeal a 2011 law that exempts vacation properties from local governmental control.

The law has been blamed by Anna Maria Island officials for their inability to regulate the length of stay, which creates problems with conduct of tourists, particularly noise and parking violations in residential neighborhoods with multiple-bedroom vacation rentals.

Flood insurance

SB 542 addresses rising flood insurance premiums caused by the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, making it easier for private flood insurers to do business in Florida in competition with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), encouraging lower premiums.

Biggert-Waters phased out premium subsidies in an effort to make the NFIP financially sound, which caused rates to spike.

HB 583 urges Congress to delay implementation of Biggert-Waters until specified conditions are met and eliminates any requirement to immediately increase to full-risk rate a property owner's insurance procured through the NFIP.

HB 581 and 879 would authorize private insurers to do business in the state, in competition with NFIP.

HB 603 urges Congress to enact legislation to provide reasonable rate phase-in for all primary residences procuring flood insurance through the NFIP.

Parasail regulation

The Florida Senate Committee on Regulated Industries passed SB 320 last month, moving the bill to the Commerce and Tourism Committee. The companion HB 347 passed the Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee last month.

The bills would require commercial parasailing vessel owners to carry $2 million in liability insurance and require operators to have current, valid U.S. Coast Guard-issued licenses.

They also would require parasailing vessels to carry VHF marine transceivers and separate electronic devices with access to National Weather Service forecasts, require that trips be cancelled if winds reach more than 20 mph, if wind gusts are 15 mph higher than the sustained wind speed, if the wind speed during gusts exceeds 25 mph, if rain or heavy fog results in reduced visibility of less than 1.5 miles, or if a known lightning storm comes within 7 miles of the boat.

The penalty for violation would be a second degree misdemeanor; the law would take effect on Oct. 1.

Celebrate Springfest this weekend


Artworks like this tropical scene by
Rasa Saldaitis, of Pinellas Park, will be
featured at Springfest.

HOLMES BEACH – The 26th Annual Springfest Festival of Fine Arts and Fine Crafts will fill Holmes Beach City Hall field with art, music and more on Saturday and Sunday, March 8 to 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The free event, sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Art League, draws artists from the U.S. and Canada displaying paintings, glass, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, fiber arts, photography and wood.

Continuous live music will provide the backdrop for the festival, featuring the Anna Maria String Band, Dan Mobly, the Gumbo Boogie Band, Scott Blum and Howie Banfield and Koko Ray.

Hungry art lovers can choose from barbeque, seafood, kettle corn, ice cream and more.

The annual “Young at Art” exhibit will feature the artwork of elementary, middle, and high school students.

A raffle of more than 80 pieces of art created and donated by festival artists will be available at the hospitality tent. Proceeds benefit the Art League’s scholarship fund.

The official artwork for Winterfest is by Anna Maria Island artist Robert Johnson, and can be purchased on T-shirts available at the festival and at the Anna Maria Island Art League.

Admission and parking are free. Springfest and Winterfest are the primary sources of funding for the Art League, which offers art scholarships and art programs to the local community.

For more information, visit or call 941-778-2099.

Neal Preserve to open next month


Neal Preserve has waterways that lead
to the Intracoastal Waterway.

BRADENTON BEACH – Public restrooms and showers on the city pier soon will be locked at all times and accessible only with a key, following a recent incident of vandalism.

The Pier Team advisory board approved the lock and key approach after a male using the ladies restroom trashed the place when he discovered there was no toilet paper.

The restrooms and showers, which now are open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., soon will require a key available at the bait shop, concession stand or restaurant during regular operating hours.

Once the self-locking locksets are installed, the restrooms and showers will be inaccessible after the bait shop and restaurant close for the evening.

Plans call for the bait shop to eventually operate around the clock, but that remains a work in progress.

Bait shop manager Rusty Roberts said he would require the presentation of a photo ID prior to issuing restroom keys after dark.

The Pier Team advisory board agreed that locking the facilities was a better solution than asking public works or the police department to unlock the doors in the morning and lock them in the evening.

In regard to the act of vandalism, Police Chief Sam Speciale said he has video footage and a photograph that leads him to believe the unidentified culprit is not a resident of the anchorage or a member of the homeless community.

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