Vol. 17 No. 18 - February 15, 2017


Speed limit debate continues in Holmes Beach

HOLMES BEACH — Road rage is growing over the Florida Department of Transportation's decision to change the speed limit on a stretch of Manatee Avenue without public input.

The change was made without ceremony or notification Jan. 30, when signs were placed lowering the speed limit across the bridge from 45 to 35 miles per hour and the speed limit west of the bridge to 25 mph.

"This thing caught us all by surprise," Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson said. "The first thing we heard about it was seeing the signs in the ground."

While Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer had spoken to FDOT about potentially lowering the speed limit along the quarter mile stretch of Manatee Avenue to the Manatee Public Beach, Johnson said the city had expected to be consulted on the decision and given a traffic study prior to any action taking place. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryLobbying efforts underway

ANNA MARIA – Last week, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy recapped two meetings he recently had with lobbyist Chip Case.

For $5,000 a month, Case is leading the city's efforts to defeat two vacation rental bills that would prevent Florida cities from adopting new vacation rental regulations or enforcing local vacation rental regulations adopted after June 1, 2011.

Senate Bill 188 was proposed by Sen. Greg Steube, from Sarasota. A companion bill, House Bill 425, was filed by Rep. Mike La Rosa, from St. Cloud. The fate of both bills will be decided during the 2017 state legislative session that begins in March.

The rejection of both bills would preserve the status quo created by SB 356 in 2014, which restored some of the home rule rights municipalities lost when HB 883 was adopted in 2011. Current state law allows local governments to regulate short-term rentals, but they cannot prohibit them or regulate the duration or frequency of their use. More...

Tourist season booming; full steam ahead

There's no room in the inn on Anna Maria Island beginning this week and lasting through the end of March, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Elliott Falcione told the Manatee County Tourist Development Council on Monday.

During high tourist season, the Island has 98 percent occupancy, he said, which is no surprise to the TDC members who live on the Island, like Anna Maria Commissioner Doug Copeland, who suggested the TDC oppose a state legislative proposal that would further erode local governmental authority to regulate vacation rentals.

A bill filed by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would eliminate city ordinances that regulate vacation rentals adopted since 2011.

"Back in 2011, the Legislature took away the ability of local governments to regulate vacation rentals," Copeland said. He added that the state later made an exception for regulating anything related to public safety. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryCity staff in transition

ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson have discussed the possibility of moving the Anna Maria's Public Works Department to the public works building in Holmes Beach.

Murphy recently told the City Commission the tentative plan calls for the two departments to continue operating as independent entities that could share equipment and resources and assist each other in the event of a crisis or emergency.

Murphy said moving the public works department out of its current location behind the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum would create more space to expand the adjacent Historical Park. Last week, Murphy told the commission the area surrounding the public works garage was cleaned up and cleared of debris as part of the ongoing efforts to create more park space there. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryCatch the fishing festival this weekend

It's finally here – the 35th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival is this weekend, Feb. 18-19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the historic fishing village.

With music, kids' activities, nautical arts and crafts, net mending demonstrations, educational wildlife exhibits, a touch tank, dock talks on the history of commercial fishing, and, of course, boatloads of fresh seafood, the festival has something for everyone.

Admission is $4, with kids 12 and under admitted free. Proceeds benefit FISH, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, to restore and expand the 95-acre FISH Preserve east of Cortez village. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryPlanning board gets a shot of youth

ANNA MARIA – Nineteen-year-old Monika Beard has been appointed to the Planning and Zoning Board.

City Commissioners approved Mayor Dan Murphy's recommended appointment during the Thursday, Feb. 9, meeting.

When presenting his recommendation, Murphy said, "Monika, at 19 years old, is going to go down in history as the youngest person to ever serve on a board, as far as I can determine, in the city of Anna Maria. I feel very strongly that we need youth added to our cadre of people that are serving the city.

"We need all the fresh ideas that Monika can bring. She's willing to serve, she wanted to know how she could get involved with the city government, and this opportunity came up. We have a vacancy on our Planning and Zoning Board, and I highly recommend Monika for your consideration." More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryJazz Fest a smoothe success

The lure of the music was as strong as the lure of the Gulf of Mexico beyond the Sandbar events pavilion on Tuesday, Feb. 7, as Gulf Drive's Bil Bowdish and Judy Lynn joined forces with KoKo Ray Hansen and Karma to bring back some musical memories and raise money for a good cause.

The annual Jazz Fest, sponsored by Gulf Drive, the Sandbar restaurant and the Ann Maria Island Sun, raised more money than expected for the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO) as more people came as the concert started. Organizers had to search for more chairs.

The weather was a good factor. Previous concerts suffered from too much heat or too little heat, but the weather for this one was perfect. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story Land use dispute headed for March hearing

BRADENTON BEACH – A special master hearing has been scheduled for a Monday, March 13, at 9:30 a.m. in an attempt to resolve a land use dispute initiated by John Metz.

Metz, a member of the city's Planning and Zoning Board, initiated his complaint last April in a series of e-mails sent to Building Official Steve Gilbert. In those e-mails, Metz claimed the two-story structure at 308 Gulf Dr. S. should not be allowed to resume operations as a vacation rental because it sat vacant before and during its subsequent renovation. Wendy and George Kokolis purchased the property in September 2014 and began renovating it the following summer.

Metz lives next door at 306 Gulf Dr. S. He leases a portion of his home as a vacation rental, and he expressed interest in buying the neighboring property before the Kokolis' bought it. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryGrassy Point renovations near completion

HOLMES BEACH — With Grassy Point Preserve just weeks away from reopening, renovations are beginning to wrap up.

The major change to the park, a trail extension with two boardwalks ending with a view through the mangroves of Anna Maria Sound, was completed at the end of January. Prior to the park's grand re-opening, Public Works Project Manager Don Gray said there are still some issues to address, including regrading the paths with new crushed shell and removing some previously inaccessible invasive plants.

Gray serves as the city's point person for the preserve's maintenance and has been working on the project for four years. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News Story Follow the leader

I've heard it said before that if you follow your intuition, you're likely to have a better outcome on whatever you might be pursuing. To me that means paying attention to the things that might not be apparent that could have a profound effect on your desired outcome. For the fisherman, there's nothing more important and often overlooked than leader construction.

For the average angler this could be as simple as a 30-pound section of mono tied to the standing line of a spinning reel. It could also be as complex as a tapered leader for fly fishing.  Not all leaders are as simple as a single piece of mono or as complex as a tarpon leader.

The variations of leader construction should be tailored to the specific fishing situation. While there are more combinations than could ever be covered in a short article, let's review a few specific scenarios and suggestions for leader construction. More...

real estate

Homeowners' insurance – love it or hate it

Buying and selling real estate is exciting; insuring it is boring. Boring as it is, it's a necessity that requires a little more than an eyes glazed over conversation with your insurance broker or insurance company. It requires being proactive especially in Florida.

There are a lot of ways to save on your homeowners' insurance, if you take the time to read your policy and check for potential savings. However, per a survey conducted by the Travelers Company, it found that just over half of the respondents last year said they checked their homeowners policies at least once a year. This is down from 60 percent of those who checked the previous year, and with the average price of an annual premium going up 6 percent a year, averaging just over $1,000 annually, taking the time to investigate ways to save should be one of those must do things.

In Florida and many other coastal states, discounts are available if you have installed features that mitigate against wind damage. Hurricane shutters, impact-resistant windows and doors, as well as up to code wind straps, will not only better protect your property but also provide a premium discount. However, if you are installing hurricane shutters or impact-resistant windows, you must cover all of what is call the building envelope to qualify for a discount. For instance, you can't do what I did and only install hurricane shutters on the waterfront lanai and not cover the other windows and door. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Reverse mortgages worth another look

Investment Corner

I have written about reverse mortgages over the years, at least twice here in the Sun. My advice was that reverse mortgages were expensive for the borrower, but in the case where a retired person or couple had run out of assets, using the equity in their home through a reverse mortgage wasn’t the worst idea in the world.

I’m bringing the topic back one more time because some changes in federal guidelines have made the reverse mortgage a more attractive option for those who are over age 62, that own their home free and clear of another mortgage and who are concerned about the possibility of running low on retirement income during their lifetime

Space limitations don’t’ allow us to go into a full primer on reverse mortgages, but let’s hit some of the highlights. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryTeam Air & Energy blows past opponents on the court

After two long seasons with a dark gym and no action on the court, adult co-ed recreational volleyball is back in full swing at The Center. With four teams going head-to-head each Tuesday night, veterans to the league face new faces as worthy opponents.

With rally scoring in place, the "bring your own team" league brings fun to The Center for friends and family to play and laugh together in a friendly competitive game of indoor volleyball.

Last Tuesday night, Team Beach to Bay met its match against Team Air & Energy. Team captain Michelle Laade along with teammates Laura Alderson, Vanessa Barahona, Tyler Bekkerus and Dave Norris fought hard through two games of play.

Team Air & Energy proved that more players do not necessarily mean a stronger team on the volleyball court. The team chemistry between team captain Pat Wright, Christine Wright, David Deaver and Russell Classman is evident and produces a top ranked team with a 3-0 record. More...

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