Monthly Archives: January 2017

Final plan approved for BB day dock

Bradenton Beach commissioners approved a final plan Sept. 12 to go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for repairs to the day dock next to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The dock has remained closed for months due to maintenance issues caused by wave action and blamed on a manufacturer’s design flaw in the hinges that hold the dock sections together.

In June, Tropical Storm Debby ensured the dock’s closure as rough Sarasota Bay waters made temporary “Band-Aid” repairs impossible, according to public works director Tom Woodard.

Commissioners learned Aug. 24 that FEMA would likely fund 75 percent of the cost to repair the dock. Details on how to approach those repairs were ongoing, as commissioners and city staff discussed the dock’s future.

FEMA will typically only fund a project to restore a structure to its original design, but because FEMA engineers have acknowledged the dock’s design flaw, they approved moving forward with an alternate plan.

The cost to repair the dock is about $120,000 with an additional $41,000 to fix the design flaw. FEMA has approved 75 percent of the $120,000, with the city picking up the remaining cost.

Commissioners had eyed the possibility of reducing the dock’s size from nine sections to four or five because the remaining sections were thought to be beyond repair.

In August, Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby said if the city still wanted to reduce the dock size, the FEMA reimbursement would pay for the repairs and fix the design flaw without cost to the city.

Cosby said Sept. 12, at a one-agenda item commission meeting at city hall to address the day dock, the city had to approve the mitigated repair plan with an understanding that it was likely a permanent solution.

“You already voted that you want to reduce the dock, but FEMA has thrown in a monkey wrench,” said Cosby. “Once we remove the three sections, they can’t be put back in for five years unless the reason is an act of Mother Nature.”

Cosby said he didn’t believe replacing the removed sections was part of the city’s plan, but FEMA wanted city commissioners to take action by stating they understood the requirements.

“Anything we receive from FEMA is considered a grant, and a grant is good for five years,” said Cosby. “Another catch is that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is not going to give us another permit for those removed sections.”

Cosby said once they are gone as part of the city’s plan, they cannot be replaced as part of a new plan, where replacement sections will block the sun from hitting the bottom of the bay, inhibiting seagrass growth.

Cosby said commissioners need to know that if the plan is to remove those sections to reduce the dock size, “they are gone for good.”

The fact that FEMA was even considering reimbursing the city for repairs to the day dock, as well as the dingy dock near the BridgeTender Restaurant, came as a surprise to city staff after TS Debby.

Cosby said the city has always been told a structure over water would not be considered by FEMA.

“But the reason why FEMA is covering this is because we have never had a claim before, so it’s not being looked at as a repetitive action,” he said.

Cosby said he needed another motion from the commissioners to move forward with the plan to reduce the dock’s size with an understanding that the dock cannot be changed for five years from FEMA’s perspective, and that it is likely permanent from DEP’s perspective.

Mayor John Shaughnessy wanted to know if the costs approved by FEMA covered the removal of the four or five sections of dock.

Cosby said no, but he expects the city’s public works department to find a way to include those costs into its operating budget.

“We won’t need a crane to remove those sections,” said Cosby. “We think we can float them around to the marina and public works can use their lift to get them out of the water. After we break them down, we’ll recycle the materials that can be recycled and there is a possibility another entity might want the sections to use as an artificial reef.”

Commissioner Ed Straight motioned to approve the final plan to be submitted to FEMA. Commissioner Ric Gatehouse seconded the motion, which passed 3-0. Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Gay Breuler were not present.

Cortez Bridge replacement- rehab talks on DOT horizon

Several Cortez residents reported receiving phone calls from excited developers and contractors wanting to be a part of community discussions regarding the possibility of replacing the Cortez Bridge.

Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage board member Linda Molto said Sept. 10 at the nonprofit’s monthly meeting, that she received a letter from the Florida Department of Transportation asking for the community to consider holding a public meeting.

DOT said in the letter that a meeting of residents, engineers and environmentalists would be prudent in discussing the possible rehabilitation and replacement of the bridge.

The DOT letter states a project consultant is being selected to determine the best options, according to Molto.

“We’ve had this happen a couple of times before,” said Molto. “If we allow them to put in a larger bridge, depending on the height, they will have to start the entrance to the bridge as far back as 123rd Street, so it would dead-end every street in between.”

Molto said she didn’t know if that was still an option, but Cortez residents know their rights as a registered historic village.

“A federal project cannot impact another federal project and we are a national registered historic district, and that’s how it stopped the last time,” she said. “We need to have everybody give us input on how they feel before we set up a meeting.”

FISH treasurer Jane von Hahmann suggested contacting DOT to first determine its timeline, and that no one should think construction would begin any time soon.

“They will be doing a project development and environmental study first and those studies take a long time, so I don’t think anything is going to happen anytime soon,” said von Hahmann. “We have time to get a little more information before we set that meeting, but we should probably think about doing it before November.”

A PD&E study was reported to be ongoing earlier this year, according to the Sarasota /Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization. MPO reported in January that the study would focus on rehabilitating the 55-year-old bridge to give it another 10 years of life, if possible.

A second $1.65 million study planned for the 2012-13 fiscal year will consider the overall replacement of the bridge.

A study completed in the early1990s called for a larger, higher fixed-span bridge, but public outcry, as well as the impact it would have on the historic village of Cortez, brought that proposal to a stop.

DOT announced a new study in February and garnered immediate feedback from Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitmore and John Chappie, who opposed a resurfacing of the 1990s proposal.

Chappie said such a project would destroy two communities, referring to Cortez and Bradenton Beach, whose residents also have expressed opposition to a larger bridge at previous public meetings.

No date has been set for public meetings.

Molto said DOT only expressed interest in having the meetings begin in the near future.

FISH board moves back on track, returns civility

After a few hours with a facilitator Aug. 10, Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage board members, at their next meeting, put aside personal differences and returned to business.

“Dedicated to the promotion, education and preservation of Cortez and Florida’s commercial fishing and other traditional maritime cultures, including the environment upon which these communities depend,” the FISH mission statement, is now a permanent fixture atop the organization’s meeting agenda, which also has been changed to accommodate a time-sensitive priority listing of topics.

FISH board members were previously known to shout one another down and jump from one topic to another at meetings, which led to a contentious atmosphere.

Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court R.B. “Chips” Shore brought in a facilitator after last month’s meeting, when accusations of board members vandalizing fence work in the FISH 95-acre preserve led to resignations.

At the board’s Sept. 10 meeting, the agenda was changed to help organize the discussion, but attitudes toward one another and behavior at board meetings also were addressed.

“A lot was accomplished with the facilitator,” said president Kim McVey. “You’ll see some immediate results in the time-sensitive agenda. During this meeting, we will use two other tools.”

Board members were given the authority to call a timeout on any other board member who strays off the agenda topic being discussed. Board members were to respect the timeout and bring the focus back to the topic at hand.

“Secondly, we will use a parking lot system, which is a place to talk about ideas that weren’t on the agenda,” she said.

The “parking lot” system amounts to the creation of a list of topics that board members bring up during their discussion that are not on the agenda. The item is shifted to the list and retained as an agenda item for the next meeting rather than an off-topic, off-agenda item at the current meeting.

“We also talked about priority communication tools,” said McVey. “At this time, we want to discuss setting a date for priority communication tools to begin setting priorities for this organization.”

McVey said it would be better if the facilitator could return to help the board with that process, and Shore agreed to set a date to bring the facilitator back.

In the meantime, McVey set forth expectations of what the Cortez community expects of its board members.

“Board members need to have an expectation for themselves,” she said. “We make a choice to leave things in the past, choose our words carefully, raise our hands to speak, suppress negative emotions, communicate, and seek to align the best qualities and skills of each board member.”

McVey said the Aug. 10 meeting with the facilitator was a good day for FISH.

“Many of us saw it as a new beginning,” she said.

Secretary Joe Kane wanted to be a part of that new beginning. Kane resigned along with board member Bob Landry following the vandalism last month and a subsequent contentious FISH meeting where accusations flew around the room.

Kane rescinded his resignation before the Sept. 10 meeting and was back at his post.

McVey said there was nothing in the organization’s bylaws to address either a resignation or a subsequent rescinded resignation between two official meetings.

“So we reverted to Robert’s Rules of Order that states as long as he rescinded before the next meeting, he’s automatically reinstated,” said McVey.

Turner Mathews said the reinstatement is in conflict with the board’s standing rules that say if at least two members received the resignation, “you can’t withdraw it.”

Board treasurer Jane von Hahmann said every other resignation that has occurred in the past has come before the board for acceptance.

“But this board has never accepted Joe’s resignation,” so officially it never took place, said von Hahmann.

Mathews said the process was a mess and needed to be cleared up.

“I don’t know who is on the board and who isn’t anymore,” he said. “If anybody takes the time to write a letter, they should put it in a drawer for a few days. If they still send it, then it should be a resignation. People need to think about the consequences.”

A motion was made under the board’s review of its bylaws concerning resignations, but bylaws can only be changed at the board’s annual election meeting in March.

In the meantime, the motion was accepted and carried to write a new standing rule that if a board member submits a written resignation, it has to be voted on at the next board meeting.

FISH meets once the first Monday of the month at Fisherman’s Hall, 4515 124th St. W., Cortez.

Property rights coalition forms to address rental problems

Property rights are on the front burner for Diana McManaway and Anna Maria Coalition LLC — a recently formed organization picking up where an earlier consortium of rental agents left off earlier this year.

    McManaway of 66th Street gained the consensus of about 30 builders, rental agents and others who met Sept. 10 at Eat Here, 5315 Gulf Drive, to bring AMC LLC’s good-neighbor policies to city commissioners.

    “I saw what they were proposing would affect your property rights,” she said. “We need to have a voice.”

    Before the meeting, McManaway — a former Ocala businesswoman who moved to Holmes Beach about three years ago — said AMC will help address and monitor rental agent best practices.

    Larry Chatt, broker at Island Real Estate, told the commission in December he’d been meeting with five of the island’s largest property management companies to address renter-related trash, parking and noise problems.

    Chatt continued promoting best practices with focus groups and in the community, but now appears to prefer a lower profile. In July, his agency was sent a violation notice for an alleged illegal first-floor game room at 203 69th St.

    Asked for an update on his group, Chatt said they’ve only met informally, and while he hasn’t audited the others about the best practices, he believes “everyone’s using them.”

    According to Chatt, Island Real Estate provides its renters with information about city rules, and has given Holmes Beach Police Department its list of rentals with instructions to call immediately if there are complaints.

    McManaway said she decided to form AMC Sept. 4 after learning commissioners were considering new living-area building restrictions that she believes will discourage desirable full-time residents who want more living space.

    After explaining the coalition’s focus to the attendees, McManaway introduced city code enforcement officer David Forbes.

    Forbes identified top issues in code enforcement as ground-level game rooms and rentals under the seven-day or 30-day minimum zoning restrictions.

    For both issues, he told the group, “the easiest fix in the world” is for the property agents and owners to change advertising.

    Even though the ground-level game rooms are not allowed, he said advertising could indicate pool tables or other amenities are provided.

    “It’s not supposed to be a finished product,” he said.

    On the zoning-restricted rentals, he said, “What I boil it down to is one rental for the seven-day period. One rental for a 30-day period.

    “I understand everyone wants to maximize their income. But there are rules to playing in Holmes Beach,” Forbes said.

    He also discussed parking and trash.

    “Right now we have people parking on lawns and rights of way. And the crazy thing is they can. You can park out there indefinitely. But I don’t think you want to see that up and down your streets,” he said.

    Forbes encouraged rental agents to enforce a one-space-per-bedroom parking rule.

    As far as garbage, trash and noise, Forbes and Tom Rushmore of Gulf Drive emphasized renters need to know the rules and regulations.

    Many attendees expressed confusion about Waste Management’s side-door trash pickup service.

    Forbes also said he’s hearing from tenants, cleaning crews and others saying they don’t know city rules even though a one-page list was distributed to rental agents.

    “I highly advise you use it,” Forbes said. “Put it on your refrigerators.” He also suggested the list be posted in places people frequent in community complexes, including pools.

    “You have to have face-to-face contact with the renter,” Rushmore said. “Then you take the ammunition from the other side.”

    McManaway and others said many noise complaints fail to amount to violations, and police and rental agency resources are wasting time responding to them.

    Forbes said there are people who “don’t want the rental community here.”

    Anna Maria Vacations principal Joe Varner agreed, saying “that is the problem here.”

    McManaway suggested coalition members “let everybody know we’re working on it with the renters, the builders. It’s bricks and sticks, guys. It’s not the building that is the problem. It’s the people in the buildings.”

    She then concluded the meeting with a fist pump after getting a consensus from attendees to carry their message of trying to create a balance for residents and visitors.

    Forbes added, “Can’t we all just get along?”

    McManaway agreed, “There you go. Can’t we all get along?”

        McManaway said the coalition did not form for a business purpose, nor was it a political group supporting any candidate or political cause, but rather a solutions-oriented entity for the betterment of neighborhoods.

Holmes Beach lowers spending at first of 2 budget hearings

The 2012-13 budget hearing Sept. 11 drew only two members of the public who made no comments.

City treasurer Lori Hill presented a proposed 1.75 millage rate and $8,394,950 budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The budget was $535,096 more than the $7,859,854 budget proposed by outgoing treasurer Rick Ashley in July, and slightly less than the $8.67 proposed spending plan.

The increased revenue comes from a $525,000 stormwater reimbursement received from Southwest Florida Water Management District and $11,000 from T-end dock fees.

The city raised its dock fees from $50 to $425 for users of 60 refurbished slips at three T-end canals between 72nd and 77th streets.

Swiftmud’s reimbursement is now part of the $4,266,194 total carryover reserves and the T-end dock revenue is part of the $3,305,70 in local source revenue.

In addition to those revenues, the budget includes $2.08 million in local property taxes to be derived from the 1.75 millage rate, the same rate imposed last year.

The proposed tax rate is lower than the rollback rate, which is 1.7553. The rollback rate is the tax rate that would bring in the same amount of property tax dollars as the current year.

One mill is equal to $1 of property taxes for every $1,000 of taxable value of property. At the 1.75 millage rate, a homeowner with a house appraised at $500,000 and a maximum of $50,000 in homestead exemptions would pay $787.50 in city tax.

Ashley, who retired Aug. 31, told commissioners in July that Hill, on staff since May 31, had made all the calculations for the new budget.

The final budget hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, at city hall chambers, 5801 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

After the second reading of the ordinances, the millage rate will be certified by the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office, and tax notices are expected to be mailed by the tax collector on or about Nov. 1.


Mayor offers appreciation

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger read a prepared statement at the Sept. 11 budget hearing — and then again at Commissioner John Monetti’s request for a crowd of about 40 people at the city’s regular meeting.

In it, he thanked commissioners for working to hold the line on the budget.

“The 2012-2013 budget has been drafted to meet the needs of our city for the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1, 2012,” Bohnenberger said.

“With the input from our management team and the members of the commission who met with our city treasurer during the drafting process, we have reached a new milestone in our city history. This budget marks the first time since our founding in 1950 that we have a budget that will provide five consecutive years with no tax increase.

“Our residents can be proud of our city government and our commitment to provide city services in a safe and cost-effective manner.

“I thank the commission for their support in this process,” Bohnenberger concluded.

Holmes Beach mayor offers state-of-city report

As the fiscal year comes to a close at the end of September, Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger last week announced the state of the city.

        “I am pleased to report that our city is closing out the year under budget and without debt and, for the first time in our city history, we have five consecutive years without a tax increase,” he wrote Sept. 14.

        Bohnenberger, who is running for a fourth-term Nov. 6, said in the report that the city has a healthy reserve fund, and that Holmes Beach received $3.9 million in public and private grants in the past six years.

        Even in the economic downturn, he said the city has not reduced services.

        The city built a new public works building and the Veterans Memorial Pavilion on the city field at 59th Street and Flotilla Drive. A stormwater project to improve the city’s drainage to help alleviate flooding and comply with the Federal Clean Water Act was completed, he added.

        “Recently our building department underwent two independent audits,” Bohnenberger continued.

        A community rating service audit upgraded the city in the category of floodplain management and “our residents are now eligible for an increased flood insurance discount,” he wrote.

        The second audit rated the department staffing, plans review and inspections. According to Bohnenberger, it scored above most departments in the state.

        During the past year, he continued, the city oversaw a road resurfacing and curb replacement program funded by the gas tax, was recognized by Tree City USA as a Tree City “due to our park expansion using unopened rights of way and donated land” and authorized a city dog park.

        “Recently there has been much criticism of our building department for allowing larger homes to be built,” Bohnenberger continued.

        “The city codes have limited the size of homes to 30 percent lot coverage since the 1950s. What is now being built still is limited to the 30 percent rule. Keep in mind that the founding fathers established the zoning we have today and the R-2 district was always intended to be no less than 50 percent rentals.

        “The city commission in recent years limited the R-2 short-term rentals to no less than one week.” However, he said, the Florida Legislature last year “imposed severe restrictions on our ability to address some of the current issues.”

        Bohnenberger also pointed to 2011-12 upgrades in digital recording equipment and software systems, audio systems, the city’s server and a new email system.

        He commended the police department for its work in processing more than 100 felony charges and receiving several honors.

        In code enforcement, he said maintenance workers and police officers are now carrying citation books to enforce noise, trash and parking infractions if matters cannot be resolved amicably.

        Looking to the next fiscal year, “I will be asking the commission to support placing newly hired police into the state pension plan. This action will in the long term save our tax payers a significant amount of money and protect the current plan for those on pension.”

        Other plans include making stormwater improvements to 30th and 31st streets, opening Grassy Point Preserve to the public as soon as pathways are shelled, and advancing a Grassy Point boardwalk project on the Florida Department of Transportation grant list.

Tree house owner to DEP: Reconsider removal order

Angelinos Sea Lodge, ordered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to remove or modify a beachfront tree house built without permits, appealed the directive in an Aug. 30 letter from its attorney.

        David Levin of Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg, P.A., Sarasota, wrote on behalf of Angelinos owner Richard Hazen to DEP regulator of coastal construction James Martinello, noting “critical errors which would substantially affect the Department’s assessment of the structure.”

        Levin reiterated Hazen’s engineer’s report indicated the deck is structurally supported by two wooden piles, 12 inches in diameter, and, two additional six-inch piles did not provide structural support and could be removed.

        “In contrast,” Levin wrote to Martinello, “your letter dated Aug. 6 states ‘the tree house structure, in addition to being partially supported by an existing Australian pine tree, is also substantially supported by four 12-inch diameter wooden pilings and two six-inch wooden pilings.’”

        He continued, “It would appear that the department staff’s assessment was based upon the false assumption” regarding the tree house’s structural support.

        Last week, DEP spokesperson Dee Ann Miller wrote in an email, “We are currently reviewing and will be responding in the near future.”

        Martinello, environmental manager of the DEP Division of Water Resource Management Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, previously concluded the tree house may not be exempt from the department’s permitting requirements.

        The state requires permits for building seaward of the coastal construction control line to protect the coastal system from improper structures that can destabilize or destroy the beach and dune system.

        While the Martinello Aug. 6 letter identified two six-inch pilings as part of a description of what supports the structure, a similar description in Martinello’s April 4 letter said no such pilings were included.

        Martinello’s most recent letter warned Hazen if he chose not to resolve within 30 days, the department may remove the tree house.

        The DEP’s August letter followed a series of letters between Hazen’s attorney and engineer.

        Levin contended in February that the structure constituted a minor activity, with no measurable impact on the coastal system because the structure, but for four wooden pilings, was supported by an Australian pine tree.

        In April, Martinello responded that the structure is supported by four 12-inch diameter wooden pilings with concrete-type foundations and invited Levin to submit information from a professional engineer in support of the owner’s position.

        The tree house was first reported to the city of Holmes Beach last November.

        The city referred the complaint to the DEP and advised the owner of its engineering and survey requirements if Hazen would seek permitting from the DEP.

        The city’s concerns over the construction relate to the building’s stability, safety and ability to withstand hurricane-force winds.

        Angelinos includes four vacation rentals and, according to Hazen’s wife, Huong Lynn Tran, the tree house was built as a private place to read, write, relax and dine.

FBI raids Islander-owned medical supply business

The FBI and other federal and local law enforcement officers served a search warrant Sept. 13 on Suncoast Brace and Limb at 1878 59th St. W., Bradenton. The company is registered to JoAnn Manali of Pine Avenue in Anna Maria.

FBI officials on the scene were reluctant to discuss an ongoing investigation, saying only that it was a health-care fraud issue, according to the Bradenton Herald. No one was arrested during the search, and agents would not comment on any material taken from the office.

The FBI office in Tampa declined to comment on the investigation, other than to say it also involves other medical facilities in the Manatee area.

According to the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations, Suncoast Brace and Limb Inc. was formed in 1995. For a time, the company was inactive, but was reinstated as an active company on Feb. 13, 2012.

Manali is listed as both the registered agent and officer/director of the company.

Mackinlay to go to trial, Hall charges dropped

Hall rearrested on new burglary charge

Just a few weeks after being arrested on a felony gun theft charge, Erik Hall, 24, of 510 67th St., Holmes Beach, was arrested on a new misdemeanor attempted burglary charge.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Hall was arrested Sept. 10 for attempted vehicle burglary in the 100 block of 81st Street in Holmes Beach.

The report states Hall broke into a vehicle he thought was unoccupied. As Hall was gaining entry into the vehicle, he realized someone was in the car and fled the area.

The victim was able to describe the suspect and Holmes Beach Police Department officers caught up with Hall on Marina Drive.

He was booked into the Manatee County jail and held on $5,000 bond, which he posted the following day.

On Aug. 3, Hall was arrested with Holmes Beach resident Jacob Mackinlay, 19, for allegedly stealing a 9 mm handgun from a roommate during an argument.

Police found the handgun in Hall’s backpack when officers pulled the pair over a short time after they left the residence. Mackinlay allegedly assaulted the victim when the victim saw him take the gun.

According to court records, Mackinlay pleaded not guilty Aug. 30 to felony theft of a firearm and concealing a firearm. Court records state the same charges against Hall in the August incident were dropped.

He is scheduled to be arraigned on the attempted burglary charge at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Pier employee arrested for fake ID

A 33-year-old Mexican native was arrested Sept. 11 at the Anna Maria Rod & Reel Pier, 875 N. Shore Drive, for felony use of personal identification and felony worker’s compensation fraud.

Detectives from the Florida Departments of Financial Services and Insurance Fraud placed Jamie Mejia under arrest, and he was booked into the Manatee County jail. He was released the following day on $3,000 bond.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Mejia applied Feb. 1for a job at the Rod & Reel Pier. In the course of his application, Mejia allegedly presented a Social Security card containing the number of a woman who reported her card stolen in November 2010.

Law enforcement learned of the number’s use when Mejia allegedly filed a worker’s compensation claim.

The Social Security number used in the claim came up belonging to the 2010 victim.

Mejia, of 613 21st Place E., Bradenton, was scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.