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Date of Issue: December 29, 2005

2005: The year in review - Part One

January

FEMA Mess: Anna Maria City faced a crisis on getting a beach berm for its north shore under a federal emergency program when the Federal Emergency Management Agency lost completed forms necessary for approval. Mayor SueLynn hunted down the documents in a FEMA office in Orlando. It worked: The city ended up with a FEMA windfall of $29,500 for the work.

No thanks: Mayors of all three Island cities laid plans to protest vigorously against a proposed Manatee County charter. Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore said it was "nothing more than the same old battle" between County Commissioner Joe McClash and Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston over the city's annexation of Perico Island for Arvida-St. Joe development.

Tsunami relief: Islanders rushed to give money, clothing, food and other help for the monster tsunami that on Dec. 26 devastated hundreds of square miles of low-lying southeast Asia areas.

Real estate boom: Real property values on the Island continued to spiral, said Gale Tutewiler, top sales agent for Wedebrock Real Estate. Land values rose 30 percent over the previous year, although her colleagues in luxury-priced areas regarded Island real estate still a bargain.

Royale shaft: Florida Department of Transportation again delayed construction of a new Key Royale Bridge, despite Holmes Beach's funding of the bridge in its current budget so building could start earlier and the city recoup its expenditure from DOT.

Judge honored: The Manatee County Commission adopted a proclamation in appreciation of achievements with the county drug court program by Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan, an Island resident.

Center plans: Preliminary plans for Anna Maria Island Community Center's renovation project were detailed by Executive Director Pierrette Kelly prior to submittal to the Anna Maria City Planning and Zoning Board. In addition to renovation of existing facilities, the Center proposed a second story to increase overall space by 13,000 square feet.

Encroachment: Plans for a multi-use path along Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach revealed that due to errors in some earlier surveys, some private property owners inadvertently had been using the thoroughfare's right of way as their own. Turned out to be a misunderstanding, the private landowners were OK.

Whew! For Sandbar: It took $70,000 and a year's time, but Sandbar restaurant owner Ed Chiles finally got approval by the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board for an alleyway exchange that would solve parking problem there and comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

150th birthday: Manatee County celebrated its first 150 years with a county fair designed to outdo anything that has been done in the past.

Renourishment returns: The on/again - off/again emergency beach renourishment program was on again, and the work was expected to begin around September.

Convicted: In the first-ever murder conviction for Bradenton Beach, a jury found Kim Bean guilty of second-degree murder in the beating death of Carol Foreman over crack cocaine in February 2004. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Big Times: An article in the Los Angeles Times about vacationing on Anna Maria Island prompted more than 200 phone calls to the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce - "unprecedented," said the chamber's executive director, Mary Ann Brockman.

New at the Helm: Charlie Shannon was named postmaster of Bradenton Beach, with territory including that city and Holmes Beach.

What's new? The parking problems in Anna Maria City were chewed over without decision for the third or 30th or 300th time by the city commission.

Pierless: Bradenton Beach remained without prospects of a restaurant on its city pier, as the only bid received was rejected by the city commission.

 

February

Wet driver: West Manatee Fire and Rescue personnel pulled Michael Evasick of Bradenton from the chilly waters of Anna Maria Sound after his vehicle rear-ended another vehicle on the Anna Maria Island Bridge and then plunged through a guardrail into the water.

Finally: After months of preliminary work, construction began on the new Anna Maria Elementary School building.

Leave us alone: After a three-hour meeting with more than 40 public officials from all area government agencies wrangling, the consensus was, leave us alone, keep everything as is, regarding the proposed county charter.

Park as you do: After 80 years of squabbling over parking on Anna Maria city streets, the city commission adopted an ordinance OKing existing parking, while emphasizing that it still had no plan to really solve the problem.

Cortez wildlife center: Making an old residence into a permanent home in Cortez's FISH Preserve for the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center was proposed by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage.

Arvida among us: The Arvida-St. Joe Co. was looking for property on the Island to complement its Perico Island condominium project, asking Nick Easterling if he were interested in selling his Tidemark holdings in Holmes Beach. Easterling said no, but a real estate agent confirmed that Arvida was still looking.

CART in action: The Coalition Against Runaway Taxation, organized by Islanders, was making plans to present its proposals for tax relief to the Manatee County Commission. CART said business owners were being taxed out of existence.

Ramps wanted: Manatee County commissioners instructed staff to start looking seriously into three suggested boat ramp locations, including one west of San Remo Shores on land owned by Manatee Fruit Co.

New Island Ender: Island restaurateur Ed Chiles has arranged to buy the Island's End restaurant at Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue in Anna Maria, nearby to his Sandbar.

Other Times: Following closely on the Los Angeles Times' article praising Anna Maria as a vacation spot, the New York Times weighed in with its own laudatory piece on the Island. Some Islanders feared the double boost would bring too many visitors here.

Cortez glitch: A problem developed in the project to refurbish the old Cortez School for public use when it was discovered it had been left out of the zoning overlay that permitted the historic fishing village some exception to requirements. Some figured if let stand, it would require the building to be 11 feet off the ground. The county rushed to fix the glitch, and succeeded in record time. 

Gunslinger: A Holmes Beach man faced multiple charges after allegedly brandishing a handgun and threatening neighbors and the dog that he said threatened his wife and her dog.

Fire victims: A newcomer family of six was left homeless when a fire destroyed their apartment and all their possessions in Bradenton Beach. An Islander-led appeal was credited with helping them find lodging and getting them started toward recovery.

Cortez festival: The 2005 edition of the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival attracted a crowd of 12,000, enabling the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage to make the final payment to purchase the 95-acre tract at the east end of the village as a nature preserve, which it named the FISH Preserve.

Anchorage eyed again: A "boat parking lot" seemed nearer official establishment just south of the Bradenton Beach City Pier when University of Florida officials met with local residents and outlined possible solutions to problems there.

 

March

Red Tide: Bringing a few dead fish and some irritation to the eyes of people on the beaches, red tide reached Anna Maria Island but Jay Moyles, Manatee County marine rescue chief, thought it was a minor bloom driven ashore by a single day's storm. It was proving deadly to manatees and other marine life, though.

Turtle Watch fatality: The store operated by the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch is closing because of a severe drop in business since the store was moved from Holmes Beach to Bradenton Beach. Turtle Watch director Suzi Fox was crewing on a trawler en route to Central America and could not be reached for comment.

Heritage: It was Anna Maria Island's day in the spotlight as the Manatee County Heritage Days concentrated on the Island. A daylong celebration with parade, music, entertainment and history took over the City of Anna Maria and the Island historical museum there.

One Way: Members of the Holmes Beach Police Pension Board told the city commission they wanted the commission to consider the board's plan for additional retirement funding, or consider nothing at all.

Notion abandoned: Members of the Bradenton Beach city commission rejected the idea of the city operating the concessions on the city pier. The pier has been closed to all but fishers since Hurricane Frances damaged it in September 2004.

Slow start: Tourism on the Island got started slower than usual, with occupancy in Island accommodations at 37.5 percent, down 9.3 percent from the previous year.

Nightmare: A two-month, $600,000 remodeling of the Manatee County-owned Cafe on the Beach still had not been completed six months later. The cafe was operating out of a trailer for sandwiches and other short-order items.

Anna Maria fees: After months of dispute, Anna Maria city commissioners approved an annual stormwater assessment fee of $80 per environmental resource unit for property owners.

Taken to task: Rick DeFrank, long a critic of Anna Maria city government, claimed that Mayor SueLynn ignored a commission directive to begin work on capital improvement projects on North Shore Drive and Gladiolus Street.

Island star: Anna Maria's Tom Aposporos was jubilant when the play in which he shared top billing, "Metamorphoses," won the Southeastern U.S. regional competition for the Manatee Players.

Island benefactor: Earl Mowry of Holmes Beach was on his way to Haiti with a planeload of goods that people there badly needed, an annual undertaking for the Islander.

Perico cleared: Arvida-St. Joe Co. began clearing land on Perico Island to make way for its 686-unit condominium project. It was annexed to Bradenton six years ago in a controversial city council move.

Welcome visitor: Nine-year-old Tyler Ferrell, West Virginia boy with a congenital heart ailment, was getting his fondest wish - a week on Anna Maria Island, courtesy of the Kids Wish Network.

Cortez shock: Sales proposals of property near the center of the FISH Preserve sent shock waves through Cortez, whose residents just finished buying the nature preserve. Listed for $1.2 million were three lots totaling half an acre.

Buffett rescued: Jimmy Buffett-style music is OK in Anna Maria, whose city commission worked out a compromise allowing amplified music until 10 p.m.

Left turn: Work was to begin on the left-turn lane in the middle of Cortez Road from 119th Street to the Cortez Bridge.

 

April

Tax fighters: Faced with property tax increases of between 100 and 150 percent during the past five years, nonresident homeowners on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key formed Homeowners Against Runaway Taxation.

New old school: Ground was broken to begin renovation of the historic 1912-built school in Cortez to bring it to standard and convert it to public use, possibly as a museum and community center.

Grouper coming in: Three weeks into the newly opened shallow-water season for grouper, the catch was good and prices holding up, a temporary prosperity since the season will end when the quota is caught.

Hurricane relief: Bradenton Beach received $9,243 insurance money for damage done by Hurricane Charley, and hoped it was an indication of bigger things to come - $34,000 more for Frances damage on Labor Day weekend and $2,685 for Jeanne a few weeks later.

Blue Star: The World Wars I and II "Blue Star" was revived on the Island and Manatee County for families with someone in the military service during the war in Iraq.

Pier coming back: The Bradenton Beach City Commission agreed to a number of "fixes" to the city pier so it could be reopened at least for fishing. It was closed the previous month for damage from Hurricane Frances. 

For the birds: A "bird-a-thon" by members of the Manatee County Audubon Society counted 58 species on Anna Maria Island and Perico.

Big Affaire: Led by Ed Chiles and Trudy Moon, the 2005 Affaire to Remember raised $726,000 to the Anna Maria Island Community Center. Chiles chaired the "cash call" for pledges to the capital campaign fund, Moon chaired the Affaire itself.

Consolidation: Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore suggested to the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials that at least a "straw poll" of Islanders should be conducted to determine if they wanted consolidation of at least some functions of the three Island cities' governments.

Protecting babies: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Audubon Society members cordoned off a football-field-size stretch of beach to protect nests and chicks of rare least terns and black skimmers, saying the north end of Anna Maria City is one of the finest habitats left in the state for these birds to rear their young.

St. Joe takes all: St. Joe Co., formerly Arvida, added Perico Harbor Marina to its holdings, complementing its land where it plans to build a 686-unit condominium complex on Perico Island. The company also asked the state for permission to dredge the marina for deep-draft boats, build docks for more than 200 boats, and eliminate the dry-storage facility.

Center delayed: The Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board delayed until June a hearing on the Anna Maria Island Community Center's plan to renovate and expand the Center. Proper notification had not been made of the April hearing.

Hyatt storm: A survey team for "Hyatt" stirred speculation in Holmes Beach when it was seen checking lots in the city, but the owner of the lots, Steve Lardas, revealed with a laugh that it wasn't the hotel involved, but a surveying company named Hyatt.

Senior of seniors: Ann Perkins Swann Goodrich of Holmes Beach, believed the oldest native-born Floridian, died at the age of 109.

Water taxi? The Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization concluded after a study that water taxi service was feasible for the area and sent the suggestion to local governments for discussion, particularly about funding.

 

May

Solved?: After 80 years of trying to solve the parking problem in the city, Anna Maria commissioners finally agreed on a solution, agreeing to use Commissioner Duke Miller's plan as a basis for a future ordinance.

Beach, Beach, Beach: Beach Bistro owner Sean Murphy and partners struck a deal to buy the Beach Inn just across the parking lot from his award-winning restaurant.

Annexation requested: The Island Baptist Church asked Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore if her city could annex the church, part of which is within Anna Maria. The church entrance is on Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach, the mailing address is an Anna Maria postal box.

State designation: Sixty-five years after it grounded and sank off Bradenton Beach, the remains of the vessel "Regina" were formally dedicated as a Florida Archeological Reserve. 

Peaceful surrender: A dramatic one-hour standoff in Bradenton Beach between police and a barricaded suspect who threatened to shoot police ended peaceful when the man surrendered without a struggle. The incident grew from a domestic dispute at the Sandpiper Mobile Resort.

Pier opens to fishers: The Bradenton Beach pier, closed for two months for safety concerns due to damage from Hurricane Frances, reopened to fishers and pedestrians.

Sad anniversary: The 25th anniversary was observed of the collapse of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay when a freighter smashed into a bridge support.

All about kids: The 51st Snooks Adams Kids Day was hosted by the Anna Maria Island Privateers at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria, honoring Adams as the first police officer on the Island and retired Holmes Beach police chief who founded Kids Day.

Closing?: Rotten Ralph's Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria was threatened with closure after 17 years, with its lease not renewed by Galati Marine. But a deal was worked out and the restaurant remained in business.

No stormwater fee: Anna Maria city commissioners agreed not to implement a stormwater utility fee in the 2005-2006 budget.

Condo conversion, again: The Anna Maria Island Beach Resort in Holmes Beach was sold for $4 million to two Tampa Bay businessmen who planned on converting the units to condominiums.

Finally!: Twenty-six years after he first bought the Sandbar restaurant and thought he had it, owner Ed Chiles finally got it - an alleyway vacation and land swap that will let him build a rest-room facility that will meet requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

 

June

Best of times: Anna Maria Island chalked up the best tourist season since Sept. 11, 2001, "and we still have some accommodations full," said the Island Chamber of Commerce.

Raise my rent, please: In an offer that brought smiles to Holmes Beach city commissioners, Tidemark developers offered to raise their annual lease payments for the city-owned portion of the boat basin from $100 to $11,200, a boost of 1,110 percent.

Cleanup grant: The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage was cleared for a $47,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to clean up and rehabilitate its FISH Preserve in Cortez.

Costly blaze: A fire in Anna Maria did $200,000 worth of damage to a home on Sycamore Street, killed several dogs and cats trapped upstairs, but did not cause personal injuries.

Moratorium?: The Holmes Beach Planning Commission recommended that the city's new comprehensive plan eliminate short-term rentals in residential single-family and medium-density zones, and commission chair Sue Normand suggested a moratorium on such rental licenses until the comp plan was adopted.

Dock ban lifted: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified Manatee County that its moratorium on construction of new docks in the county would be lifted; it was imposed at the recommendation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in regards to manatee safety.

Fight over: The Florida Cabinet finally flinched in the oil and gas fight off the state's west coast and ponied up $12.5 million to Coastal Petroleum Co. to buy the rights to any oil under the waters of the Gulf from St. George Island to Naples. It ends almost 60 years of dispute, one of the longest staring matches in history.

Cleanup - not: After cleaning up newly acquired FISH Preserve lots with great effort, six Dumpsters worth, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage was outraged to find three truckloads of trash newly dumped in the area.

Helping: Some 278 donors volunteered their blood at three Island locations, bringing $23,499 to four Island charities from an anonymous benefactor who had offered $100 for every unit of blood given.

Saved: A 38-year-old tourist from Puerto Rico nearly drowned while swimming off Egmont Key, drifting underwater for two minutes before being pulled ashore and receiving CPR from bystanders.

Close call: A potential disaster was averted when firefighters put out a blaze aboard a boat moored on the long dock fronting the storage building at the Bradenton Beach Marina.

Another conversion: Siam Garden in Anna Maria was being "privatized," the units to be sold to individual investors while keeping the resort as a resort. Real estate agent Barry Gould said privatization might be the answer to saving small resorts from condominium conversion.

Honored: Holmes Beach Police Officer Pete Lannon was selected from among hundreds as officer of the year by Florida Drug Abuse Resistance Education. He works with Anna Maria Elementary School staff and students as their community resources officer.

Closed: Commercial fishing for deepwater grouper in the Gulf of Mexico was shut down until the end of the year when the National Maritime Fisheries Service determined that the fishery limit of 1.02 million pounds had been reached.

$1 million: The average listing price for all Island single-family homes in June rose above the million-dollar mark, and condominiums were not far behind.

Over another hurdle: The much-anticipated expansion plan for the Anna Maria Island Community Center passed its first obstacle when the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board approved an alleyway vacation and three variance applications for the Center.

New Pres: Birgit Sesterhenn was elected president of the Anna Maria Island Rotary Club, first woman to hold the post.

More beach a'comin': Renourishment of the Anna Maria Island beach was to get under way, with the northern section to be done first. Longboat Key, meanwhile, began its own renourishment program.

Aack: Red tide continued to plague the Gulf of Mexico, but was mainly north of Pinellas County and south of the Island at New Pass in Sarasota, most of it missing Anna Maria Island.

Next week: Part two of the year in review.

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