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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Turtle director takes long-distance jab at Sandbar plan

Although traveling south on a trawler to South America, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox sent an e-mail to Anna Maria Building Official Kevin Donohue that she has concerns with the site plan currently being considered by the city's planning and zoning board for the Sandbar restaurant.

Fox did not address specific concerns, saying her "board has been following developments with the site plan" and has "concerns with modifications ... on the grounds."

Neither of the two other Turtle Watch board members, Ed Sterba or Debbie Basilius, returned phone call messages left for them Tuesday.

Fox says that in the past nine years there have been "many light violations" at the Sandbar.

However, Sandbar owner Ed Chiles says he has never been cited with lighting violations at the Sandbar. He says calls to the restaurant about problem lighting have been heeded and, in fact, Code Enforcement Officer Gerry Rathvon has pre-inspected the Sandbar's lighting in advance of turtle season for the past two years - and has given her approval.

Chiles asked The Islander to confirm that a disorientation of turtle hatchlings near the Sandbar two years ago was determined by Fox to be the fault of lighting at a rented home, not at the Sandbar.

In a June 4, 2003, story in The Islander , it was reported that "Fox said she and her volunteers were called about 6:30 a.m. May 29 to 104 Pine Ave. in Anna Maria after the family renting the unit spotted the turtle's trail."

She said she "talked to the renters, who said they had no information to turn off all the lights at night."

Fox's e-mail to the city suggests that Donohue be certain that "any new or changed lighting plan ... follows the sea turtle ordinance in effect in Anna Maria."

The Sandbar proposal will not be addressed again until March 21, when the planning and zoning board will meet in a "quasi judicial" hearing to review the site plan.

Donohue said he forwarded Fox's letter to Rathvon and the P&Z for review - Rathvon to determine if there are existing violations, P&Z for review of any lighting on the site plan. He said there is some parking lot lighting on the site plan, but it would be up to the P&Z board to determine if it meets the city's criteria.