Tag Archives: 02-15-2012

Bimini Bay dredging project starts up

A West Coast Inland Navigation District project to dredge the Bimini Bay channel near Galati Marine in Anna Maria began Feb. 9, said WCIND director Chuck Listowski.

“We are administering a dredge contract on behalf of Manatee County and the city of Anna Maria for the Bimini Bay-Key Royale entrance channel,” Listowski said.

The project is funded by a WCIND grant.

The channel, which has caused navigational problems for boaters, divides the cities of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.

The dredged material will be “pumped to the Anna Maria fishing pier beach park,” by the Lake LaVista inlet just north of the city pier, he added.

It will be a quick project.

“We should complete the dredging in about two weeks,” Listowski said.

He said the barge, dredge and tugboats were making preparations in Bimini Bay for several days before the start date of Feb. 9, but the dredge had not yet begun.

Portions of Bimini Bay, including the channel, came to be within the city limits of Anna Maria after the city annexed the waters in 2010. Manatee County, which previously had jurisdiction, determined it had no interest in providing services, permits and planning for the portion of Bimini Bay annexed by the city.

The annexation process took 18 months, and was approved by the Florida Legislature, allowing the city to issue dock permits and provide governmental services and law enforcement to its portion of Bimini Bay.

Will Cortez museum audit challenge cooperative spirit?

Admissions that “bad blood” has existed in the past between the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, Cortez Village Historical Society and the Cortez Florida Maritime Museum and Nature Preserve were brought forth at the Feb. 6 FISH board meeting.

Whether the three entities will rally behind one another or whether a September audit requiring more separation will cause a deeper riff will be addressed in the coming weeks.

The audit of the museum, following the discovery of $6,000 in a cashbox left by previous museum management, revealed that recent cooperation between the nonprofit agencies may have been done in a cooperative spirit, but go against grant requirements set forth by the Florida Communities Trust. FCT granted the funding to purchase the 1912 schoolhouse, now the museum, in 1999.

The nonprofit agencies of FISH and CVHS have been working with the museum to raise funds, but a lack of museum revenues and subsequent disbursements are at issue within the audit. The contract stipulates cooperation between the three entities, and includes supplying volunteers to the museum.

However, the contract also stipulates funds generated on museum grounds remain strictly for museum activities and within museum control.

This has not been the status quo in recent years, according to the audit.

The museum has been using a bank account that FISH set aside in its name for museum use, but most of the museum’s financial transactions have been cash. Most of the $6,000 discovered in the cashbox was deposited into the FISH account.

The FCT grant contract was directly related to the museum and the museum’s use of the FISH account is not fulfilling the requirements set forth by FCT.

“We have to start separating it,” said R. B. “Chips” Shore, Manatee County clerk of circuit court and comptroller, who ordered the audit upon learning of the $6,000 and whose office is in charge of museum operations.

The very mention of “separation” brought back defensive memories for FISH board members at their Feb. 6 meeting, where the audit results were discussed.

“I’m grateful to the county to help us redo the museum, but I don’t want to lose all of our privileges and start feeling separated,” said FISH facilities chairperson Debbie Ibasfalean. “How did you come to the flat determination that the $6,000 couldn’t get split down the middle between FISH and the museum?”

Shore explained that the audit determined that the $6,000 was raised through museum activities and the FCT contract stipulates that the money belongs to the museum, so must be used for the museum.

Ibasfalean said a donation box at the museum has generally been a multipurpose donation box for people to donate not only to the museum, but toward FISH efforts to organize festivals.

“I have people that will go put money in that museum box thinking it’s for the museum and FISH,” she said. “They don’t know any better.”

No one involved with the cooperative effort of all three organizations knows different, said Shore, who took most of the responsibility on his shoulders for the ongoing confusion.

It’s not only about the donation box, however.

While there is leeway for FISH to conduct fundraising activities on museum property, a revenue share agreement must be reached in the form of a lease/rental agreement, with a guaranteed share for the museum.

Also, FISH not only conducts concessions on museum property, but hosts a boat raffle on museum property. All of those fundraising activities were contradictory to FCT stipulations, or should have at least had a user-fee lease/rental agreement in place with the museum.

FISH board members were surprised to learn much of what the audit revealed in terms of separation requirements.

“And that was my fault,” said Shore who noted he is working with the county administrator to get all of the organizations involved with the museum back into compliance with the FCT grant contract.

Board members were not pleased at the prospect of returning $6,000 to the museum. Some said they believe the money was raised for both the museum and FISH.

Shore said that no longer mattered, and that it was a clear legal obligation.

“When I grew up it was a handshake and a done deal, so it’s been hard to wrap my head around what has to be done in government,” said Shore. “So I got burned.”

Ibasfalean said she just doesn’t want to see “another massive rivalry. I know we have to do what’s right by the government, but I just don’t want to lose that bond.”


Working together

FISH board member Joe Kane said it’s not about the money. The money is a symbol of the three entities who need to work together for a common goal, he said.

“The spirit of this is not about dollars and cents or legal contracts,” he said. “It has a much more important thing. In the role of the museum, FISH is a part of that. We’ve got $6,000 and who does it belong to, but the reality is that we have a separation in this room.”

Kane said the $6,000 is a symbol of that separation.

“It’s not a financial thing, it’s a spiritual thing,” he said. “What we need is to get a feeling that we are a part of the museum and that the museum is part of FISH.”

As part of a 1999 agreement signed by Karen Bell, former treasurer of FISH, FISH agreed not only to assign volunteers to the museum as part of the FCT agreement, but also to pay the museum $25,000 annually in revenues generated from the Cortez FISH-sponsored Commercial Fishing Festival.

This, too, came as a surprise to the current FISH board. Some members questioned what the 1999 board could have been thinking.

To date, those payments have not been made, but Shore is not forcing that issue as part of the cooperative spirit between the agencies.

However, Shore said the obligation to separate funds is not negotiable between the entities.

The management agreement reads, “any fees generated as a result of (museum grounds) usage will be accounted for in separate accounts … and used for the restoration and operation of the (museum).”

It is in this language where the agreement allows the museum to create fee-based leases to non-governmental agencies, such as FISH and CVHS, which has not been done in the past.

And board members learned, such leases must be “forwarded to FCT for review and approval” prior to the county board of commissioners taking action.

The audit recommendations to remedy the existing problems include the creation of such lease/rental agreements, remove the clerk’s responsibility from FISH to solely benefit the museum, direct the clerk to create a special revenue fund for the museum to be overseen by the clerk’s office, and to update the 2004 management plan to reflect current operational standards.

The audit further recommends a precise and secure means to be developed for financial transactions to better monitor museum finances in the future.

A subcommittee was formed by the FISH board to begin working with museum staff to create lease/rental agreements going forward. Those recommendations are expected to be brought to the FISH board at its March 5 meeting, which also will feature elections for board positions.

Audit of Cortez museum discloses concerns

A September 2010 discovery of more than $6,000 in a Florida Maritime Museum cashbox, in Cortez, led Manatee County clerk of circuit court and comptroller R.B. “Chips” Shore to order an internal audit of museum fundraising activities since 2008.

The cash was discovered following the departure of the museum’s former manager, Roger Allen.

Two nonprofit agencies are actively involved with the museum, as outlined in the Florida Communities Trust grant, and they include FISH, and the Cortez Village Historical Society. Both agencies use the museum or museum grounds to raise money, which is contradictory to FCT grant requirements without a lease/rental agreement.

Use of museum grounds for FISH fundraisers has been ongoing without any such agreement and without approval from FCT, according to the audit.

The audit revealed a history of poor record-keeping, a lack of receipts, and a lack of overall adherence to the FCT management requirements outlined in the grant contract.

Shore discussed the audit results at the Feb. 6 FISH board meeting, in Cortez.

“After (Allen) left, we found the box with $6,000 in it and we asked for the audit,” said Shore, while pointing out other shortcomings to FCT requirements.

“It’s (the requirements for the grant) that bothers us, because they could come back and require us to pay back that money, and that’s what scares us,” he said.

Shore also noted the FCT stipulation for no concession activity on museum property by any person or organization other than governmental agencies without a preapproved user fee lease/rental agreement benefitting the museum.


Audit recommends change in overall policies

The audit notes on several occasions the lack of documentation in the past for museum expenses, revenue and fund disbursements. Even interviews with museum staff to gain insight to museum purchases proved “inconsistent,” according to the audit.

However, recommendations were set forth for the museum to become compliant with FCT contract stipulations, including:

• Develop procedures for the reconciliation of revenues received by the museum with appropriate supporting documentation, and require monies to be deposited in a timely manner.

• Develop procedures that define authorized petty cash purchases and designate a custodian of the funds to ensure all reimbursements are properly supported by receipts.

• Obtain a lease/rental agreement for each fundraising activity or festival held at the museum property that defines distribution of all revenues collected.

Shore said the creation of the lease/rental agreements between the museum, FISH and/or CVHS was a top priority.

The FISH board of directors agreed to form a subcommittee to begin working on the details of a lease/rental agreement and would bring their recommendations to the board at their March 5 meeting, to begin the process of coming into compliance with the FCT grant requirements.

The remainder of the changes will need to come from the museum. Shore said he is currently working with the Manatee County administrator to expedite the museum conformance to the audit recommendations.



Agencies involved with Cortez Museum and Preserve

Florida Maritime Museum:

The Florida Maritime Museum is a joint endeavor of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, the Cortez Village Historical Society, Manatee County clerk of circuit court and the Manatee County Board of Commissioners.

The museum is a restored 1912 schoolhouse located on the grounds of the Cortez Nature Preserve. The museum features maritime heritage of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

A grant to restore the schoolhouse was funded through Florida Communities Trust and Manatee County took ownership in 1997. In 2004, the county transitioned daily operational duties to the clerk of circuit court.

Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage:

        The FISH board of directors are elected to their position in two-year rotation cycles and it is a volunteer board in charge of organizing the Cortez fishing festivals, including the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, which draws an estimated 20,000-25,000 people annually, and a Folk Music Festival.

FISH, a nonprofit agency, aids the Florida Maritime Museum by providing volunteers to assist in the museum’s operations. FISH also works to preserve the culture of Cortez and other traditional Gulf Coast maritime communities.

FISH works to restore the nature preserve, which entails more than 95 acres.

Florida Communities Trust:

        FCT provides funding to local governments and eligible environmental organizations for acquisition of community-based parks, open space and greenways that further outdoor recreation and natural resource protection.

FCT, a Florida State government program, provided the land acquisition of museum property, for the Cortez Nature Preserve and funded the restoration of the Florida Maritime Museum.

Cortez Village Historical Society:

CVHS was the driving force in the formation of FISH in the 1990s. CVHS formed in 1984 by direct descendants of Cortez’s original settlers, who date back to the 1880s.

CVHS was included in the FCT grant agreement by being tasked with providing volunteers to the museum and for finding museum-worthy items for display.

CVHS, alongside other community organizations, spearheaded the effort to have the community of Cortez registered as a historic district on the state and national Register of Historic Places.

CVHS was instrumental in securing the FCT funding that restored the 1912 schoolhouse, and in moving the “Burton” store, built in 1890, to its current location.

Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller:

The Florida Constitution established the clerk of the circuit court and comptroller office as an independently elected official to protect public funds and public records, as part of the office’s duties.

In 2004, the Manatee County Board of Commissioners tasked the clerk’s office with the daily responsibilities of operating the Florida Maritime Museum, in Cortez, which is owned by the county.

Cortez fishing festival, FISH celebrate 30th year

There’s something fishy in Cortez.

That’s the theme of this year’s annual Commercial Fishing Festival that will play host to an estimated 25,000 people who are ready to descend on the historic village of Cortez.

The festival will offer visitors two unique days of fun and family entertainment as the 30th annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival kicks off Feb. 18-19, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Events include live music, marine life discussions and display, children’s activities and at the heart of maritime cultures will be a variety of fresh seafood, “with choices for land lovers,” festival organizers said.

More than 50 vendors will be on site with arts and crafts, as well as artwork featuring a nautical theme.

Festival activities will also take place at the east end of Cortez, at the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W. where festivalgoers can enjoy live music and additional parking.

Entry to the festival is $3 and children under the age of 12 are free. All proceeds from the festival are collected by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage. FISH organizes the annual festival and uses the proceeds for the continuing expansion and restoration of the FISH Preserve.

The 95-acre parcel along Sarasota Bay is considered environmentally sensitive. The FISH effort to preserve the land, and buffer the village from development has been endorsed by famed ocean explorer, Jean-Michel Cousteau.

“Your FISH Preserve is very impressive,” wrote Cousteau, founder of Oceans Future Society. “Its economic value cannot be judged in terms of dollars alone. I have seen from many places around the world, communities like the fishing village of Cortez, suffering from the demise of the natural resource base on which they depend. Your project is an important reminder of the vital connections between nature and humanity.”

For a schedule of festival activities, and more information, visit www.cortez-fish.org or call 941-708-6120.

Festival entertainment Saturday, Feb. 18:

    Stage 1, Waterfront

10:30 a.m.: Soul R Coaster

Noon: Awards and Introductions

12:30 p.m.: Eric von Hahmann

2 p.m.: Shaman

4 p.m.: Razing Cane

Stage 2, Bratton Store

10:30 a.m.: Eric von Hahmann

11:45 a.m.: Passerine

1 p.m.: Brian Smalley

2:15 pm: St Pete & Main Hatch Motley Shanty Singers

2:45 p.m.: Eric von Hahmann

4 p.m.: Jimmy Johnson


Festival entertainment Sunday, Feb. 19

    Stage 1, Waterfront

10:30 a.m.: Soupy Davis and his Band

12:00 p.m.: Eric von Hahmann

1:30 p.m.: Dr. Dave Band

3:30 p.m.: Gumbo Boogie Band

Stage 2, Bratton Store

10:30 a.m.: Main Hatch Motley Sea Shanty Singers

11:15 a.m.: Jimmy Johnson

12:30 p.m.: Terry Blauvelt

1:45 p.m.: Sister Act (Lane & Val)

3 p.m.: Eric von Hahmann

4 p.m.: Eric & Jimmy


Cortez festival includes off-site parking areas

The 30th annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival draws an estimated 25,000 festivalgoers.

Parking can be an issue.

However, this year festival organizers have addressed the need to accommodate more vehicles by adding a remote parking area at G.T. Bray Park, 5502 33rd Ave. Drive W., Bradenton. A bus will be available to shuttle festivalgoers to the festival gate from the park. The roundtrip shuttle price is $2.50.

The parking at G.T. Bray Park is in addition to the traditional remote parking at Coquina Beach, Bradenton Beach. Parking also is available on the east side of Cortez, but only an early bird can expect to find an open spot, festival organizers said.

Parking within the village also can be found, as some homeowners allow parking for various fees.

The festival activities will run from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 18-19, from the Florida Maritime Museum to the Sarasota Bay shoreline in the historic fishing village of Cortez.

Residents claim city tree removal ‘blatant destruction’

Park Avenue residents Betty Yanger and Nancy Yetter addressed Anna Maria commissioners at their Feb. 9 meeting, expressing outrage over the removal of Australian pines at the Park Avenue beach access before taking public input.

Yetter claimed she heard the city agreed to remove the pines because the builder of a new home at the beach end of Park Avenue, told the city that the “owner wanted a view of the water.”

“It was a blatant destruction of the Island, carried out in secrecy,” Yetter said.

She did say she was aware of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection order of 2004 requiring municipalities to remove Australian pines from public property whenever possible, but asked Mayor Mike Selby to “look into negating the DEP rules regarding Australian pine removal.”

“Bring in tall trees with shade and, in the future, show people what the area would look like if the pines were removed. We want tall trees,” Yetter said.

Yanger suggested cedar, gumbo limbo and cabbage palm trees, among others, should have been purchased and planted immediately to keep the area shaded.

“Right now, it looks like a war zone,” Yetter said.

What’s “done is done,” Yanger said. She suggested the city have a plan in the future when it schedules the removal of trees such as the mature Australian pines.

Yanger said the city should always “consult with the residents” in the area where exotics will be removed, and have native trees ready to plant to replace the exotics.

“We want to look forward,” Yanger said.

Former Commissioner Gene Aubry said the city was divided for a long time over some issues. “Now it’s not, but it’s about to be again,” he said.

Commissioners should “think, talk to each other and take the time to talk to people about the decisions you make. I would hate to see this continue,” Aubry said.

What’s happened on Park Avenue is “pretty sad to see,” Aubry said.

City resident Mike Coleman, however, said he didn’t agree the city is “about to be divided.”

He said Yanger and Yetter are asking for solutions.

Coleman suggested the commission should enact a measure to “replace each Australian pine with a native tree” as Yanger suggested.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb said the issue of Australian pines was not advertised for discussion on the agenda.

City attorney Jim Dye, however, said discussion was fine as long as no ordinance or resolution was adopted.

Dye suggested the city advertise discussion of the Australian pines issue, and Webb said the city did have some control over property owners removing exotics and other vegetation.

He suggested the city have a mitigation system requiring a developer plant native species as replacements for some removed trees.

“The question is how far we want to go into private property rights,” Webb said.

Webb said he would work on a mitigation resolution and advertise it for a future meeting, but he noted the Australian pine tree issue is not new.

“It’s been discussed and discussed in this city” the past 10-15 years at least, he said.

Church wants Anna Maria cell tower, too

Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, sent a letter to Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby last week stating its desire to be considered as a site for a future cell tower in Anna Maria.

The letter follows a similar request from the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, to place a cell tower — personal wireless services facility — on its property. The center board indicated it would like to share in any income the city derives from a tower on center property. The center leases its property from the city.

A new cell tower ordinance is being prepared by city attorney Jim Dye in consultation with wireless services expert Rusty Monroe to replace the current ordinance, which went into effect in 2003.

While a number of cellular communications facilities companies have made presentations to both the city and the community center board in recent years, no company has yet made an application for a cell tower.

In 2001, Roser indicated a company was interested in placing a cell tower atop the church steeple and asked the city to consider allowing the cellular facility. A public outcry against a cell tower there resulted in the church withdrawing its request.

The city then spent more than $60,000 to have a personal wireless services facilities master plan and ordinance prepared by wireless communications expert Ted Kreines of California.

The ordinance restricts cell towers to a maximum height of 37 feet and requires a 150-foot fall zone for any tower.

Critics of the ordinance have claimed there is no location in the city with a 150-foot fall zone.

Commissioner Dale Woodland has said the reason no company has applied to build a tower is because the city’s ordinance is too restrictive.

Under federal law, municipalities cannot restrict cell tower construction, but can implement location and sight requirements on such a structure.

Pro-am game at Tebbetts field to ‘give back’

Young, mostly 8-year-old female softball players are challenging professional baseball players and some college players to bring gloves and bats 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, to the first Pros vs. Girls Charity Softball Game at Birdie Tebbetts Field, 62nd Street and Flotilla Drive, Holmes Beach.

        The event features a softball game between the Manatee Twisters 8-and-under team, current and former university softball players and major league professionals, including Jose Bautista, two-time American League homerun champion of the Toronto Blue Jays; Marco Scutaro, a multi-position player with Colorado Rockies; and Jose Tabata, an outfielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

        All proceeds will benefit the nonprofit Women’s Resource Center of Manatee, 1926 Manatee Ave. W, Bradenton, and the Manatee Twisters.

        The center is a resource for women who may be unable to afford help but don’t qualify for assistance, yet still need a lawyer, counseling, shelter, job, interview or appropriate work clothing.

        The Twisters are a competitive traveling girls softball within the Manatee Girls Softball organization.

        “We want to teach the girls to give back,” said Karen Abel, mother of one of the Twisters. “And how to bring what you learn on the field, off (the field).

        “That’s what sports are all about — dedication, perseverance, camaraderie, sportsmanship and focus,” Abel said.

        With this fundraiser, “we thought, what could be better than teaching our girls how women can help women.”

        Abel said the idea developed out of discussions on tournament travel costs and fundraising.

        She and some other parents of players on the team shared some connections to Major League Baseball. And as the MLB players are about to head into spring training, they found some were already arriving in Florida while others live here, she said. The timing was right.

        Plus, her daughter’s favorite player is Marco Scutaro. “She even has his glove,” Abel said.

        So Abel made the connections and is in the process of arranging the event details, including field scheduling and insurance.

        “The mayor has approved everything,” she said. The police said they would be happy to work with us if there becomes a need for extra law enforcement, she said.

        Abel has gathered sponsors from throughout the community, including the Sandbar and BridgeTender restaurants, Anna Maria Flip Flop Candy Shop, Island Real Estate, Pine Avenue Restoration, Body & Soul and “more to come,” she said.

        A silent auction will precede the game. A homerun contest will be featured between innings. Pulled pork, peanuts, popcorn and cold drinks will be offered for sale. And a mascot from the Bradenton Marauders will be on hand for the festivities.

        The event comes at a time when Birdie Tebbetts Field is used more by dog owners to exercise their pets than by baseball or other sports enthusiasts. It’s been more than three years since an organized baseball team used the field.

        “It’s a dog-friendly event. It’s a family event,” Abel said, adding “dogs are part of people’s families.”

2nd beach resort warned by DEP

Following up on two stop work orders by the city of Holmes Beach at the Anna Maria Island Beach Resort, 105 39th St., the Florida Department of Environment Protection Feb. 8 issued a warning of unauthorized construction seaward of the coastal construction control line.

    Resort improvements, including outdoor huts, a hot tub, gazebo structures and paver decks and walkways at the beachfront resort were constructed without permits, which prompted city building official Bob Shaffer to issue a stop work order in January 2011.

    Shaffer said he was assured the work would be built according to code, and lifted the stop work order. However, on re-inspection, he found the property remained in violation of city code and, in June, issued another stop work order.

    The Feb. 8 DEP letter included an application package for an after-the-fact permit. The application must be made within 30 days or “the department will issue a final order requiring removal” of the structures seaward of the CCCL, according to the letter.

    The DEP letter also outlined items to be included with the application, including the identification of immediately adjacent property owners, sufficient evidence of property ownership, surveys, site plans and written evidence from the city that the activity does not violate local setback requirements.

    The huts were constructed in the Gulf Drive setback, according to Shaffer. And the project took place in two areas at the resort, both seaward of the coastal construction control line, he said.

    Shaffer said the huts allowed water to shed on the roadway, causing a hazard to motorists, and the palm-frond thatching posed a fire hazard to the adjacent building. The city removed the roof thatching and now await the “after-the-fact” permit from the DEP, he said.

                Shaffer said if DEP gives us a “go-ahead,” the city will review plans and address the permit and violation fees. He estimated permitting for the project will cost $4,000-$6,000

HB lodge seeks ‘after-the-fact’ exemption for tree hut

Referring to a tree hut on the beach as “minor activity” in a Feb. 10 letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, an attorney for Richard Hazen, owner of Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., asks for an after-the-fact permit exemption for the tree house Hazen built without permits last year.

    In December, the DEP Division of Water Resource Management, Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, advised Hazen to voluntarily remove the wood-frame deck structure and restore all affected dune areas within 30 days. The DEP warning letter advised after-the-fact permitting was unlikely.

    In the letter to Jim Martinello, DEP environmental manager, attorney David Levin asked the DEP to further explain its allegation of an “alteration of an existing dune system by creating cleared pathways and viewing areas,” and for the location and extent of dune alteration.

    As to the tree house, Levin states the state administrative code exempts from CCCL permitting, “minor activities which do not cause an adverse impact on the coastal system and do not cause a disturbance to any significant or primary dune.”

    He said the code defines adverse impact “as an impact to the coastal system that may cause a measurable interference with the natural functioning of the coastal system.”

    Levin said a a significant dune is one with height sufficient to offer the vegetative protection, and a primary dune is one with alongshore continuity to offer protection to uplands.

    “It would be impossible to show any measurable interference with the natural erosion,” Levin concluded, equating erosion with the “functioning of the coastal system.”

    He said the deck is supported by a large Australian pine tree, supplemented by four 12-inch diameter wood poles, “similar to those supporting other exempt structures, such as beach awnings and other shades, typically found along the beach.”

    The poles are located behind an existing seawall that was buried during a beach nourishment project, according to Levin. “Given the size and location” of the support poles, he said “it would be virtually impossible for such poles to have measurable impact” on the coastal system.

    “Clearly, if the sole support of the deck was the Australian pine,” Levin said, “there would be no question that the subject deck was exempt.”

    Levin concluded his Feb. 10 letter to Martinello by asking DEP to consider the elevated wood deck structure as an exempt minor activity, and suggested a meeting with Martinello Feb. 21 in Tallahassee.

    Following a complaint to Holmes Beach about the structure this fall, the city referred the matter to the DEP. The building official also advised Hazen that engineering plans and a survey would be required before it would consider a “letter of no objection,” which is typically required before DEP considers issuing a permit.

    In December, the city received an inquiry about the required plans by phone from Hazen’s engineer, Charles Sego of Anna Maria.

    The city’s concerns over the construction relate to building stability, safety and ability to withstand hurricane-force winds, according to David Forbes, code enforcement officer.

        Angelinos Lodge includes four vacation rentals, and, according to Hazen’s wife, Huong Lynn Tran, the tree hut was built as a place to read, write, relax and dine.

HB-BB stalemate, Sandpiper resolution possible

A resolution to the ongoing border dispute between Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach over the 27th Street right of way that stretches from Gulf Drive to the bay appears stalled between the two cities, and next may be explored directly with the Sandpiper Resort.

    At a Feb. 7 Holmes Beach city commission meeting, city attorney Patricia Petruff confirmed Commission Chair David Zaccagnino’s recent assumption that the street was likely not included in the property description for the 2008 Cadence Bank mortgage provided Sandpiper Resort Co-op Inc. to fund improvements in the mobile home park.

    Petruff told commissioners she had not yet heard from the bank as to whether the 27th Street property is included in the financing. But, she said, after reviewing some documentation, “it appears to me that Cadence Bank has no interest, lien or claim over 27th Street.”

    The encumbrance was asserted at a Jan. 18 joint meeting between Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach by Ricinda Perry, attorney for Bradenton Beach. She said the bank would not release its collateral, including 27th Street, saying the dispute may widen to include Cadence Bank, its title company and other regulatory agencies.

    Cadence Bank provided $6 million for improvements to the co-op owned park. Sandpiper representatives at the time told Bradenton Beach the resort needed a quitclaim of 27th Street to clear up title for the financing.

     With the news from Petruff that the street was not made part of the financing, Commissioner Zaccagnino became hopeful.

    “That puts us in a better position” said Zaccagnino. “A resolution between Sandpiper and Holmes Beach is more easily (solved).”

    Holmes Beach has recently suggested the Sandpiper quitclaim 30 feet of the 50-foot-wide right of way back to Bradenton Beach.

    Sandpiper mobile homes, 27th Street and a fence are on the south side of the city limit, and Holmes Beach residences are on the north side.

    In October 2011, the controversy resurfaced after a fence, gates and signs discouraging access were erected by Sandpiper.

    Holmes Beach then invoked a conflict dispute resolution process required by state law before one municipality sues another.

    The two towns have met several times without coming to a resolution, and at press time, there is no scheduled meeting.

    At their Jan. 31 meeting, Holmes Beach commissioners asked Petruff to request a 30-day postponement of a Feb. 7 meeting, to allow for the bank’s investigation and the Sandpiper’s board of directors to meet.

    Also, the Bradenton Beach commission did not have a quorum of voting members until the recent appointment of Commissioner Ric Gatehouse.

    It has been, however, the Bradenton Beach attorney’s position that Holmes Beach does not have standing to assert its claim.

    Petruff says Holmes Beach has standing by virtue of shared utilities, including stormwater, water and sewer, electric and phone. And, according to Petruff, “a dedicated public street is held in trust for the public.”

        Holmes Beach claims that Bradenton Beach quitclaimed the public street to Sandpiper three years ago without properly vacating the right of way.