Tag Archives: 05-09-2012

Skyway demo project, reef finalized

Florida Department of Transportation press release last week said demolition of a number of portions of the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers has been completed with only some minor work remaining.

The DOT demolition project began in June 2011 when contractor Orion Marine Construction began removal of 27 portions of the north fishing pier and 48 from the south pier.

Renovations were made to the rest rooms and bait shops on both piers. The bait shops are open 24/7, the DOT said.

The project was needed to remove structurally unsafe portions of the fishing piers — originally sections of the Skyway Bridge that collapsed in a May 1980 crash — due to age and corrosion, the DOT said.

In Aug. 2008, the DOT and Florida Department of Environmental Protection closed the east sides of the fishing piers to maintain public safety. The western sides remained open during the project and continue to be accessible.

Some of the demolished pilings were used by the Manatee County natural resources department to create two new fishing reefs in Tampa Bay within the county limits.

One reef, the Three-Mile North Reef, is located about 3 miles west of the Manatee Public Beach in water approximately 30 feet deep.

The second reef — Southeast Reef — is about 3 miles north of Emerson Point in about 15 feet of water. David Lai Hipp of Manatee County’s natural resources department said the reefs are already attracting large numbers of baitfish, which in turn are drawing mangrove snapper, barracuda, redfish and gag grouper to the sites.

Lai Hipp said when he dove the southeast reef several months ago, he found a number of snook in the area, which he said was unusual for a submerged reef.

Fishing at both reefs will only improve as the reefs continue to grow, he said. Scuba divers also can use the reefs, he said.

Precise coordinates for the reefs are available at www.mymanatee.org on the natural resources department page, Lai Hipp said. Click on “artificial reefs,” then click on “reef map” under “Manatee County Artificial Reef Brochure.”

A map showing the precise coordinates of all 13 Manatee County artificial reefs is available at the site.

Anna Maria pier beach shrinks as city awaits DEP notice

Even though Anna Maria may soon have a beach by the city pier that complies with the size authorized by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, officials do not plan to re-inspect the beach.

The renourished beach is the result of a February Bimini Bay-Key Royale Channel dredging project that removed sand from the channel and pumped it ashore at the pier.

In early March, DEP investigators examined the beach created with material pumped from Bimini Bay and determined the city had placed more sand along the shoreline than permitted, and told Mayor Mike Selby the city was in violation of its permit.

The permit authorized enough sand to extend the beach 100 feet into Tampa Bay waters and 200 feet south from the Lake LaVista jetty.

Anna Maria had requested the sand be pumped to the pier as part of its Lake LaVista dredge permit.

Ana Gibbs of the DEP-Tampa field office said the DEP won’t inspect the beach again, despite the claim that the beach is shrinking.

But Gibbs said the DEP has yet to issue its notice of violation to the city for placing more than the permitted amount of dredged sand along the pier shoreline.

At a mid-March meeting with Selby, McKay, the West Coast Inland Navigation District and DEP officials, DEP compliance inspector Lauren Greenfield said the pier beach “appears to extend approximately 40 feet further waterward and 330 feet southeast than what was authorized.”

Sand dredged periodically from the Lake LaVista inlet is used to renourish the same area of shoreline.

Greenfield said investigators in March found the beach sand extended about 150 feet into Tampa Bay waters and was approximately 600 feet long. That would be a violation of 50 feet in width and about 400 feet in length for the renourished beach.

At the time of the DEP meeting in March, Anna Maria public works superintendent George McKay and a WCIND consultant claimed sand at the new beach would probably shrink quickly to a width of about 30-60 feet into Tampa Bay waters.

It appears the prediction is coming true, without the city taking counter measures to comply with the permit and remove the excess sand.

Until the city receives an official notice from the DEP and provides for mitigation and possibly a penalty, McKay said no sand will be removed from the pier beach.

Gibbs said the Anna Maria pier beach problem is “still under review.”

That was good news to McKay.

“Every day we don’t hear from them is a good day,” he said.

And nature seems to be helping the city.

A recent estimate of the width of the beach at high tide found only about 90 feet of renourished beach at its widest point into Tampa Bay, and the length of the beach was around 400 feet. That would mean the width of the pier beach now complies with the DEP permit, but the length of the beach has to be reduced about 200 feet more.

Efforts to reach Selby for comment were unsuccessful, but McKay said if the city receives a DEP notice of violation, it would likely ask DEP officials to take another look at the shrinking beach.

First sea turtle nest found on beach

A discovery of a May 2 false crawl put Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring volunteers in a state of anticipation that the first nest could appear any day.

The much-awaited event was discovered on the morning of May 4 when AMITW beach walkers found a loggerhead trail on the beach, indicating the first nesting site of the season on Bean Point, Anna Maria.

According to AMITW executive director Suzi Fox, the May 2 discovery of a false crawl was an indicator that nesting was about to begin.

“We found just a small false crawl trail,” she said. “The waves had already washed away most of the trail, but there was enough of a trail to let us know sea turtles were on their way to the Island.”

While nesting season began May 1, Fox said a typical season would see the first nest much later in May, with the busiest nesting occurring in June.

With a warmer than usual winter keeping Gulf of Mexico waters warmer, earlier than normal nesting activity was not unexpected.

Fox moved her training schedule up by two weeks this year in anticipation of the early nesting, and the first sighting of the season went off without a hitch, she said.

For residents of the Island, it is a good reminder of personal responsibility during nesting season. Residents along the waterfront should begin closing curtains and blinds at night to shield lighting visible from the beach to prevent disorientation.

Visitors and residents alike should remember to steer clear from marked nesting sites, and while beachgoers are not supposed to walk on dunes, it is especially important during nesting season, as dunes attract nesting sea turtles.

It is everyone’s responsibility to keep the beaches clear of litter and obstructions, such as lawn furniture and canopies. Trash, fishing lines, plastics and cigarette butts can harm wildlife.

Accusations fly at BB dune-parking lot public hearing

A trial-like atmosphere prevailed at the May 3 public hearing to decide whether or not Bradenton Beach would move forward with the proposed dune/parking lot project across from city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

The joint development agreement between the city and ELRA, the corporate entity of Ed Chiles’ BeachHouse Restaurant, to construct the dune and expand parking was signed in late March. On April 10, the plan went before the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board, and was rejected.

Bradenton Beach commissioners took up the matter at their May 3 meeting, which stretched out more than three hours.

Previously, at a joint May 1 land-development code meeting between P&Z and the city commission, commissioners suggested P&Z members attend commission meetings to better explain their recommendations.

Three P&Z members complied with that request, restating their reasons for rejecting the plan, which P&Z had concluded violated some eight land-development codes.

But they were met with accusations from commissioners that they were presenting tainted findings.

“It was clear during the (May 3) P&Z meeting from the onset that at least two members were predisposed to deny this process,” said Commissioner Ric Gatehouse. “Some things were said that were inappropriate. P&Z must remain above personal bias in order to render a fair decision based on the compatibility of the plan.”

Gatehouse acknowledged the board’s extensive knowledge of city codes, but called their April 10 decision “colored and tainted, and not something we can count on as being factual.”

P&Z chair Rick Bisio said the board did not arrive at their decision lightly.

“In our research, P&Z found (the plan) was in violation of these governing documents,” he said referring to the city’s land-development code and comprehensive plan.

Bisio cited several other determining factors in the P&Z decision.

“These are primary issues that can’t be ignored,” he said.

City attorney Ricinda Perry suggested the recommendation wasn’t being ignored, but rather, it was wrong.

“P&Z made a number of findings with no factual evidence,” Perry said. “I can say the sky is green, but it doesn’t make the sky green.”

Perry counter-argued P&Z recommendations and discounted Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox’s claims the proposed development site is sea turtle nesting habitat.

“That statement should have been stricken from the record as false information,” said Perry. “Miss Fox did not present a single photograph or documented evidence of a sea turtle nesting site” in the project area.

“I’ve been on record that there’s been a conflict of interest,” said P&Z board member Jo Ann Meilner, who read into the record some of the 2008 commission meeting minutes that stated Perry was working for Chiles on a project that was a gateway to the current proposal.

Meilner has been outspoken in her belief that the city attorney should not participate in the process due to her previous and current affiliations with Chiles.

P&Z recommended the project be rejected as well, Meilner said, with Perry representing ELRA at the commission meeting, asking commissioners to disregard P&Z recommendations.

Perry said that was factually inaccurate.

“That statement was made in front of P&Z and I have an express agreement with Bradenton Beach where it has waived my representation with ELRA,” said Perry. “It is a true statement when CIP was looking at this project we had discussions about me jointly representing Mr. Chiles and the city to lower costs.”

Perry reminded the commissioners that she has repeatedly volunteered to withdraw from the project if they doubted her ability to represent the best interests of the city.

She insisted during public comment on gaining a consensus from the commissioners for her to continue to work on the project and she received that consensus.

“In 2008, (Perry) was speaking for this very proposal,” Meilner said. “You can wave a piece of paper saying there is no conflict of interest, but your citizens think there is.”

For every argument presented by P&Z board members and each objection to the project from citizens attending, Perry and city staff offered a counter argument.

While it is the job of P&Z to interpret, know and, in some instances, write the codes, Perry argued that the state of Florida does not recognize the qualifications of anyone other than those who have degrees related to their field of expertise.

Perry said, for that reason, commissioners should ignore the P&Z recommendations and side with city staff, who she claimed were more qualified.

Referring to staff testimony at the P&Z public hearing, Perry said, “P&Z completely disregarded their professional opinion at that meeting. People who are credentialed means something and can be outweighed by other evidence. I would certainly hope this commission would give consideration to the great weight of your experts.”

Meilner reiterated her argument of eight violations and said, “Your job is to protect our codes. If you do not, you set a dangerous precedent.”

Gatehouse moved to approve the project with stipulations. Those stipulations include that the city and ELRA will each provide a conservation easement, ELRA will not use the city parking spots, landscaping will be enhanced, and a covenant will be provided to prevent future development of the site.

Perry said she would need to draft an order for the development prevention. While both sides — the city and Chiles — tentatively agreed to the stipulation, the project would not officially be approved until both sides agreed to the language.

Gatehouse, Commissioner Jan Vosburgh, Mayor John Shaughnessy and Vice Mayor Ed Straight voted for the motion. Commissioner Gay Breuler voted against it, saying she was in favor of the project, but wanted to eliminate all of the city parking spots with the exception of one spot for handicap access.

“I want to thank you for your consideration throughout this whole process, because it’s been going on for years,” said Chiles. “What I’m appreciative about is how city staff has worked with a private landowner to do something that is a win for everybody.”

The city has designated $46,000 of CRA funding for the project. ELRA will pay more than $200,000 toward the project, which will begin after sea turtle nesting season in early October.

BB P&Z, commission hash out shortcomings

“What we have here is a failure to communicate,” is a line made famous from the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke,” starring Paul Newman, but it also suits the ongoing issues between the Bradenton Beach city commission and planning and zoning board.

At a May 1 joint meeting between city commissioners and P&Z board members to discuss revisions to the land-development code, those issues surfaced with pledges from both sides to work closer together to ensure the citizens of Bradenton Beach are fairly represented in procedural matters.

During the LDC discussion, P&Z chair Rick Bisio questioned the board’s purpose when commissioners repeatedly approve projects that were recommended for denial by P&Z.

“I don’t believe planning and zoning is actually giving a recommendation,” said Bisio. “(A project) comes before us and we do a lot of work on it, and disapprove it. Then it comes back to staff and it’s repackaged before it’s given to the city.”

It was suggested that some cities use a percentage gauge, meaning if a project is changed by a certain percentage then it should automatically return to P&Z for further review before it reaches the city commission.

“I respectfully disagree,” said Bisio. “They might make a 5 percent change, but that 5 percent might be a significant change.”

Bisio said something must be done because, “It consistently looks like P&Z recommendations are not being followed by the city. It’s not good for morale and it looks like all the work (we) did was for naught.”

The discussion was sparked by a LDC revision recommendation from Tom McCollum of ZNS Engineering, a consultant for the city, who presented a chart flow of responsibilities outlining each board’s responsibility in various procedures.

McCollum said a different way to approach the issue would be to allow the applicant to table the request and bring it back after P&Z concerns have been addressed.

Bisio didn’t necessarily disagree with the proposal, but said most applicants don’t care what the P&Z recommends because they know how to slip it by the commissioners.

“They say, ‘Please, deny me,’” said Bisio. “Then they change it completely and get it passed (through the commission). It’s not healthy the way it works now.”

Mayor John Shaughnessy and Commissioners Gay Brueler and Ric Gatehouse attended the May 1 meeting and expressed interest in resolving the communication issues.

“Are we being fair?” asked Breuler. “Are we being smart about this?”

Bisio said there are a lot of issues, but ignoring P&Z recommendations “is the biggest thing brought up. It’s a constant issue … over the past three or four years.”

P&Z board member Bill Shearon suggested the city empower P&Z as a quasi-judicial entity again, “with the appeal process being the commission.”

P&Z members also cited cases where commissioners were not provided information discovered by P&Z, and why a request was denied.

Gatehouse concurred that the commission approves or disapproves without all of the information available for review.

“When P&Z makes a denial or approval with stipulations, a lot of times we don’t get that information,” he said. “We should be furnished with that decision and why the decision was made.”

Some members of the P&Z assumed the information was reaching the commissioners and expressed surprise that it had not been reviewed.

Bradenton Beach building official Steve Gilbert said what the commissioners most often receive is a memo and a basic staff assessment of what happened at the P&Z meeting.

“But, in most cases, you don’t get the context of it,” Gilbert told the commissioners.

Suggestions were for the P&Z to try and have its minutes completed sooner, flag important items in its recommendation by using different color paper, and for members of the commission and P&Z to be more proactive in attending one another’s meetings.

“This is why I’m glad we had this joint meeting,” said city attorney Ricinda Perry. “The problem we’ve been having is not hearing the problem. We do value (P&Z). I know the commission values you. We are sorry you have felt slighted.”

P&Z chair; one other resigns

Following a contentious May 3 Bradenton Beach city commission meeting, two members of the planning and zoning board have tendered their resignations.

P&Z chair Rick Bisio was the first to resign. In a letter to the city dated the same day as the meeting, Bisio thanked the city for the opportunity to serve for more than 10 years.

“Unfortunately, it is quite clear that my value to the city has reached its end,” Bisio wrote. “As a result, I am tendering my resignation.”

A second letter of resignation was submitted by board member Bill Shearon May 4.

“With deep regret and disappointment, I am requesting you appoint a replacement to complete my term as a member of the planning and zoning board,” Shearon wrote.

The resignations followed a meeting where P&Z board members were accused by Commissioner Ric Gatehouse as presenting “tainted” findings in their decision to reject the city’s joint development agreement with BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles for a dune/parking project across from city hall.

Maroney sentenced to 120 days, now in Sarasota jail

Jenna Maroney, 24, whose medical emergency at her mother’s home in Holmes Beach turned into a struggle with police earlier this year, accepted a plea offer April 5 and was sentenced to 120 days in jail for drug charges and battery to a law enforcement officer.

           While in the Manatee County jail, Maroney was served with a violation of probation on a prior conviction from Sarasota County and authorities transferred her April 30 to the neighboring county jail.

             As part of the offer from the Manatee County state attorney, Maroney pleaded guilty to the Holmes Beach charges before Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan in exchange for the four-month jail sentence, a two-year driver’s license suspension and a requirement to submit biological specimens for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement DNA data bank.

        Dunnigan assessed an $870 fine, and an additional $200 in Holmes Beach police investigative costs. The monetary judgment was entered April 19.

        Initially, Maroney had been charged with aggravated battery to a law enforcement officer, carrying a 30-year maximum sentence, but the charge was reduced. She faced a maximum of 11 years in jail, including the reduced charges, according to her plea agreement.

        The arrest occurred during an emergency call for a possible drug overdose in the 200 block of 71st Street. A medical services team arrived, and police responded as backup. Police reported she had just lost custody of her child, and the child was staying with her mother at that address.

        According to HBPD reports, a struggle with officers ensued, including her spitting on one of the officers.

        During the incident, police reported seeing a knife at the top of her purse, which was then searched for weapons or contraband. In their search, police found 18 small white squares, .055 ounces, which tested positive for cocaine, according to the report.

        Since her Feb. 3 arrest and until her transfer to Sarasota County jail, Maroney had been in Manatee County jail.

        Maroney was transferred to answer for parole violations stemming from an April 2011 arrest and a conviction of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

        Maroney was found guilty in Sarasota County in September 2011 on the charge, and was on probation at the time of her Holmes Beach arrest.

        According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office website, also pending against Maroney are robbery and retail theft charges from Volusia County, for which $4,500 in bonds have been set.

Holmes Beach readies for rental recommendation review

It’s been the hot-button agenda item at Holmes Beach City Commission meetings since late last year — “continued discussion of short-term rentals.” And it’s bringing approximately 40-50 people to city meetings every two weeks.

While the issue is again set to be discussed at the city’s work session Tuesday, May 8, a different focus is expected.

“I’m going to limit public comment,” Commission Chair David Zaccagnino said, “because we’re down to the nitty-gritty.”

It’s time for commissioners “to speak to one another” and “make some decisions” toward new laws, he said.

Commissioners will be discussing city attorney Patricia Petruff’s short-term rental recommendations outlined in her April 30 memo at this week’s meeting, he said.

In January, Zaccagnino appointed commissioners to lead focus groups following a deluge of complaints in November and December relating to duplex construction and short-term rentals.

In April, commissioners concluded their focus group meetings on building codes, rental practices, code enforcement, zoning and permitting and licensing. By April 24, all commissioners reported their group’s recommendations to the commission.

Petruff’s memo addresses the focus group recommendations, indicating the following are not recommended:

• Increasing minimum lot size in residential district.

• Limiting the number of outstanding building permits a builder can be issued.

• Hiring an outside engineering firm for reviewing and approving plans and inspections.

• Revising practices that affect the FEMA 50 percent rule.

Petruff also stressed “any change to short-term rental regulations could void all existing regulations due to preemption,” referring to a state law passed in June 2011.

Her memo also pointed out issues that require commission direction, including:

• Restrictions on parking on rights of way at night.

• Exemptions to stormwater review on development of platted lots.

• Regulations on stormwater run-off.

• Solid-waste ordinance amendments to link the number of trash receptacles required per unit to either number of bedrooms or square footage.

• Requirement for rear-yard pickup for all business properties, including rentals.

• Changing duplex connection by underground foundation.

• Clarification of minimum distance between duplex units.

• Setbacks for pools, pool decks, screens.

• Restricting floor-area ratio maximums, increasing setbacks or decreasing lot coverage requirements.

The work session will follow the city commission regular meeting and the first reading of a proposed “administration of oath ordinance” at 7 p.m. at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.



Petruff: no objection to some rental solutions

Holmes Beach City attorney Patricia Petruff has given a thumbs up to some short-term rental recommendations presented by the city’s focus groups.

The recommendations she has “no objection” to include:

• Accurate procedure for posting inspections at job sites.

• More visible inspection boxes, closer to the property line.

• Better monitoring of completion time for construction projects.

• Require demolition or performance bonds for builders.

• Building permits listed weekly on city website.

• Amend the city’s land-development code to require a distance between buildings — though “building” definition also may need to be changed.

• Ticketing and costs for code violations — with a change in definition of “violator,” clear policy direction to mayor, code enforcement and police.

• Best practices coordination with rental agents.

• Raising business tax fees to maximum limit.

• Coordination with tax collector in periodic tax sweeps.

• Creation of advisory panel to monitor rogue rentals.

• Update and coordinate business tax file with other Island municipalities, and the police department.

Roadwatch, May 9-16

Installation of new sewer lines on North Shore Drive at Cypress Avenue in Anna Maria is under way and the project should last several months, according to the Manatee County Utilities Department.

Traffic on North Shore Drive should not be affected by the work, a MCUD press release.

Daytime-only repairs due to the start of turtle nesting season will continue to the Longboat Key Bridge/State Road 789, a Florida Department of Transportation press release said.

Some temporary lane closures will occur that will last no more than 15 minutes, and a flagging operation will control traffic during lane closures. No lane closures are planned, the release said.

The east sidewalk of the bridge and Greer Island — often called Beer Can Island — near the bridge are closed. The draw continues to open for boaters on demand.

Completion of the project is expected at the end of May and no construction activity is planned for Memorial Day weekend.

More information on the bridge project is available online at www.mySR789.com.

Fishing – 05-09-2012

Fishing AMI waters as good as it gets


Inshore fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving prosperous for flats fishers. Spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook action is as good as it gets.

The best bait to target any of these species is live shiners. Free-lining shiners on a rig consisting of nothing but 20-pound fluorocarbon and a 1/0 live bait hook will get you in on the action.

Try anchoring in an area and then chum the waters with live shiners. Once you see fish eating your chummers, cast a bait and hang on.

Don’t forget, it’s time for spotted seatrout to spawn. Fish exceeding 20 inches will most likely be full of roe. Handle them with care and release them quickly, helping to ensure there are trout to catch in the future.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing nearshore structure when the wind allows. Gross likes to anchor and chum to lure fish to his boat. Once anchored in the area he plans to fish, Gross chums with live shiners behind the boat.

He says reef predators, such as bonito, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and shark, were the norm last week. Gross said as soon as his clients see fish feeding on the chummers, they cast a bait and it’s game on.

Moving into the backcountry, Gross is stalking redfish, trout and snook on shallow grass flats during high tides. Gross prefers to sit in the tower and slowly cruise mangrove shorelines in search of these species. Once he locates the fish, he likes to use the same method as on the reefs — anchor and chum.

Gross says it works well, and his clients are catching limits of spotted seatrout, most in the slot, although fish up to 26 inches are coming to the boat. A combination of redfish and snook are mixed in, keeping the action steady. Most of the catch-and-release snook have been in the 20-inch range, as are the redfish, in the slot.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure when the wind permits. In water depths starting at 30 feet, Girle is hooking up kingfish and Spanish mackerel by free-lining live shiners behind the boat. Also at these depths, Girle is finding numerous lemon and silky sharks in the 30- to 40-pound range on live shiners or fresh-cut mackerel.

Moving inshore, Girle is fishing artificials, such as Berkley Gulp shrimp and Bomber Badonk-a-donk, to stalk bull redfish and spotted seatrout. Girle is working shallow grass flats with deep, sandy potholes to find these fish. When using Gulp shrimp, Girle is catching redfish up to 30 inches. And when switching to top water, the Badonk-a-donk is producing trout in the 20-inch range.

Capt. Mark Johnston of Just Reel fishing charters also is targeting spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook around mangrove edges and grass flats with good tidal flow. On most days, Johnston’s clients are catching limits of spotted seatrout on live shiners. Johnston suggests fishing deeper grass around channel edges to find this action.

Catch-and-release snook action also is heating up on Johnston’s charters. “Most are in the 20-inch range,” says Johnston. “But we’re getting some slot-size fish, too.”

Again, Johnston is using live shiners to get the bite. As far as redfish go, Johnston says the fish have scattered. “We’re still catching some,” he says, “but they’re mixed in with the snook and trout. They’re not schooled up.”

Phil Kirkland at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says flounder are biting there. Pier fishers using either live shrimp or live greenbacks are reeling up flounder in the 12- to 16-inch range. Depending on how strong the tide is, you’ll need to add some weight to get to the bottom where the fish are. On slower tides, a jig head baited with a shrimp or greenback is producing. Remember, flounder are notorious for spitting the hook at the surface when you’re trying to land them, so reel quickly. While targeting flounder, you can expect to catch mangrove snapper and sheepshead as a by-catch. Not a bad mix.

Spanish mackerel are being caught by pier fishers using silver spoons or Gotcha plugs. Live bait such as greenbacks are producing, too. With the macks come sharks, so bring a heavy rod if you want to tango with one of these toothy predators. For bait, simply cut a steak from a legal-sized mackerel and toss it away from the pier into the schooling mackerel. While the macks are feeding on top, the sharks are just below waiting to strike — so be ready. Black tip sharks in the 40-pound range were the norm last week.

Send fishing reports to fish@islander.org.