Tag Archives: 05-28-2014

Island cities, officials ‘on track’ for hurricane season

Officials from Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach attended the 28th annual Governor’s Conference on Hurricanes in Orlando May 16-18.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon, along with BBPD Lt. John Cosby, public works superintendent Tom Woodard and Commissioner Jack Clarke attended the conference. So did Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer and superintendent of public works Tom O’Brien.

Shearon said he was happy with what he learned as a first-time attendee: “It was very amazing to learn all the factors figured in an evacuation. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes activity and preparation.”

He said Cosby has prepared the city’s evacuation and emergency plans for a number of years.

“We went just to make sure our plan was updated. We have it ready, and Cosby is very experienced. We’re on track with what the conference said we should have,” Shearon said.

“One thing I did learn is that preparedness is important. Not just the city, but residents. I can’t stress enough that residents should have their hurricane supplies. The conference said three days of food and water, but I’m going to have seven days,” he said.

“And evacuate when you are told. Help may not be there if you stay and the island gets flooded. This entire island is a flood zone.”

Shearon said the conference stressed a number of issues, including evacuation of people with special needs, availability of law enforcement to direct an evacuation and to check for returning residents after a hurricane, and availability of a cleanup company to remove debris from city roads.

“After attending the conference, I’m satisfied with our plan as it is,” he said.

Holmes Beach has had a hurricane evacuation and emergency plan in place for years.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said no one from that city attended, but she and public works supervisor George McKay have attended previous conferences, and went to Manatee County’s emergency operations center May 22 for hurricane planning. Officials of all three island cities were at the EOC for the event in advance of storm season, which begins June 1.

“We have a hurricane emergency plan ready if needed and we’re pleased it’s up to date,” she said.

All three island cities will govern from a facility at the State College of Florida in Bradenton in the event of an island evacuation, SueLynn said.

Forecasters attribute the low number of hurricanes predicted for this season to El Nino, which creates a westerly wind shear that slows hurricane development.

“If we have a robust El Nino, then the numbers will be much lower, and this could be one of the least active years in recent memory,” Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

Accuweather predicted five hurricanes of category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale for the 2014 season.

But Shearon said forecasters at the conference said the eastern Gulf of Mexico is “particularly vulnerable” if a tropical storm or hurricane comes up from the Caribbean.

“It only takes one storm,” SueLynn added. “And it’s all about being prepared. The city is ready, and we want residents to be ready.”

She noted that from 2001-10, a number of hurricanes passed many miles west of the island and struck other Gulf coast states, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“We’ve been lucky, but the storms eroded a lot of beach area and we had significant debris that had to be cleaned up. And those storms were several hundred miles from the island.”

She agreed with Shearon that island residents should have a “be prepared” list of items in case of a weather event.

“Obviously, you need flashlights, batteries, drinking water, canned and non-perishable foods and other emergency items,” she said. If there are babies in the house, disposable diapers are a must.

Other items on a household hurricane list include first-aid supplies, and storage of important documents, such as passports, birth certificates, deeds and titles, the mayor added.

SueLynn said she believed the last tropical storm/hurricane to come ashore near the island was September 2001, when Tropical Storm Gabrielle made landfall near Venice, about 25 miles south of Anna Maria Island.

“There was a lot of beach erosion, downed trees and damaged structures, and that was just a tropical storm,” she said.

“Let’s be ready for a hurricane.”

Sheriff’s detective on search for Sabine: ‘We’re not giving up’

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies will continue their search of private property near Galati Marine in Anna Maria for the body of Sabine Musil-Buehler, although so far, in two weeks of clearing brush, digging and searches by cadaver-sniffing dogs, there has been no apparent success.

Musil-Buehler has been missing since Nov. 4, 2008, and MCSO Detective John Kenney believes her remains are on Anna Maria Island. At the time of her disappearance, she was living in Anna Maria with her boyfriend, who has been arrested and charged with her murder.

“I’m convinced we’ll find her out here. We’re not giving up,” Kenney said.

Kenney headed the MCSO-Anna Maria substation when Musil-Buehler disappeared. He is now a homicide detective and still working on the case.

The MCSO arrested the boyfriend, William Cumber, in October 2012, while he was jailed in Charlotte County Correctional Institute for a probation violation on an unrelated   arson conviction.

Cumber has since been charged with the second-degree murder of Musil-Buehler and is being held in the Manatee County jail without bail.

He entered a not guilty plea and a trial is scheduled for the week of Oct. 14.

Kenney said the search of the residential property owned by Jack Fiske on South Bay Boulevard came after an inspection of cellphone records the night of Nov. 4, 2008, revealed “the possibility Musil-Buehler might have been in this area.”

For Kenney, the search for her body has been ongoing.

“I’ve been involved in this case for almost six years,” Kenney said. “It won’t be over for me until we find her body.”

At the time of her disappearance, Musil-Buehler was co-owner of Haley’s Motel in Holmes Beach with her estranged husband, Tom Buehler.

The investigation took another twist when an arson fire broke out at Haley’s Motel Nov. 16, 2008.

No arrest has been made for the arson.

AM commissioners begin talks on selling ‘white elephant’ park

Many Anna Maria residents might be surprised to know of a white elephant in the city.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “white elephant” as “a property requiring much care and expense and yielding little profit.”

If so, then the six vacant lots at the east end of Pine Avenue certainly qualify.

Speaking at the May 22 commission meeting, Mayor SueLynn said the city has been paying $225,000 per year for three years, and the property, recently named the City Pier Park by the commission, is nothing but sand and trees. And some of the trees are dying, she added.

“It’s an eyesore. It’s time for the commission to do something,” she said. “This is money that could be well spent on other projects needed in the city.”

The city purchased the property in October 2011 for $2.8 million. In 2012, the commission approved a plan to build a park with public bathrooms and 15 spaces for cars with the aid of private donations.

A new commission in late 2012 rejected that plan and the donations, but no other project and no improvements have been proposed.

“We need to do something,” the mayor said. “Either turn it into a paid-parking lot or sell it.”

Commissioner Carol Carter doesn’t mind selling the property, but said she worries more vacation rentals would be developed there.

That can’t happen with a sale, city attorney Jim Dye said, as the property has been rezoned to open space. The commission would have to rezone the park to either retail-office-residential, commercial or residential for a buyer to have a revenue stream.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb said he was against buying the property three years ago because “the price was too high.”

He eventually voted for the purchase to prevent more resort housing. While Webb had no objection to improving the park for public use or selling the property, he is opposed to a parking lot. He also noted that island property values have increased significantly since 2011, and that the property may be worth more than $2.8 million.

Webb suggested the land could be a commercial site.

Commissioner Nancy Yetter said immediate action is needed. “Either we come up with a plan that will encourage visitors and residents to use the park, or we sell the property. But let’s do something. I’m tired of continually talking about issues and nothing gets done.”

SueLynn said commissioners should consider ideas such as a sale or a park and bring suggestions back to the next commission meeting. She wants to fast-track the matter.

Commissioner Dale Woodland agreed with selling. “I don’t think either our residents or visitors would use a park. They’d much prefer to cross the street and look at the water.”

The issue will be on the June 12 commission agenda.

In other business, commissioners agreed the house at 246 Gladiolus St. is a duplex, violating city code because the owner lives there and rents a portion of the home to vacationers.

Building official Bob Welch presented evidence the owner, Scott Hart, is advertising a vacation rental.

City attorney Jim Dye said two separate kitchens makes it a duplex, and development of duplexes has been prohibited by the city since 2008.

SueLynn said she was concerned “this could become a flood in the future of people trying to circumvent our code.”

Welch said he gets only one or two building applications a year for a guest cottage or “mother-in-law” quarters, and none include a kitchen. A certificate of occupancy would be denied if an application called for two kitchens, he said.

Commissioners instructed code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon, to proceed with a code violation case. At the same time, city planner Alan Garrett will work on new definitions regarding dwellings and residences in the city.

Residents of Blue Heron Drive scored a victory when half of the eight residents on the drive spoke against a no-parking provision for the small traffic island on the street that is owned by the city.

Commissioners agreed to remove the no-parking provision from a traffic ordinance amendment, but SueLynn said a sign saying “Caution, children” is needed because the city needs some liability protection.

Also in the amendment, commissioners agreed to remove the first parallel parking space at the southeast corner of the Spring Avenue/Gulf Drive intersection, and at the southeast corner of the Magnolia Avenue/Gulf Drive intersection.

“This will create a better visibility triangle for motorists accessing Gulf Drive,” Garrett said.

The public hearing on the amendment was continued to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 12, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Commissioners also continued the public hearing on amendments to the sign ordinance to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 26, while Garrett and Dye revise the ordinance and the special exception procedures for businesses to have an A-frame or sandwich board sign.

The special exception currently states an applicant must show “special conditions and circumstances” to receive the exception. The amendment includes a provision exempting properties in the public recreation area and public semi-private zoning areas from removing non-electric changeable signs. Changeable signs such as those at city hall, Island Players and Roser Memorial Community Church will be allowed to remain.

The mayor said the ban on A-frame signs will not be enforced while awaiting special exception approval by the commission.

BB commission divided on pier bids, contract

Two contractors faced-off May 22 in Bradenton Beach for a chance to reconstruct the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Representatives from Duncan Dock and Seawall and Pac Comm Inc. defended their bid proposals as Bradenton Beach city attorney Ricinda Perry questioned them during the commission meeting.

The commission voted 3-2 —with Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Janie Robertson opposed — to award the contract to Duncan Dock and Seawall. Duncan’s bid is $150,000 more and has a longer projected time duration than Pac Comm’s bid.

“Our main concern with Pac Comm was not the cost but the time and duration of the construction,” city official Steve Gilbert said. “Almost all of these companies were between 140-175 days for their construction schedule. Pac Comm is committed to 100 days.”

Gilbert said 100 days is not a viable schedule during hurricane season.

“We are going to have thunderstorms in the afternoons and you don’t operate cranes in the water when there is lightning,” Gilbert said.

However, John Huit, senior project manager of Pac Comm, defended his schedule.

“We’ve run the numbers and we know what we can do in the allotted time,” he said.

Huit said the time frame would require an extension in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm but would not require additional time for thunderstorms.

Steve Libel, co-owner of Duncan Dock and Seawall in Sarasota, said his schedule included “storm days” and, if the weather permits, the company could finish early.

Gilbert also was concerned that Pac Comm planned for eight employees to be on the job per day, where as Duncan Dock and Seawall guaranteed 18-35 workers.

Huit answered that “only so many people can fit on a barge at once.”

When the bids were opened April 21, Pac Comm was the front-runner, with the lowest bid of five companies.

But, Duncan ascended to the top when pier team members learned Duncan would include installation of the electrical elements on the pier.

In the interim, Pac Comm said they would do the electrical as well, but Duncan submitted a bid proposal for the work.

Duncan also is locally based and its representatives have worked with Bradenton Beach public works on previous projects.

Pac Comm is based in Miami, but has had a local presence in the area for the past year while working on the Wares Creek-Bradenton dredging project.

Gilbert and pier team member Karen Wilson of ZNS Engineering conducted a series of interviews with the company representatives before making a recommendation to commissioners.

Although Pac Comm had the lowest bid, shortest time duration and qualified for a local preference, it was not among the two companies recommended May 22.

Members of the pier committee recommended Tampa Bay Marine of Gibsonton and Duncan.

“We are comfortable with both companies responses during the interview and particularly with their attention to detail in formulating both the bid responses as well as their work and staging plans,” Gilbert said.

Commissioners dismissed Tampa Bay Marine because there was no representative at the commission meeting.

William Sowa, an attorney representing Pac Comm, made a presentation during public comment to put Pac Comm back in the running.

Sowa asked the commission to postpone its decision.

“We understand we are not being recommended and we object,” Sowa said. “We were the most qualified bidder based upon a matrix (ZNS Engineering) generated, and we believe we are the best choice for the job.”

Robertson expressed disappointment that the pier team had recommended two companies instead of one.

“I’m not really qualified to decide this, you were supposed to make the recommendation,” she told Gilbert.

Vosburgh leaned toward awarding the contract to Pac Comm, but asked to table the decision.

However Commissioner Jack Clarke and Mayor Bill Shearon said they wanted to make a decision to prevent any further delay.

“Well it might be delayed, but Pac Comm would have it done a lot faster,” Vosburgh said.

“I don’t know how much more due diligence we can do,” Shearon said. “By the time we do more interviews we are going to be a month behind and instead of starting at the beginning of hurricane season, it would be the height of hurricane season.”

Clarke made the motion to award the contract to Duncan and it passed.

“Pac Comm invested a lot of time on this and did everything above and beyond what was required,” Sowa said. “We are disappointed that the commission chose the third- or fourth-highest bidder instead of us. We had the lowest bid and we are also local.”

The pier renovation will be funded through a joint effort by the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and Manatee County government.

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council recommended spending up to $1 million in matching funds for the project from tourist development tax, also known as the bed tax. It is a 5 percent tax collected on accommodations in the county of six months or less.

Island officials agree: paid parking is needed

It might be hard for some longtime Anna Maria Island residents to believe, but the three island cities finally have agreed on something, if only unofficially.

The agreement to have some form of paid parking in all three cities was arrived at May 21 during the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting, where Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino presented his broad view of paid permit-parking and invited comments.

“This is a brainstorming session. If nothing comes of this, at least we can say we tried. I realize we normally can’t agree on anything, but this is a serious issue,” he said.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn, Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti and Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon agreed with the concept.

SueLynn said it’s a “good point to start with that each city has permit parking of some form.”

Others at the meeting, including Anna Maria Commissioners Dale Woodland and Nancy Yetter, said they didn’t care if the Manatee County Tourist Development Council or the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau like the idea or not.

Yetter added she didn’t care what county commission thinks of the idea. “People need to realize there’s not enough parking space out here for everyone.”

She said the TDC could help fund a traffic and parking study that encompasses all three cities, but SueLynn wasn’t keen on that idea.

“I have no hopes the TDC will fund any study on the island, even if it’s to benefit tourism in the long run. I will have to beg them, please, help us keep our island and quality of life,” she said.

Zaccagnino said all the tourism promotion of the island by the TDC and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is killing the golden goose known as Anna Maria Island by bringing some unwanted visitors, especially from nearby counties.

“Just look at the license plates of cars. You’ll see a lot of plates from Florida counties other than Manatee,” he said.

Yetter agreed with Zaccagnino, saying that many problems are caused by “day-trippers who come from other counties.”

SueLynn also agreed. The majority of vehicles parked at Anna Maria locations on a weekend are from outside Manatee County, she said.

Zaccagnino said island cities have to pay for law enforcement for the thousands who come to the island for a day visit, trash pickup of all the garbage left by weekend visitors and maintain roads that were not built for such heavy use.

Anna Maria Commission Chair Chuck Webb said getting all three island cities to agree on something has “never happened before, but this has a commonality. I’m hopeful.”

Zaccagnino asked attendees to discuss the “broad view of some form of paid permit parking” at future city meetings.

“We have to do something together,” he said. “Maybe not every city has the same ordinance, but each ordinance should be similar.”

Members agreed the next meeting will be a work session devoted to the issue.

But paid parking is not the only area where the three island cities are being asked to agree.

SueLynn proposed all three cities contribute to fund a $125,000 study by the Urban Land Institute of Washington, D.C. and Hong Kong.

She said she talked to the ULI representative and he said studying just one island city would not make sense because of the inter-relationship of the municipalities. And the cost would be the same, regardless of how many cities participate.

SueLynn said TDC board member/Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen, who was unable to attend the BIEO meeting, has asked the TDC to fund the ULI study for the island. The mayor said Peelen told her she has not yet had a response.

Island cities also are being asked to agree to a common street-sweeping contract for State Road 789/Gulf Drive. Public works superintendents of all three cities are going to meet and draft a contract, Shearon said.

The next BIEO meeting will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Island elections: Speculation builds for Holmes Beach election

Speculation over the November Holmes Beach election is building.

Bob Johnson, who currently serves as the chair of the Holmes Beach Charter Review Committee and also has served on the traffic committee, collected a candidate packet at city hall — but declined to comment on a possible candidacy.

The candidate packet includes information and forms that must be filed for either a commission or mayoral seat during the June 16-20 qualifying period.

Meanwhile, Commission Chair Judy Titsworth, whose term is up in November, is hedging on whether she will run for re-election or take a run for mayor against David Zaccagnino, who has declared his intent to resign his commission seat with a year remaining in his term in order to run for the mayor’s seat.

“I don’t want him to run unopposed, so I’m waiting to see how it all plays out,” said Titsworth, referring to Johnson’s possible run for office.

Holmes Beach residents interested in becoming a candidate for mayor or commissioner must collect a candidate packet from city hall or the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office in Bradenton.

The packet contains the “how-to” for candidates, regulations and forms necessary to get on the November ballot.

Prospective candidates must fill out a statement of candidacy, declaring the position for which they are running, collect signatures from at least 15 registered voters in the city of Holmes Beach and open a campaign account with an assigned treasurer.

The city presently has 3,087 voters.

Prospective candidates also must complete a candidate’s oath of office and verify residency. Holmes Beach candidates must have resided in Holmes Beach for at least two years.

All of the necessary forms are contained in the packet, which must be turned into city hall during the qualifying period. The qualifying period opens at noon June 16 and closes at noon June 20.

Candidates also must pay a qualifying fee, which is equal to 10 percent of the income of the office sought. Running for mayor comes with a $120 qualifying fee, and commissioners $64.


AM election: Yetter ‘yes,’ other incumbents, ‘maybe’

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anyone interested in a political career in Anna Maria may be hiding among the sea oats along the Gulf of Mexico.

With 10 days to go before qualifying begins for an elected office in the November election, only Commissioner Nancy Yetter has announced her intention to seek another term in office.

Two commission seats and the mayor’s post are up for election Nov. 4.

“I had to think about it, but I believe the city is moving forward and I want to be involved in getting things done and keeping Anna Maria a great place to live,” Yetter said.

Yetter’s husband Mike is her campaign treasurer, although no funds have been deposited in her campaign account.

Commissioner Chuck Webb remains in limbo. He has said he is “definitely a maybe” to seek a fifth consecutive term.

Mayor SueLynn had said she will make an announcement not later than June 9, the first day of qualifying in Anna Maria.

No other candidates have appeared on the political scene in the northern city on Anna Maria Island.

Anna Maria presently has 1,255 active voters, according to the Supervisor of Elections Office.

The city’s qualifying period is noon June 9 to noon June 20. Election packets are available at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Election fees and qualifying papers must be submitted to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd., No. 108, Bradenton.

The qualifying fee to run for mayor is $96, while to seek a commission seat the fee is $48. Fee waiver forms are available at the SOE office.

Anna Maria commissioners are paid $4,800 annually, while the mayor receives $9,600 in annual compensation for the job.


BB commissioners seek 3rd — final — terms

By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

The two Bradenton Beach commissioners whose terms are up for election Nov. 4 will run for third terms.

So far, no challengers have shown interest in the seats held by incumbents Ed Straight in Ward 2 and Jan Vosburgh in Ward 4.

However, residents have until June 20 to qualify for the ballot.

Both Vosburgh and Straight ran unopposed in 2012.

The commissioners said they have picked up their 2014 registration packets.

“I should have my account set up soon, so I can begin accepting campaign donations,” Straight said.

Bradenton Beach officials are limited to serving three consecutive terms in office, but with a hiatus of one term they could run again and reclaim a seat on the dais. Or they can run for mayor when that seat is on the city ballot.

“I’ve served on the commission for almost four years,” Straight said. “I believe my experience is important to keep congruency going; I’m thinking in the long term.”

Straight won his seat in 2010 after three decades in public service as Manatee County’s Emergency Medical Technician chief, emergency management chief, 911 emergency response center chief and as a reserve deputy sheriff.

When he’s not examining city policies, he helps his wife operate Wildlife Inc., a rehabilitation center for birds and small animals, from their home.

Straight plans to look to his hometown of St. Petersburg to gain insight on the parking problems that came to light in his second term.

He said he is excited to see some of the projects he and other commissioners have worked on coming to fruition after several years, most notably, the construction of a cell tower, the pier reconstruction and a series of stormwater upgrades.

Vosburgh said she uses her experience as a storeowner, caretaker and problem-solver when looking at city issues.

“I take care of my people in Ward 4,” she said. “I’ve always been a problem solver.”

Originally from Wisconsin, Vosburgh found herself in unfamiliar territory when she and her husband moved to Utah to adopt and raise five nieces and nephews after their father unexpectedly died.

“We didn’t know what to do for work out there,” she said. “But I had always liked interior design so we decided to open a furniture store.”

After running a business for nearly 30 years, Vosburgh chose Bradenton Beach as her home in 1986.

She began her political career when she was drafted by the commission to fill the seat held by Bob Bartelt, who took over as mayor in August 2010.

After a few months at the dais, she decided to run for Ward 4 commissioner and won the majority vote.

Candidate packets are available at the city clerk’s office at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N., or at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Bradenton.

The city presently has 768 voters.

Applicants are required to have established residency within the city for 90 days and be registered to vote in the ward for which they qualify.

The candidate must pay a qualifying fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary for the office sought — $96 for mayor, $48 for commission seat — and obtain 10 petition signatures of voters residing in the city.


Becoming a voter

Voters can check their registration status by going online to VoteManatee.com, or at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd., W., Suite 108, Bradenton.

Registered voters in Manatee County must:

• Be a citizen of the United States.

• Be a legal Florida resident.

• Be at least 18 years old.

Convicted felons may not vote without first having their civil rights restored.

Manatee County residents must register to vote 29 days before an election. To vote in the statewide Aug. 26 primary, voters must be registered by July 28.

To vote in the November election, registration must be completed by Oct. 7. Voter registration forms can be filled out online, requested by phone at 941-741-3823, or picked up at the supervisor of elections office, driver’s license offices, public libraries, city halls and chambers of commerce.

HB planners recommend denial of residential rezone

The plans for a change in zoning in Holmes Beach got a no-go reaction from the planning commission.

The Holmes Beach Planning Commission met May 21 for a continued public hearing on a small plan amendment and a rezone application for 214 54th St.

Emily Anne Smith, the conceptual designer for the applicant, Lizzie Lus Retreat LLC, delivered a plea for her design to the commission. Agent Monica Simpson argued her case for the application, as did contractor Greg Ross, and Lizzie Lus owner Ben ten Haaf addressed the commission. All sought approval.

City planner Bill Brisson also addressed the commission, outlining his staff report. He recommended denying the application.

While commission members said they were impressed with the presentation, four of the five members agreed with Brisson that the application does not align with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Simpson argued against Brisson’s points, saying the application works with the city’s comp plan, providing commissioners with visual aids and information in booklets.

“I’ll admit your presentation was very good, and I was swayed,” said Commission Chair Sue Normand. “However, we’ve all put a lot of time into reviewing this and I just don’t think it aligns.”

One part of the application sought to extend the mixed-use overlay district that exists within the commercial district, which is east and south of the property at the corner of Holmes Boulevard and 54th Street, to the residential site. Simpson argued the corner lot is unique, in that in could create a transition from the high-density commercial area where it meets the residential area.

She said the proposed plan could reinvigorate the commercial area in a positive way, while also blocking residents’ views of businesses and dumpsters.

Brisson said the mixed-use overlay provision was intended to invigorate the commercial district, and was not meant to encroach into the residential area.

The property is in the Residential-2 duplex zone, not in the commercial district.

But extending the mixed-use overlay is necessary for the applicant to create resort housing and office space on the site.

Ross of Ross Built Construction in Holmes Beach, the ten Haaf’s contractor, also addressed the commission concerning the second part of the application, which seeks to rezone the area from residential, R-2, to low-density commercial, C-1.

Ross said the property’s current zoning allows resort housing at a higher density than what the applicant is seeking.

The current R-2 zoning would allow a three-story “mega-duplex” of two units with multiple bedrooms on each side.

“That could be done right now, with just a building permit and not a public hearing like this,” Ross said.

Brisson agreed with Ross as to what could be built in the R-2 zone, but cautioned commissioners about combining commercial businesses with resort housing.

“I think most residents are willing to accept the devil they know now, than the one that may pop up in the future,” Brisson said. “You have to be afraid of what could happen when you rezone an area.”


Public comments

Residents’ comments at the May 21 hearing were more muted than at the first hearing April 2, but the sentiment was the same.

“We want no commercial zoning in our residential areas,” said neighborhood resident Dick Motzer. “Please heed the advice of Mr. Brisson.”

Residents listed their concerns: an encroaching commercial district, the loss of annual rentals, increased traffic and more commercial rezones in the future.

“I believe when Jack Holmes had the idea for developing this area he wanted it to be a middle-class community where people could live and play and enjoy themselves and be middle-class. This isn’t Longboat Key,” said Nancy Deal, a residential neighbor of the subject property.

Deal argued developments such as the applicant’s proposal drive annual residents off the island, adding “share our dreams, don’t shatter them.”

Ross, Simpson, Smith and Ben ten Haaf addressed the residents of the neighborhood in their presentation and also during public comment.

“People look at us and they call us investors. We are a small business. We don’t have anyone backing us,” said ten Haaf. “We want to be part of the community. We think it’s the perfect spot for an office — if it’s something the community wants.”

Smith took to the podium a second time and expressed surprise that residents were against the proposal.

Normand responded, saying, “We base our decision on the comprehensive plan. We would make the same decision if neighbors loved it.”

The commission voted 4-1 to recommend denying the small-plan amendment, with Don Ferguson dissenting. The commission voted 5-0 to recommend denying the rezone request, which was dependent on the passage of the small-plan amendment change.

The application and recommendations from Brisson and the planning commission will go before the city commission for another hearing and a vote.

Cortez Fishing for Freedom members attend protest, appellate hearing

As workers in Tallahassee prepared for a day in the appellate court, two Cortez fishers packed their bags.

Mark Coarsey, president of the fledging Manatee County chapter of Fishing for Freedom, began making plans to travel to Tallahassee when he first heard Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal would hear the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s challenge to 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford’s ruling on a statewide ban on gill nets. The circuit ruling was issued in October 2013.

The constitutional amendment restricting gill nets and mesh sizes of nets rocked the commercial fishing industry in Cortez and other commercial fisheries across the state when approved by Florida voters in 1994. The ban took effect in 1995.

Fulford’s ruling in Wakulla Commercial Fishermen’s Association v. Florida Fish and Wildlife overturned the net ban, making it ineffective. Her order triggered an appeal from the FWC.

The now 20-year legal battle over the ban is seeing an emergence of a grassroots collective representing fishers across the state.

Cortez fishers Coarsey and Nate “Toasty” Meschelle met up with other representatives from around the state of the Fishing for Freedom group in Tallahassee May 15 to attend a protest and a hearing.

Coarsey said 50-60 people attended the demonstration outside of the FWC building, most wearing their FFF T-shirts. The shirts, on the back, state, “Biology versus Politics.”

Following the protest, FFF members filled the courtroom for the hearing.

“We represented Manatee County. Is it important we went up there? Yes,” said Coarsey. “They’re taking out a species of fisherman.”

The net ban was intended to promote sustainable fishing practices, and it almost exclusively affects commercial mullet fishers. The FWC contends the rule is intended to protect fish populations by preventing over-fishing. The Wakulla Commercial Fisherman’s Association, the group facing the FWC in court, says the amendment does not achieve its intent.

Coarsey says limiting the mesh size of the nets means it is more difficult for fishers to net legal-sized fish and, instead, many juvenile fish are caught, producing a bycatch that the net ban was supposed to prevent.

“Let us go catch our fish, you won’t have the bycatch we’ve been having, and you won’t have the junk in our bays,” said Coarsey. “Commercial fishermen are out to protect our resource.”

A three-judge panel listened May 15 to testimony from attorneys representing the Wakulla group and the FWC.

If the panel of judges sides with the Wakulla group, the Fulford ruling will be upheld and the net ban will be lifted.

However, the FWC could appeal a loss to the Florida Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Cortez fishers are hopeful — hoping to go back to the practice of many generations that puts food on the table for their families and others.

Island roadwatch

An eight-month long maintenance and repair project on the Cortez Bridge is in progress, the Florida Department of Transportation said.

Crews will work on the east side in Cortez on seawall and piers under the bridge. Work on this project includes general maintenance and repairs to the bridge span, beams, piling, seawall and bridge-tender house. Quinn Construction Inc. is the contractor.

While there is some daytime work, the DOT said most of the work would be from 9 p.m.-5 a.m. weeknights. Bridge closings will last no more than 15 minutes, the DOT said.

The project is slated to conclude in January 2015.

DOT improvements and repairs to Manatee Avenue West/State Road 64, from the Perico Bay Club to 75th Street in Bradenton.

Crews are remilling and resurfacing the asphalt roadway, making sidewalk and drainage improvements, and installing new signing and pavement markings. Motorists can expect lane closures from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. throughout the duration of the project. Expected project completion is summer 2014. The contractor is AJAX Paving Industries of Florida LLC.

Any lane closures will be accompanied by a flagging operation to keep vehicles moving, the DOT said.

A maintenance project on Gulf Drive from Cortez Road to 28th Street to replace a power pole may cause northbound lane closures from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday, June 6.

On Manatee Avenue/State Road 64, at the Anna Maria Island Bridge, there will be intermittent eastbound and westbound lane closures from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Thursday, May 29, for bridge maintenance. Motorists should use caution in the area and expect possible delays.

Real Estate – 05-28-2014

4410 Second Ave., Holmes Beach, a 1,942 sfla / 2,416 sfur 3bed/2bath/2car Gulffront pool home built in 1936 on a 75×200 lot was sold 05/01/14, Bird to Galanti for $1,995,000.

407 20th Place N., Bradenton Beach, a 2,339 sfla / 2,751 sfur 4bed/2bath bayfront pool home built in 1960 on a 125×93 lot was sold 05/02/14, Class to Bossenbroek for $1,115,000.

5300 Gulf Drive, Unit 108, Martinique South, Holmes Beach, a 1,057 sfla / 1,169 sfur 2bed/2bath/1car Gulffront condo with shared pool built in 1971 was sold 05/05/14, MBRH Properties LLC to Schwartz for $560,000; list $560,000.

6250 Holmes Blvd., Unit 59, North Beach Village, Holmes Beach, a 1,536 sfla / 2,055 sfur 3bed/2½bath/2car condo with shared pool built in 1990 was sold 05/09/14, Deehan to Newman for $417,000; list $449,000.

6500 Flotilla Drive, Unit 216, Westbay Point & Moorings, Holmes Beach, a 1,264 sfla / 1,377 sfur 2bed/2bath condo with shared pool built in 1979 was sold 04/28/14, Weener to McGranachan for $305,000; list $325,000.

2601 Gulf Drive N., Unit B15, Sandpiper Resort Co-op, Bradenton Beach, a 960 sfla / 992 sfur 1bed/1bath mobile home with share was sold 05/05/14, Defrancesco to Romas for $181,000.

Jesse Brisson, broker/associate at Gulf-Bay Realty of Anna Maria, can be reached at 941-778-7244.