Tag Archives: 01-11-2012

Dog owners favor sign change at ball park

Proponents of a shared dog park/ballpark use at the city’s Birdie Tebbetts field expect to seek a sign change from the Holmes Beach city commission Jan. 17. With the issue on the work session agenda, they plan to ask for the city to recognize the dog park use.

“The sign should not be ambiguous. Right now the sign says: ‘No dogs permitted during ball playing activities,’” said Socko Pearson of Holmes Beach.

Another sign posted on the fence says, “This field is baseball/softball use only. All other activities use soccer field.”

Dog park owners who regularly take their pets to run at Birdie Tebbetts Field say they want to approach the commissioners with suggestions on how to change the signs to allow for the continued ball and dog use of the field at Flotilla Drive and 62nd Street.

Pearson said some of the dog owners favor signage that will include exercising their pets on the field as a permitted use, but not an exclusive use.

“We don’t mind that it’s a ball field,” he said. In fact, he added, his dog owner friends are not opposed to organized sports taking precedence over dog running.

Following a meeting of six regular park users on Dec. 30, Pearson said they shared a common experience of casual ball players ousting dog park users based on the “no dogs permitted during ball playing activities” sign.

Other concerns were related to the city’s cost for baseball-field maintenance and protocol for field reservations.

However, he said, it was the signage that irks the dog owners.

“That’s our only beef as dog people,” Pearson added.

Other recent visitors interviewed by The Islander about their dog use at Tebbetts Field Jan. 2 included brothers, Tyler Ayres and Stephen Ayres of Guava Street who had brought their lab pit bull mixes, Monti and Bocachica. Parenthetically, Bocachica is named after a San Diego Padre outfielder, Hiram Bocachica, according to her owner.

“This is the first dog park baseball field I’ve ever been to,” Stephen Ayres said, adding that he is a sports management graduate currently in umpire training. He likes the idea, though, and believes the two activities can be compatible as long as everyone continues to pick up the dog waste.

In a recent interview, public works superintendent Joe Duennes said Birdie Tebbetts is a baseball field, “not a dog park” and is maintained as such on almost a daily basis. Field maintenance, including insecticide, herbicide and irrigation, is performed primarily Dave Benton of the department, Duennes said. “It’s a lot of upkeep for one guy,” he added, “others help.”

The city’s cost for the field’s upkeep is not separated out in the 2011-12 budget, but rather included as part of public works’ general line items for maintenance, supplies and salaries.

Duennes added that the Birdie Tebbetts field was acquired with Manatee County–it did the initial grade work– and if there would be a change in the usage, he thought the county might need to be consulted.

The city provides dog waste bags and receptacles on Flotilla, and according to Duennes, seeing those placed in this location may have started the interest in dog owners using the field.

No problems with dog waste have been reported by city officials or dog owners, who say they clean up waste if it is noticed, and police the field by advising other owners of their dog’s actions.

“I don’t have a fenced-in yard,” Stephen Ayres said, “and I feel I’m doing something very good for them taking them here to run.”

He just moved to Anna Maria Island from Bradenton, and previously used G.T. Bray’s “very good dog park.”

Debate about the dogs using Birdie Tebbetts Field has been stirring in the community this fall partly due to the city’s use of the field’s parking lot as a staging area for a stormwater project.

The stormwater project began in mid-August, and a completion date is set for March, Duennes said.

During the early 2000s, Junior Little League teams sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Community Center Board played on the field.

However, no organized ball has taken place for about two or three years, according to Scott Dell of the center.  Dell consulted on initial field construction, which was dedicated as a park by the city of Holmes Beach in 2001.

Pearson and other neighbors say an informal co-ed softball league uses the baseball field for about six weeks in the summer, but beyond that, the field has been used by people allowing their dogs to run in the secure fenced-in area.

The lack of ball playing at Birdie Tebbetts Field is part of a national decline in baseball as a children’s sport, according to Dell.

The field is located near other park amenities, including city-owned and maintained open grass field, basketball court and comfort station. Manatee County owns the nearby tennis courts, according to Duennes.

Dell said in 2011 the only center-related sports use at the city park was soccer in the open grass field area. Football, other sports and city-permitted arts and crafts festivals also use the open area field.

Birdie Tebbetts Field is the city’s only baseball field. It honors the late George Robert “Birdie” Tebbetts.

Tebbetts was known as a defensive-minded catcher for the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians between the late 1930s and the early 1950s and as the best catcher in the American League in the 1940s.

Birdie settled in the city of Holmes Beach in the 1960s and supported the Anna Maria Island Little League.

Anna Maria vacation rentals topic of meeting

Anna Maria commissioners at their Jan. 12 work session could begin discussion of vacation rental problems if Commission Chair Chuck Webb approves the agenda. The issue was on the draft agenda compiled by staff and Mayor Mike Selby that was sent to Webb Jan. 6 for approval.

The planning and zoning board was slated to discuss vacation rental issues at its Jan. 10 meeting and then present any recommendations to the city commission Jan. 12.

P&Z chair Sandy Mattick called for discussions after a variance was granted for a resident to build an 8-foot-high fence to limit noise from an adjacent rental property.

Mattick also noted it was a growing problem and should be addressed. The city’s permanent population has been in decline in recent years, while the number of vacation rental properties has increased.

Any issue related to vacation rentals would be on the table, said Mattick, including trash left on the curb before a collection date, trash bins left curbside for several days after a collection, parking spaces required for rental properties and the noise issue.

Anna Maria would appear to be following in the footsteps of its sister city — Holmes Beach — where that commission recently began tackling the vacation rental issue, particularly construction of large duplexes that can house several vacationing families at one time.

But new duplex construction won’t be an issue in Anna Maria. Existing duplexes in the city are grandfathered for use, and the Residential-Two zone for duplexes was abolished in the 2007 comprehensive plan.

Anna Maria has no zoning restrictions that would prohibit one-night stays in the city, and there is no restriction on the number of bedrooms for a single-family home, according to building official Bob Welch.

Dolphin Dash sportswear

Anna Maria Elementary School second-grader Andrew Austin is wearing the 2012 Dolphin Dash T-shirt he designed. The school’s annual 5k run and fundraiser takes place at 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, with runners departing from the school campus and dashing through downtown Holmes Beach. For more information call race organizer Becky Walter at 941-320-1382. Islander Photo: Courtesy of Walter


Normal holiday week, busy Island

Many accommodation owners and managers, retail store and restaurant operators said business during the Christmas holidays was about what they expected: Normal.

But “normal” to David Teitelbaum, owner/operator of the Tortuga Inn, Tradewinds and Seaside resorts in Bradenton Beach, means “We were pretty busy,” he said.

“It was a bit slow the week before Christmas, but the day after, we got hit big. A lot of walk-in traffic, and we were very busy,” he said.

“Busy for the Christmas season is what we’re supposed to be, so it was a good Christmas week.”

Accommodation rentals also picked up right after Christmas, said Zita Kollar of Gulf-Bay Realty in Holmes Beach.

“We did fairly well and booked a lot of properties that week. We got a lot of long-term bookings from a number of families,” she said.

Although there are still some vacation rentals available, Kollar said advance reservations for February, March and the first two weeks of April are peaking, and some periods are already 100 percent booked.

Not everyone in the accommodation/vacation rental industry had a happy Christmas.

Jeff Geary of the White Sands Resort in Holmes Beach said reservations were a bit down from last year.

“I’m not saying it was bad, it was about what we expected. It could have been a bit busier for us,” he said.

Many guests arrived after Christmas to stay for the week between that holiday and New Year’s Day, he said.

Geary noted that advance reservations for February and March were “looking good.”

The Christmas week also was “normal” to some in the Island’s retail industry.

“We were busy,” said Linda Clayton, co-owner of Mister Roberts Resortwear in the S&S Shopping Plaza, 5330 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

“We did about what we expected that week. I haven’t done all the figures, but we might be a bit ahead of last year. It certainly wasn’t a bad Christmas,” Clayton said.

At the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, administrative assistant Deb Wing said she hasn’t heard any members complain they had a poor holiday season.

“I would say it’s been fairly normal, meaning pretty busy,” she said.

“We’ve had quite a few walk-ins looking for tourism information or asking where they could find a rental. We definitely weren’t slow for the holidays,” Wing concluded.

Restaurateur Ed Chiles, who owns the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria, the BeachHouse Restaurant in Bradenton Beach and the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub on Longboat Key, said the good weather ensured a good Christmas for the restaurants.

“People love outdoor dining. We had a lot of good weather days and there were a lot of hungry people at the three restaurants those days,” he said.

When the weather turned chilly, windy and cloudy for a few days during the holidays, business dropped a bit, Chiles said.

“Still, it was a good Christmas season for us. We’re certainly not unhappy, we were busy and if we have good weather this season, everyone should do fine,” Chiles concluded.

BB still lacks quorum, Ward 3 commissioner

The hope for the new year was a full board of commissioners for the city of Bradenton Beach, but that did not come about at the Jan. 5 city commission meeting.

The final seat on the commission has been vacant since the November election, when former Commissioner Janie Robertson had to step down due to a mandated term limit. No one ran for her Ward 3 seat, leaving the appointment of a new commissioner up to the mayor and commissioners.

After weeks of trying to find a willing applicant, two candidates came forward and both attended the Jan. 5 meeting to see if they would be nominated. Both left disappointed.

Mayor John Shaughnessy nominated Richard Gatehouse to be Ward 3 commissioner and Commissioner Jan Vosburgh seconded the nomination. Vosburgh and city attorney Ricinda Perry thanked Gatehouse for seeking the nomination without acknowledging the second applicant.

Commissioner Gay Breuler moved to appoint Gatehouse, but a request to speak from the public was granted by Shaughnessy before the motion was seconded. The mayor had not yet allowed public comment on the topic.

Jo Ann Meilner, president of the Bridge Street Merchants Association took the podium to recommend John “Scooter” Tillison for the seat. She said many of the merchants on Bridge Street support the appointment of Tillison.

She opposed the appointment of Gatehouse, who has worked on the website for the city for several years under a contractual arrangement. Meilner pointed out a possible conflict of interest.

She read a Florida statute to the commission that she claimed would prohibit the appointment of Gatehouse.

“State statutes show no public employee can hold a public office of which he is a contractor or employee,” said Meilner. “I don’t know why you would appoint a commissioner when I think there will be a conflict.”

Meilner instead touted the experience of Tillison.

Shaughnessy said Gatehouse was his nomination because he submitted a full resume, while Tillison only submitted a letter with references, “and most of them don’t even live here,” said Shaughnessy.

“As far as Mr. Gatehouse goes, he can recuse himself if there is a conflict with city business and the website,” he said.

Breuler continued her motion to appoint Gatehouse, but the motion died for a lack of a second. Vosburgh was planning to go forward with her approval, but cited her concerns over the state statutes.

Turning to Gatehouse, she said, “I think you are very qualified for the job, but if what (Meilner) says is true, why can’t you just resign your position with the website?”

Gatehouse said he did not believe there was a conflict of interest and did not address the request to resign his contract for web services.

Vice Mayor Ed Straight said he could not move forward with a vote without understanding the legalities of the potential conflict.

“I still question whether it’s legal or not,” Straight said. “I need a ruling from our attorney before voting on it.”

Perry advised the commission to continue the appointment to the Jan. 19 meeting agenda to allow her to look into the potential conflict.

Perry then reminded the board that a second candidate existed and asked the commissioners if they would like to make another nomination, although was no nomination was made.

Gatehouse reiterated to The Islander following the meeting, that he did not believe a conflict of interest was an issue.

“I still don’t feel as though there is a conflict of interest,” he said. “As long as I recuse myself from anything that has to do with the website, then I don’t see a problem. I’ve been the webmaster since its inception in 2004 and have sat on other city boards in the interim.”

Those seats were volunteer positions, but Gatehouse said he’s just trying to help the city fill a need.

“I’m just trying to step up and help the city, but I understand their need to make sure everything is legal,” he said. “If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Tillison expressed disappointment in not being considered for the Ward 3 commissioner seat.

“I’m disappointed in not being nominated (by a commissioner),” he said. “But I’ve said all along that I’m not a politician, so I’m not going to throw stones.”

Water taxi needs key Island stop

leaseholder of the Anna Maria City Pier is still considering a proposal by Capt. Tracey Dell to have a water taxi from downtown Bradenton dock at the city pier as an integral stop on its route to a mix of Island locations.

But Dave Sork, manager of the Anna Maria City Pier restaurant, representing leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder, admitted he was too busy during December to schedule time for “serious discussions” with Dell.

“That’s something I definitely have to do as soon as possible,” he said.

Dell went to the Anna Maria City Commission in November with his proposal, but was told by city attorney Jim Dye that he first needs to get an agreement with Schoenfelder. After that, the city would review the agreement and determine if it met the terms of the lease.

Sork said he was going to call Dell and get into the “nuts and bolts” of the proposition to dock and bring passengers to the pier.

Dell, who operates the Kathleen D catamaran charter from the Bradenton Marina, wants to start with service from downtown Bradenton to the Anna Maria City Pier and a few other Island locations, such as the Historic Bridge Street Pier and the Mainsail (formerly Tidemark) Marina in Holmes Beach.

He also has plans to dock passengers at Fort DeSoto Park in Pinellas County.

The “key” to the shuttle is the Anna Maria City Pier location, Dell said. He said has yet to schedule a “sit-down” meeting and go over the plan with Sork.

“Without the pier stop, the shuttle really doesn’t make sense. We need to have the Anna Maria pier to get over to Fort DeSoto and bring visitors from there to Anna Maria for a day trip.

“So, we’ll talk to Dave (Sork) and hopefully we can settle his issues and move forward,” Dell said.

The water taxi proposed is the “Island Pearl,” a 50-foot former U.S. Navy personnel transport that was refitted in Maine in 2004 to ferry passengers among the small coastal islands there. After refitting, it was named “Boat of the Year” in 2004 by the Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine, he said.

The boat is currently undergoing additional renovations, including upgrading its facilities to become more environmentally friendly, Dell said.

“We’re using green technology wherever possible on the boat.”

Dell said the vessel will have photovoltaic panels that use the sun’s energy to charge batteries and fulfill other energy needs, and the bilge pump has a separation device to remove oil that might otherwise discharge into surrounding waters.

Boundary dispute complicated by lack of quorum

A lack of action on the part of Bradenton Beach city officials has frustrated Holmes Beach officials over the disputed 27thStreet quitclaim deed granted to Sandpiper Resort in 2008.

Who may or may not have access at the northern boundary of Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach has come into question, and has launched a complicated dispute.

Bradenton Beach officials made it clear at their Jan. 5 meeting that they would like to move forward in settling the dispute, but are unable to do so with two of the four voting commissioners having to recuse themselves from the issue due to living in the Sandpiper Resort, which is central to the dispute.

Hopes were high during the meeting that a new Ward 3 commissioner would be appointed at the meeting, allowing a quorum of three voting members, but that did not happen.

At the Jan. 5 meeting, the mayor only acknowledged one applicant and his appointment was put on hold following a concern raised about a conflict of interest.

The applicant earns an income as the city’s webmaster, which lead to a concern at the meeting of a conflict with Florida statutes concerning contract fees paid to city officials.

Virtually every Bradenton Beach commissioner voiced a desire to move the dispute with Holmes Beach forward toward settlement, but reiterated that they have not been able to do so without a third voting member.

A lengthy discussion on the dispute went forward with city attorney Recinda Perry saying the issue will not likely be resolved without input from the Sandpiper Resort board of directors.

“Sandpiper has not been given enough say in this,” said Perry. “Personally, I feel no solution can come about without input from Sandpiper.”

Sandpiper board member Danny Rains provided a presentation to the city commission at the Jan. 5 meeting, highlighting the board’s desire to resolve the boundary issue and presented possible solutions. However, Rains did so not as an official representative of the board.

Mayor John Shaughnessy, who has had to recuse himself from the dispute, spoke as a private citizen with approval from Perry.

“Sandpiper is not having a board meeting until February,” he said. “Anything being proposed now is something I don’t know has been approved and, they are having an election in January, so there may be different board members.”

Shaughnessy also noted that if the dispute comes down to land ownership, it would require Sandpiper to take the issue to a vote of its shareholders, approximately 120 of them.

“It would take two thirds to approve that,” said Shaughnessy. “A lot of residents are absentee owners, so proxies would have to be mailed out. It could be 30 or 60 days, if it came down to a vote. This thing is a lot more complicated than it seems on the surface.”

Perry said it was still important to work with Sandpiper to gain their input and have that input included in the Holmes Beach proposal, although the city lacks a quorum to take action.

“As city attorney, I have only so much authority and latitude until I have direction from my commission,” she said. “I need to know if the Sandpiper proposal is agreeable, or if you have an alternative idea. I need to know if I’m digging in my heels and litigating, compromising, or working on one of the proposals.”

Perry asked for a consensus from the only two voting members of the commission, Commissioner Jan Vosburgh and Vice Mayor Ed Straight, to work with Sandpiper, and attempt to include their input in the conflict resolution process.

“The whole reason this came about is because Sandpiper was renovating and their lending agent mandated that the quitclaim deed be put in place,” said Perry. “Sandpiper can’t release any property without their lending agency signing off on it. It’s all tied together.”

Perry said the crux of the argument is that evidence was submitted in 2008 that Sandpiper owned the property.

“It was never dedicated as a public street of Bradenton Beach,” said Perry. “If the city maintains the street, anyone can park on it. If it’s private, then Sandpiper can regulate who can park there.”

Both Straight and Vosburgh agreed that Sandpiper should be a part of the process and consented to allow Perry to work with Sandpiper on their recommendations.

The unofficial Sandpiper proposal is to remove the “No trespassing signs,” and replace them with directional “To beach” signs. Rains also suggested the removal of the locking devices on the gates.

Other suggestions made by Rains were for parking north of Seventh Street, a street owned and maintained by Sandpiper within the park; to require Holmes Beach to install a gateway in the alley; and for Holmes Beach to acquire two feet of property from adjoining residents, while Sandpiper would add two feet on its boundary for a beach pathway.

Perry summed up her presentation by pointing out that Holmes Beach’s current settlement proposal has legal ramifications.

“I recommend you digest those,” she said. “I still don’t believe Holmes Beach has adequate legal standing, but (Holmes Beach) neighbors could get frustrated with this process and sue the city and undo everything that has been done.”

Representatives of both cities are scheduled to meet again Jan. 18 to continue the state-prescribed conflict resolution process.

Birding isn’t just for the birds

Before the bird counters had fully assembled in the parking lot, the early volunteers were scanning the sky.

“There’s two black vultures. And, there’s a frigate,” exclaimed Carole Brigham and Lee Zerkel.

It seems the frigate was a surprise. They explained that the frigate population should have left with the arrival of the white pelicans. “And there go two white pelicans,” Bringman noted.

More volunteers arrived and coordinator for the Leffis Key-Coquina Beach-north Longboat Key area John van Zandt divided up the area, issued three pages of bird names that were likely to be counted.

The Dec. 27 Gulf-Island Circle Audubon Christmas bird count was officially under way.

Van Zandt, Zerkel, Brigham and newbie bird-watcher Wendell Graham made their way into Leffis Key. A total of eight teams, consisting of 36 birders participated in the 112th annual Manatee County Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the 30th annual Gulf Circle count, which includes Anna Maria Island, Perico Island, Cortez and the north end of Longboat Key.

The annual count netted some surprises along the way, including the frigate sighting, but also the great black-backed gull, which was spotted the day after the official count. The gull is typically not seen in this area at all, according to van Zandt who has been birding since the early 80s. There was also some disappointment, as some birds that were expected to be seen were not.

The counters did not see such birds as the cattle egret, green heron and more. The most common bird spotted during the count was the brown pelican, which numbered over 200. Besides the rare spotting of the frigate this time of year, several other species were only spotted once.

Those species include the wood stork, little blue heron, snowy egret, American kestrel and more. Organizers of the count also reported that only 16 common peafowl were counted on Perico Island, down from 24 last year.

“We saw fewer songbirds, which was also unexpected,” said van Zandt. “All in all, the numbers were down somewhat from prior years.”

With more than 100 years of database facts at the disposal of the Manatee County Audubon, the group is able to pinpoint trends in birding populations. The numbers this year are a concern to veteran birders like van Zandt, who noted his concerns, but said it wasn’t time to be alarmed.

“It does bring to mind environmental concerns,” he said. “Birds, like a canary in a coal mine, are a good indication of the health of the environment. For example, the red knot used to be plentiful in our area, but now there is only one little flock of about 50 birds during the winter.

“I love birding though. You get in the fresh air and it’s mentally challenging and, of course, much different than a typical workday,” he said.

Veteran birders have a love for what they do and typically speak about how they fell in love with bird counting on their first trip.

Wendell Graham volunteered for Saturday’s bird count and years from now may recall the first time she fell in love with it, too.

“Birding might not be for everyone, but it really opens your eyes to the tremendous variety of birds that are around you, even if they are only here for a short time as migratory birds,” she said.

Graham said birding was already a minor hobby for her, she had taken a two-week course in birding offered by Bob and Nancy Dean, of the Manatee Audubon. She heard about the official count while attending one of the local Audubon meetings.

“I loved the course I was taking and wanted to do more,” she said. “I also like to do things for my community, so I thought this was a good combination, and I really enjoyed it.”

Graham was a little concerned her “rookie” status would get in the way, but that wasn’t the case at all.

“One of the great things about being a novice is that you are surrounded by these incredibly helpful experts,” she said. “They help you every step of the way.”

Graham said she is definitely hooked, and will continue to volunteer for Audubon.

“I would encourage everyone, young and old to get involved with this,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun and you learn so much about our local birds and those birds who visit during migration. When you start to know what kinds of birds you are seeing, it gives you a whole new appreciation of our area.”

The official numbers from the Manatee County Audubon count were:

Black vulture: 9

Turkey vulture: 98

Osprey: 5

American kestrel: 1

Black-bellied Plover: 2

Snowy Plover: 1

Willet: 12

Sanderling: 12

Unknown gull: 40

Laughing gull: 22

Ring-billed gull: 80

Herring gull: 6

Lesser black-backed gull: 4

Unknown tern: 3

Forster’s tern: 1

Royal tern: 26

Rock pigeon: 1

Eurasian collared-dove: 43

White-winged dove: 1

Mourning dove: 29

Red-bellied woodpecker: 4

Downy woodpecker: 1

Fish crow: 31

Blue-gray gnatcatcher: 1

European starling: 13

Pine warbler: 1

Palm warbler: 15

Northern cardinal: 1

Common grackle: 46

Boat-tailed grackle: 30

American goldfinch: 1

Lesser scaup: 10

Common loon: 2

American white pelican: 53

Brown pelican: 209

Double-cr. cormorant: 11

Magnificent frigatebird: 1

Great Blue heron: 10

Great egret: 7

Snowy Egret: 1

Little blue heron: 1

Yellow-cr. night-heron: 1

White ibis: 32

Wood stork: 1

Bittern: 1

Bonner Joy contributed to this story.


FISH looks for volunteers

Planning for the 30th annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, which will take place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18-19, featuring live music, arts and crafts, children’s activities, environmental exhibits and, of course, lots of seafood, is under way by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage.

The festival ground begins at the corner of State Road 684/ Cortez Road at 119th Street and extends to the waterfront, encompassing the Florida Maritime Museum and the FISH Preserve, where nature walks and tours will be included throughout the weekend for the admission price to the festival. Admission is $3 and children under 12 attend free.

FISH is seeking volunteers for all manner of work during the festival. Anyone interested should contact Debra Ibasfalean at villagelady27@verizon.net.   Ibasfalean suggested shifts from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Volunteers should submit preferred day, shift in the e-mail, as well as suggestions for what sort of work he/she might prefer.