Yearly Archives: 2016

Fishy stench spoils island beaches

Those who decided to take a stroll on the beach Christmas Day had to dodge hundreds of dead fish littering the island shoreline.

The dead mullet were cast off by fishers who were netting near shore.

“It’s not the commercial fishing industry. (Seasonal fishers) are catching these mullet and throwing out the white roe mullet,” said Capt. Kathe Tupin-Fannon.

Tupin-Fannon is a fourth generation Cortez fisher who runs sight-seeing charters from docks at the Star Fish Co. in Cortez. Tupin-Fannon said fishers come to Manatee County from across the state during the annual mullet run.

In the fall, as temperatures drop, mullet school and begin a migration pattern tied to their reproduction cycle. As the mullet bunch up, a frenzy begins for cast-netters.

Adding to the allure for fishers is a higher probability of legal-sized, sexually mature fish.

While male and female fish are caught, sold and eaten, the red roe in the female mullet is the real catch, netting more than five times the usually price per pound.

Tupin-Fannon said there are two main sources for the dead fish onshore: the number of seasonal fishers and the nets they use.

“Everybody and their brother stops what they’re doing three months of the year to throw these cast nets. These cast nets pillage and rape these waters, which is exactly what the commercial fishing industry was accused of,” she said.

Tupin-Fannon referred to the 1995 gill-net ban passed by Florida voters to promote sustainable fishing practices. The commercial fishing industry has challenged the rule, contending it fails the intent and it’s been in and out of courtrooms for almost 20 years.

She said the fishers of Cortez crafted their own gill nets that allowed smaller fish to swim free of the net, reducing bycatch and massive fish kills. The 1995 net ban restricts mullet fishing to hand-thrown cast nets.

Tupin-Fannon said the smaller, less effective cast nets “kill everything.”

Cortez mullet fisher Mark Coarsey said at the beginning of the season he had seen more fishers in Cortez this year than in any other year.

Coarsey also speculated the fish kill was due to visiting fishers. He said he’s seen some unfamiliar fishers checking the mullet for either white or red roe and tossing the male fish overboard.

“Just wait and watch for all those dead fish to wash ashore,” Coarsey said at the start of season.

Coarsey said visiting and seasonal fishers are either unaware or do not care about the consequences. He added that such practices reflect badly on an already strained industry in Manatee County.

“Commercial fishermen know how to protect the resource so it’s sustainable,” he said. “This is just disgusting.”

According to an email from Carmine Demilio, operations manager for Manatee County’s property management department, the county-owned beaches at Coquina, Manatee Public Beach and Anna Maria Bayfront Park were fish-free by the afternoon of Dec. 26. County employees were sent to the beaches with pickup trucks and shovels to remove the fish.

“The beaches are spotless. Staff have been working diligently on this cleanup. We will continue to monitor and clean up as needed,” Demilio wrote in the email.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon suggested to county officials that visiting fishers be given fliers or trash bags to make them cognizant of the fish-kill aftermath.

“As far as the FWC is concerned, it’s not illegal to throw the white roe fish overboard,” Shearon said. “This is where I have to stick up for our local fishers. They have the common courtesy not to throw dead fish overboard.”

Shearon added that a recent full moon and accompanying high tide brought an abundance of fish farther up the shore.

“It’s unfortunate. We respect (the fishers) way of life, and they should respect ours,” he said.

“But hey, now you can come to Bradenton Beach for fresh sushi and we don’t charge you for it,” he added with a chuckle.

Bradenton Beach mayor says recall petition lacks credibility

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon is facing possible recall from office, but the charges are unfamiliar to him.

The recall petition to remove Shearon, which is being circulated by former Commissioner Peter Barreda, contains two counts of alleged malfeasance.

The first count states that on or about Feb. 6, the mayor violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws by discussing pending litigation during a two-way email conversation with another commissioner.

It also states that on or about April 21, Shearon violated the Sunshine Law by discussing the special events permitting process during a two-way email conversation with another commissioner.

“I don’t recall the emails,” Shearon said Dec. 19. “The last time I checked, between Jan. 1 and June, I had 6,000 pages of email. Unless I see the email (in question), it’s hard for me to comment on it.

“My question is: Was this turned in as a Sunshine Law violation to Tallahassee?”

Barreda could not be reached for comment on the validity of the counts of malfeasance.

Commissioner Janie Robertson, special events liaison to the commission, recalls the email regarding special events.

She is adamant that no violation of the Sunshine Law involving her was committed.

“I was charged by commission to evaluate our process for permitting special events and trying to improve it,” she said in an email to The Islander. “At public meetings, I asked for input from the commission. Mayor emailed his suggestions to me and Commissioner (Jack) Clarke provided me with his written suggestions.”

Robertson said the restructuring is a “work in progress” that she routinely reports at meetings.

“Liaison reports do not require that content be declared on the agenda,” she wrote. “Final decisions would be brought before commission…. I see no violation whatever here; certainly no malfeasance.”

Regarding the count involving pending litigation, Robertson said she has “scoured my emails from January to March and have no idea to what this count refers.”

Shearon said he’s in favor of having a recall election as opposed to the ongoing forfeiture process, saying he wants voters, not commissioners, to decide his fate. But he said a recall petition should be factual.

“I don’t see how they can charge that until I have been convicted of it,” the mayor said. “I don’t understand how they can claim on a petition that I committed a Sunshine Law violation.

“That’s quite a long time ago and I have not received any notification that I may have committed a Sunshine Law violation. That’s somebody’s opinion. They’re trying to recall me on something that might be justified and might not. If I knew what those two emails were, I might be able to clarify it and they are not showing that in the petition.”

Bradenton Beach commission to discuss lawsuits

Bradenton Beach commissioners, city attorney Ricinda Perry and attorney Charles Johnson, appointed to represent the city, will participate in a shade meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 8, in the conference room of the police department, 403 Highland Ave.

      The meeting will be gaveled open, but the public will be asked to leave while officials and attorneys discuss two lawsuits.

      In one, former planning and zoning board member Jo Ann Meilner and Tjet Martin, life partner of Mayor Bill Shearon, are suing the city over a development agreement commissioners made in 2012 with restaurateur Ed Chiles regarding a parcel of beachfront near Chiles’ Beachhouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N.

      In the other suit, filed a few months after Shearon was elected in November 2013, Chiles’ company, ELRA Inc., is suing Shearon for alleged misconduct by the mayor.

      Johnson, of Bradenton-based Blalock Walters, is representing the city for Shearon in that suit, which claims Shearon was acting as a “strong mayor” when he allegedly threatened staff if they failed to provide evidence to sway the commission to deny the agreement for the parking lot.

      “It’s another thing that I am accused of,” Shearon said Dec. 26. “There’s a lot of misbelief, I think is the way to put it. It’s an attorney’s opinion.”

      Meanwhile, Chiles’ attorney, Robert Lincoln of Icard Merrill of Sarasota, filed a motion for ELRA to intervene in the parking lot lawsuit.

      Shearon originally was a plaintiff in the parking lot litigation, but he dropped out when he was elected in November 2013.

      The shade meeting is called to allow the commission and attorneys to strategize the litigation.

            Shearon, Vice Mayor Jack Clarke and Commissioners Janie Robertson, Jan Vosburgh and Ed Straight are expected to attend. A transcription will be made available to the public when the lawsuits conclude.

Bradenton Beach commission to discuss lawsuits

Key Royale homeowner sues Holmes Beach for remodeling permit

After more than a year of wrangling with city officials in an attempt to remodel 626 Key Royale Drive — including an appeal to the Florida Building Commission — the homeowner has filed suit against the city of Holmes Beach.

    In their lawsuit, owner Leah Marie Enterprises LLC and corporate manager Kathleen Morgan, represented by Sarasota attorney David Johnson, Morgan’s husband, seek a court order requiring Holmes Beach to issue a permit to renovate the home.

    The lawsuit asks the 12th Judicial Circuit Court to intervene.

    Petitioners say they’ve exhausted their administrative remedies, and money damages are inadequate.

    They allege city officials and employees handled the matter unjustly, with bad faith and malice, and with acts constituting gross negligence, fraud or misrepresentation.

    At the heart of the suit is the petitioners’ contention that the city and its former building official, Tom O’Brien, erroneously told their architect and contractor they could replace only 30 percent of the roof.

    Johnson explained in an email, “Prior to beginning the remodel more than a year ago, Kathy relied on the city’s now-determined-wrong building code policy.

    “Had the city applied the law correctly, which is its duty, she could have removed the entire old roof, and not just 30 percent of it. Thus began the problem.”

    The petitioners accuse O’Brien and the city of misleading and misinterpreting the city’s 50 percent policy related to the Federal Emergency Management Agency rules. They claim the former building official told their contractors not to make improvements exceeding 50 percent of the “structural value,” while the law restricts improvements to no more than 50 percent of the “market value.”

    According to Holmes Beach building inspector/plans examiner David Greene, the problems at 626 Key Royale began when the contractor exceeded the scope of work under an October 2013 permit.

    Addressing the excessive work, the city issued a notice of violation and stop work order in December 2013.

    “Once you damage or modify more than 30 percent of a structural element, such as a roof, you’re required to bring the structure to current wind-load bearing, which is 150-mph exposure-D for our area,” Greene said of the Florida Building Code rules.

    He said the building department repeatedly told the contractor to submit a redesign within the rule.

    “Their last submittal did, but it didn’t increase the costs, and that didn’t look right,” Greene added.

    “It’s very complicated. But we want to make sure there’s no problem with FEMA,” he said. The city’s flood insurance discount can be jeopardized if the city allows projects to exceed the rules.

    FEMA discourages remodeling ground-level homes in the 100-year floodplain, which includes Holmes Beach. Elevating the structure is an exception.

    Holmes Beach city attorney Patricia Petruff told Johnson in a Dec. 5 letter that “the total cost of improvements, including the cost of the engineering analysis, may not exceed 50 percent of the value of the structure as it existed on Oct. 12, 2013.”

    In March, attorney Scott Rudacille, on behalf of Morgan, petitioned the Florida Building Commission for its interpretation of the 30 percent and 50 percent rules as they related to the project.

    The FBC ruled in September in favor of Morgan.

    While the city did not participate in the FBC proceeding, in June, O’Brien asked the contractor to submit the documents required by the FBC declaratory statement, according to Greene.

     Johnson sent a pre-suit notice dated Sept. 2 to the city, warning of a lawsuit.

    In addition to the city, the lawsuit names the superintendent of public works, Jon Betcher, and the suit requires answers within 20 days after service of summons.

    According to Holmes Beach city clerk Stacey Johnston, Mayor Bob Johnson was served Dec. 23.

        Betcher is on vacation until Jan. 1, and is not an employee of the city. He is acting as the building official under a contractual relationship with Manatee County. Johnston did not know whether Betcher had been served.

Diamond thief gets probation

Twelfth Judicial Circuit Judge John F. Lakin sentenced a former maintenance man to 24 months of probation and 100 hours of community service for breaking into a Longboat Key condominium, stealing a woman’s diamond and pawning it to a Bradenton Beach jeweler.

Michael M. Artman, 52, entered an open plea agreement in November on the second-degree charges of grand theft, burglary and dealing in stolen property, each charge carrying maximum 15-year prison terms.

Assistant State Attorney Courtney Holland recommended four years in prison based on Artman’s sentencing score, and Artman’s court-appointed attorney requested probation.

In addition to the Dec. 16 probation sentence, Lakin assessed Artman $100 for the Longboat Key police investigation and reserved the issue of Artman’s restitution, Holland said.

The judge, departing from the minimum sentencing guidelines, found Artman committed the offense in an unsophisticated manner and that it was an isolated incident for which he’d shown remorse, according to Holland.

“If you have all three, then the judge can depart from the minimum sentencing,” she said, adding that she didn’t believe the defendant was remorseful in his testimony.

“The judge and I disagreed,” Holland said.

“I think that’s awful,” said Bridge Street Jewelers co-owner Kassy Quinn after hearing of Artman’s sentence.

“It was an ongoing thing for four years. We were victims and there were so many victims,” she added.

Artman frequented the Bridge Street Jewelers, 129 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, for four years, telling the shopkeeper he was selling jewelry from his mother’s estate, according to Quinn and her husband, store co-owner Brad Smith.

The diamond ring, valued and insured at $85,000, was reported missing in February from a woman’s Windward Bay condominium, according to an LKPD report.

Artman, a former maintenance man for Windward Bay, allegedly gained entry to the condominium with a key he’d kept from an old job.

The diamond was sold Feb. 2 by Artman to Bridge Street Jewelers.

Artman presented the stone for sale, separated from the ring’s setting, according to Smith.

It was ultimately found by the insurance company after changing hands several times in New York, he said.

While the victim got her diamond back, Bridge Street Jewelers lost the $6,000 that it paid to Artman, according to Smith and Quinn.

Quinn explained they returned the money paid to them by the New York diamond dealer they first sold it to, saying that’s the way it works in the diamond business — “it’s built on trust.”

According to the LKPD’s investigation, Artman admitted to 10-15 similar crimes.

LKPD Detective Sgt. Robert Bourke said he is surprised that Artman is not locked away, has open cases in which Artman is a suspect and is working with the state’s attorney’s office to bring other charges.

Wiretaps suppressed in elderly caregiver case

A judge’s ruling will eliminate illegally taped statements from the first of two cases against an elderly Anna Maria caregiver accused of abusing clients.

Holmes Beach Police Department arrested Jo-An Franklin, 69, of Anna Maria, in April for the alleged neglect and abuse of a 95-year-old Holmes Beach man, and re-arrested her in August on a battery charge against an Anna Maria woman.

Franklin was released from jail on two $1,500 bonds, and pleaded not guilty on all charges.

Twelfth Judicial Circuit Judge Charles E. Roberts ruled Dec. 17 to keep out the statements “because they were illegally obtained,” said Henry E. Lee, Franklin’s attorney, who’d filed a motion to suppress the evidence.

According to Lee’s motion, Cynthia Franklin taped conversations without the home health worker’s consent or direction from law enforcement. The conversations were allegedly taped while the two worked together, taking care of the alleged victim.

The judge also ruled in favor of two other defense motions.

In a motion concerning the taped statements, Lee claimed the prosecution must divulge any special treatment given in exchange because making them constituted third-degree felonies and Cynthia Franklin had not been charged.

Lee said the assistant state attorney advised the court he had no knowledge of such treatment, and the judge ordered future disclosures if the prosecution learns of any.

The judge also granted Lee’s motion for a bill of particulars.

“I’ve taken depositions and I can’t determine what the heck they’re accusing her of,” Lee said, adding the prosecutor will need to provide more facts.

Assistant State Attorney Dickey Hough filed a traverse to Lee’s motion to dismiss Nov. 3 that pointed to facts, however, that refuted similar contentions. Hough did not return calls for comment on the Dec. 17 hearing before press time.

The next court dates for the two cases against Jo-An Franklin are set for docket sounding Feb. 11 and for trial Feb. 23 before 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Diana Moreland at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Holmes Beach focus returns to rentals

It appears a year-old ordinance in Holmes Beach may not be working.

“I appreciate the blight the commission has been working on, but there are still some loopholes,” resident Richard Motzer told commissioners at a Nov. 25 meeting in city hall.

He said vacation rental homes are taking advantage of the “loopholes” and turning “residential districts into rent-a-dential” districts.

Motzer specifically cited eight-bedroom duplexes in the R2 residential zone and questioned whether they comply with the living-area-ratio restrictions in the land-development code.

Commissioners directed building official Jon Betcher to look into the projects. At a December meeting Betcher reported that all the projects met city code.

Resident John Huckerson also commented on the large rentals in the residential districts, saying he doubted they’re in violation of the LAR.

“They’re monsters, but I imagine you’ll find they’re legal,” he said.

Commissioners passed an ordinance January 2013 limiting the square footage of a home in relationship to its lot size. The ordinance was put into place because new construction in the medium-density residential R2 zone — which allows vacation rentals and duplexes — was not compatible with existing residences.

The LAR is the relationship between the amount of air-conditioned floor area in a dwelling unit and the area of the lot or parcel. The intent of the LAR was to reduce the size of homes and duplexes.

David Greene, city plans examiner, said the majority of homes in the R2-duplex zone are restricted to 34 percent or less of lot size.

“And 34 percent is pretty restrictive,” he said.

He added that many new homes include large porches and outdoor areas — features that are exempt. The homes may appear larger, but do not violate the limits on LAR.

“I think its something we should look into,” said Commission Chair Judy Titsworth at the Nov. 25 meeting. “We do have an occupancy level in our comp plan and it’s two per bedroom. Now we might want to consider occupancy levels in bedrooms labeled so on the plans.”

Titsworth said she would add the subject of rental home sizes to the first work session in January, when commissioners plan to discuss safety regulations for vacation rentals.

Commissioner Marvin Grossman has suggested requiring health and safety standards for vacation home rentals. He said fire regulations, pool cleaning and other standards applied to hotels could be applied to vacation home rentals.

The commission will discuss the issues at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

 

In other building business

Dorothy Pon asked commissioners if the city had taken action to ensure builders have power and water at construction sites.

A builder, without permission, used utilities from Pon’s property in August. No charges were filed, and the matter was settled between the builder and Pon.

“We didn’t have to make an ordinance because that can be administratively done,” Titsworth said.

Mayor Bob Johnson said he would speak with building official Jon Betcher on that matter as well as drainage issues.

Adding to Johnson’s list, Grossman asked that plans be made available in the building department for public review for up to 30 days.

“At least once a week a citizen asks me about construction,” he said. “I can see where the frustration is for citizens. I was appalled when I found out the number of eight-bedroom houses that are being built right now.”

The plans are public record and available upon request, but Grossman suggested maintaining an open, readily available file of current projects.

Eyes on the road

Local law enforcement officials remind those celebrating the holidays with intoxicating spirits to ride with a designated driver.

And island officials remind celebrants that there is no fee to ride the island trolley.

In other travel news, the Florida Department of Transportation issued the following alerts for motorists driving in the area the week of Dec. 29:

• State Road 789 from Coquina Beach to 13th Street South: Crews are making drainage improvements. Expect lane closures from 8 p.m.-6 a.m. Monday-Friday. Expected completion is early 2015.

• State Road 684/Cortez Road at the Cortez Bridge, from east of Gulf Drive to west of 127th Street West: Crews will work on the bridge expansion bearings and joints, beams, fender wall, sidewalks and the electric system in the bridge tender house, including the generator. Work on the project includes general maintenance and repairs to the bridge span, beams, piling, seawall and bridge=tender house.

The DOT advises motorists to slow down and use caution in work zones.

For the latest roadwatch information, people can go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.

Local agencies can send announcements of roadwatch projects to news@islander.org.

Real Estate – 12-31-2014

861 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria, a 2,914 sfla / 4,887 sfur 4bed/3bath/2car Gulffront home built in 1996 on a 54×137 lot was sold 12/10/14, Loomis to Hyer for $1,425,000; list $1,675,000.

214 75th St., Holmes Beach, a 1,929 sfla 4bed/3bath pool home built in 1929 on a 7,362 sq ft lot was sold 12/08/14, Poseidon Adventures on 75th St LLC to Brown for $940,000; list $979,000.

1900 Gulf Drive N., Unit 3, Marbella, Bradenton Beach, a 1,206 sfla / 1,416 sfur 3bed/2bath Gulffront condo built in 2000 was sold 12/12/14, Willis to Glyman for $650,000.

201 69th St., Holmes Beach, a 1,664 sfla / 2,534 sfur 4bed/2bath duplex built in 1969 on a 7,013 sq ft lot was sold 12/10/14, Nationstar Mortgage LLC to 69th St. HB LLC for $493,572; list $448,700.

Jesse Brisson, broker/associate at Gulf-Bay Realty of Anna Maria, can be reached at 941-778-7244.

Obituaries – 12-31-2014

Perry Pittman

Perry Pittman, 50, of Bradenton and formerly of Holmes Beach, died Dec. 28. He was born Jan. 17, 1964, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Mr. Pittman was co-owner of Tortilla Bay Southwest Grille in Holmes Beach.

A memorial service with the Rev. Mark Alt presiding will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3, at the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Memorial donations may be made to St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, www.stjude.org/donatenow.

Mr. Pittman is survived by his father, Frank of Crossville, Tennessee; mother Bettie and brother Ed, both of Athens, Georgia; and brother Scott of Austin, Texas.

 

obit-pittmanCraig Alan Watson

Craig Alan Watson, 46, of Bradenton, died Dec. 19. He was born in London Feb. 13, 1968, to the late Bernard and Anne Theresa Watson.

Mr. Watson was owner operator with wife Radka of Fire & Stone and 101 Bridge Street restaurants, in Cortez and Bradenton Beach, respectively.

The service was private. Memorial donations may be made to either cancer charities and or hospice. Manasota Funeral Home assisted the family.

Mr. Watson is survived by his loving wife of 20 years, Radka.