Author Archives: islander
U.S. Coast Guard members from Station Cortez responded June 6 as high winds and heavy rains from Tropical Storm Andrea sent a boater toward the Cortez Bridge.
Station Cortez dispatched a 45-foot response boat to the out-of-control vessel and rescued the boater just before the boat struck the bridge.
The Coast Guard reminds boaters to take precautions to ensure safety during severe weather events.
Maria Planning and Zoning Board former chair Doug Copeland and current P&Z member Carol Carter have applied for the city commission vacancy left by the June 1 resignation of Commission Chair John Quam.
At the June 13 city meeting, the remaining four commissioners will select one applicant to fill the remainder of Quam’s term, which expires in November.
If no candidate receives a majority vote on the first ballot, discussion continues, according to the city charter, until one person receives a majority.
The charter makes no provision for what happens if the commission is deadlocked.
Following election of a commissioner, the commission must elect a new chair. Vice Chair Chuck Webb has said he is too busy with his legal practice to be chair, although he has previously served in that capacity.
The charter makes no provision for the mayor to serve as interim commission chair except at the organizational meeting following the November election of new commissioners.
Copeland served on the P&Z board 1990-2004, including several years as board chair. He resigned in 2004 to become a member of the city’s ad hoc charter review committee.
Carter has spent a number of years in leadership positions in education and for nonprofit organizations. She became a P&Z member in early 2013.
Environmental education and enhancement committee chair Bill Malfese, who is employed by the city in the public works department, said he would seek the vacancy, but had yet to file with the city clerk as of press deadline. He said last week he is still considering his decision.
The deadline for candidates to file a short biography accompanied by his or her reasons for seeking the post and 10 voter signatures was June 10.
The city will hold a workshop to discuss options for a potential new restaurant and bait kiosk tenant on the Historic Bridge Street Pier, former site of Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant. Islander Photo: Mark Young
Bradenton Beach commissioners heard a proposal to open a restaurant on the Historic Bridge Street Pier at a June 6 city commission meeting.
Chef Christopher Ulmer and potential concessionaire Roland Pena, co-owner of the Starfish Cafe at the Vitamin Sea store in Holmes Beach, offered their plan, although the city had not yet discussed its request for proposal to consider a new tenant.
Ulmer said his group wants to lease the restaurant, bait stand and for the restaurant to be a center of activities, such as fishing tournaments and other events.
“Our priority would be not be to market us as Anna Maria Island, but as Bradenton Beach and Bridge Street,” he said. “That is where we are.”
Commissioners also heard from Tami Murphy, owner of Gulf Boat Fun Tours. Murphy recently began offering boat tours at the pier.
She expressed interest in leasing the bait kiosk for her own purposes, but commissioners told her and the Star Fish team that any interest in the restaurant or kiosk is premature.
City attorney Ricinda Perry said she expected to present an RFP to commissioners at the meeting, but wasn’t sure what direction the commissioners want to take.
“Piecing out the pier may not be in the best interest of the city and I don’t want to move forward tonight with any use of the pier,” she said. “I really don’t know what the city wants to do, whether to piecemeal it out or keep it all together.”
Perry suggested scheduling a workshop or special meeting with a single focus on discussing the restaurant and bait kiosk.
Commissioner Ric Gatehouse said he didn’t agree that separating the restaurant and kiosk with two tenants would be a bad idea.
“We don’t know that for sure until we get some offers on the table,” he said. “But I don’t want to close any doors at this point and I think this needs more discussion.”
Mayor John Shaughnessy said an RFP is city policy and the fairest way to find a new tenant or tenants, noting that discussing potential new tenants before the RFP would not be prudent.
“There has been some discussion about going separate, but I’m in agreement to do a workshop to see what the best solution is for everyone and to be fair to everybody,” he said.
Commissioners gave a consensus to schedule a workshop. Perry said one would be scheduled within 7-10 days in order to bring an RFP to the next commission meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.
In other matters, commissioners voted 3-1 to have an Australian pine tree removed from Lou Barola Park. Public works director Tom Woodard said a home is being built on the adjacent property and that the tree extends over onto private property.
“The new homeowners would like permission to remove the Australian pine tree and replace with it a native gumbo-limbo tree in the same location,” said Woodard.
Woodard said the property owners are willing to pay for the project and agreed and public works would stipulate the owner to initially maintain the new tree, watering to get it established.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Commissioner Jan Vosburgh. “It’s getting rid of a problem tree, getting a native tree and he’s picking up the cost.”
Gatehouse moved to approve authorizing the property owner to remove and replace the tree. Vosburgh seconded the motion and Shaughnessy joined in voting for approval.
Vice Mayor Ed Straight was absent and Commissioner Gay Breuler voted “nay.”
Commissioners also voted 4-0 to deny a request from BeachHouse Restaurant general manager Rebecca Shannon for a donation toward the Independence Day fireworks July 3 at the restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N.
Shannon said the event has grown into a community event, which in turn benefits the community and its businesses.
“We are looking for help to offset the cost for this event,” said Shannon. “I’m not going to get into the details of the costs, but it’s in the thousands and thousands of dollars and expenses are going up.”
Shannon said restaurant owner Ed Chiles has been honored to hold the event and would like to continue to do so.
Shaughnessy said it was only a few short years ago that the city donated up to $10,000 to various causes, but that the city doesn’t have the money to spend outside of its own needs.
Breuler said budget talks are just about to begin for 2014 and is too late to ask for money this year.
Shannon said her intent was to put the subject out for discussion and wanted to pursue a more official request for next year’s celebration.
She said Bridge Street Merchants has claimed the event to be one of its biggest sales day and recently pledged to help with the cost.
Commissioners voted no for this year, “but at least we get this on the table so people are thinking about it,” said Shannon.
The city commission schedule calls for a city meeting July 4. Commissioners voted 4-0 to cancel the that meeting and rescheduled it for July 11. The July 18 commission meeting also was canceled.
While all the bills and pledges from the Anna Maria Island Community Center’s May 18 gala, An Island Affaire, have not yet come in, executive director Dawn Stiles estimated the total revenue at about $160,000.
That would leave a $40,000 shortfall from what assistant executive director Scott Dell projected in March to the board, before Stiles assumed the directorship April 1.
At the March board meeting, Dell said center revenues were down by $196,000, not counting Island Affaire revenue. He said the gala would raise $200,000-$220,000 and cover the shortfall.
Stiles said she did not know if $160,000 was a good revenue figure or not as this was her first Island Affaire.
“I hope it’s brought up at the June 21 board meeting for discussion,” she said.
Stiles said she would discuss the revenue issue with board director Scott Rudacille before the meeting. She said she needs to know the financial position of the center, and if other revenue streams are needed before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Several people who attended the gala said it appeared to be a sell out.
Much of the revenue, however, depended upon the silent and live auctions and raffle ticket sales. Those amounts should be in the treasurer’s report or in Dell’s report at the June 21 meeting.
Several people suggested the name of the entertainment should have been released in advance of the Affaire.
Stiles said she is working on development and financial plans that will be ready by the board’s September meeting. The center board traditionally does not meet in July or August.
The next board meeting is 8 a.m. Friday, June 21, at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.
Manatee County administrator Ed Hunzeker tells the benefits of proposed the half-cent sales tax increase during a town meeting June 5 at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: Mark Young
A handful of people brushed off raindrops June 5 to hear the benefits of voting in favor of a half-cent sales tax increase proposed on a June 18 countywide ballot.
Manatee County administrator Ed Hunzeker explained the benefits of supporting the tax at a town hall meeting in Holmes Beach.
Hunzeker said the tax stemmed from a discussion that occurred at the county level about who pays for county government.
“Sixty percent of county government is put back on people who own property,” he said. “That’s different from most counties. To put that much of the cost on one group of people is strange and inappropriate.”
Hunzeker alluded to the premise that should voters pass the half-cent sales tax, Manatee County property taxes could decrease by 23 percent in municipalities and by 13 percent in unincorporated areas of the county.
“We started looking at why do we do that when other revenue streams are available to government in order not to put a burden on property taxpayers,” he said.
In 1984, the county sold Manatee Memorial Hospital with the proceeds going toward helping to pay for indigent health care. That money will run out in 2015, and only a portion of those funds are used while the remainder of the balance is paid through property taxes.
Last year, the county paid about $24 million in health care costs. About $9 million was used from the hospital sale fund while more than $14 million was supported by property owners.
“When I first arrived in 2006, an indigent health care task force was formed and they came to me in 2007 to request a half-cent sales tax increase,” said Hunzeker. “I told them, ‘Good luck.’”
Hunzeker said the timing wasn’t right in 2007.
“I told them they have a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “We had not engaged the community in a discussion.”
Hunzeker said the following year a study was done that showed challenges in the county’s health care system and those challenges have led to increasing costs.
“There are basically three big ticket items that are making up the $24 million,” he said. “One is when people go to jail, we have to pay for their health care. The other is Medicaid match, which we are required to pay. The last big thing is that we fund a portion of uncompensated services from people that show up and can’t pay.”
Hunzeker said it’s important for voters to understand that indigent health care isn’t about people who are too lazy to get a job. He said poor people are usually on state or federal programs to help them pay their medical costs.
“It’s the working poor we are talking about here,” he said. “People that have jobs and, because they have jobs, they don’t qualify for help. Or maybe their employer had to cut health insurance during the economic downturn. That’s the people we are talking about. So this mental picture about some slacker smoking and drinking and too lazy to work isn’t what we are necessarily talking about when we say indigent care.”
Hunzeker said once the county understood that a half-cent sales tax increase would generate about $23 million a year, it was clear that a rare occurrence of creating a tax to get tax relief was possible.
“You pass this tax, you get a tax cut,” he told the gallery of mostly island city residents and officials.
The idea is to spread the costs of health care across the board to everyone in the county, instead of the property owners who now pay the lion’s share. That moved Hunzeker to look at other aspects of the county tax bill that he said are off balance.
“There’s other pieces of the puzzle,” he said. “One of the things is the sheriff’s office budget.”
Hunzeker said the $95 million MCSO budget includes $28 million in patrol service, and not every city uses MCSO patrol services, “but they still pay for it.”
He also pointed out that unincorporated areas of the county don’t pay a utility franchise fee, which could also allow lowering property taxes.
His budget plan, if the tax is approved, will include charging unincorporated residents a utility franchise fee on top of the sales tax increase, although unincorporated residents will still save money.
“When we started this process and began looking at changing who pays for government, you look at winners and losers,” he said, noting virtually every time government makes a decision there are both.
“But I couldn’t figure out who the losers are in this scenario,” he said.
Hunzeker said approving the sales tax increase will create only good things for the county and its residents.
“The good side is that we solve our community health care crisis, reduce property taxes, diversify the county revenues, allow more families to apply for mortgages and it’s a better allocation of the sheriff’s office budget.”
Hunzeker told the gallery that if passed, the sales tax would only be used to pay for indigent health care.
“We can’t do anything with it but health care,” he said.
If passed, Hunzeker said Manatee County would have the second lowest property taxes in the region.
“We already have the lowest water, garbage and other things,” he said. “It will be a bargain to live here.”
If it doesn’t pass, Hunzeker said the county commissioners face a challenge in overcoming the $9 million health care fund that runs out in 2015.
“Instead of a tax reduction, the talk will be about a tax increase,” he said. “We don’t have a way to solve that $9 million. The thing about the sales tax is that everybody pays it, including the people who are getting the indigent care. They buy stuff. Visitors buy stuff. Everybody buys something and everybody pays.”
Currently, Manatee County sales tax is 6.5 percent and Manatee is the only county in the area collecting less than 7 percent.
According to IRS tax tables, the average family will pay $52-$64 more a year in sales tax. The increase would take effect Jan. 1, 2014, if the referendum passes.
Voters heading to the polls June 18 to vote on a half-cent sales tax increase to help pay for indigent health care have another issue to consider.
A second item on the ballot is an issue to give authority to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners to provide incentives to incoming and existing businesses by eliminating property taxes for 10 years, if the business qualifies for the program on the ballot.
Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, said June 5 at a Holmes Beach town hall meeting that the measure is a job creator tool that attracts new business.
“The main charge of our organization is to recruit businesses here and encourage existing businesses to expand,” said Hillstrom. “In 2009, we recognized the need to be more aggressive and to diversify the economy.”
Hillstrom said Manatee County is the only county in the Tampa Bay region that does not offer the incentive.
“Economic development is highly competitive,” she said. “Businesses use a site selection consultant to scout out communities, and if you don’t have what they want, you don’t even get an opportunity to speak about how great your community is.”
She said there isn’t a way to determine how many businesses have passed on Manatee County after seeing the county doesn’t offer what other Florida counties do with the tax exemption.
The incentive is no freebie, she said.
“The businesses have to fall into a certain sector to qualify, they have to create a certain number of jobs, invest capital and have to offer a wage to its employees that are at or above average for the area,” said Hillstrom. “If they don’t do any of that, the incentive stops.”
Hillstrom said Manatee County is not only at a disadvantage in losing potential businesses, but that many children raised in the county don’t come back after college because they lack opportunities here.
“We want to send our kids off to college and have them come back,” she said. “We need to attract talent.”
Hillstrom said existing businesses that have stayed loyal to Manatee County shouldn’t be left out of the incentive program, if voters pass it.
“We also want to encourage expansion of existing businesses, and right now we don’t have a lot to offer them,” she said. “The other thing to keep in mind about existing industries is that they create the vast majority of new jobs.”
Hillstrom said the passage of the incentive program is one more tool in the toolbox to help her organization aggressively recruit businesses to Manatee County.
“We want to be on an even playing field with the counties around us,” she said. “We have a great product to sell here. There is momentum in this community and we are poised for greatness.”
Critics of the tax exemption call it corporate welfare and feel businesses should succeed or fail on their own, Hillstrom said.
“I say it’s an investment in our community and way of life,” she said. “The economic return for this incentive program far exceeds what you get back in ad valorem taxes.”
Esther Williams, the swimming champion and star of Technicolor musicals in the 1940s and 1950s, died June 6 at the age of 91. Williams starred in a number of films that featured her aquatic skills, including “On an Island with You,” which was filmed in part on Anna Maria Island. The 1948 movie co-starred Ricardo Montalban, as well as Peter Lawford, Cyd Charisse and Jimmy Durante. The film, set in the South Pacific, is about a movie star pursued by a handsome Naval officer.
Long Bar Pointe, marked in blue and approved in 2008, will return to the county in August with an amended plan that includes a dredged canal and 300-berth marina among other changes. Islander Graphic: Courtesy Manatee County
Manatee County commissioners in 2008 approved plans to develop Long Bar Pointe, a bayfront area on the mainland near the IMG Academy and IMG Golf Club.
Only the road leading to the residential development was finished, including a roundabout at 75th Street West and 53rd Avenue West leading to El Conquistador Parkway in unincorporated Manatee County.
Developers were set to make a new presentation to county commissioners last week, looking for substantial changes to the approved plans, as well as comprehensive plan changes, when stormy weather brought on by Tropical Storm Andrea brought a halt to the June 6 meeting.
The new plans call for a more intense development, requiring dredging and demolition of 20-40 acres of mangrove forest and acres of seagrasses to allow canal entry to a 300-berth marina from Sarasota Bay.
A future land-use map change to mixed-use development and a comp-plan text amendment would allow increased development within areas of coastal and conservation elements in the plan.
The project is being guided through the governmental process by the developer, Berrington Group, and Larry Lieberman, who has owned the property for 13 years. Within the past year, he brought Medallion Homes into the development to help see the project to completion.
Environmentalists, including some islanders, were lined up to fight the proposed changes.
Barbara Hines of Holmes Beach, vice chair of the environmental group ManaSota-88, called the new plan an “environmental disaster.” She said dredging for the marina is in an “area that’s shallow, filled with seagrass and a marine nursery, and they would cut through mangroves.”
She also noted that new housing in a coastal high hazard zone is ill conceived and effects countywide disaster planning, as well as storm evacuation for islanders.
“It will effect all that we hold dear, including effects to commercial and recreational fishers,” Hines said.
The 2008 approval included the maximum number of residential units for the property’s zoning, including:
• 1,667 single-family homes.
• 2,501 multi-family homes.
• 150,000 square feet of commercial development.
The revised Long Bar Pointe plan reviewed by the county planning board includes:
• 1,086 single-family homes.
• 1,687 low-rise multi-family homes.
• 844 high-rise multi-family homes.
• 300-room hotel.
• 300-berth marina and canal.
• Two 36,000-square-foot office buildings.
• 60,000-square-foot shopping center.
• 60,000-square-foot specialty retail.
• 84,000-square-foot conference center.
County staff has said the map amendment change poses no problem, but the text amendment request raised red flags, and they recommended the commission deny the changes.
To obtain recommendation for the comp-plan change, the developer must cite how the property qualifies for development in environmentally sensitive areas, including how to:
• Provide enhanced water-related uses.
• Provide new, substantial, material public benefit.
• Increase public access to waterfront.
• Mitigate all environmental impacts.
• Incorporate innovative design for mixed-use.
• Include minimum land mass of 100 acres.
And it must be adjacent to existing navigable waters and adjacent to arterial roadway.
One of the reasons offered to deny the text amendment is that it affects the entire county, and the developer only justifies benefits of new zoning to Long Bar Pointe.
The amendment allows the most intense mixed use zoning offered by the county.
The neighboring IMG Academy already is experiencing major expansion, including construction of a 5,000-seat multi-sport stadium.
IMG Academy welcomes the resort addition, according to a letter to the county from Chip McCarthy, vice president of finance and operations of IMG Academy.
The Long Bar Pointe plans do not include building designs or a layout of a proposed marina and canal.
The developer would, however, require removal of up to 40 acres of mangroves and more than two acres of seagrass to create a waterway allowing large boats to enter a harbor that would be created on uplands on the property.
The Long Bar Pointe website states the mangrove area will undergo clearing of nuisance trees — Brazilian peppers — where Manatee Fruit Farms operations are “choking off” mangroves, according to the developer’s environmental consultant.
But the county staff says the submitted plan lacks information on how it would mitigate impacts on the 117 acres of privately owned submerged land that includes “significant seagrass beds,” providing habitat for marine life, including areas frequented by manatees.
The staff also reports dredging that adversely impacts seagrass beds is prohibited by the comprehensive plan.
Before the meeting was canceled, environmentalists were already rallying against the development, proposed changes to the county’s environmental policies and the appearance of Sarasota Bay.
A group of concerned residents, including Hines, former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann and Glenn Compton, chair of ManaSota-88, met prior to the June 6 county meeting in Cortez to talk about their opposition to Long Bar Pointe.
Mote Marine Laboratory interns lift Tyler, a loggerhead sea turtle, from the back of a truck June 3 in preparation for release after recovering from lethargic loggerhead syndrome. The release took place at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Mark Young
A crowd of more than two dozen people gathered on the shore of Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach June 3 to watch what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some.
Tyler, a sub-adult, 120-pound loggerhead sea turtle was released into the Gulf of Mexico after about 45 days of recovering at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.
“This is the golden egg of sea-turtle work,” said Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox.
“We rarely get to see the adult sea turtles, so to see a sick one return to the water healthy is a wonderful thing, and to share it with the public is special,” said Fox. “I see real estate professionals, doctors, a retired veterinarian technician and a lot of teachers mixed in this crowd. For many of them, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Mote interns and staff carried Tyler to the water’s edge and the release went quickly as the healthy loggerhead scampered into the open water with a second chance at life.
Within seconds, the turtle disappeared.
Tyler’s sex is unknown, according to Mote medical coordinator Lynn Byrd, who said the turtle was still too young to know for sure.
What Byrd did know for sure is that Tyler was close to death when the turtle was found on the shore of Anna Maria, close to Seagrape Lane.
Good Samaritans found Tyler on the beach March 16, lethargic and unable to move.
Tyler arrived at Mote with a red blood count of six.
“It’s supposed to be around 30,” said Byrd. “So the turtle was close to dying.”
Byrd said the condition is called lethargic loggerhead syndrome.
“It’s a parasite that gets into the bloodstream,” said Byrd. “We don’t know how, but as long as we get the turtle soon enough, the recovery rate is excellent.”
Byrd said a supplemental diet combined with antibiotics, and of course some tender loving care, typically gets the turtle back into a healthy state.
“What happens is that once infected, the turtle is unable to move,” she said. “They float ashore or float to the surface and are picked off by predators.”
That would not be Tyler’s fate and as the loggerhead quickly ducked under the waves, Byrd said, “This is the best. Any day we can return a healthy sea turtle back into the water is a good day.”
If you’ve got a great snapshot, we’ve got a contest you could win.
The Islander Top Notch digital photo contest will begin publishing weekly winning photos June 26. Six weekly winning photos will be featured on the cover of The Islander, and one photo will be a grand prize winner of $100 cash prize from The Islander and other prizes and gift certificates from local merchants. Weekly winners receive a “More Than a Mullet Wrapper” Islander T-shirt.
The weekly deadline is noon Friday throughout the contest, with the first deadline June 21.
Top Notch judging begins with a selection of pictures that may include family, landscapes and scenics, candid snapshots, action, holidays, humor and animal pictures. Nothing is overlooked, including kid pics, sentimental moments and moments of personal triumph. This year, judges also will be looking for top pet photos with a prize appropriate to pets from Perks 4 Pets and The Islander.
Digital contest entries should be submitted in original JPG format via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital entries are required. Only photo cropping is allowed. No retouching, enhancements or computer manipulation is allowed.
Entries must include one photo attachment/entry per email with the required information in the e-mail text. There is no limit to the number of weekly entries, and entries need not be repeated, as photos not selected but preferred by the judges are moved forward each week.
Entries not meeting requirements are disqualified.
Top Notch contest rules
1) The Islander Newspaper Top Notch Photo Contest is strictly for amateur photographers — those who derive less than 5 percent of their income from photography.
2) Black-and-white and color digital photographs taken after Jan. 1, 2012, are eligible. Photos previously published (in any format/media) or entered in any Islander or other competition are not eligible.
3) Photographs may be taken with any camera. No retouching or other alteration (except cropping) is permitted; no composite or multiple print images; no camera App manipulation will be accepted. Digital photos must be submitted in JPG file format. Prints and slides are not accepted.
4) Entrant’s name, address and phone number must be included either in the email or affixed to the back of each print submitted. One email per photo submission. Email single entries to email@example.com.
5) Entrants by their entry agree that The Islander may publish their pictures for local promotion. Entrants must provide the original digital image if requested by the contest editor. All photos submitted become the property of The Islander. The Islander and contest sponsors assume no responsibility for maintaining submissions.
Entrant must provide the name and address of any recognizable persons appearing in the picture with the entry.
6) Employees and paid contributors to The Islander and their immediate family members are not eligible.