2006: The year in review, part 1
Sand and rust: Sunbathers, shoreline strollers and surfers found a familiar site on the sand in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach with the start of the new year - the pipes and bulldozers for the beach renourishment project. The project was halted in the fall of 2005 so as not to interfere with the tourist season. But the idle equipment, specifically the rusty pipes, remained a bother to beachgoers and an economic hazard to Island businesses.
First homicide: On Jan. 2, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to a mobile home in Cortez’s Sunny Shores and there they found Mimi Pace, 42, dead. Tammy Lynn George, 44, allegedly killed Pace, of 3707 115th St. Ct. W. Pace’s death was the first homicide in the county in 2006.
Back to class: Anna Maria Elementary School students returned from their winter break Jan. 4 to end an old semester and settle into a new school. Teachers had spent part of their holiday unpacking and preparing their classrooms for students.
Key Royale IOU: Looking at a spring construction date for a new Key Royale Bridge, the Florida Department of Transportation "tentatively" pledged $2.95 million in its 2007-08 budget to pay for the project. The pledge was something of an IOU to Holmes Beach, which agreed to borrow construction funds in anticipation of the reimbursement from DOT. By the end of the month bids on the project had come in and were higher than anticipated - the low bid was $3.5 million.
A farewell: On Jan. 16, Jim Taylor, the man who sparked so much joy and color on the Island, died. Taylor, of Taylor-Made Marine Construction and Taylor-Made Pyrotechnics of Holmes Beach, died in Orlando. On the Island he was renowned for his holiday fireworks shows. Taylor was survived by his wife, Pidge, and his children, Courtney, Nick and Kelsey.
Holiday Cove plans: Manatee County received a proposal from Federal Resort Properties Inc. of Sarasota to convert the Holiday Cove RV Resort in Cortez into a condominium community with two 39-unit buildings, a clubhouse, a pool, a play area, boat docks and a ramp. Federal indicated two other options for the property - selling the 112 RV sites to individual buyers or selling the property to the county for public use.
Kingfish conflict: Manatee County’s plans for the Kingfish Boat Ramp brought residents of nearby Westbay Cove in Holmes Beach out en masse to a Jan. 24 city commission meeting. The plans for the state-owned property called for added parking, removal of Brazilian pepper trees and the construction of a permanent rest room. Residents said no. So did the commission. The issue would come again and again in 2006.
Ready. And action: The Bradenton Beach City Commission gave Islander Walt Jenkins the OK to film some scenes for his low-budget "Vampire Biker Babes" at the Bradenton Beach Police Station. The producer said the feature film would be "well within a ‘PG’ rating and there will be no nudity." John Chappie dissented on the vote, saying, "I’m just not comfortable with the title and the image it could give our city."
More headlines and highlights:
- The Anna Maria Island Privateers started the new year as the Islander(s) of the Year, christened such by The Islander.
- Anna Maria Elementary auctioned off the old - as in the contents of 35 classrooms and the cafeteria.
- The Island Players performed "Murder by Misadventure," directed by Phyllis Elfenbein, and got strong reviews.
- St. Bernard Catholic Church celebrated 50 years.
- The Anna Maria Island Rotary Club held its 2006 Casino Night and Extravaganza Jan. 21.
- Collectors and browsers enjoyed the offering at the annual Anna Maria Island Arts and Crafts Show in Holmes Beach.
Sacked Shack project: The Manatee County Commission voted against purchasing the Seafood Shack property in Cortez for a maritime museum and boat ramps. In the unanimous vote, the commissioners cited a lack of funds - the property appraisal came in at $9.7 million. There was also opposition to the project from property owners to the north of Cortez Road.
Heat wave: The Union of Concerned Scientists released findings on global warming that made for dire predictions for Florida’s coastline. Half of Anna Maria Island could be submerged in the Gulf of Mexico in 100 years.
Piping hot: Numbers for the first month of 2006 showed tourism off by about 22 percent on the Island compared with January 2005. The rusting pipes on the beach bore much of the blame. "We’ve heard about a number of cancellations because of the pipes," said Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman. "It’s ridiculous."
Building up: Island officials learned Feb. 16 that the Anna Maria Island Community Center had successfully raised $2 million in private donations - mostly from Island residents - for an expanded Center. But with the spike in construction costs, the price tag for the project had gone to $3 million and might go even higher. So might the Island cities budget for the Center in 2006-07, said the Center’s executive director, Pierrette Kelly.
Cortez celebration: The two-day Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival drew thousands to the historic village for mullet, mangoes, music and memorabilia.
Survey says: A survey completed by Anna Maria City Commission Chairperson John Quam found that a super-majority of the city’s voters oppose any consolidation with Holmes Beach or Bradenton Beach. Quam and survey volunteers did find voters interested in studying the possibility of consolidating some city services.
Commissioner struggles with health issue: Anna Maria City residents learned that one of their representatives, Commissioner Linda Cramer, was struggling with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic condition. "The last few months have been tough," she told The Islander.
Border issues: Holmes Beach commissioned an engineering survey of city limits, specifically an area between 56th Street and Sunrise Lane where some pilings were installed, the area near the Kingfish Boat Ramp and the city’s south end. The survey would seek to answer questions about where Holmes Beach ends. "We just felt it was time to clear the air on all these boundary issues," said then Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore.
GSR legal battle: New Jersey resident Ed Furfey, claiming an equal partnership with Robert Byrne and Steve Noriega in GSR Development LLC, filed a lawsuit over the matter Feb. 17. Furfey claimed GSR’s $6.4 million sale of the Villa Rosa property in Anna Maria was "well below market value" and that he was unaware of the sale.
Consolidation call: A conference call in late February between then Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and a representative from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, resulted in the announcement that the institute would create a consolidation proposal for the two cities. The announcement came months after citizens, in a non-binding referendum in the two cities, voted to look at consolidation. Anna Maria citizens didn’t vote on the issue - the city commission declined to put a question on the ballot.
T’d off: Residents from the T-end canal section of Holmes Beach threatened legal action if the city commission amended an ordinance on dock use in the canal. Residents called the city’s proposed "tweak" to the ordinance, specifically a provision against transferring dock use with the sale of property, an infringement on their rights. City Commissioner Roger Lutz said, "The only reason we're doing this is because we've been told it [the canal bottom] is our property."
Pipe plans: Through late winter, Islanders watched and waited for the temporary removal of beach renourishment pipes. Then, in late February, Manatee County Ecosystems Manager Charlie Hunsicker asked that the pipes stay put because renourishment would be resuming in about a month.
Polite with pistol: A hold-up began with a pleasantry rather than the usual "stick ’em up." The man now known as the "gentleman gunman" approached two people on Gulf Drive South and said, "I’m sorry to bother you." He continued, "I don’t want no one to get hurt. I got a gun. I want your cash and your jewelry. I don’t want your wallet." The robber got $44 from the pair. He got $5 from another couple after asking for $100.
More headlines and highlights
- The death of a green sea turtle in the intake of the Longboat Key beach renourishment dredge called attention to the measures needed to protect marine life.
- The 14th annual Island Kiwanis Valentine’s dance drew some 240 people to the Anna Maria Island Community Center.
Road work: Anna Maria City commissioners on March 16 authorized an engineering firm to prepare bid packets for more than $700,000 in road improvements and two drainage/stormwater improvement projects. The projects would be funded by a $1 million line of credit authorized by the commission.
Seaweed by the seashore: Seaweed invaded Anna Maria’s beaches from Bean Point to the Sandbar Restaurant in mid-March. A scientist from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota suggested the growth of a sandbar in the area kept the smelly seaweed concentrated to the Anna Maria beaches.
Bumper to bumper: "We’re not about to four-lane State Road 789. What’s left?" Carol Whitmore, at the time the mayor of Holmes Beach, asked other members of the Coalition of Barrier Elected Officials gathered March 21 to discuss traffic problems on the Island. All agreed there’s a problem but there’s no easy solution.
March merrymaking: Islanders and visitors honored old St. Patrick with more than a day. The celebrating included a breakfast, a dinner and a parade. The month also brought the Anna Maria Island Heritage Days, which included a bike parade, historical museum tours and festival treats.
On hold: Holmes Beach city commissioners decided they needed more information before acting on a request from Metro PCS to add a fourth antenna to a cell tower at the Smith Realtors building on Marina Drive. One question: Could the tower, with an added antenna, withstand 141-mph winds?
Commercial limits: The Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board voted at a March 27 meeting to put on hold plans for extending the city’s retail-office-residential district from Pine Avenue south on Gulf Drive to Palmetto Avenue. The extension came up in an effort to revise the city’s future land-use map. The vote didn’t bring an end to discussion.
In her name: Christine Olson urged Florida law enforcement officers and lawmakers to consider her ideas to link emergency contact numbers with driver’s licenses. Olson’s campaign was in memory of her daughter, Tiffiany, who was killed along with friend Dustin Wilder in a motorcycle accident in December 2005. Christine Olson didn’t hear about the accident until seven hours after it occurred.
More headlines and highlights
- Mr. Bones BBQ learned that the March issue of Family Circle magazine would highlight the restaurant’s chocolate pecan bread pudding as a readers’ poll best-loved desert.
- West Manatee Fire and Rescue District commissioners approved the purchase of a new 100-foot ladder truck to replace a truck at Station No. 1 in Holmes Beach.
- John Bacon of Bradenton Beach marked his 80th birthday in March and to celebrate his daughter, Debbie, decorated dad’s corner lot with dozens of pink plastic pigs. Get it? Bacon…
- The maritime museum organized in Cortez became a statewide entity - the Florida State Maritime Museum.
Ill wind: A brutal U.S. hurricane season brought catastrophe to the Gulf states in 2005. The hard wind in 2006 came in the form of soaring insurance costs. The owners of Island property beyond 1,000 feet of the Gulf of Mexico found themselves in an especially tough spot - facing sky-high premiums, outright refusals of coverage and no option to seek help through the state-operated Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which only issues wind insurance policies for Island property within the 1,000-foot perimeter. The Legislature would defeat a bill by state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, to provide some remedy.
Bradenton Beach bust: A sting operation conducted by Bradenton Beach police resulted in the arrest of three men on narcotics charges. An undercover officer called the three suspects from a pay phone at the Circle K on Gulf Drive and arranged to buy about $100 in crack cocaine. Twenty minutes later the deal went down, followed by a car chase, a crash and arrests at gunpoint.
Opt out: Bradenton Beach city commissioners decided they didn’t want to help pay for a consolidation study, bringing to some conclusion another round of talks on the issue. Commissioners said why bother studying consolidation if Anna Maria City isn’t interested.
Island tragedy: Zane Zavadil, 19, died and Ryan Costello, 19, suffered serious injuries when the Toyota SUV they were in went off the Anna Maria Island Bridge. Rescue workers quickly arrived to the scene to find the SUV submerged in water and the young men, both graduates of Manatee High, trapped inside. For months after, friends and family made a pilgrimage to the bridge to leave cards and flowers, stuffed animals and prayers. A wooden cross still remains in the water, marking the site where Zavadil died.
Protest signs: Enforcement of measures tightening restrictions on signs in Holmes Beach brought protesting property owners and property sellers to city hall April 6. Holmes Beach officials had confiscated illegally placed or non-conforming signs. The action triggered complaints from real estate agents who said they never received notice of the stepped-up enforcement. City officials defended the action, pointing out that Holmes Beach’s sign ordinance was adopted in 1998.
Showdown averted: The Anna Maria City Commission seemed to have resolved concerns about a proposed sign ordinance, heading off an anticipated showdown between city officials and real estate agents over the measure. The commission removed from the proposal restrictions that some said went too far, such as limits on colors and words.
More headlines and highlights
- Islander Tom Sprenger got named Hernando de Soto for the De Soto Heritage Festival, the area’s rival to Mardi Gras.
- The Anna Maria Island Woman’s Club celebrated more than 60 years of service as it said goodbye. The club that formed in the 1940s disbanded.
- The Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria Island celebrated Easter with its 42nd sunrise serve at the Manatee Public Beach.
- A "green" sidewalk was installed at Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach to test a material made of old tires.
- A creative vision process continued in Bradenton Beach as city officials and volunteers set their sights on preserving and improving the waterfront.
- The Anna Maria City Commission agreed to amend its permit fee schedule to help out the Anna Maria Island Community Center. The move saved the Center, as it readied for a major construction project, about $36,000.
Turtles come home to…: The marine turtle nesting season began with a corps of volunteers trained to protect the adult turtles and their offspring and encouragements to residents to keep waterfront lights off at night.
School celebration: The new Anna Maria Elementary School opened to students after the winter break but the school dedication didn’t take place until May 1, when all of Anna Maria was invited to join in a celebration.
Time trial: The U.S. Coast Guard agreed to a trial program to open the Anna Maria Island and Cortez bridges twice an hour and by request during season. The test was to determine if the change would help alleviate traffic tie-ups.
SAM’s goal: Spring ushered in a reorganization of Save Anna Maria, Inc. and a setting of priorities. The top priority? Tackling the wind insurance crisis.
‘Party mansion’: A posting on a Web site advertised sex parties at a "party mansion" at 5601 Flotilla Drive in Holmes Beach. Property owners Scott and Deanne Hopp rented out the home on a weekly basis. Neighbors noticed that some visitors to the rental liked to party - naked. Asked by The Islander about the parties, Scott Hopp said, "I’m shocked. I had no idea. I’m going to go down there and evict them right away. It's supposed to be for families only." The situation would lead to a discussion on ordinances related to rentals, as well as much gossip.
Foreclosure filed: GSR Development LLC continued to struggle with legal problems. The development company got hit with a foreclosure action by Synovus Bank of Tampa. The bank claimed in May that a note for $2.1 million due from GSR in January was not paid. The company was already facing four lawsuits over uncompleted projects in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key.
Motel matters: The state Legislature failed to provide wind insurance relief for the Island, but state lawmakers did take action that allows counties to defer property taxes for hotel and motel owners. The legislation authorized county government to designate a "working waterfront" zone where taxes could be deferred.
Heavy hammerhead: A giant hammerhead shark caught on tackle off Boca Grande arrived by truck to Cortez’s A.P. Bell Fish Co., before being shipped - frozen - to Mote Marine Laboratory. The shark weighed in at 1,280 pounds and was the biggest hammerhead ever caught on tackle. The record had been held by a 991-pounder caught off Sarasota in 1982.
Sales at SevenShores: St. Joe Co. opened its sales office for the planned 686-unit Perico Island condo project, SevenShores, in early May. The developer also confirmed its plans that the property where Leverock’s Restaurant operated, along with the convenience/gas market and marina there, would be used for a retail-office complex.
More headlines and highlights
- Anna Maria Elementary’s third-graders went into their last month of classes in the 2005-06 school year celebrating a FCAT success. The entire grade-level, according to the Manatee County School District, scored 100 percent on the reading portion of the required test.
- County officials reported that Goodloe Marine wouldn’t meet a June 1 deadline to complete a beach renourishment project.
- A home at 102 79th St. in Holmes Beach sold for $3.45 million, a record for a single-family home on Anna Maria Island.
- Anna Maria Elementary teacher Deborah Thomas retired after educating Island students for more than 30 years.
- The Holmes Beach skateboard complex was the site of the Holmes Beach Skateboard Contest.
Be prepared: Hurricane season arrived with experts predicting an above average season and Island officials encouraging preparedness.
Application withdrawn: Bradenton Beach Marina owner Allan Bazzy withdrew an application for a boatel - a hotel for boaters - a week before the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board was to review the project. Anticipating some concerns about the plan, Bazzy said he’d withdraw and "make it an early evening."
Church coverage canceled: Some Island churches were forced to brave the hurricane season with protection from some authority higher than corporate America or the state. Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Holmes Beach and Roser Memorial Community Church in Anna Maria both learned of canceled wind insurance policies.
Chilly reception: A hip-hop concert and picnic planned for Coquina Beach didn’t happen after county and Bradenton Beach officials gave a chilly reception to "Chill" Johnson’s plans for a festival. More than 20 Manatee County Sheriff’s office patrol cars, four mounted units and other law enforcement units patrolled the beach to make sure the show didn’t go on. The festival plans came up as county and Island officials raised concerns about crime and public safety at Coquina.
Homicide arrest: Frank Reposh, 42, went missing in October 2005. Reposh’s bones were found in early June in a wooded area in the 3600 block of Palma Sola Boulevard. Bradenton Beach resident Merle Zeigler, 53, was arrested June 7 and charged with murdering Reposh. She allegedly confessed to first stabbing Reposh and later shooting him in the head. Her son, Josh Zeigler, was also arrested in the case and is scheduled to go to trial in February 2007 on a second-degree murder charge.
Parking problems: Carol Whitmore, as mayor of Holmes Beach, sent a dispatch to other Island mayors and Manatee County Commission Chairman Joe McClash raising concerns about parking and traffic trouble related to the county’s facilities on the Island. Whitmore wrote that with the "tremendous amount of growth in Manatee County, our 7-mile stretch of beach is finally starting to feel the stress of growth."
Nest numbers: With the sea turtle nesting season under way, the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch - local protectors of the species - identified 38 nests by mid-June, more than the year before at the same time.
Charitable campaign: A two-day all-Island blood drive brought in 270 donors, 225 units of blood for Florida Blood Services and $22,500 for Island charities.
Sandbar stipulations: Anna Maria city commissioners unanimously approved a site plan for expanding the Sandbar Restaurant. Owner Ed Chiles had spent more than two years developing the plan. The vote didn’t come easy. It followed more than three hours of arguments, mostly from lawyers representing property owners opposed to the plan. And it came with stipulations on restaurant service, maintenance and parking.
Citing skateboarders: Holmes Beach Commissioner Pat Morton proposed measures to curb skateboarders riding without permission on public and private property. The proposal followed complaints about some skateboarders using public facilities and shopping centers, causing property damage. Morton proposed citing the skateboarders for trespassing when they ride without permission.
Pier closed: Damage to pilings at the Bradenton Beach City Pier forced officials to close the historic structure to the public. Hurricane Frances damaged the pier in 2004.
More headlines and highlights
- Arthur Bussey reported that after a thunderstorm hit the Island, a shower of fish rained down on his Holmes Beach backyard. "Fish were pelting down on me and my yard and maybe 50 feet out from shore," he said.
- A threat of litigation in a property/right-of-way dispute was enough to prompt Anna Maria City Attorney Jim Dye to advise city officials against talking with Craig Colburn, attorney for the Olesen family.
Next week: The year in review, Part 2