The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 31 - May 28, 2014


Memorable Memorial Day
Carol Whitmore


Three days of incredible weather treated tens of
thousands of visitors to a Memorial Day holiday that
was one for the record books. Here, the Ippolito family of
Brandon carries their giant raft to the beach.

There were crowds, crowds and more crowds on Anna Maria Island this Memorial Day, with beaches packed from one end to the other and roads filled bumper to bumper for most of Saturday, Sunday and Monday. For law enforcement, traffic control was the name of the game, as an estimated 30,000 visitors jammed into Coquina and Cortez beaches on Sunday alone. Finding a place to park became something of a wild game for motorists, who squeezed their vehicles into spaces where nobody had ever even thought to park before. And yet, spirits didn’t seem to be dampened at all by the population explosion, at least until people tried to leave and had to wait for hours in massive traffic jams due to the sheer volume of cars and a number of fender-benders on the two bridges.

But that’s just part of the holiday experience on AMI, and we’ll take it over life elsewhere any day.

Somebody please pass the potato salad.


Hurricane season nears

If the nation’s two best-known hurricane prediction agencies are correct, we’ll have El Nino to keep us safe from storms this season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) released its prediction on May 22 calling for a 40 percent chance for near-normal to 50 percent chance of a below normal season. El Nino winds cause stronger wind shear and area residents might remember a season recently where all the storms that began in the Atlantic were destroyed by wind shear in the western Atlantic or Caribbean.

For the six-month hurricane season that begins June 1, NOAA predicts between eight and 13 named storms with winds of 39 mph or more, of which three to six could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph and more, including one to two major hurricanes in Categories 3-5 and winds of 111 mph or higher.

The norms for those events, based on information gathered from 1981 through 2010, are 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said the Atlantic, which has seen above-normal seasons in 12 of the last 20 years, has been in an era of high activity for hurricanes since 1995. However, the presence of El Nino winds and cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures are expected to impact this high-activity.

“Atmospheric and oceanic conditions across the tropical Pacific are already taking on some El Niño characteristics, and we are currently seeing strong trade winds and wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, and NOAA’s climate models predict these conditions will persist, in part because of El Niño,” Bell said. “The expectation of near-average Atlantic Ocean temperatures this season, rather than the above-average temperatures seen since 1995, also suggests fewer Atlantic hurricanes.”

A similar prediction

The Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science forecast, issued April 10, calls for below average storm activity compared with the norms from 1981 through 2010. The report, authored by Philip J. Klotzbach and Dr. William M. Gray, noted that El Nino winds will be of at least moderate strength over the summer and fall and that the Atlantic Ocean has cooled over the past few months.

They predict a below average chance of tropical storms and hurricanes making landfall.

The CSU estimate calls for only three hurricanes (median is 6.5), nine named storms (median is 12.0), 35 named storm days (median is 60.1), 12 hurricane days (median is 21.3), one major (Category 3-4-5) hurricane (median is 2.0) and two major hurricane days (median is 3.9). The probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall is estimated to be about 65 percent of the long-period average. They expect Atlantic basin Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) and Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity in 2014 to be approximately 60 percent of their long-term averages.

Stay alert

Remember, predicting hurricanes is an imprecise science and most recently, the predictions have all been for worse than normal activity. If they are wrong this year, it could be a long season. Take the precautions and be prepared because it only takes one big storm to make it a memorable season.

Planners deny rezone request
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

pat copeland | sun

The applicant presents drawings of the proposed
project and what could be built there now with just
a building permit.

HOLMES BEACH – After hearing from the applicant, the city planner and neighbors in a marathon three-hour meeting, planning commissioners found the owners’ requests not in compliance with the comprehensive plan.

The subject property is at 214 54th Street, across the street from Island Lumber, and contains two residential units and a CPA office. Property owners Ben and Keren ten Haaf propose demolishing the existing structure and building two office units on the first level and two residential units on the second level.

In order to do so, they are seeking a change to the future land use category of the comprehensive plan from medium density residential to commercial with a mixed-use overlay and a change in the zoning from R-2 to C-1.

City Planner Bill Brisson submitted staff reports on both requests and an addendum with comments on the applicant’s submission.

Advocates for the applicant

Designer Emily Anne Smith said the request “is a soft and easy transition from residential to commercial” and “the design represents old fashioned warmth and style.”

“It they were in it for the money, they would do the highest and best use, a duplex with two swimming pools and five bedrooms on each side, which could be done today with only a building permit,” she pointed out.

She said the landscape will be lush and tropical with 54 trees buffering it from the neighbors and there will not be a dumpster, a swimming pool or truck deliveries.

Monica Simpson, the agent for the applicant, said the project would re-energize the corner parcel, be a catalyst for the future vision of the city, be a buffer between commercial and residential and a less intensive land use transition and offer greater controls for resort housing and limit its negative impacts on neighbors.

Contractor Greg Ross said if the owners wanted to maximize the use under C-1 zoning with mixed use, they could build five single bedroom units on the second floor or four units with two bedrooms each. If they wanted to maximize the use under R-2 zoning, they could build approximately a 4,400 square foot duplex with six bedrooms per side.

“We live here and we want to be part of the community,” Ben ten Haaf said. “We put a lot of thought into that structure. We don’t want something that looks awful or doesn’t fit in. We will work hard to make this look well and blend in with the community.”

Planner’s summary

Brisson discussed several major points the applicant used to support the request.

• The mixed use overlay was intended for the commercial area of the city, not for residential, and “it was directed at larger properties such as the shopping center across the street. There is no reason to push that boundary.”

• The number of bedrooms under the mixed use designation would be more than double that allowable under the R-2 zoning district regulations.

• It does not further the long-term plan for the central commercial area because “it is not in the commercial district. It’s expanding it into residential.”

• On providing a transition he said, “There really is no transition if you consider the potential uses of the property” and that “a new applicant would probably develop it to the highest and best use.”

• It substitutes the potential impacts of two resort housing units as presently allowed for the potential for four or five resort housing units plus two offices.

• The R-2 allows 40 percent impervious surface coverage, while C-1 allows 70 percent impervious surface coverage.

He concluded, “The comprehensive plan amendment is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan and provides an incompatible land use in a residential area.”

Neighbors speak

“We want no commercial zoning in our residential areas,” Dick Motzer, of 56th Street, said. “They knew when they bought it that it was residential. If they wanted commercial, they should have bought commercial.

“Don’t be so presumptuous as to think that you can buy a residential property with the intent that the city and the residents have to make adjustments so you can line your pockets.”

He said the proposal is invasive and would negatively affect the quality of life and property values.

“My head is swimming,” Nancy Deal, of 56th Street, declared. “I feel threatened when they talk about the what ifs. If you don’t do what we are proposing right now, you could get something you don’t want.

“We had a dream to live in a modest community. It did not include commercial encroaching into residential. Share our dreams; don’t shatter them.”

Carol Soustek, of 73rd Street, urged planning commissioners to “think of the future any time you make a change in the comp plan.”

Ross said he did not make any threats, but just told the board what could happen and added, “One of three things will happen. You will approve our proposal and we’ll develop it under the guidelines, we will developed it as an R-2 resort housing duplex or the owner will sell it to another developer.

“When you have resort housing abutting resort housing, I don’t understand how that’s not a compatible use,” Ross said.

Brisson said the potential for something else is greater because the density under mixed use is greater than in R-2.

Planning commissioners debate

Member Gary Hickerson said the board created the mixed-use overlay to encourage redevelopment of the commercial area and that the prime directive of the comp plan is to preserve and protect the residential neighborhoods.

However, he pointed out, “Their proposal is attractive, and they could create something better than what the neighbors could end up with if a mega duplex is built. But Mr. Brisson suggests that there’s more risk. At this point I’m leaning toward leaving it the way it is.”

Then he quipped, “The applicant could get run over by a lumber truck while planting the 54 trees and everything could go to pot.”

Member Sylvia Harris said she doesn’t feel comfortable going from R-2 to C-1, and that the neighbors don’t want it.

Member Barbara Hines praised the presentation and “beautiful renderings,” but said it is not compatible with the comp plan.

She said that “residential is not a holding area for more intense development” and that buffers should be in the commercial area across the street.

Member Don Ferguson said the safe thing to do would be to deny the requests, but “I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do. I go along with the plan. My concern is I would hate to see two 10 bedroom houses over there.”

Chair Sue Normand also praised the presentation, but said it is not in compliance with the comp plan.

“I would hate to see two giant duplexes go up there, but when we did the mixed use, we envisioned primarily the commercial zone where the shopping center is.

“We did not have in mind that we would rezone another area. We need to protect the residential areas.”

Deny requests

Planners approved a motion to find the comp plan amendment not in compliance with the comp plan. Brisson said because they denied that, they also must find the rezone request not in compliance, and they approved a motion to do so.

Mayor Carmel Monti said one reason he ran for office is because of the proliferation of huge rental homes, but pointed out, “There’s the law and the intent of the law. In this situation, we have something here that the intent of the individuals is very high end, much less onerous for the city and against the out of control boarding houses.”

The planning commission’s recommendation will be considered by the city commission, which can accept or reject it. Simpson said the city commission can consider the site plan first, and it won’t be in effect unless the comprehensive plan amendment and the zoning change are adopted.

No date has been set for the city commission hearing.

New mosquito-borne virus found in Florida


The Aedes aegypti mosquito is common on Anna Maria Island.

If you haven’t heard of Chikungunya Fever, you will soon.

This nearly unpronounceable name is the latest mosquito borne virus coming to Florida, with the fourth case diagnosed in the past couple of weeks – in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and closer to home, Hillsborough County.

ChikV, as it is commonly called, “was first identified in East Africa and spread to Asia and then arrived in the Caribbean in December 2013,” said Mark Latham, director of Manatee County Mosquito Control District. “There are now 45,000 to 50,000 probable and confirmed cases throughout the Caribbean.”

Infected mosquitos transmit the virus to humans, but so far, all the people who have contracted ChikV have been bitten in the Caribbean. However, officials fear that a person who has contracted the disease elsewhere could get bitten here, and mosquitoes could spread the disease very quickly.

The virus can show up three to seven days after the person is bitten. Latham said the name Chikungunya comes from the East African dialect for “doubled over” and symptoms include fever, headache, severe muscle pain and a rash.

“The symptoms are similar to those for Dengue fever, which is carried by the same mosquito, Aedes aegypti,” Latham said, “but it seems to be a lot more efficient at being transmitted than Dengue.

“That’s our fear. When you get infected there’s such a high concentration of virus particles in your blood that it’s very efficient and very fast.”

Anyone exhibiting symptoms is urged to contact their doctor or local health department. There is no cure and no vaccine, but it is not fatal, Latham said.

“Approximately seven people have died so far, but there were underlying causes,” he pointed out. “You get over the infectious stage in 10 to 15 days, but the symptoms can last for two to four months.”

These mosquitos are very common on the Island, he said, and the best defense its to empty any containers in your yard that contain water because that is where these mosquitos breed. They do not breed in swampy areas.

“We try to educate, but it’s the responsibility of the property owner to keep their property clean,” Latham said. “These mosquitoes are day active. The peak times for them to bite are right after sunrise and a couple of hours before sunset.

“We take a wait and see attitude. We rely on doctors and the health department, and when we are informed of a case, we’ll heavily target the area. When the threat is there, we’ll react very strongly.”

Causeway checkpoint adds to gridlock

BRADENTON – What would possess the Florida Highway Patrol to initiate a checkpoint on the Palma Sola Causeway on one of the busiest holidays of the year?

Your guess is as good as ours, Island officials said, since FHP phones went unanswered on Monday.

The result of the checkpoint for seat belts and window tint was gridlock that kept people from getting to work and to the beaches and backed up traffic into Bradenton as far as 44th Street and beyond from 8 a.m. to noon.

Neither Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti nor Police Chief Bill Tokajer were informed of the operation, nor was Sgt. Paul Davis, of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“I had no idea they were doing that,” said Monti, who was selling his wares at the farmer’ market in Sarasota on Saturday.

“They didn’t let us know it would take place,” Tokajer said. “I heard about it from one of my officers who couldn’t get to work.”

Davis, who also was caught in the gridlock while coming to the beach with his family, said, “At 9 a.m., it was backed up to 67th Street in Bradenton. It took us more than an hour to get from the Causeway to East Bay Drive.”

As the head of the Sheriff’s Office in Anna Maria, Davis said, “I would have liked to have been informed.”

“People couldn’t get anywhere,” exclaimed Mike Coleman, of Anna Maria, who was stuck in the gridlock. “It was horrible decision to shut down the Island on a holiday weekend.”

According to account of drivers coming the to Island on Saturday, FHP patrol cars were stationed just over the first bridge coming west from Bradenton stopping nearly every vehicle.

Bruce Davenport, of Duffy’s Tavern, said he was stopped at 10 a.m. and got a warning for window tint, which he didn’t know was not compliance.

“It took me an hour to get to work,” he said.

Pier contractor selection protested

BRADENTON BEACH –Bradenton Beach commissioners awarded the pier reconstruction contract to Duncan Seawall, Dock & Boat Lift Inc., but another bidder, Pac Comm, is protesting the decision.

The bid protest could lead to significant delays in the pier reconstruction process originally slated to being in early June.

About halfway through Thursday’s five and a half hour meeting, the commission voted 3-2 in favor of awarding the contract to Duncan. Mayor Bill Shearon and Commissioners Jack Clarke and Ed Straight supported the decision. Vice Mayor Janie Robertson and Commissioner Jan Vosburgh opposed it.

Two hours later, while giving her city attorney’s report, Ricinda Perry broke the bad news to commissioners.

“I’m disappointed to tell you that we received a bid protest at the conclusion of the vote regarding who we selected. Consequentially, that will certainly stymie the process greatly,” she said.

Perry said it would take at least 30 days to work through the bid protest, and if unresolved, could wind up in court.

“I want you to be very realistic that you may not touch this pier this year,” Perry cautioned, before she advised the commission to refrain from entering into contract negotiations with Duncan until this matter is resolved.

The Process

When formally presenting the ZNS/Pier Team recommendation, Building Official Steve Gilbert told the commission the advisory board, chaired by Police Chief Sam Speciale, preferred Duncan Seawall, from Sarasota, or Tampa Bay Marine, from Gibsonton.

Gilbert said the Pier Team questioned Pac Comm’s ability to meet its estimated 100-day deadline using an eight-person crew, compared to Duncan’s estimate of 175 days using a 20-person crew.

“We can’t make the numbers work with less days and fewer employees, Gilbert said. Duncan representative Steve Liebel agreed with that assessment, while Pac Comm’s John Huit assured commissioners that his company would meet its promised deadline. Gilbert also noted that Pac Comm’s insurance costs were significantly lower than the two recommended firms, while their estimated costs for staging and equipment mobilization was significantly higher.

On behalf of his Miami-based client, Bradenton attorney Walter Sowa lobbied the commission to select Pac Comm, noting that the firm is currently working on the Wares Creek flood control project for Manatee County.

Sowa pointed out that Pac Comm submitted the lowest base bid at $1,150,590, promised the shortest completion timetable, 100 days and received the highest bid rating, 84, according to the evaluation matrix prepared by ZNS. Analysis contained in the ZNS evaluation document states, “Based solely on the point structure, we find that Pac Comm appears to represent the lowest responsive and responsible bidder.”

Duncan’s base bid of $1,309,452 was second highest among the five bidders. Its projected completion time was 175 days and its bid rating was second lowest, at 67.

Foreshadowing the bid protest presented later, Sowa referred to a bid-related case involving the Bay County Board of Commissioners.

“Competitive bidding statutes are enacted for the protection of the public. The bidder’s assured a fair consideration of his offer and is guaranteed the contract if his is the lowest and best received,” Sowa argued.

He then suggested the bids be reevaluated by ZNS and the Pier Team before a decision was made.

Commission indecision

Faced with so much information, and so little technical experience pertaining to pier construction, the commission struggled with the decision before it.

Vosburgh questioned why Pac Comm was not being given more consideration after proposing to do the job cheaper and faster than the others.

Robertson said, “If I had to make a choice today, I wouldn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t even know what questions to ask. This is like comparing apples to oranges.”

Straight suggested delaying the decision until more information was available, but later sided with Clarke and Shearon, who held no such reservations, and had no desire to delay the process.

Officials try to agree on paid parking

ANNA MARIA – Island officials at last week’s meeting of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials agreed to try and work together on a common approach to paid parking.

“The county is not going to tell the cities what to do,” Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie said, “but they want a united front. Come to the county with a united plan. It has to be a partnership.”

Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino agreed and asked officials to “come up with some consensus on ideas.”

Anna Maria Commissioner Dale Woodland said they should keep it simple and the problem to be solved is to generate revenue. He advocated paid parking in the rights of way in residential areas.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said his city has 1,600 parking spaces at Coquina, but the county controls them.

Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti advocated conducting a traffic analysis and said he has been working with county officials to share funds from the Manatee Public Beach concession.

Take a hike

However, some officials were not so inclined to involve the county.

“The TDC (Tourist Development Council) gives us the cold shoulder when we ask for funding,” Anna Maria Commissioner Chuck Webb stressed. “Over the years, they caused the problem with their advertising campaign. The credibility is not there.”

“This is all about the three cities on Anna Maria,” Woodland added. “It is our decision to make. I could care less whether the county approves or disapproves of it.

“It’s not about them; it’s about us. We’ve worked with them and tried to get them to help us, and we’ve all had the same result. It’s time to take the bull by the horns.”

Monti said they must include the county because they cannot ignore the parking spaces at Coquina and Manatee public beaches.

“I’m all for the cities working together, but I have no hope for TDC money,” Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said. “They get $1 million a year from us, and we have to go back to them and beg them for money to help us keep our quality of life.”

Anna Maria Commissioner Carol Carter said permanent residents should not have to pay for parking.

Webb agreed and added, “We are asking non residents to help pay for infrastructure.”

SueLynn said the next meeting of island elected officials in Bradenton Beach on June 18 at 2 p.m. would be devoted to the parking issue.

In other business

• Students Ben Cydrus and Cheyenne Doeben from Southeast High School urged officials to approve resolutions urging tobacco retailers to stop the sale and marketing of flavored tobacco products.
• Officials said they would ask the Manasota League of Cities to lobby the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to allow parking at vacation rentals to be counted toward parking requirements for beach renourishment.
• Officials agreed to write letters to FPL urging the company to allow Bradenton Beach to be a test site for turtle friendly street lights.
• Officials plan to meet on June 4 or 5 in Anna Maria City Hall to hear a presentation by the Urban Land Institute.

City to crack down on repeat code offenders

HOLMES BEACH – Code Enforcement Officer Dave Forbes told code board members recently that he plans to crack down on repeat offenders.

“My style of code enforcement has been described as folksy, and I’m proud of that to a degree, but there are too many repeat situations. They always have an excuse.

“This board hasn’t been used effectively, and I would like to change that. Until people start getting their knuckles cracked they will say Dave and the city are soft and that we can’t make them do anything.”

Forbes told board members to be ready to attend several meetings per month and to hear multiple cases each time.

“What do we want to do with repeat violators and those that drag their feet?” he asked. “I want to find them in violation, even if they correct the situation before it comes to hearing.

“If we find them in violation and they are chronic violators, we don’t have to give them a reasonable amount of time (to correct the violation). We can start levying fines. People respond when you threaten to take money out of their pockets.”

Forbes said he spends a lot of time making calls, knocking on doors, documenting cases and keeping records, and he wants to charge violators for that time.

Enforcement procedures

Forbes said he is making some changes in how he constructs cases to bring to the board.

“I will still maintain due process. I’ll give them a call or knock on their doors, and give them a reasonable amount of time and if that’s met, we have no problem.

“But if they fail to meet the deadline, I will make it incumbent on them to notify me if they reach compliance. If they fail to notify me, I’ll move forward with a formal notice of violation and request a hearing.”

If it’s a chronic or repeat violator, even if the violator corrects the violation before the hearing date, Forbes said he would still bring the person before the board in order to get a finding of violation. Then if there were a second violation, he would not be required to give them a reasonable time.

He said for those who rent without having business tax receipts, “once that hits my desk, in my eyes, it’s a violation and it’s enough to initiate a hearing.” He plans to do the same for those who fail building inspections.

“Those two things will shorten the time that I dedicate to each case, and allow us to successfully prosecute these issues, basically streamline, and make it a lot easier and more effective,” he pointed out.

He said regarding short-term rental and flood plain violations, he does not want to address anonymous complaints. If he can see it from the street, he can investigate it, but otherwise he wants direct testimony and proof, such as inspecting the building and is looking at the possibility of obtaining administrative orders to do so.

He also plans to crack down on turtle ordinance violators, initiate a door hanger to notify some types of violators and establish a vacant, abandoned and foreclosed home registry.

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