Monthly Archives: November 2016

Walking the Island(er) plank

The first personal message planks sold by The Islander were installed on the Anna Maria City Pier last week, far in advance of the City Pier Centennial Celebration May 13-14.

More planks will be put in place in the weeks leading up to the two-day affair, said Islander publisher Bonner Joy.

Proceeds from the sale of the planks by the newspaper and the City Pier Restaurant will help fund a $10,000 fireworks show at the pier May 14.

Joy said the response to the planks has been excellent, and she expects all 1,000 planks to be sold by April.

Plank purchasers can have a personal message engraved, including a memorial tribute to a family member or loved one, or a courtesy salutation.

Following an Anna Maria Island Privateers parade starting at 6 p.m. May 13 from CrossePointe Fellowship on Gulf Drive to Pine Avenue and to the pier, a historical marker will be unveiled at the pier. On May 14, the two businesses will host a VIP dinner party to coincide with the fireworks display.

A number of other centennial activities are planned for Saturday, May 14.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., a food festival organized by Ed Chiles of the Sandbar Restaurant will be held along Pine Avenue.

Approximately 25 area restaurants will prepare their best cuisine for visitors. A beer and wine court is planned, and musicians will perform along Pine Avenue.

Members of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society will appear in period costume, retail shops will sell pier memorabilia and their own wares, and artists will set up in various locations to sell their work.

The Privateers will host a family picnic from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Bayfront Park that will include a number of activities for children.

Shortly after the 8:10 p.m. sunset, the fireworks display is expected to take place on a barge in Tampa Bay near the pier and Bayfront Park.

The Anna Maria City Pier opened in 1911 and was used by boats from Tampa and Bradenton as the only means to access the Island until the Cortez Bridge opened in 1923.

Several historians believe it is the oldest city pier still operating in Florida.

Information on purchasing planks in advance of the City Pier Centennial Celebration is available at The Islander website at www.islander.org.

Parking U-turn in Anna Maria

Anna Maria commissioners have made a sharp turn in discussing parking options for Pine Avenue.

At the commission’s Jan. 13 meeting, a majority of commissioners wanted to continue discussion of a parking plan that would include parking in the rights of way.

But opinions were reversed at the Jan. 27 meeting.

City planner Alan Garrett presented a parking plan option that calls for all parking to be on site, but would lower the maximum building coverage to “allow as many parking spaces as possible,” he said. The plan also reduces the length of a parking space from 20 feet to 18 feet.

“This maintains the city’s right of way and gives motorists a greater viewing distance,” Garrett said.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb, along with Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick and Gene Aubry, favored this option, while Commissioner Dale Woodland said it adds too many access points to Pine Avenue.

Woodland said the comprehensive plan calls on the city to limit the number of access points to major thoroughfares, not add more.

Mattick, however, said she’s talked to a number of residents who favor this option over the ROW-parking option.

“My poll consensus is this is the way to go. I was leaning toward option 2, but after discussing this with the mayor and residents, I’m happy” with this option, she said.

Aubry said the on-site plan gives the city more options for changes to parking in the future.

Commissioner John Quam said he also favored the plan, but suggested further discussion before drafting an ordinance.

Webb expressed concern about motorists backing out of a parking space across a sidewalk, but Garrett said the ordinance could require the developer to design parking so no vehicle backs across a sidewalk.

Mayor Mike Selby suggested eliminating tandem parking for resident-parking at an ROR complex, along with deleting the designated loading zone.

“This will give an additional parking space,” he said.

Former planning and zoning board member Frank Pytel was opposed to the plan.

“To me, we are changing all the ground rules for on-site parking. We are going to have meandering sidewalks,” he said.

Resident Mike Coleman suggested commissioners look at the parking arrangement at 216 Pine Ave., a retail-office-residential complex his company, Pine Avenue Restoration LLC, recently completed.

“This is the exact same parking plan you are now talking about. It works,” Coleman said.

He noted there has been an “emotional component about on-site or off-site parking” in the city the past few years and he believes this will solve the issue to the satisfaction of the vast majority of residents.

“Congratulations on the initiative to develop a rational plan,” Coleman told the commissioners and mayor.

Webb noted that if the ordinance passes, it would only affect new developments on Pine Avenue.

“We are not going to require existing structures to comply,” he said.

Coleman, however, said PAR is ready to “retro-fit” its existing ROR properties to conform to whatever plan is eventually approved by the commission. That includes relocating sidewalks between parking spots and the structures.

After wrangling about Pine Avenue parking for at least the past year, Webb was ready to move.

“Let’s get this resolved,” he said.

The majority of commissioners agreed and Garrett will present a draft ordinance at the commission’s Feb. 10 meeting.

In other business, commissioners approved a variance for the Waterfront Restaurant to add a vinyl awning on the porch facing Spring Avenue to cover diners during inclement weather. The variance will not add seats to the restaurant, owner Jason Suzor said.

Selby updated commissioners on the cell tower issue, saying he had met with several cell-tower providers and has a meeting with another this week.

After talking with cell tower experts, Selby said he was told the direct antenna system, which places numerous small satellite antennas on poles around the city is “unworkable” in Anna Maria.

The city needs a cell tower, he said, but it won’t look anything like the Holmes Beach tower. New technology allows a cell tower to appear as a flagpole.

Selby pledged to “facilitate” between property owners and cell tower companies and get a company to bring an application to the city.

“We need a cell tower in Anna Maria.”

Groups to share AM pier marker cost

The names of both the Anna Maria Island Historical Society and the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust will appear at the bottom of a Florida Division of Historical Resources historical marker being presented to the city May 13 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Anna Maria City Pier.

The organizations, once split on which group would sponsor the marker, agreed to divide its cost and share recognition.

When the Anna Maria City Pier Centennial Committee first met in 2009, the historical society said it would cover the cost of the marker. The society also provided the committee with $2,000 in “seed” money to order memorabilia to sell before and during the centennial events.

But trust president Sissy Quinn, who chairs the centennial committee, last month at the committee meeting announced the trust would pay for the marker.

Representatives of both organizations agreed it’s a good decision to split the cost, listed for $2,100 on the FDHR website.

AMIHS director Betty Yanger said she was “pleased that both organizations would be listed on the marker,” bringing “peace” to the community about the history of the pier.

Quinn agreed that the idea to divide the marker price tag evenly would “foster the spirit of cooperation and goodwill” in the city.

Both groups contributed significantly to the organization of the two-day centennial celebration May 13-14, and members of both will participate in the festivities.

Engravers are working on the historical narrative that will accompany the marker and tell the history of the pier, Quinn said.

“Once we’ve agreed on the wording, it will be released to the public,” she said.

Representatives of the Florida Historical Markers program of the state division of historical resources will present the marker to Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby and members of the centennial committee, the AMIHS and the AMIPT at a ceremony at the pier May 13.

The presentation will mark the start of the Anna Maria City Pier Centennial Celebration May 13-14.

WMFR future is here

West Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Andy Price stands in front of a sign noting the home of WMFR is at this former medical building at 6477 Third Ave. W., Bradenton and behind the WMFR fire station on 67th Street. WMFR’s administrative, fire prevention and training staff have moved into the building. The WMFR telephone number remains the same, Price said. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Cafe owner doing ‘right thing’ in ad scam

Gulf Drive Cafe owner Wendy Kokolis says she’s “trying to do the right thing” by offering a free ad in her upcoming to-go menu to any Island “scammed” in late 2010 by alleged advertising representative Jennifer Hill.

Hill, who claimed she and husband Greg were co-owners of Hill Advertising Inc. of Tampa, was retained by Kokolis in October 2010 to sell advertising for the cafe’s to-go menus.

“She said she was a company that got ads for restaurant menus. I normally use a local company, but I was in a hurry and she said she could do it immediately,” Kokolis said.

Kokolis also did a trade with Hill, giving her and her children free food at the restaurant in exchange for a discounted price for the to-go menus.

After four weeks of selling ads in and around Anna Maria Island and free dining at the café, Hill and her family disappeared. That was around early November, Kokolis said.

By early December, when she had not heard back from Hill, Kokolis began to get worried. She was supposed to have delivered a contract and proof by that then.

The restaurant owner’s efforts to reach Hill were unsuccessful: Hill’s telephone was disconnected, as was a North Carolina telephone number. E-mail inquiries were unanswered.

Island business owners who purchased ads from Hill for the menu also became concerned.

Joan Carter of J&J Graphics said she should have suspected something was amiss because Hill asked that the check for her ad payment be made out in her name.

Carter never saw a proof of her ad and her efforts to reach Hill were unsuccessful.

When Carter began to suspect something was amiss, she checked her bank statement.

“I found Hill had cashed the check the same day it was written. She must have taken it straight to my bank,” Carter said.

Kokolis estimated Hill took between $10,000 and $12,000 from 38 Island businesses planning to advertise in her menu booklet.

“Everybody fell for it,” Kokolis said. “I feel awful and stupid.”

Kokolis decided to take the losses herself and ordered menus from Hola Sunshine, paying for ads in the new menus for each company scammed by Hill.

“I want to do the right thing. I don’t want to have my name or the restaurant’s associated with Jennifer Hill, so I’m paying for everything.”

“But this woman needs to go to jail,” Kokolis said, with emphasis.

Kokolis said she’s advised everyone who paid Hill that Hola Sunshine’s offer of a free ad is “for real” and people should not think that’s a scam.

At the same time Hill was selling ads for the Gulf Drive Cafe, however, a woman named Michelle Thomas was on Anna Maria Island selling ads for similar menu booklets for Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at the Manatee Public Beach.

Some business owners and managers got concerned when they heard about Hill and thought Thomas might be the same person, but using a different name.

Brenda Canning of Island Fitness became worried she had been scammed when she heard the word “cafe” used by a business owner who had bought an ad through Hill. Canning had purchased an ad from Thomas for the AMI Beach Cafe menus.

“It was just strange how both women were around selling the same thing at the same time, and the menu names were similar,” Canning said.

An inquiry by The Islander with the corporate headquarters of Menus To Go in California and with Thomas at her Largo office confirmed the AMI Beach Cafe menu project is legitimate. Those menus should be ready by mid-February, Menus To Go spokesperson Stephanie Sabatini said.

“We’re a large company that’s been in business more than 20 years. We enjoy a very good reputation, and we never accept checks made out to an individual,” Sabatini said.

Thomas said she’s received several calls from Island business owners worried about their ads with Menus To Go, or a sister publication Thomas represents, Entertainment Extra.

“People are confusing me with this Jennifer Hill,” Thomas said.

She noted that checks for an ad with Menus to Go or Entertainment Extra were made out to the company, not her or another individual.

Thomas said if an ad sales rep wants the check made out to them, there’s “probably something wrong with the deal.”

Anchorage registrants drift into Bradenton Beach

Sailors on extended stays in Bradenton Beach’s anchorage field are drifting into city hall to register their vessels under a new city policy.

But navigation to city hall was slow last week. As of Jan. 26, the city clerk’s office reported just three registrants who paid the $15 annual registration fee.

The city had instituted a Feb. 1 registration deadline for boaters currently staying in the field, which is just south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier and north of Leffis Key.

Last October, the city commission unanimously adopted a resolution creating the registration requirement for boaters who anchor for more than 24 hours in city waters.

The commissioners said the fee would cover processing costs, not serve as a revenue-generator for the city.

The registration form consists of two pages and asks for general identification details — name, address, date of birth — as well as details for the boat and the types and numbers of pets on board.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the registration would make it easier for city code and police officers to contact boaters in an emergency, whether an approaching storm or a sinking vessel, as well as police the watery neighborhood.

City officials said their authority to register boaters in the anchorage field comes from Florida Statute 2006-345, special legislation enacted five years ago that extended the city’s boundaries 500 feet from the shore into the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay.

The measure, signed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, also authorized the city to exercise certain police powers and jurisdictional authority within the waters in an effort to abate nuisances, enforce sanitary laws and regulations and suppress crime.

The vessel registration is part of a broader initiative in the Bradenton Beach anchorage field.

A city advisory committee is tasked with recommending how best to manage the field now that the city administration has decided not to build a managed mooring field.Also, boaters in the field are working to organize a yacht club that they liken to a condominium association on the water.

Holmes Beach film ordinance makes first cut

Following several takes on the subject at previous meetings, Holmes Beach commissioners unanimously agreed Jan. 25 to add a new commercial film production subsection to its land-development code.

The addition was prompted by the Manatee County Commission’s adoption of an ordinance that establishes a unified film permitting process throughout the county.

Municipalities are being asked to partner with the county and adopt its ordinance.

The ordinance establishes the position of a film commissioner to oversee commercial film project requests and permitting throughout the county. Thus, filmmakers will have a central office and contact to work with.

City attorney Patricia Petruff highlighted adjustments made to the ordinance that keep the city’s best interest in mind.

First, Holmes Beach borrowed its definition of filming operations from the Anna Maria commercial film-production ordinance. Petruff said that Anna Maria City’s definition was more inclusive.

It defines film operations as those necessary to carry out “motion picture filming, television filming, commercial advertising operations, and print media operations along with all similar operations that use motion picture film, videotape, audiotape or still photography.”

The county’s ordinance defines commercial filming simply as capturing moving images on film and video along with sound recordings.

The Holmes Beach ordinance also specifies that the film commissioner will be responsible for permitting requests on all city property, not just county operated property within the city.

Another change requires the film commissioner to coordinate with the Holmes Beach mayor or a designated liaison prior to approving any application and any non-standard terms that may be required.

Petruff said the city’s ordinance does not grant the right to use city-owned equipment or city personnel. That it will be up to the mayor to approve requests.

The city also retains its enforcement rights and may shut down operations if not properly permitted.

Petruff said she provided a copy of the amended ordinance to Elliott Falcione at the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for review. Falcione is the CVB executive director and likely to become the designated film commissioner.

Petruff told the commission that she expects to receive feedback from Falcione before the commission’s second reading of the ordinance.

In other business Jan. 25, the commission was unable to proceed with the second reading of the police pension fund amendment.

The commission previously raised questions regarding the calculation of unused sick time for police department staff entering the deferred-retirement option plan. As the ordinance reads now, it appears officers would be compensated for unused time upon entering DROP, while also retaining the ability to

bank sick days for use during the DROP period.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger objected that if an officer in the DROP uses those hours, the officer will be getting paid for those hours twice.

On Petruff’s advice, the city has retained attorney James Linn of Lewis, Longman and Walker in Tallahassee to review the proposed amendment. Petruff said Linn has expertise in pension fund law and will not only be able to address the commission’s specific questions but will also review the overall plan.

The second reading was continued to the next commission meeting.

The commission approved the following reappointments: Michael Farrup to the code enforcement board and Jerry West and Melissa Snyder to the parks and beautification committee.

The commission’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, in the city hall chambers, 5801 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

Home-invasion suspects sought

Authorities recovered in Virginia a car stolen during a home invasion Jan. 25 in Holmes Beach.

“We’ve located the vehicle … dumped off at an apartment complex in Roanoke,” Holmes Beach Police Department Det. Mike Leonard said Jan. 28.

Authorities continued to search for the two women who broke into a residence in the 4900 block of Second Avenue North in Holmes Beach and stole jewelry, cash, credit cards and an auto after restraining the resident.

“We have an all-points bulletin out for them everywhere,” Leonard said, adding that a trail of credit card charges indicates the suspects traveled north on Interstate 75.

“The people are no longer in this area,” he added. “They aren’t going to be terrorizing any more people.”

HBPD, in a news release issued Jan. 25, described the suspects as female — one shorter, with possible facial piercings on the lower lip, and one taller with longer hair. Both, at the time of the incident, wore knit hats and one wore cut-off green cargo pants.

An image released later in the week — a photograph taken by a watchful resident in the neighborhood — showed the two suspects wearing blankets over their shoulders.

The home invasion was reported at 10:42 a.m. Jan. 25, when HBPD received an emergency call from a construction worker in area.

The victim had rushed outside to a construction crew working nearby for help after freeing herself from the restraints.

The incident began when two women knocked on the door of the home, according to HBPD. When the occupant answered, the suspects pushed open the door, entered the residence and bound and covered the head of the victim.

The suspects took jewelry, credit cards and cash, as well as a blue 2007 Hyundai Tucson SUV with a Florida tag number G157YB.

As the investigation continued last week, HBPD learned that the two suspects had camped overnight on the beach; were possibly seen in various locations on the Island, including Manatee Public Beach, and on the mainland in Bradenton and Sarasota; and had been on the Island for about four days.

Breaking news reports on the invasion and the posting of the suspects’ photograph on websites and Facebook triggered a conversation about crime in the community and fueled calls for a strong citizen-watch campaign.

“These girls need to be caught and put away,” said Laura Lee Shely of Tide & Moon, a Holmes Beach jewelry store burglarized in 2009. “I feel so sorry for the victim. … I for one have had enough. I am open to working with others to form a citizens against Island crime watch group.”

In early January, citizen initiative helped Bradenton Beach police officers foil an alleged attempted burglary. Citizens called police to report a suspicious situation — two men with a ladder outside a duplex — and two citizens detained one of the suspected burglars.

People with information about the home invasion or who had conversations with the suspects can call Crime Stoppers at 866-634-8477 or Leonard at 708-5804, ext. 243.

“We basically want to hear more if they had a conversation or an interaction with these people,” the detective said. “People have been extremely helpful.”