If you unscrew a screwball anywhere in the United States, blindfold him, turn him around twice and turn him loose, he’ll wind up in Anna Maria.
The Gulf Drive Market, 900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, backed up traffic to Holmes Beach, south to Longboat Key and at the Cortez Bridge-Gulf Drive intersection Jan. 29 — which was to be its final day of operation.
Traffic and safety issues were primary concerns expressed by those citizens opposed to extending the market’s permit, and were concerns for commissioners who denied the market extension through April at their Jan. 19 meeting.
But permission to continue operating the Gulf Drive Market will once again be debated at Bradenton Beach city hall.
A tie vote among four commissioners denied Gulf Drive Cafe & Tiki’s permit to continue operating the Sunday markets.
Bradenton Beach commissioners, now with a new tie-breaking fifth member, Commissioner Ric Gatehouse, will review the permit request at their 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, commission meeting.
The city hall chamber Jan. 29 was standing-room only with the majority of those attending speaking about the market.
Despite the denial, another special exception permit has been submitted to the city. As a public entity, the city is required to accept any requests for agenda items.
Organizers initially wanted six months worth of permits to run the market on Sundays at the cafe.
Citing traffic concerns early on in November, the city granted the market its permit to operate on a three-month trial basis, with the option to request the extension when the permit expired Jan. 29.
Also on the Feb. 2 agenda is the final reading of the proposed amendments to the city’s open-air dining ordinance. The owners of Beach Street Bistro requested the amendments in order to install a wood-burning pizza oven for their outdoor dining area.
During the Jan. 19 public hearing and first reading of the proposed ordinance changes, only two comments were made by the public, both in support of the changes that would relax open-air dining requirements and allow for special exception permits
Ronald Littlehale, 64, of Holmes Beach, was charged Jan. 26 by the Holmes Beach Police Department with 19 counts of possession of child pornography.
These are in addition to 13 counts against Littlehale related to unlawful solicitation of minors and transmission of pornography pending in Desoto County.
Littlehale was arrested Nov. 9 at his residence in the 7600 block of Gulf Drive on warrants from DeSoto County.
The new charges allege unlawful possession with the intent to promote 16 still images and three video images of child pornography, according to HBPD detective Brian Hall.
Hall said the charges stem from the search and seizure of Littlehale’s computer and cell phone executed during his November arrest.
The devices were processed at a crime laboratory in Tampa, he said. Hall said he expects Littlehale will be arraigned soon on the 19 new charges.
At his Jan. 10 arraignment in DeSoto County, Littlehale pleaded not guilty on 10 counts of transmission of harmful material to minors by an electronic device, two counts of obscene communication/soliciting a child for any unlawful sexual conduct by computer and one count of electronic transmission of pornography.
A sting operation by the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office, together with a central Florida task force on Internet-related crimes, led to the initial charges after a DeSoto County resident reported suspicious activity on her Facebook account, according to law enforcement reports.
A Feb. 8 date has been set for Littlehale’s next court appearance before Judge James S. Parker, DeSoto County courthouse, 115 E. Oak St., Arcadia.
Hall said Littlehale remains in custody at the DeSoto County jail.
Anna Maria is tackling the problem of rowdy renters at rental properties before it worsens, basing a need for regulations on recent incidents in the city.
Taking a cue from Holmes Beach, where the issue arose about six months ago, Anna Maria Commissioner SueLynn and vacation rental agents Larry Chatt and Mike Brinson have been drawing up a code of best practices for rental agents and property managers. The agents would have renters sign an agreement to adhere to the code, and then use it to give violators an immediate boot, SueLynn said at the city commission’s Jan. 26 meeting.
But the rowdy behavior is not seen in 99 percent of renters who come to Anna Maria for a “family vacation” and “peaceful atmosphere,” SueLynn said.
Rental agents, such as Chatt and Brinson, say some problems are resulting from weddings and wedding-related parties in rented homes in traditionally residential neighborhoods.
It’s accompanied by owners who knowingly rent to partygoers, and a small group of rental agents who rent a home for a one-night event and “don’t care about Anna Maria and its residents,” she said.
With the advent of the Internet, it’s become easy for a property owner to rent his or her house to someone planning a party, SueLynn observed.
Property managers and rental agents don’t want that kind of business in Anna Maria, she said, and neither do residents.
Rental agents want to have a list of best practices and want the city’s seal of approval for using and enforcing those practices.
Under the list of best practices, wedding parties/receptions would need to be held at a commercial property, and agents would not knowingly rent a house for a party.
Some commissioners wanted immediate action, such as an ordinance that would create fines for the property manager or owner for a noise violation, but Commissioner John Quam suggested the city give the “best practices” code a chance.
Mike Coleman, who oversees several Anna Maria rentals, said he goes to the party where loud noise is occurring. He takes the keys away from the renter and tells them all to get out right away. Brinson and Chatt agreed they would do the same thing, as will other vacation rental managers.
With the word spreading around Anna Maria that the rental agents are giving loud parties the boot — including law enforcement backup — Quam said he believes late-night parties and loud noise after 10 p.m. will decline in the next three months.
Chatt said property managers on Anna Maria Island don’t want rowdy renters. They’d rather they go to Panama City or Fort Lauderdale, he said.
“We’re fighting to keep this Island special,” he said.
“The Island is a family destination,” Chatt said, and he, Brinson and others want it to remain that way. Just one loud, late-night party can ruin the Island’s reputation for happy vacationers.
Webb said Selby and Sgt. Dave Turner, head of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Anna Maria substation, are preparing an ordinance that would allow MCSO deputies to issue a citation to a loud party, much like a traffic citation.
SueLynn suggested commissioners meet with rental managers who want to adopt a code of best practices.
She said she’s also going to the resort tax office to get a list of property owners, including those who have not been paying the resort tax. If the city adopts a citation system for loud noise violations, the property owner or rental agent should pay the fine.
SueLynn said she hoped to “nail down” the list of best practices soon and bring it to a February commission meeting.
Commissioners also adopted a resolution opposing a bill presented in the Florida Legislature by state Sen. Michael Bennett (R-Bradenton) that would eliminate the license fee businesses and rental property owners pay cities. The Legislature has already adopted a statute that allows homeowners to rent their property, even for one night.
Selby noted the city does not have a business license, but would like to have the database such a fee would provide.
Variance requests to city ordinances are not uncommon, but getting to the point at a quasi-judicial hearing before a special master is rare in Bradenton Beach.
At a Jan. 17 hearing at Bradenton Beach city hall chambers, 107 Gulf Drive, William Wisneski, owner of a duplex at 2516 Ave. B, won his appeal to extend a second-floor deck past the minimum setback requirements outlined in the city’s land development codes.
Special Master Harold Youmans presided over the proceedings. City building official Steve Gilbert represented Bradenton Beach in the dispute.
Gilbert said his responsibility is clear in the matter.
“City staff have a sworn obligation to defend city codes vigorously,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert said to get a variance application accepted, especially on a pre-existing structure, is not an easy process. To be allowed a variance essentially to bypass land development codes, requires the applicant to prove that his or her current situation represents a hardship. Equally important to a variance application is that any change made does not create a hardship.
Wisneski argued that he purchased the home with the nonconforming deck in March 2010.
“I’ve tried to conform to every city ordinance at the time I was aware of it,” said Wisneski.
Both sides agreed that the deck in question was in bad shape and in need of repairs. Wisneski wanted a 7-foot-wide deck to replace the 5-foot-wide deck.
City inspections determined the existing deck should have been a 4-foot-wide deck.
That left Wisneski not only fighting for the extra two feet he wanted, but also to maintain the existing deck size.
To be considered, Wisneski had to convince Youmans his request met the strict requirements for a variance application.
“This is not an unusual type of case, as far as Florida law is concerned, but it is unusual for this community,” said Youmans. “I have had thousands of these hearings and have witnessed changes in Florida laws over the last 30 years of doing this.”
Youmans explained that an applicant must meet Bradenton Beach’s eight-point ordinance criteria.
“It’s not enough to get the majority of those eight,” said Youmans. “You must meet, according to ordinance and law, each and every one of the eight. Failing one, the application will fail.”
Youmans ruled Jan. 18 that Wisneski met the eight-point criteria, which includes both basic and complicated issues. At the heart of Youmans’ ruling was that the extension of the deck was needed to accommodate safety issues.
“To allow for additional, wider and more assured exits from the dwelling units during hazardous environmental or safety conditions, justifies the approval of the variance,” Youmans said in his ruling.
That’s up for interpretation, according to Gilbert, who disagreed with the decision. Part of Wisneski’s argument was wheelchair access to the deck, but that is not required in a home, Gilbert said.
“From the conservative standpoint, wheelchair access is voluntary anyway,” he said. “You are not forced to do it.”
Gilbert said, “the minimum relief would be a replacement of the same footprint.”
Gilbert said barrier island cities on the west coast of Florida are under the strictest regulatory codes in the state.
Gilbert said he didn’t blame Wisneski.
“He can’t be there all the time,” said Gilbert. “The deck was certainly in bad shape, and he didn’t know what he wanted to do until the scope of the damage was determined. It became a lot more than he expected and that’s when the contractor also determined the stairs had to be brought up to code.”
Gilbert said part of the blame probably lies with the contractor in that, “they don’t always read the final approval plans we give back to them.”
Gilbert said having a proper survey done before building or buying a new home can save people from facing these issues.
“When we got the drawings, it looked like the new deck would be back from the 10-foot setback line,” he said. “The original survey didn’t show that. Before you close on a house, have a survey done and make them show you all the setbacks.”
Gilbert said the survey would ensure you don’t end up in a battle with the city or your neighbors.
“Do I have a fence sitting on a neighbor’s property line? I need to know that,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people don’t get that survey.”
A special master’s decision can be appealed through the courts. Gilbert said, however, it would not be cost effective to the taxpayers to take that route.
“I disagree with the ruling,” said Gilbert. “There are times when it’s important to spend the money to protect regulations, but this isn’t one of them. Variances do not set precedents. This was unique to his situation and if there is a next one, it will also be unique.”
A Manatee County jury Jan. 25 found a Bradenton Beach man guilty of the 2010 stabbing of another local man following two and half hours of deliberation.
Bradenton Beach Police Detective Leonard Diaz said Jacob Stephen Gennell, 21, was convicted of aggravated battery in connection with the stabbing, and of his subsequent escape from police custody.
Prior to the trial, Jan. 23, the state attorney filed amended charges of aggravated battery for the stabbing and escape, two second-degree felonies.
Kathy Carlson, mother of victim Ted Carlson, said she attended the trial, and that Gennell’s defense tried to blame the stabbing on his brother, Josh.
Diaz said another of Gennell’s brothers, Zachary, also had been arrested in connection with the stabbing, but the charges were subsequently dropped.
He said all three brothers and Ted Carlson were fighting on the evening of the arrest.
The victim identified the defendant, Jacob, as the perpetrator, according to Diaz.
Gennell was taken into custody after Ted Carlson told police he had been lured outside a home in the 2500 block of Avenue B, hit with a bat and stabbed five times. He suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung.
“I hate to say it, but he got what he deserved,” said Kathy Carlson. “It’s sad, a kid, only 20-some years old, but my son could’ve died.”
She said her son still is being treated for his injuries.
Gennell is being held at the Manatee County jail. His sentence hearing is scheculed for 10:30 a.m. Feb. 24 at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1115 Manatee Ave., Bradenton.
There is potentially $1 million on the line, future guaranteed work and the prestige of having worked on what may be the funniest commercial aired during Super Bowl XLVI.
No pressure there.
While most Americans will entrench themselves in front of the television to watch the epic rematch between the New England Patriots and New York Giants, former Bradenton Beach resident Britton Foster’s focus will be on Super Bowl commercials. More specifically, he will be looking for the commercial he helped to create.
Foster worked as a gaffer, or electrical and lighting expert, on a Doritos commercial that already has been named as one of the top five best out of approximately 6,000 entries. Two of those five commercials will go head to head during the Super Bowl TV broadcast, and one will be named as the top commercial for the Doritos brand — a fan favorite in recent Super Bowl years.
But Foster won’t know if the ad spot he helped make will air until the Super Bowl broadcast.
“We won’t know anything until we see it run during the Super Bowl,” said Foster. “We are planning a little party, where the cast and crew will get together to watch the game. The director will be at the Super Bowl, and we’ll all be cheering for it, but we are pretty confident in what we’ve made.”
There’s reason to be confident in what the cast and crew have dubbed the “Bird of Prey” commercial. The ad features an actor who takes on characteristics of a bird of prey “every time he craves Doritos.” It takes an immediate humorous approach, and has a strong ending that is best left to the viewer to experience.
Foster started his career with Studio 26 Productions, in Bradenton, when he was 14. He moved to Bradenton Beach when he turned 20 and lived on Anna Maria Island for almost three years before taking his career to Hollywood a few years ago.
“I worked my way up in the production company, and that led to us taking a couple of trips out west for a couple of different shoots,” he said. “I decided to roll the dice and move out here to see if I could do bigger and better things.”
That gamble has paid off with steady work on national ad campaigns, music videos and more. He is a cinematographer by trade, but is skilled in film-making, and finds various types of work.
The cast and crew that worked on the “Bird of Prey” Doritos commercial were already friends and former coworkers when they decided to make the ad. Foster said familiarity made shooting the commercial that much more fun.
“I was actually hurting after every shoot from laughing so hard,” said Foster.
It already has paid off with a $20,000 prize as one of the five finalists for Super Bowl 2012.
If you don’t believe Foster, visit www.vote4bop.com and let your funny bone make the decision. Each time you vote, you become eligible to win $10,000 from Doritos.
The first hope is to see the commercial air, but Foster said there still will be some nerves.
A select group of judges will determine the winner between the two Doritos finalists on TV during the Super Bowl, Sunday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m.
The Holmes Beach city commission Jan. 17 unanimously approved a resolution opposing pending Florida legislation that seeks a repeal of the local business tax receipt law.
The proposed legislation, if passed, will eliminate Holmes Beach’s authority to tax local businesses.
Citing $80,000 in city business tax collections the past two fiscal years, Chair David Zaccagnino said the city has collected fees of $52.50 to $105 from each local business annually. He added it has allowed the city to keep track of businesses, fund services to businesses, and protect its citizens from potentially unscrupulous business.
Commissioner Sandy Haas Martens moved for, and Commission John Monetti seconded, a motion opposing Florida House Bill 4025 and Senate Bill 760 “which would eliminate the local business tax act resulting in a loss of revenue.”
The motion passed unanimously.
In other business, the city commission unanimously approved Mayor Rich Bohnenberger’s recommendations to appoint Renee Ferguson and Marvin Grossman to serve as alternates on the code enforcement board.
Commissioners also voted 5-0 to approve the mayor’s recommendation to appoint Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Groh to serve as alternates on the parks and beautification committee.
Also at the Jan. 17 meeting, Bohnenberger advised commissioners of the city’s recognition from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for achieving a “6” in the flood insurance ratings program.
As an administrative matter, commissioners shuffled their first meeting in February to Feb.7 due to it falling on Valentine’s Day. A Jan. 31 regular meeting and work session also were announced.
Meetings are held at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.
Holmes Beach business fees
As authorized by state law, Holmes Beach collected $77,393.34 and $79,901.71 in annual local business tax receipts in fiscal years 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Like last year, according to the city clerk’s office, state legislators are aiming for the repeal of the statutes that allow this local revenue stream. It failed in 2010, but another effort appears headed into law as the Florida Legislature continues its 2012 session.
“We won’t have a database of businesses if they pass this,” said Stacey Johnston, Holmes Beach city clerk, of Florida House Bill 4025 and Senate Bill 760. “It will mean a loss of government jobs.”
The city commission’s Jan. 17 resolution opposing the repeal, states the tax is a “local option and local governments are best able to determine whether a business tax receipt should be required.”
City code provides for a business tax on each business that has a permanent or branch office and for occupations or professions that transact business within the city for the privilege of engaging in or managing any business, profession or occupation within the city limits.
The schedule of fees set by city ordinances on businesses, professions and occupations is as follows:
∙ Automobiles, dealer, new cars, sales and repair: $105.
∙ Dealer, used cars, sales and repair: $78.75.
∙ Taxi, first six cars: $52.50.
∙ Garage and filling station, including repair, sale of gas, oil, tires, accessories and parts: $105.
∙ Car wash, vehicle detailing: $78.75.
∙ Vehicle rentals: $105.
∙ Barbershops and beauty parlors: Up to three chairs $57.75, each additional chair $2.10.
∙ Boat dealers and boat yards, dealer, new or used boats, including sale of marine supplies (marine supplies only, see merchant, retail): $78.75.
∙ Boat yard and marina, including dry dock or marine ways for care, repair or construction, storage or rental of boats: $105.
∙ Boat charters, per boat: $52.50.
∙ Coin-operated devices: $15.75.
∙ Contractors, general and subcontractors: $78.75.
∙ Financial institutions, commercial banks, savings and loans, credit unions and mortgage companies: $105.
∙ Laundries, dry cleaners, self-service coin-operated laundries: $78.75.
∙ Merchants, retail or wholesale, stock up to $5,000: $52.50; stock from $5,001 to $10,000: 78.75; stock of over $10,000: $105; services: $52.50.
∙ Permitted and approved home occupations: $52.50.
∙ Professional, including but not limited to: accountants, stock brokers, architects: $105.
∙ Rentals, residential rentals, per unit: $26.25. Hotels, motels and any other public lodging establishments as defined by state statute with six or less units, per unit: $26.25. Hotels, motels and any other public lodging establishments as defined by state statute with seven or more units, plus $3.15 per unit: $157.50.
∙ Restaurants and cafeterias: seating to 25: $78.75. Seating 26 to 50: $105. Seating 51 to 100: $131.25. Seating for over 100: $157.50.
∙ Warehouse, mini-storage and lockers: $78.75.
∙ Unclassified: $52.50.
Richard Hazen, owner of Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., is running out of time to justify keeping a two-story tree hut he built without permits last year.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Water Resource Management, Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, advised the owner by letter Dec. 14 to voluntarily remove the wood-frame deck structure and restore all affected areas within 30 days. The DEP warning also asked Hazen to respond within 14 days.
Dee Ann Miller of the DEP press office said an attorney for Hazen requested Dec. 27 a 30-day extension, which was granted by the DEP. She said Jan. 26, however, neither the owner nor his attorney had responded to the Dec. 14 letter.
According to Hazen’s attorney, David M. Levin of Icard Merrill of Sarasota, Hazen retained an engineer and surveyor to assist him in determining whether the subject structure is in compliance with state law, and that the consultants’ “work product” was not yet ready.
The DEP Dec. 14 letter contends the construction of the “elevated, post-supported, enclosed, wood-frame deck, with roof viewing deck” and “alteration of an existing dune system” is in “possible violation” of state statute.
In addition, it indicates the construction does not appear to meet the department’s design criteria under the state administrative code, and that an after-the-fact permit would likely not be granted.
DEP advised any activity contributing to violations of the state law regulating construction and alteration of dune areas “should be ceased immediately,” and required any native dune vegetation be restored.
Following a complaint about the structure this fall, the city of Holmes Beach told Hazen that engineering and a survey would be required before it would consider a “letter of no objection.” Such a letter would be needed if the owner was to seek a DEP permit for construction seaward of the state coastal construction control line.
The city’s concerns over the construction relate to stability, safety and ability to withstand hurricane-force winds, according to David Forbes, code enforcement officer.
Hazen said he wants to keep the tree hut.
Angelinos Lodge includes four vacation rentals and, according to the owner’s wife, Huong Lynn Tran, the tree hut was built as a private place to read, write, relax and dine.
Drainage improvements will continue in the area of 60th Street and Marina Drive this week in Holmes Beach, and motorists are advised to drive with caution when construction equipment is present.
A spokesperson for contractor Woodruff & Sons of Bradenton said the drainage project would continue until late March and proceed northward from street to street, ending with improvements on 79th Street.
Signs will be posted when a street has to be closed, the spokesperson said.
A Florida Department of Transportation ban remains in effect for over-size vehicles on the Longboat Pass Bridge/State Road 789, and DOT officials expect the restriction to last until April.
The contractor had to reduce the width of the travel lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet, resulting in the restriction, the DOT said in a press release.
Most of the work is done at night and any lane closures will occur between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. A flagging operation will be present to direct traffic during any lane closure. There will be no lane closures from 6 a.m. Friday to 10 p.m. Sunday.
However, the DOT advised that the contractor would be conducting both day and night work until Feb. 2.
Motorists are advised to use caution and obey the speed limit, which has been reduced to 35 mph for the duration of construction.
The draw is available to boaters on demand and pedestrians can use the sidewalk on the east side of the bridge to walk between Longboat Key and Bradenton Beach.
The project is expected to finish in April or early May, according to the DOT release.