Days of old, and warnings of days to come
Islander cartoonist and bon vivant Jack Egan offered the following account of days past on Anna Maria Island. Things were definitely different then.
"During the summer of 1947, Dick Hall and Charlie Jones spearfished around and under the Anna Maria City Pier. The Manatee County High School students would take orders from tourists as to what fish they wanted, with requests including sheepshead, trout, redfish, snook and cobia. The boys would go under, spear the fish and sell it to the tourist by the pound.
"Charlie recalls that one day a tourist put in an order for a 5- to 6-pound snapper. He speared one and sold it, getting $1.20 for his efforts.
"Back at school, Charlie captured the state titles in track for the high and low hurdles. He also starred for Manatee County High School in football. His team won the South Florida Conference Championship his senior year. He won a track scholarship to the University of Florida and, after graduation, went on to a distinguished career in the U.S. Army as an artillery officer.
Today, of course, spearfishing for snook is illegal, and the hook-and-line catch is regulated and snook cannot be sold.
In the late 1940s, things concerning building were much, much different. Dredge-and-fill development was common, the Intracoastal Waterway didn't yet exist, School Key was a sparce mangrove island and there was no thought of anything called Key Royale.
Now, it's much different. Dredge-and-fill development operations are pretty much a thing of the past in the Sunshine State. Housing prices have gone through the roof - although the roof is limited to a set height on this Island and "megahomes" are being more and more regulated elsewhere.
Attorney David Levin is offering his thoughts to how to deal with the new, or not-so-new, rules of home construction-reconstruction. He achieved Anna Maria Island fame for his successful defeat of another "mega" construction here a few years ago, representing Save Anna Maria Inc. in stopping the Florida Department of Transportation's plans to build a huge replacement bridge at Manatee Avenue to link Perico Island to Holmes Beach.
He specializes in environmental issues, and his Web site, flwaterfront.com, offers a few hints of what property owners should be wary of if they want to build, rebuild, remodel, or otherwise alter their property. As Levin puts it, "To avoid frustration, delays and undue expenses, buyers of waterfront property should obtain the answers to these questions prior to closing.
Some of the questions that homeowners should ponder, according to Levin, include:
- Was the existing structure built after Jan. 1, 1975? If so, special flood plain management regulations may apply.
- Is the property located in a Federal Emergency Management Agency special hazard zone (Zone A or Zone V), as is much of the Island?
- What is the currently required Base Flood Elevation, something we've all been made very aware of lately.
- For structures in FEMA V zones, what is the elevation of the bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member of the lowest enclosed, finished floor? If this elevation is lower than the BFE, the structure may be non-conforming, and if non-conforming, the structure may be unlawful - something else we're starting to learn all too much about.
- Is the area below the lowest finished floor used solely for parking of vehicles, building access, or storage?
- Is there furniture - bed, couch, tables, etc. - on the ground floor? What about a bathroom - commode, sink, shower - down there? Ground covering like carpet, tile or vinyl? Are the ground-floor walls finished? Any kitchen appliances? A washer-dryer? Separated walled rooms? If yes, the structure may be non-conforming.
- If in a FEMA A zone - that's generally close to the beach - do the walls enclosing the area below the lowest finished floor have a minimum of two openings no higher than one foot above grade having a total net open area of not less than one square inch for every square foot of enclosed area? If not, the structure may be non-conforming.
- If the existing structure does not conform to current FEMA regulations, when was the structure last improved? What was the market value of the non-conforming structure when improved? What was the cost of the improvements when made? If the cost of the improvements exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure when improved, the structure may be non-conforming or future improvements may be limited.
- Are there any mangroves on or adjacent to the property? Do the mangroves extend waterward of the mean high water line? How far waterward do the mangroves extend from the shoreline? The extent of trimming that can be conducted on mangroves located on state-owned submerged lands is substantially limited.
How tall are the mangroves? Generally, mangroves less than 6 feet in height may not be trimmed. Special regulations apply to mangroves of 10, 16 and 24 feet or less in pretrimmed height.
More questions than ready answers to building a house on barrier islands these days, isn't there?
Manatee count totals for 2004
Manatee counters took to the air Feb. 20, and counted 2,568 sea cows off Florida's coasts. The count was conducted by 23 observers, 16 in the air and seven on the ground, through the auspices of 14 different agencies.
Of the total, 1,309 were on the Gulf coast, 1,259 on the Atlantic side of the state.
It's important to remember that the numbers are not really a true census of the slow-moving marine mammals. There are wind, wave, sun, shade, clear and murky water conditions that can deflect an observer's eye when it comes to the count. Most manatee researchers average a slew of years to come up with an estimate of the number of manatees.
Of course, and depending upon which side of the issue one is on, the high or low counts are used to crow or cringe at the manatee population.
"In 2003, under near-perfect weather conditions, biologists counted 3,113 manatees," according to the Florida Marine Research Institute in St. Petersburg. In 2002, there were only 1,796 counted. 2001 saw an all-time high of 3,276.
Did anyone but me note a number of electronic clocks reveal that Sunday, Feb. 29, was actually recorded as March 1? Or are all my electric do-dads just so old that they don't record Leap Year dates?