The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 24 - April 13, 2016


Rental occupancy limits upheld

ANNA MARIA – Circuit Court Judge Gilbert Smith Jr. has ruled the city of Anna Maria’s eight-person occupancy restriction on vacation rental properties is legal and does not violate state law.

Smith issued his ruling on Friday, April 8, after hearing the case on Friday, April 1; the same day the vacation rental ordinance and occupancy limits took effect.

The legal challenge was brought forth by Florida Gulf Coast Vacation Homes LLC doing business as Anna Maria Vacations.

Smith’s written ruling specifies the only issue the court was being asked to decide was whether the city’s occupancy restrictions, which do provide a grandfathering period, violate Florida Statute 509.032(7).

The state statute says: “A local law, ordinance, or regulation may not prohibit vacation rentals or regulate the duration or frequency of rental of vacation rentals. This paragraph does not apply to any local law, ordinance, or regulation adopted on or before June 1, 2011.”

In his ruling, Smith wrote, “The court finds that the ordinance does not conflict with Section 509.032(7). The ordinance does not prohibit vacation rentals that have been historically rented to more guests than is permitted under the occupancy regulations set forth in the ordinance. The limitation on occupancy is a regulation that does not impinge in any way on the regulatory subjects of frequency or duration of rental. Therefore, the regulation of the ordinance is not in conflict and is not preempted by Section 509.032(7).”

Smith’s ruling concluded by saying, “Therefore it is ordered and adjudged that plaintiff’s motion for final summary judgment against defendant is denied. Defendant’s motion for final summary judgement against plaintiff is granted.”

City officials pleased

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy learned of the ruling while celebrating his 49th wedding anniversary.

“I’m happy. I think it’s a signal that our ordinance is strong and defensible, which is what we thought it was when we adopted the final version,” he said.

City Attorney Becky Vose and her son, Wade Vose, represented the city, with the son taking the lead at the hearing.

“Wade and Becky did an excellent job. I felt good when I heard our closing arguments. I thought our prospects of winning were good,” Murphy said.

Becky Vose said, “I’m exceptionally happy. I’m delighted the judge made a good and proper ruling. It is a good and defensible ordinance.”

In regard to her son’s efforts, she said. “He did a fantastic job and I’m extremely proud of him.”

Commissioner Carol Carter said, “It was the right decision and excellent news for the city and our community. We were very well-represented by our legal counsel.”

Commission Chair Doug Copeland said he was, “very happy with the judgement.”

The city will now attempt to recover legal fees and expenses incurred in this case, as allowed by Florida Statute 57.105.

Murphy hopes this will deter others from challenging the vacation rental regulations.

Vose said a judge would examine the city’s request and rule on whether the plaintiffs must provide the city with a fair and reasonable reimbursement.

Occupancy limits

The ordinance adopted in November, and further negotiated to resolve a previous lawsuit, states the maximum occupancy of a vacation rental shall be limited to the lesser of:

• Two persons per bedroom that contains 100 square feet or more, plus one person per bedroom that contains no less than 70 square feet, but less than 100 square feet, plus two persons.

• A total of eight occupants per vacation rental.

• In the event there is more than one building or dwelling on a platted lot, the maximum occupancy shall be capped at eight occupants per lot or structure, whichever is less.

A five-year grandfathering provision allows temporary exceptions to vacation rentals in use prior to ordinance adoption on Nov. 19, 2015.

“A grandfathered vacation rental shall have its maximum occupancy based upon two persons per bedroom at the time of application for grandfather status,” the ordinance states.

A grandfathered rental will maintain that status until April 1, 2021, at which time the eight-person occupancy restrictions take effect. Vacation rentals with an occupancy of eight or less do not require grandfathering.

Future impact?

During the hearing, the judge and attorneys said they were not aware of another vacation rental occupancy case taking place in Florida.

When asked about impact this ruling might have elsewhere, Vose said, “It’s binding for the 12th Circuit and it can be persuasive elsewhere. I think this will be looked at all over the state.”

The plaintiffs could appeal the decision to a higher court.

Impacted property owners could also file Bert Harris claims against the city in an attempt to recoup perceived lost revenues created by the occupancy restrictions.

New noise policy in Holmes Beach

HOLMES BEACH – After losing a court case last week involving a noise citation, the city has changed its policy on taking noise complaints.

The citation was issued to owner Shawn Kaleta after an anonymous caller complained about loud music and talking at 204 72nd Street on Jan. 3.

Police Chief Bill Tokajer explained, “We lost the hearing because we had no complainant. From now on, a caller must give his/her name and information, meet with the officer, sign an affidavit on a founded violation and be willing to testify in court if required.

“If not, the officer will take no action other than to go by the location, and if there’s noise coming from the location that would be considered a valid complaint, meaning one that he can hear, the officer will take no action other than asking them to lessen the noise.

“There will be no fines or no ordinance violation imposed without a willing complainant who will sign off and stand up in court and describe the effect this noise had on his life.”

Noise ordinance

Tokajer said the city’s noise ordinance defines noise as “any sound, which annoys or disturbs humans or causes or tends to cause an adverse physical or psychological effect on humans. Noise includes low frequency noises caused by amplified bass music that can induce vibration in building structures or human beings.”

He pointed out, “If you don’t have a person to say the noise was keeping them up or keeping them from hearing their TV, those are things that have to be taken into account.

“The noise ordinance reads that there are two ways to find a valid complaint – seven criteria listed in the ordinance or with a decibel meter or both.”

The seven criteria are the volume of the noise, the intensity of the noise, whether the nature of the noise is usual or unusual, the volume and intensity of the ambient noise, if any, the proximity of the noise to residential sleeping facilities, the time of the day or night the noise occurs and the duration of the noise.

For example, he said kids playing in a swimming pool are not considered unusual noise.

Tokajer further said that if the property that is the subject of the complaint is a rental property and “does not raise to the level of a true noise violation, we will look at the building code on requirements for screening and sound damping and adjust those requirements to give some relief to the homeowner.”

Term limit solution proposed

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

joe hendricks | sun

City Commissioner Jake Spooner, right, proposes a solution
to the term limit confusion that could impact fellow
commissioner Ed Straight.

BRADENTON BEACH – City voters will determine whether term limits still apply to elected officials in Bradenton Beach.

There has been uncertainty surrounding this matter due to a scrivener’s error that went unnoticed during the charter review process last summer.

With the June 20-24 qualifying period approaching and third-term Commissioners Ed Straight and Jan Vosburgh scheduled to term-limit out of office, the commission agreed that a determination is needed.

Straight had previously said he would consider running again, if allowed. Vosburgh has said she would not run again.

During the Thursday, April 7, meeting, Commissioner Jake Spooner proposed adding a charter amendment question to the ballot for the Manatee County primary elections taking place in August.

Spooner said he contacted the Supervisor of Elections Office and discussed the process with Deputy Chief Sharon Stief. He said the city could add a term limit question to the Aug. 30 ballot and avoid the cost of a stand-alone special election.

Spooner was told Straight could qualify as a candidate in June, but his final eligibility would be determined by city voters in August. If term limits are eliminated, Straight can run again. If term limits are in effect, Straight would be ineligible to run and forfeit his $48 qualifying fee.

Mayor Bill Shearon said, “I’m with you, the voters do need to make the decision. If the two commissioners decide they’re not going to run, we could do it in a timely manner.”

Vosburgh said, “It has to be settled one way or the other. It doesn’t make any difference if we decide to run. If we say there are going to be no term limitations it’s going to affect the rest of you.”

Spooner said, “It’s already been expressed at least one of our commissioners is willing to run again. This is doing it the right way. It goes to the voters, we get a determination and go from there.”

Straight said, “I’m really not sure myself, but we need to make a determination.”

Commissioner Ralph Cole said, “The question is, is there limits or isn’t there? What do we do?”

It was Cole who recently discovered the city charter no longer references term limits.

Last summer, the Charter Review Committee (CRC) unanimously favored eliminating term limits. The city commissioners in office at the time then overruled the CRC and voted 3-2 against placing a term limit charter amendment question on the November 2015 ballot. Before the election took place, the commission adopted an accompanying ordinance without realizing the term limit language had been stricken through.

City voters then approved an increase in residency requirements, but voters never saw any language pertaining to term limits.

The existing commission-adopted ordinance-related charter language now makes no reference to term limits, but the previous language still found at the Municode website says, “No person may hold the same elected office for more than three full consecutive terms.”

The cities of Holmes Beach and Anna Maria do not impose term limits on elected officials.

Perry said she also spoke with the elections office and she verified the process Spooner explained.

During public comment, former commission candidate Michael Harrington said he has been unable to obtain an updated copy of the charter.

“Is it in the charter now that there are term limits?” he asked

“There are no term limits,” Spooner said.

Shearon and Cole agreed.

Former commission candidate Tjet Martin said, “Did you put it on the ballot and I did I vote to get rid of it?

“No,” Spooner said.

“Then why are we still discussing it?” Martin said. “Three previous commissioners said no. It was a scrivener’s error. You and I did not vote it off. Commissioners cannot change the charter. The voters have to change the charter. It was an error, put it back.”

The commission then voted 4-0 in support of placing a term limit question on the August ballot in order to resolve this debate.

Straight recused himself from the vote in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Moratorium town hall requested

joe hendricks | sun

A recent FDEP review of the city’s submerged land
lease indicates that tour boats and most other commercial
vessels cannot up tie up to the city day dock.

BRADENTON BEACH – The Bradenton Beach City Commission rejected a request for a town hall meeting to discuss exclusively a potential building moratorium, but agreed to discuss the vacation rental issue as a whole.

Longtime city resident and recent moratorium activist Priscilla VonAhnen presented her request for a moratorium-related town hall meeting during last week’s commission meeting.

When presenting her request to the commission, VonAhnen said, “We seem to be getting nowhere,” in regard to the enactment of a moratorium and the city’s stalled efforts to enact local vacation rental regulations.

VonAhnen said she was amenable to discussing vacation rentals in their entirety, but told the commission she is part of the petition initiative to have a moratorium referendum included on the November ballot if the commission fails to act.

VonAhnen believes a moratorium would serve as time-out and provide a cooling off period that would allow the commission time to develop new rental regulations. Bradenton Beach is the only Island city that has not recently adopted some form of vacation rental ordinance.

“It’d be great if we made a permanent moratorium, but that’s not what we’re asking,” she said.

In response to VonAhnen’s request, Commissioner Ralph Cole said, “What are you trying to do? Are you trying to stop the vacation rentals?”

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said the goal was to “stop the party homes” in the city R-1 and R-2 residential zone districts. She expressed concerns about building permits being issued for nine additional large homes, which are expected to serve as vacation rentals, in addition to those that already exist.

Vosburgh also mentioned the continued loss of permanent residents and described a new home being built next to her as “the house from hell.”

She later made a motion calling for a town hall discussion on a six-month building moratorium in the R-1 and R-2 districts, but her motion died without a second from the other commissioners.

“I’ll make a motion that we discuss all possible solutions to this problem,” Commissioner Jake Spooner said.

“I’ll second that motion” said Vice Mayor Ed Straight, suggesting this be done as soon as it can be worked into the commissioners’ schedules.

“I don’t see that a moratorium is the only solution to this. Everything will be on the table. I don't want to just limit it to a moratorium, because we’ve already done that,” Spooner added, referencing two previous votes in which the commission majority rejected a moratorium.

Mayor Bill Shearon suggested having the meeting in the evening so more people could attend. He also suggested a larger venue may be needed in order to accommodate an anticipated crowd that would likely exceed the capacity of the Bradenton Beach commission chambers.

As of Monday, a date, time and location for the town hall meeting had not been announced.

Michael Walker is named Officer of the Year

HOLMES BEACH – Officer Michael Walker has been named as the department’s Officer of the Year and also will receive Florida’s Congressional Law Enforcement Dedication and Professionalism Award.

“Over the past year, Officer Walker has continuously gone above and beyond with his duties as a patrol officer,” Chief Bill Tokajer said. “He has been very proactive in his patrols, as he has made 47 arrests for the year of 2015.” Examples of his proactive patrol are as follows:

• On June 27, he attempted to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation, and while turning a corner, the driver fell out of the vehicle onto the busy roadway. Walker assisted in getting the driver out of the roadway before he was injured or killed.

• Between July 21 and Aug. 7 and Nov. 17 through 30, he wrote 114 citations and made 16 arrests during Click It or Ticket campaigns.

• On Aug. 26, he arrested a suspect with 106 grams of marijuana and a loaded handgun.

• On Sept. 30, he located suspects fleeing from Longboat Key police in a stolen vehicle.

Walker has been employed by the department since September 2008.

Regarding the Congressional award, Congressman Vern Buchanan, wrote, “Your actions and proactive approach to your duties is a credit to your profession. Your dedication and resolve have brought honor to the Holmes Beach Police Department. Your service was recognized by the region’s law enforcement community when they nominated and selected you for this award.”

The Congressional award ceremony will take place on April 22 at 5 p.m. at the Sarasota County Commission Chambers.

Auctions, raffle and chill lounge at Affaire

sun file photoS

bidders peruse the silent auction offerings at last year's Affaire.

ANNA MARIA – Exciting live auction packages will be available to the highest bidder at this year’s Grand Affaire on Saturday, April 16.

Auction packages at the dinner fund-raiser feature everything from fabulous trips to Montana, Colorado, Hawaii, Key West, Scrub Island and the Lola House in California to gourmet dinners and more. Three of the packages are as follows:

Take a private, six-passenger jet from Sarasota to Key West for four days and three nights and stay in a three-bedroom, two-bath home with a private plunge pool.

Spend a week on the island of Kaiai in Hawaii at the Oceanfront resort, The Point of Poipu, in a two bedroom, two-bath villa with an oceanfront view.

Enjoy the cocktail party of the year with 20 of your closest friends at the Beach Bistro's craft cocktail creation, The Doctor's Office, at the 48th Street beach tiki. Savor delicious classically crafted cocktails and Bistro complimentary accomplishments.

Mobile bidding on live auction items has begun and ends at 9 p.m. on the day of the Affaire. The site is

Guests also can bid on more than 100 silent auction items and purchase tickets to win 99 bottles of wine on the wall. Tickets are one for $100 or six for $500. The wine is valued at $5,000.

Before and after dinner, guests can chill in the chill lounge outdoors in the west parking lot where the bar will be open during the entire event and dance to Howl at the Moon, an interactive, high energy, dueling piano show, set to a variety of music from classic rock to today’s tunes.

Tickets are $175 per person. The event begins with social hour at 6 p.m., and dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m.

Sponsors for the event include The Sun, Mainsail Lodging and Development, Motorcoach Store, Progressive Cabinetry, Erik Abrahamson of Abrahamson & Uiterwyk, Pineapple Fish and Bright House Networks.

Lawton to defend federal suit

ANNA MARIA – Orlando-based attorney William Lawton will take the lead in defending the city of Anna Maria against a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Shawn Kaleta and Beach to Bay Construction.

An insurance policy the city holds with the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust though its membership in the Florida League of Cities (FLC) will cover the cost of Lawton’s legal fees. The policy also insures the city in regard to a potential monetary settlement, should the court support Kaleta’s request for more than $100,000 in alleged damages.

Filed in February with the United States District Court Middle District of Florida, the federal suit alleges city officials singled-out Kaleta and Beach to Bay in regard to permitting processes and compliance with city building and development codes and regulations. The suit alleges Kaleta and his associates were treated in a discriminatory manner that differed from how developers and contractors were treated.

In early March, City Attorney Becky Vose filed a motion to dismiss the case. Her motion disputed the claims and allegations made and presented legal arguments in the city’s defense.

In late March, attorney Randolph Smith filed a response to Vose’s motion to dismiss.

“The city views each of the actions alleged by the plaintiffs in their complaint as random, isolation incidents having no relation to each other. Yet, this reading of the plaintiffs’ complaint ignores the crux of the plaintiffs’ allegations: that the totality of the city’s actions are part of a large pattern to harm, halt or destroy the plaintiffs’ business and development efforts in the city,” Smith’s response said.

During an emergency City Commission meeting that took place Thursday, April 7, the commission authorized Mayor Dan Murphy to secure Lawton’s services.

With the commission’s blessing, Vose will now hand over to Lawton the primary duties associated with the city’s defense of these allegations, but she will continue to be involved in an observatory role.

The FLC originally recommended Clearwater-based attorney Jay Daigneault, but Murphy requested a different lawyer in order to avoid any complications stemming from the fact that Daigneault had previously applied for the city attorney’s job that was instead given to Vose.

In regard to the mayor’s request, an April 4 letter from FLC Claims Manager Jessica Sheets said, “While we are disappointed in that decision, our role in appointing mutually agreeable counsel permits us to recommend additional professionals who can effectively defend the city’s interests.”

The proposed FLC alternatives consisted of Lawton, from the Dean, Ringer, Morton & Lawton firm, or fellow-Orlando-area attorney Jeff Weiss.

Vose also lives and works in the Orlando area. While participating in last week’s emergency meeting via telephone, she said she knew both attorneys and she highly recommended Lawton.

“I’ve had a lengthy telephone conversation with him with regard to his representation of the city and I’m very comfortable recommending him to handle the matter for the insurance company. I think he’ll do an excellent job and I’ll monitor everything he does,” she told the commission.

Commission Chair Doug Copeland asked if the use of an FLC-appointed attorney limits city input in regard to any settlement agreements reached.

“We are still giving up our right to make the decision for any settlement, is that correct?” Copeland asked.

“Technically, that’s right, but that’s what my conversation with Bill was about. I feel comfortable that will not be a problem,” Vose responded.

She said she could provide the commission additional details during the non-public shade meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 14.

School opens for kindergarten registration

HOLMES BEACH – Anna Maria Elementary School holds its Kindergarten Roundup on Thursday, April 1. Parents of children who will be entering kindergarten next school year are asked to bring a number of items when enrolling a child for the first time.

• An original certified birth certificate or other proof of date of birth;

• A Florida Certificate of Immunization;

• A physical examination certificate;

• Legal guardianship papers, if applicable;

• Your child’s Social Security Card;

• Your child’s recent report card/transcripts/withdrawal forms, if applicable;

• Proof of residency, e.g., current electric or water bill showing the name and address of the enrolling parent or guardian, a current lease agreement, an official letter from a company providing housing, a notarized statement from the owner of the home where they are staying.

The school will accept registrations for the next school year through the end of this school year. Pre-registering avoids having to do it on the first day of school, and it helps the school in assigning kids to the right classroom.

For more information, call Anna Maria Elementary at 941-708-5525.

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