Yearly Archives: 2016

Safety first at city’s floating dock

Some public frustration is mounting over the lengthy closure of the floating day dock adjacent to the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.

Especially for new visitors to the island, who aren’t up to speed on city news, said public works director Tom Woodard.

“I had some fairly vocal complaints, especially during the Dec. 15 lighted boat parade,” he said. “The problem is that the floating dock looks fine by looking at it, so people don’t understand why we have it closed down.”

Safety is the city’s primary concern, he said.

“Three of the sections are completely unusable,” he said. “The hinges are completely separated and the ballasts that keep the sections afloat are broken and can’t handle any additional weight.”

Woodard said people are attempting to use the dock despite notifications and posted signage stating its closure.

“If they step on any one of those three sections in particular, they will go straight into the water,” he said. “It’s a huge tripping hazard and the city just can’t take any chances having any part of it open.”

Woodard recommends boaters use the recently opened dinghy dock across from the BridgeTender Inn and Dockside Bar.

Both docks were damaged by Tropical Storm Debby in June and repairs were approved under terms and conditions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The dinghy dock was repaired and reopened a few weeks ago. But while the city has been working with FEMA, the city’s modified design to shorten the day dock has not received an official sign off.

The city awaits one final signature to ensure funding is in place before day dock repairs begin, but Hurricane Sandy’s collision with a Northeaster, which gave rise to Super Storm Sandy and devastation in parts of the Northeast, has left FEMA with higher priorities.

“We are still in a holding pattern and waiting on the money to be 100 percent approved,” said Woodard. “There have not been any updates since our Dec. 6 meeting, but we hope to have an update after the first of the year.”

Until then, Woodard said, patience is required.

“People are still using it because it looks fine, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s hazardous to use and we cannot take the slightest risk, so it has to remain closed for now.”

Special master for Bradenton Beach resigns

Bradenton Beach Special Master Harold Youmans has submitted notice to terminate his contract with the city.

Since 2005, when Bradenton Beach opted to hire a special master to hear code enforcement cases, Youmans has been called in to conduct quasi-judicial hearings for the city.

In a letter dated Dec. 11, Youmans provided the 60-day notice required to terminate his services.

Youmans complimented the city’s professionalism and wrote, “Thank you for the privilege of serving the citizens of Bradenton Beach.”

The city issued a request for proposal a few weeks ago to hire a secondary special master because of Youmans’ limited availability from his Orlando residence.

City clerk Nora Idso told The Islander that the hiring of a secondary special master was not mentioned in Youmans’ resignation. The retention of a secondary special master was to ensure that hearings would move forward in the event that Youmans was unable to travel to the city.

“He did not provide us with a reason, but I know he had been considering retirement,” said Idso. “We appreciate the professionalism and fairness he brought to the hearings for both the city and our citizens.”

Idso said there are no pending hearings in the 60 days leading up to Youmans’ official last day. The search for a secondary special master has now turned into a search for a primary special master.

“We placed an advertisement on our website when the city began looking for a secondary special master,” said Idso. “Thus far we have only had one applicant. In the interest of fairness, we will advertise in the Bradenton Herald until Jan. 16.”

She said that should be enough time for commissioners to receive new applications, review them and make a possible decision before any new hearings are scheduled.

Special master hearings are fairly rare in Bradenton Beach. Building official Steve Gilbert, earlier this year, said variance requests are common, but that the city works diligently to first resolve the requests to the satisfaction of homeowners and the city before escalating to hearings.

Since the city moved away from the board of adjustments in favor of a special master, there have been about five hearings. Gilbert said board of adjustments hearings were equally rare, but keeping enough volunteer board members and the concern of neighbor-versus-neighbor scenarios led the city to adopt the special master plan.

Bradenton Beach ponders: Is it street or avenue?

There is a saying in Christianity that asks, “Will the road you are on get you to my place?”

If you are on Church Street in Bradenton Beach, it will indeed take a traveler to Harvey Memorial Community Church, but the listed address for the church and several residences isn’t Church Street.

It’s Church Avenue, according to Google Maps, Manatee County Traffic Operations and Manatee County Emergency Services.

However, according to the city of Bradenton Beach, it’s Church Street, although it is the only road in the city that runs north and south to be named a street instead of avenue, said Bradenton Beach public works director Tom Woodard.

Woodard, who was with the county’s traffic operations for 15 years before coming to the city to work in 2004, said the city’s streets run east to west while avenues run north to south.

“It’s just the opposite from the county,” said Woodard. “One of the first things I did when I came to work for the city is drive around to familiarize myself with the streets and that’s when I noticed the Church Street sign was wrong.”

Woodard took it upon himself to change the sign, replacing it with one that read Church Avenue, but was ordered in 2005 by former Mayor John Chappie, now a county commissioner, to change it back to Church Street.

The longstanding issue of whether it is a street or avenue arose for the first time in many years during the Dec. 6 city commission meeting. Commissioner Ric Gatehouse said he was approached by a constituent regarding the street name.

“It’s actually Church Avenue,” said Gatehouse. “Obviously, the street sign is wrong.”

Woodard told The Islander it’s not necessarily a law that requires Church Street to be Church Avenue, “it’s just that the city should have some continuity for emergency services. But, there has never been an issue with an emergency or the mail that I am aware of, everyone knows it as Church Street.”

While Woodard agrees that Church Street is incorrect, he told commissioners Dec. 6 that he would change it to Church Avenue or leave it as Church Street at their discretion.

Commissioners had a brief discussion on the topic and it appeared the consensus would be to have Woodard change the sign to Church Avenue.

But Mayor John Shaughnessy said everyone knows it to be Church Street and that it should be left alone.

Commissioners ultimately agreed with the mayor and Church Avenue will remain Church Street on the sign.

Holmes Beach commission focus: fixing problems

At their Dec. 20 work session, Holmes Beach commissioners explored illegal lot splits, underground footers, noise problems and other rental issues with an eye to fix problems as soon as possible.

They outlined objectives to accomplish during the expected six-month building moratorium in the R-2 zoning district, and talked about implementing a living-area ratio — an ordinance set to be reviewed by the planning commission in January — as a solution.

They also recognized that some problems, such as alleged abuse of the Federal Emergency Management Agency remodeling guidelines, stretch beyond the rental district.

“We still have Realtors on this island who are selling half of duplexes,” said city attorney Patricia Petruff, adding that many of the lot splits are illegal.

Commission chair Jean Peelen and Commissioner Judy Titsworth said they suspect that condominium ownership is being used to circumvent illegal splits.

“My first thought is with all of these FEMA renovation duplexes that have just popped up, I’m wondering if they’re in condo ownerships and they do not have the two-hour fire separation,” said Titsworth.

Petruff said the fire district had inspected the duplexes for the required separation and they passed fire codes.

But interim building inspector Tom O’Brien disagreed with Petruff, saying fire inspections are only performed on commercial properties.

“Are they condominiumizing them or are they selling them to one buyer?” Titsworth asked.

Petruff said the city would only become aware of condominium ownership if it is identified on business tax receipts.

Mayor Carmel Monti asked O’Brien about his interpretation of the slab used as the underground connecting footer.

O’Brien said the building code defines a footing as a structural member, and the piece is not “structural.”

He also told the commission that setbacks between the duplex units could be changed “to define what you want” and “let that be an affirmative statement.”

Commissioner Pat Morton called the city’s use of the “so-called footer” an “atrocity,” and said a couple builders have told him “there’s really nothing there.”

Commissioners also discussed changing the definition to allow no longer private appraisals on renovations, and imposing a formula based on that used by the county property appraiser’s office.

Titsworth favored changing the fee structure for building permits to be based on square footage because affidavits on cost “were not passing the smell test.”

O’Brien suggested the re-activation of the board of adjustments, which looks at variances, and an additional review board for building code appeals.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino turned the discussion to LAR.

“I really think that the LAR, for me, accomplishes what we’re trying to accomplish, the smaller sizes of house regardless of whether they’re connected by a shared party wall or footer,” he said.

“What I don’t want to see happen is limiting the looks and architectural style,” he added, pointing out the added green space the underground footer separation affords.

He also feared losing affordable housing.

Titsworth said, “I think that’s the problem. Mr. Wooten’s house ‘was’. . .  Mr. Kittle’s house ‘was.’ All over the R-2 district is where a resident’s house ‘was.’ And now it’s been replaced. Everything has turned into short-term rentals.

“That’s why the underground footer has to go away. It’s changed the face of the R-2 district,” she added.

Peelen said she didn’t want the commission to focus on solutions aimed at resort housing because that runs up against state law. She viewed LAR as a solution. “I think it takes us a long way down the road,” she said.

Resident Maggie Plath pointed out that the R-2 zone doesn’t require a duplex. “There’s been single-family homes that are torn down and two go up in their place,” she said, which adds to the city’s density.

Petruff suggested commissioners consider a Fort Lauderdale case that she previously cautioned a prior commission about, and was told “it won’t happen here.” Dock owners started renting their extra dock space, and people began living aboard their boats.

Then, “there was a problem with sewage,” and “then there was a problem with parking” and “then a problem of more children in their schools than they expected. And it just mushroomed like crazy, and by the time the problem was noticed, it was pretty much too late to do anything about it,” Petruff said.

Titsworth said she continues to be a believer in the one-pool-per-lot solution to discourage investors and bring back residents, and Morton agreed.

Zaccagnino said, “I’m the only one who lives in a rental district” and, in his experience, he said if they share a pool or have separate pools, they make just as much noise.

Peelen directed the clerk to add the one-pool-per-lot issue to the Jan. 8 meeting agenda.

She also introduced her draft objectives to be accomplished during the moratorium. After discussing them, commissioners identified the following as R-2 issues:

• Size of houses.

• Underground connection of duplexes.

• Number of pools per lot.

• Building department written policy on docks.

• Building department written policy on corner lots.

• Building department written policy on elevator shafts.

• Appraisal methodology changes.

The following were identified as citywide issues:

• Trash procedures.

• Code enforcement.

• Police procedures for noise complaints.

• Policies for ticketing/fining for noise complaints.

• Legal construction workers.

HB prepares for moratorium, honors police chief

    By a 4-1 vote, Holmes Beach commissioners stayed on course to enact a moratorium effective Dec. 25 to halt new permitting for construction, demolition and substantial rebuilds for up to six months in the city’s rental district.

    A motion by Commissioner Marvin Grossman and second by Commissioner Judy Titsworth led to a Dec. 18 vote on the moratorium’s first reading. Commissioner Pat Morton and Commission Chair Jean Peelen joined Grossman and Titsworth in favor, and Commissioner David Zaccagnino dissented.

    The moratorium, which has been debated and studied for more than a year, is aimed at putting a halt to the large rental homes and related noise, garbage and parking problems in the city’s Residential-2 zone.

    Zaccagnino asked city clerk Stacey Johnston to add to the city website the land development code definition section on substantial improvements — the limit to which construction will be impacted by the moratorium — for easy reference.

    A substantial improvement is when future construction or replacement costs 50 percent or more of the structure’s market value.

    According to the proposed ordinance, exceptions to the moratorium are “interior demolition for purposes such as remodeling” and “maintenance of existing houses which does not result in total demolition such as replacement of siding or windows.”

    Interim building inspector Tom O’Brien wrote a memorandum Oct. 16 pointing to state laws that provide repairs are considered substantial improvements or damages regardless of the actual repair work performed if major components are replaced, such as the roof or exterior walls.

    City attorney Patricia Petruff said for “the purposes of the moratorium” the limit of improvement or damage will be the 50 percent mark, despite O’Brien’s interpretation. She noted he is checking on the interpretation with a state building official.

    Petruff also advised the legally effective date will be the end of business following the Dec. 25 holiday.

    The commissioner’s vote to approve its first reading of the proposed six-month moratorium, which drew a roomful of owners and builders to a prior meeting, saw one proponent and one objector speak.

    Dave McKeever of Marina Drive told commissioners, “After watching a sea of green-shirt people derange you publicly, I felt that someone needed to speak up on your behalf.

    “There will always be unfortunate individuals caught up in the timing of municipal ordinances,” he added. “I sympathize with them. But I have no sympathy for speculative carpetbaggers who hope to make a quick buck by building a rental McMansion.”

    McKeever said the builders “remain focused on the R-2 district for one reason. It’s ripe for picking.”

    Builders have other options off the island and in other Holmes Beach districts, he added.

    One-time resident and planning and zoning commissioner Joe Kennedy first asked whether the proposed moratorium is applicable to single-family homes on R-2 lots, and what it is based upon.

     Peelen told Kennedy, yes, and the basis is city land planner Bill Brisson’s study.

    Later in the meeting, Kennedy voiced his opposition, saying he still owns waterfront property on a small lot that can only be developed with a single-family home — not a duplex, and he suspects others are in the same category. He said a sale of his property was supposed to close by Dec. 31, but it fell through because of the moratorium.

    “A moratorium that would include these particular R-2 properties, improved or vacant, is unwarranted and unjustified since they can have a single-family home built upon them or remain upon them,” Kennedy said. “These are not the properties that are causing the problems, and you are inadvertently targeting them.”

    He called the moratorium’s findings of fact “findings of opinion,” and said problems involving parking, noise, safety, flooding and privacy are caused by people, and could be solved with existing laws.

    “There will always be rude and inconsiderate people to exacerbate these problems,” he said.

    Before the second reading and final vote at the hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, the public will be allowed to comment.

        The moratorium, if approved as proposed, will be retroactively effective, as allowed under a 1980 case, Smith v. City of Clearwater, according to Petruff.

Historical society drops plan to move Spahn house

The Anna Maria Island Historical Society has decided not to proceed with raising funds to preserve Spruce Street house in Anna Maria built as a winter home in the 1950s by baseball Hall-of-Famer Warren Spahn.

AMIHS board president Maureen McCormick notified the city along with donors and supporters of the decision in a letter.

The historical society had hoped to raise enough money to have the house moved to the historic park at 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria to become a baseball museum.

McCormick said a primary reason for the decision is that recent changes in state building codes “pushed labor and construction costs to more than $75,000, more than double the initial project estimate.”

She thanked the Spahn family, the city of Anna Maria and those involved in the preservation effort. She said she regretted that increasing costs forced the board to cancel the project.

McCormick said the board also was concerned that rising costs associated with moving the Spahn home might jeopardize the obligation of the board to preserve the museum and the Belle Haven Cottage located in the park.

McCormick said she informed Commissioner John Quam, the commission liaison to the historical society, of the decision.

“The museum and Belle Haven are an important part of the island – we understand the decision,” said Quam on behalf of the commission.

McCormick said the historical society will continue to support and preserve the history of baseball on the island with featured exhibits in the museum.

Spahn built a number of small homes in the city that he sold or rented to teammates on the Milwaukee Braves when the team trained in Bradenton.

 

 

Correction

An Oct. 16 story in The Islander identified an alleged burglar as an Holmes Beach man residing in Bradenton Beach. While the incident occurred in Holmes Beach, the suspect, identified as Roger Cliburn, 47, resides on 17th Avenue in Bradenton and not in the 2700 block of Avenue C, as reported.

Cortez woman arrested for drug paraphernalia at rehab

A 31-year-old Cortez woman was charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia Dec. 13 while at a Bradenton rehabilitation center, and more charges could be pending.

Stephanie Lund, of the 4200 block of 126th Street West in Cortez, was attending the rehab facility when she went across the street to a convenience store, according to the probable cause affidavit.

The facility manager observed Lund exiting from a “strange vehicle,” go into the store and then return to the facility where the manager confronted her.

According to the report, the manager could tell Lund was high and told her that kind of behavior was unacceptable. Lund allegedly began crying and apologized for what she had done.

The manager called the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and a deputy made contact with Lund at the facility. According to the report, Lund turned over a syringe, telling the deputy it had been filled with heroin.

The report states Lund had entered a vehicle at the store’s parking lot, where she was handed a “loaded” syringe by an unidentified male. She stated she was not strong enough to resist the temptation, and entered the store bathroom where she “shot up” the drugs.

Lund was arrested for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and held at the Manatee County jail on $120 bond. She is scheduled to be arraigned at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1017 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

However, according to court records, Lund has been on felony probation for a trafficking in stolen property conviction in Palm Beach County. Court records also indicate multiple prior arrests, including drug possession, prostitution, contempt of court and forgery dating back to 2007.

Lund posted bond the day after her Dec. 13 arrest.

Newly elected fire district commissioners switch chairs

The gavel soon will pass from West Manatee Fire Rescue Commissioner Randy Cooper to fellow Commissioner David Bishop.

    By unanimous voice vote, the commission selected Bishop to chair the commission that provides oversight for the 18-square-mile district with 44,828 residents, including Anna Maria Island.

    An architect and life-long district resident who’s served on the WMFR commission since July 2011, Bishop was first appointed to replace former Commissioner John Rigney, who moved out of the district. Bishop ran unopposed in the Nov. 6 election to fill the remainder of Rigney’s term.

    Cooper and seven-year resident Larry Jennis, who is new to the commission, also ran unopposed in November.

    All three were sworn into office Dec. 20.

    It is Jennis’ first public office, and he replaces 20-year veteran Jesse Davis, who stepped down last month. Davis decided not to run for another term following heart surgery last spring.

    Jennis was unanimously voted in as the commission’s secretary/treasurer, replacing Commissioner Scott Ricci.

    Ricci moved to vice chair of the commission, also by unanimous approval of commissioners.

    In other business, upon the recommendation of Chief Andy Price, the commission unanimously approved participation in a $20,000 Commission on Fire Accreditation International study.

    Price told commissioners it will make WMFR a better fire district as it will assess such criteria as how quickly firefighters can leave the station, arrive on a scene and what level of support is sent to what types of scenes.

    It also will aid in succession planning for the expected retirement of himself and Deputy Chief Brett Pollock, he said.

    Price also updated the commission on the remodel of Station 2, 10350 Cortez Road, Bradenton, which is budgeted for $900,000-$1.25 million.

    He said the district is waiting on a lease to be signed and a drainage agreement to be struck with neighbor Manatee Fruit Company, and a status on the county approval of plans for a portable building for firefighters’ living quarters during the remodel.

    The district chose Ross Built Construction Co. of Holmes Beach and Manuel Synalovski Associates of Fort Lauderdale in May for the remodel.

    Price said while building plans have not changed, site issues remain before construction can commence.

    Price also updated the commission on the district’s International Standards Organization rating. At the November meeting, Price reported the district’s ISO rating remained at 4, following participation in the review process earlier this year.

    After further review of the rating, Price said they have decided to challenge it due to the score received in a training category. He suspected a misunderstanding or a mistake by the ISO evaluator. About 15 years ago, Price said the district challenged a rating issue and won.

    ISO rates communities from 1-10, with 1 being perfect, based on quality of fire department, water supply, hydrant locations, communication systems, building codes and inspection programs. Insurance companies use the ratings to set premiums.

    “We’re still working on it. We’re not satisfied with it. And we’re hoping we change that 4 score down to a 3.”

        The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at the WMFR Administrative office, 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.