Monthly Archives: December 2016

AM commission again reverses moratorium limit

For the second time in the past two weeks, Anna Maria commissioners voted to reverse an earlier decision.

    The latest change of heart came at the Feb. 21 work session, when commissioners voted 3-2 to allow those single-family home projects considered “in the pipeline” to proceed to file for a building permit.

    The commission had originally allowed projects already in the pipeline to continue through the permit process when it passed an administrative moratorium on new construction three weeks ago.

    They then changed direction at their Feb. 7 meeting and halted issuance of all building permits while the moratorium ordinance moves forward. The moratorium will halt construction while the commission decides to either lower the maximum height of a single-family home from 37 feet to a lower number, or accomplishes changes to the code to prevent large rental homes from being built.

    But a number of property owners came forward at the Feb.14 and Feb. 21 meetings to claim a financial hardship existed because of the halt to projects in the pipeline. Several, including Bill and Cathy Adams of Plant City, said they were just about ready to submit their building plans for a permit when the commission stopped them from proceeding. The Adams’ and others claimed the city should not change its rules in the middle of the process.

    Attorney Scott Rudacille of Blalock and Walters, P.A., of Bradenton, said he represents six property owners in the pipeline who are affected by the halt.

    He told commissioners his clients were building single-family homes that were “not the type of houses you are trying to control.”

    Commissioners have said the moratorium will allow them a “time out” to establish an ordinance to lower the height of new construction from the present 37 foot limit. Commissioner Chuck Webb and others have expressed concern that big box-like homes will ruin the character of Anna Maria.

    Several residents, including Jill Morris, said the commission has already back-tracked once, and should stand by its decision to halt building permits.

    Webb and Commissioner Nancy Yetter agreed.

    At some point, everyone faces a hardship, Yetter said.

    Yetter said the commission cannot keep changing its mind, and the administrative moratorium gives the city a “time out” while it reviews the height ordinance and decides if it should be lowered.

    Commissioner Dale Woodland said the sooner the commission “fast-tracks the height ordinance,” the sooner it would be better for everyone. However, he favored lifting the restriction on issuing permits to those already in the pipeline.

    The administrative moratorium halts only those single-family homes that exceed the 27-foot height limit. Any home permit application under that height is not affected, city planner Alan Garrett said.

    Building official Bob Welch said he personally knew 12 of the 15 people who were planning to apply for a building permit. To his knowledge, he said, none were planning what might be considered a big-box home.

    Commission Chair John Quam said that if the commission were to lift the halt on those applicants in the pipeline, Welch should establish guidelines of what an applicant should provide to demonstrate significant expenditures to date before considering a permit.

    Welch agreed to require canceled checks, documented plans and other signs the applicant has made significant expenditures before issuing a permit.

    Webb, who opposed issuing permits, said he favored an exception for those people who had applied to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a permit to build seaward of the coastal construction control line. The CCCL is that area seaward of a DEP line that approximates Gulf Drive.

    Webb also suggested some people might provide false documentation to Welch but a DEP letter would eliminate any questions as to applicants being in the pipeline.

    Welch confirmed most of the 15 identified projects in the pipeline were not seaward of CCCL.

    The subdivision planned at the former Villa Rosa property on South Bay Boulevard was not included in the discussion, Welch said. He said it would be addressed at a later date.

    Welch said he would review each of the 15 pipeline projects and documentation with city attorney Jim Dye. Additionally, Welch will prepare a document for the applicant to attest that all the facts and evidence presented are true and correct and the applicant is not falsifying any information.

    Welch said he hoped to have the administrative rules for what constitutes “in the pipeline” ready this week. He will not issue any building permit until Dye has reviewed the rules and affidavit.

    The motion to allow single-family homes already in the pipeline as established by Welch and Dye passed 3-2, with Webb and Yetter voting against the motion. Commissioners Quam, Aubry and Woodland voted in favor.

    In other business, commissioners viewed a number of small scale models of single-family homes prepared by Aubry that could be built if the city establishes a living area to lot size ratio of 45 percent.

    The home sizes would vary by lot size. A house on a 5,000 square-foot lot could build the first floor of living space to 1,507 square feet, with the second floor of living space at 743 square feet, Garret said. The total square footage of living space would be 2,250 square feet, which is 45 percent of the lot size.

    Aubry said his models were examples of what could be done with new construction.

    Commissioners got into a lengthy discussion to define living area.

    Woodland asked if decks and patios should be included in living space, and if the roof overhang would be part of what they termed living area.

    Commissioners discussed including air conditioned space and under roof space. Discussion focused on encouraging porches by excluding them from the living area.

    Webb said livable space should be what is air conditioned.

    After much discussion among commissioners, Garrett said he needed the commission to define the living area. There appeared to be a consensus that some property owners would maximize air conditioned space and forego porches if they were included in the defined living area allowed for the lot size.

    Quam agreed. He placed discussion of floor area ratio and LAR on the agenda of a future work session.

    The commission’s next regular meeting is 6 p.m. Feb. 28, at the Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

 

Best practices may be best answer to reduce complaints

Anna Maria code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon said she received 42 noise complaints from Nov. 1, 2011, to Dec. 30, 2012.

None of the complaints resulted in a citation.

Since Jan. 1, Rathvon has neither received a noise complaint, nor has she received any such complaints from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office-Anna Maria substation.

Mayor SueLynn noted that many vacation rental owners and managers in Anna Maria agreed last year to implement the list of best practices for a vacation rental, which include a tenant agreeing to comply with the city code to reduce noise after 10 p.m.

Although none of the complaints Rathvon received in the 14-month 2011-12 period resulted in a citation, two properties received three complaints during this period. If another complaint is filed against those properties, a citation will be issued and the owner/rental agent will have to appear for a hearing before the city’s special magistrate.

If convicted of a citation, the owner or rental agent could face a fine of $250 for one instance, or $250 per day if the noise complaints continued after the citation was issued.

Rathvon said of the 42 complaints she recorded in the 14-month period, MCSO deputies did respond to some and all were settled without further problems.

Three of the noise complaints were the result of a Friday evening open house at retail stores on Pine Avenue, she said.

Rathvon receives a copy of any MCSO response to a noise or nuisance complaint, she said.

She maintains a database with more than 500 addresses of vacation rental properties in the city. Each time a complaint is filed against a particular address, the complaint is noted by address in the database.

The vacation rental at 11101 Gulf Drive has had three noise complaints against it since the database was created. She has informed the owner, Dr. Francisco Gomez of Tampa, that another complaint will result in a citation.

A vacation rental at 505 Magnolia Ave. also has three noise complaints for the reporting period. The property is managed by Anna Maria Vacations, according to Rathvon’s database.

The Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office website lists the owners as Yvonne and Adam Walker of the same address.

A property at 804 N. Shore Drive has two noise complaints against it, according to the database. That property is owned by Shawn Kaleta, according to the MCPAO website.

SueLynn said it’s still early in the winter tourist season, but she hopes the list of best practices may be working to keep noise complaints down.

“I know the agents, managers and owners who agreed to the list are working hard to have their tenants abide by the list,” she said.

Among the best practices, the tenant agrees to comply with all city codes and ordinances. The tenant is informed of the overnight noise reduction ordinance that begins at 10 p.m. The tenant also agrees not to have loud parties and to respect the rights of adjacent residents.

Larry Chatt of Island Real Estate and Mike Brinson of Anna Maria Island Accommodations worked with SueLynn to identify the best practices criteria.

The mayor said only time will tell if it’s working.

Bradenton Beach starts over on cell tower ordinance

Following an official Feb. 8 dissolution between Bradenton Beach and the Center for Municipal Solutions regarding the ongoing cellular communications tower saga, the city is working on a new ordinance that will better fit its needs.

Negotiations between city attorney Ricinda Perry and CMS’s Lawrence “Rusty” Monroe came to a standstill over three key issues in the ordinance Monroe authored in 2011.

Perry said Monroe would not budge on the city’s insurance requirements to retain him as a consultant to review cell tower applications, which was required by Monroe’s ordinance; would not agree to a termination clause; and wanted the city to be responsible for paying him if any applicant pulled out of the process.

Perry informed commissioners Feb. 7 that she did not believe the city and Monroe would come to terms and sent Monroe a letter dated Feb. 8 announcing that the city would not pursue the relationship further.

Perry updated commissioners on the next step at the Feb. 21 city commission meeting.

“He sent a very gracious response back that he understood it wouldn’t work out with us,” said Perry. “That relationship has been severed. The city is working on a new ordinance, public hearing dates have been picked and we will be sending out a request for proposal for another professional company to help with the technical aspects associated with cellular communications.”

Perry said the RFP could be presented to commissioners at their March 7 meeting.

Progress also is being made to address the city’s noise ordinance.

The issue has been listed under old business on the agenda for some time with Mayor John Shaughnessy calling it a complicated issue that the city should not rush.

Shaughnessy said progress is being made, but there is a lot more to do.

“I have been given the first phase of a noise ordinance that we are putting together because times have changed in Bradenton Beach,” he said. “Changes have to be made. It’s been awhile.”

Shaughnessy said as the process moves forward, “we will have public comment, but this is a thing in process.”

In other matters, Shaughnessy, Vice Mayor Ed Straight and Commissioner Ric Gatehouse approved a $5,200 purchase for a digital recording system. Currently, the city uses a cassette-tape recorder.

Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Gay Breuler were absent with excuse.

Public works director Tom Woodard asked commissioners to begin a process to set standards for issuing permits on city rights of way. Woodard said the city has no specifications, “and people do what they want.”

The result, he said, is that work is left up to city staff that should have been covered in an individual permit. Woodard gave an example of a resident using cold-patch asphalt purchased at a hardware store to repair a pot hole on a city right of way.

“And that just doesn’t work,” said Woodard. “We had to go back in and clean out the base of that area.”

Woodard said standards should be attached to right-of-way permits that apply to citizens and contractors alike. The cost to draft the standards will be $2,000, but Woodard said the price would be split between the public works and planning departments.

The request was approved 3-0.

A request was denied 3-0 to install a speed bump on 11th Street South. Frank Harrison, a resident on the street, said speed bumps were in place before a resurfacing project.

Harrison said there are a lot of rentals on his street and speeding is a serious situation.

Straight moved to deny the request, saying it’s an issue that should come up during budget discussions.

“If we put it on one street, I think we are going to have more requests and that is going to get costly,” said Straight.

Gatehouse agreed, suggesting law enforcement be notified to have a presence in the area.

“If that doesn’t work, then maybe we can revisit this,” he said.

County officials aim to relieve island tourism stress

Manatee County tourism officials are looking to attract more visitors to the county’s east side to ease the strain of tourism on Anna Maria Island, particularly during the winter-spring tourist season.

Speaking at the Anna Maria Chamber of Commerce board meeting Feb. 20, Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who also chairs the county’s Tourist Development Council, told board members the TDC and Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau are trying to bring more tourism to the east county area.

Whitmore said the island gets enough tourism without more advertising and marketing. But a number of hotel rooms and attractions in eastern Manatee County warrant promotion, she said.

A resident and former mayor of Holmes Beach, Whitmore said she knows first-hand how stressful the season can be for year-round residents.

“We don’t want to stress the island further,” she said.

The county is hoping to attract a major sporting event that promises to fill a lot of hotel rooms in the Lakewood Ranch area.

Manatee County administrator Ed Hunzeker said a joint effort by Manatee and Sarasota counties is under way to have the area chosen as the host site for the 2017 World Rowing Championships presented by the International Rowing Federation in Switzerland.

Hunzeker said the area is considered a leader as the 2017 host, but marketing specialists from both counties continue to travel to IRF countries to talk about the area and make presentations. He said it’s important to keep the area name “out in front.”

The championships attract about 42,000 competitors from more than 100 countries. Teams usually arrive at the host site several weeks before the championships to train and become accustomed to the venue, Hunzeker said.

Additionally, rowing fans from around the world will likely attend the championships.

He said the 2017 site winner will be announced at the 2013 World Rowing Championships this September in South Korea.

Hunzeker said if Manatee/Sarasota is named host, the two counties would “have a lot of logistics” to solve.

In other tourist-related news, chamber president Mary Ann Brockman said she’s received two complaints about over-booking by a member resort. She said, however, that she’s received fewer complaints this year than last year at this time.

Whitmore said the TDC “would not tolerate” such practices. “There might not be a lot we can do, but we can’t have that. We’ll call them and tell them we’ll do everything we can to stop this. Double-booking could ruin our image,” she said.

Hunzeker provided some good economic news, noting the former Siemens plant in Ellenton recently was purchased by Fled Entertainment, the company that produces Disney on Ice. Hunzeker said he expects Field to add a number of jobs to the area.

Whitmore announced Air Products Inc. is building a plant across from Port Manatee and it should hire about 200 people.

Hunzeker said county commissioners and staff have been discussing how the county will grow in the next 30-50 years. The general feeling is that most of the growth will take place along the I-75 corridor, he said. Not much growth is expected in west Manatee or on the island.

Board members also approved the chamber to be the nonprofit host of a symphony at Coquina Beach in November. The Anna Maria Island Chorus and Orchestra will perform, and a sit-down dinner will be an option for the event, said board member David Teitelbaum.

Teitelbaum said he has been working with Manatee County parks and recreation supervisor Cindy Turner on the event. He assured the board that the chamber would not have any out-of-pocket expenses. The cost of the symphony has not been determined.

The next board meeting is 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, at the chamber office, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Mayor: Bradenton Beach in ‘good financial shape’

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy said the city remains in good financial shape during his state-of-the-city address at the Feb. 21 city commission meeting.

“Taxes were raised this year for the first time in many years out of necessity” he said. “We didn’t want to do it, and we took money out of the reserve to relieve some of the tax burden.”

Shaughnessy said tax increases were necessary to begin addressing neglected infrastructure needs.

“Our infrastructure is falling apart and no money was put aside in recent years to address those needs,” he said. “Now it’s time to catch up.”

The city prioritized two projects in this year’s budget to fund and complete, with plans to fund at least two projects a year going forward.

“Both of the projects we prioritized are already completed,” he said. “The emergency generator at the police station has been replaced and resurfacing on Second Street South is completed.”

The mayor said the city’s reserve fund was drastically reduced under previous administrations, “and, as mandated, those funds are required to be replaced. I believe past administrations did what they thought was best for the city and we are doing the same thing.”

He said predicting the future is impossible, but the city department heads, staff and commissioners are “working hard and doing their very best to keep Bradenton Beach the star of the island.”

Shaughnessy said the 25 city employees are doing a good job and complimented all of his department heads.

“The administration department is the nerve center of the city,” he said. “One of the most important functions is the annual audit. It is a daunting task, but they continue to get excellent ratings from the auditors.”

Shaughnessy noted that while building official Steve Gilbert is not a city employee because the city contracts its service, “Mr. Gilbert has done an excellent job for the city in transforming this department from what it was to what it is today.”

The mayor complimented his public works department, saying its employees “face different challenges every day and has to adjust to accommodate those changes, never knowing what tomorrow will bring. This department does a great job for the city.”

The Bradenton Beach Police Department has 10 full-time and six part-time officers. Shaughnessy referenced the former troubled history at Coquina Beach transitioning to a family-friendly beach as a credit to the police department.

“Our police department was instrumental in devising a plan to ensure the changes we have seen,” he said. “The county has entrusted our police department to patrol the beach, which shows the trust the county has in our department.

“As do I. They continue to offer the best possible protection and service to our citizens.”

All welcome to Islander-Galvano meeting

The Islander newspaper will host a town hall meeting for island residents and officials to meet with state Sen. Bill Galvano, District 26, R-Bradenton, at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28.

Galvano is expected to update the island communities on the budget and policy priorities of the 2013 legislative session, which will convene March 5, and also plans to provide information on House Bill 883, which was sponsored by his predecessor in the Florida Senate, Mike Bennett.

The statute allows any home in any municipality or unincorporated area to be a rental home, and limits future rental housing restrictions — those that didn’t exist as of the bill’s 2012 passage.

Galvano is expected to talk about his priorities and take questions from the gallery.

The senator serves as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and also serves on the Agriculture, Appropriations, Education, Gaming, Health Policy, Regulated Industries and Rules committees and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Seating is limited, and those who wish to attend and be assured a seat may make a reservation.

For reservations and more information, call The Islander at 941-778-7978.

HBPD nominates officer of year

Holmes Beach Police Department nominated Joshua R. Fleischer as Officer of the Year to the Manatee County Hundred Club.

        Each year, the club seeks nominations to recognize efforts in law enforcement.

        In nominating Fleischer, Interim Police Chief Dale Stephenson pointed to his exemplary lifesaving effort as a first responder in a drug overdose in November 2012.

        Fleischer was first to arrive on the scene and found a young person unconscious, turning blue. He hooked up an automated external defibrillator and cleared his airway, enabling him to breathe on his own, according to Stephenson.

        Formerly with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Fleischer was hired by Holmes Beach in November 2009, and promoted to a full-time officer in January 2010.

        Nominations are expected from other Manatee County law enforcement. The club traditionally holds a dinner to honor the winner in May.

Holmes Beach to continue private appraisals for remodels

In the hope of encouraging one-story home remodels, Holmes Beach commissioners turned away from using values from the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s office, and instead let stand the more flexible “market value” definition that includes private appraisals.

    The move turns around the commission’s previous direction to city attorney Patricia Petruff to draft an ordinance to eliminate independent certified appraisals for substantial improvements to ground-level homes, which limits rehab, remodel or addition of a structure that equals or exceeds 50 percent of its market value before any improvements.

    If the cost exceeds or equals 50 percent, it is considered by FEMA to be a substantial improvement.

    If the cost of improvements are less than 50 percent of the building’s market value, it is considered non-substantial.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency 50 percent rule applies to ground-level pre-FIRM homes, those built previous to the enactment of the Florida Insurance Rate Map.

    Property owners have an option to retain ground-level living space in pre-FIRM homes under the rule that the city building department enforces through local and state codes.

    With the support of building official Tom O’Brien, commissioners had favored substituting the county appraiser’s value for rehab permits on pre-FIRM homes to achieve consistency and address what some considered questionable appraisals.

    However, at its Feb. 21 meeting, the commission reconsidered its previous leanings after receiving emails from appraisers and others that objected to the proposed elimination of private appraisals to determine substantial improvements.

    In addition, new policies to be established by the mayor and building department — requiring the city to seek a second opinion for what they described as out-of-line private appraisals — were recommended by city attorney Patricia Petruff and the commissioners.

    The commission’s about face on appraisals was led by Commissioner David Zaccagnino. He pointed out the county appraisal method would result in valuations too low to allow pre-FIRM remodels, and as an example used his 1939 home’s value of $45,000.

    “There are houses on my street where they sold the lot for $400,000 and tore the house down,” he said.

    O’Brien defended the proposed change, saying it has been successfully used by the county and Longboat Key. He viewed it as “a less confrontational methodology” that would benefit the department.

    Monti disagreed, saying he did not favor a “black-and-white policy,” and that the issue “boils down to one of interpretation” and trust in the building department.

    Commission Chair Jean Peelen initially favored the county appraiser-based change because she hoped to achieve consistency, saying she wanted a policy that could outlive the current department.

    Another consideration discussed by commissioners was the intent of FEMA to eventually require properties pre-FIRM homes to be elevated.

    Titsworth said, “If that’s FEMA’s intent, I don’t think it’s fair to people who have lived in their homes, taken good care of their homes, nurtured their homes, kept up with upkeep so there’s no rot.”

    She questioned how the Manatee County Property Appraiser value could be valid, without someone looking at the homes as private appraisers do.

    “Some of these old homes have considerable value just because of how well the people took care of them,” she added.

    Commissioner Marvin Grossman researched seven houses that sold in the last three months, and determined it would take a 25 percent modifier to bring the county appraisers property value to the sales price.

    But even with a modifier, he said, the county’s  lower values could inhibit FEMA remodeling, and so he favored the more flexible private-appraisal approach.

    Like the other commissioners and Petruff, Grossman objected to appraisals based on replacement values.

    Petruff pointed the homeowner can choose to establish market value by independent certified appraisals, adjusted tax-assessed values or actual cash value           —  the structure’s replacement cost depreciated for age and quality.

    She told commissioners leaving the code as is was fine, but recommended the city set a procedure for “appraisals with a seal,” warning that only another certified appraiser can challenge such appraisals.

    Petruff also recommended renovation costs be examined by a reputable source.

    Dave Moynihan,  a real estate professional and chair of the city’s board of adjustments, and certified appraiser Richard Bass, wrote opposing the proposed change.

    Moynihan stated, “Changing the Manatee County property appraiser’s valuations would be a mistake. Those figures are all over the board and lack consistency and are traditionally very low compared to real value. As a 35-year-plus island Realtor, I have seen sales going at assessed value to three times assessed value.”

    He continued, “If you feel that a certified appraiser is inflating numbers to benefit the homeowner and or builder, then I recommend you initiate a review of the FEMA appraisals by a reputable firm.”

    As an appraiser employed by the city to review questionable appraisals last year, Bass also objected to the county-only approach.

    “Relying on Manatee County’s assessed values is, in my opinion, not valid. The property appraisers’ office does not update the cost approach each and every year. They conduct statistical analysis and allocate value between land and improvements using a mass-appraisal model.”

        Limiting substantial improvements based on county values, Bass continued, “artificially limits the opportunity to improve properties (and) increase the tax base of the city.”

Holmes Beach continues fire safety investigation

    Holmes Beach commissioners said they want to see sprinklers required in three-story duplexes on hearing building official Tom O’Brien’s report.

    Commission Chair Jean Peelen introduced the topic at the Feb. 21 meeting, asking for an update from O’Brien.

    “We know the fire department didn’t inspect them,” she said of the closely spaced homes.

    But fire inspections are not required for residential properties in Holmes Beach.

    “We know we did not inspect them for the fire-rated walls. What we didn’t know is whether in the plans they said what kind of wall they were putting in,” she said.

    Peelen also asked what the city could do to protect itself and to prevent such properties from catching fire.

    O’Brien — who was appointed by Mayor Carmel Monti in December on a contract that expires March 31 — reported that he’s been making notes on his rounds about “suspect properties,” and conducting “considerable code research.”

    O’Brien said, “The majority of the cases are at 10 feet, 11 feet, and don’t pose any problem,” of the distance between separated duplex units.

    However, he said, three duplexes are “problematic” and one under construction has recently been notified to comply with safety requirements in the code.

    The next step in his investigation, O’Brien said, is to pull the permit documents and examine the construction plans.

    In some plans O’Brien has noticed fire code problems. While some precautions were taken, he said, there were no “tested assemblies.”

    O’Brien told the commissioners, “When we understand the hazard, we have the duty to take action. It would be negligent to do otherwise. And I promise you all I’ll never do that.

    “The first line of responsibility is with the builders,” he said. While the city permit gives them the right to build, he added, it does not allow construction in violation of the code.

    O’Brien added that he’s taking a measured approach.

    “If we find some deficiencies, we will discuss it with the specific builders before alarming the owners,” he added.

    West Manatee Fire Rescue District Chief Andy Price advised commissioners Jan. 10 he recommends sprinklers to protect against fire hazards in Holmes Beach duplexes. He said fences, power lines and the closeness of the homes allow “absolutely no access to some of these structures.”

    A sprinkler system requirement is required in some instances for a three-story building, but O’Brien noted differing interpretations in national fire code and local codes.

    Commissioner Judy Titsworth recommended the commissioners require sprinklers for three-story homes.

    “I think LAR takes care of that,” said Commissioner David Zaccagnino, referring to a new ordinance that limits future dwellings to a .34 living area ratio, specific to the Residential-2 zone where duplexes are allowed.

    Commissioner Pat Morton disagreed that the LAR ordinance could address the existing safety issue.

    Another ordinance — to be considered at the March 6 planning commission meeting — is proposed to eliminate the practice of joining units by use of an underground footer and instead require party walls. The units appear to be two single-family homes and Zaccagnino has said in the past he prefers the added landscaping and appearance of homes over the joined duplex units.

    Peelen said, “Certainly the sentiment up here is that we would like to see sprinklers on the third floor.”

    She directed O’Brien to continue his investigation.

        Zaccagnino added, “We would also feel horrible if something happened, if they were built incorrectly.”

Wildlife rehab cares for abused vulture

A turkey vulture is expected to recover from an unusual case of apparent animal abuse, as it rehabilitates at Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center Inc., in Bradenton Beach.

Bradenton Beach Vice Mayor Ed Straight and his wife Gail have run the organization at their home for 26 years and Straight said, in all that time, he has never seen anything like what this vulture endured.

“We’ve dealt with gunshot wounds and we were part of the rescue of the St. Petersburg duck that had an arrow through its neck, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Straight.

“We started getting calls about two weeks ago about a vulture that was having a hard time flying,” he said. “It was eating out of people’s garbage to stay alive.”

Straight said volunteer rescuers tried several times to locate the vulture after a call to their organization, and finally captured it in a patch of thick bushes Feb. 18.

“Damen Hurd, one of our rescuers, who is very good at what he does, found it in some bushes near King Middle School, in Bradenton,” he said. “It couldn’t fly, but it could still run around pretty good, so it was not an easy catch.”

The bird was covered in red paint upon arrival to Wildlife Inc. Straight said the people that called suspected it had been shot with a paint gun.

“But if you saw it when it first came in, you would have seen it covered in paint from head to toe,” he said. “The paint was all the way down to the skin, so it appears to me that someone dipped this bird into paint. For what reason, I cannot imagine.”

Straight said he had no idea why someone would do such a thing, “but I hope whoever did it eventually gets caught and prosecuted.”

He said a similar incident occurred in north Florida several months ago to some seagulls, and there were no leads in that case.

“He’s doing pretty good now,” said Straight. “He’s expected to fully recover, but we got to him just in time because he was in pretty bad shape. If we hadn’t got to him when we did, he wouldn’t have made it.”

Some of the paint has come off naturally and the vulture has been attempting to cleanse itself, but Straight said a veterinarian will soon begin bathing the bird with Dawn detergent. It’s the same treatment used for birds damaged by oil spills.

“We wanted to give it a few days to avoid causing too much stress,” he said. “But everything is looking good for him to recover from this.”

Straight asks that anyone with information on who may have done this to the vulture call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement division at 863-648-3200.

Wildlife Inc. is a nonprofit rescue/rehabilitation organization. As many wildlife rehabilitation centers across Florida shut down due to struggling finances and stricter regulations, demands on Wildlife Inc. are growing.

Straight said his facility is receiving calls for help from all along the Gulf coastline.

To learn more, go online at www.wildlifeinc.org, visit Wildlife Inc. on Facebook or call 941-778-6324.