Tag Archives: 07-03-2013

Search for missing 14-year-old swimmer called off at dark

Multiple agencies were in the water and in the air tonight searching for a 14-year-old Polk County boy who was carried away by a strong current from shallow water in the Gulf of Mexico sometime around 4:30 p.m.

The search included three helicopters, one from the U.S. Coast Guard, one from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and a third unknown agency.

On the water, as many as 10 Manatee County Marine Rescue lifeguards searched from personal watercraft and inflatables, while the sheriff’s office, West Manatee Fire Rescue and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers searched by boat.

According to a sheriff’s office press release, the missing boy and his brother were in knee-deep water near the Willow Avenue beach access point when they were caught in the current. The 12-year-old brother was able to get to shore.

A sheriff’s office sergeant on the beach observing the scene of boats and helicopters involved in the search amid crowds of families on the beach said, “It’s just a terrible tragedy.”

The MCSO officer said a local church was helping to provide overnight shelter for the family.

The search was called off for the night at approximately 8:24 p.m., but the sergeant said it would resume near 7 a.m. on July 7.

Anna Maria Island celebrates Independence Day

Anna Maria Island goes red, white, blue and “bang” July 3-4. The island will celebrate the July 4 holiday with two fireworks shows and a parade.

On July 3, The BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, will hold its 20th annual Fireworks Extravaganza.

Thousands of people will gather on the beach to the north and south of the restaurant to watch fireworks over the Gulf of Mexico.

The display will begin after nightfall.

Also, the restaurant will host a VIP party that includes seating for the fireworks, musical entertainment, a buffet and cocktails.

On July 4, the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, will host a fireworks display after nightfall.

Again, thousands will gather on the beach by the waterfront restaurant, which will host a VIP party with a buffet, cocktails, party favors and music, as well as seating for the fireworks.

In the morning on July 4, the Anna Maria Island Privateers will present the annual Independence Day parade, which will travel from Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach to Bayfront Park in Anna Maria.

Parade participants are still welcome, but must ride, not walk, because the parade path is one of the longest known parades anywhere — the entire 7-mile length of Anna Maria Island.

Parade viewers are welcome all along the route, where they can expect to encounter thundering cannons and patriotic music, as well as flying beads, candy and other giveaways.

The parade — including Privateer scholarship winners — will begin at 10 a.m., traveling north on Gulf Drive, merging onto East Bay Drive, turning west on Manatee Avenue, then north on Gulf Drive past the Manatee Public Beach. The parade continues on Gulf Drive and then turns north on Marina Drive, which turns into Palm and then merges into Gulf Drive. At Pine Avenue, the parade heads east to the city pier and north to Bayfront Park.

At about noon, after the parade, the Privateers steer their ship, the Skullywag, over to the Manatee Public Beach and the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, where the nonprofit hosts a beachfront community party on the patio and present $17,300 in college scholarship awards. The cafe provides live entertainment, and everyone is welcome.

For more information about the Sandbar event, call the restaurant at 941-778-8709. For details about the BeachHouse event, call the restaurant at 941-779-2222.

For more information about the AMIP parade or party, call Tim “Hammer” Thompson at 941-780-1669.

 

The Anna Maria Island Privateers 2013 scholars include:

Seniors

Hilary Hathaway- Shipreck Scholarship

Sajani Patel- Whitey Horton Scholarship

 

Juniors

Ourania Lardas

Jimmy “James” Campbell

Jacob Karguarer

Brandi Ricker

Leanne Browning

Alexander “Xander” Chawi

 

Sophomores

Monica “Molly” McDonough

 

Freshmen

Tiana Smith- Sandpiper Scholarship

Justin Puthusseril

Myles Johnson

Samantha Haga

 

Volunteer cleanup crew preparing for July 5

An all-volunteer crew is preparing for a post-holiday beach cleanup Friday, July 5.

Diane Havelka of Beach Bums and John Ganfield of Feeling Swell are coordinating the effort for the North End Merchants Organization and inviting volunteers to gather at 7 a.m. at Ginny’s and Jane E’s at the Old IGA, 9807 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

NEMO will provide garbage bags and divide volunteers into beach sections for cleanup, while Ginny’s and Jane’s will be providing a morning coffee jump-start to the event.

NEMO first undertook the project when the group formed in 2010 to show the community its patriotic spirit.

Organizers are accepting donations of trash bags for the campaign.

For more information, call Diane Havelka at Beach Bums at 941-778-3316.

 

 

Bang! Boom! Kapow!

Every Fourth of July holiday, the sights and sounds of fireworks fill the island skies.

But as you prepare to enjoy the holiday, you should be mindful of Florida laws regarding fireworks that prohibit any pyrotechnics that fly or go “boom,” unless handled by a professional.

Local law enforcement have found in the past that enforcing fireworks laws is complicated because they’re  everywhere, and few people call in complaints.

Each year the Manatee County Sheriff’s office deputies patrol the beach in the city of Anna Maria on foot and from an ATV, confiscating illegal fireworks. Likewise, officers from the Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach police departments patrol the beach to keep people safe.

Still private displays of fireworks on AMI beaches manage each year to rival the professional pyrotechnics.

It seems people believe they have a basic right to celebrate Independence Day by shooting fireworks.

Law enforcement recommends you be safe, not sorry. Be legal. And enjoy what the professional fireworks for free on July 3 and July 4.

State rep to Anna Maria: HB883 won’t be repealed

State Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said June 27 at an Anna Maria city meeting that he doesn’t hold out a lot of hope the 2011 passage of HB883 restricting some rights by local government to regulate rental units would be repealed any time soon.

Boyd, who voted along with 93 other state representatives to pass the bill, said the 2011 debate over the measure was more about individual property rights.

Boyd said he received calls about the bill, and those he did receive were supportive of its passage.

“I had folks from this island tell me their property has been in their family for 50 years and the only way they could keep it is to let them rent it how and when they wanted,” said Boyd. “They said if they couldn’t, high property taxes and high utilities would force them to sell their family home.”

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said the law limits how cities deal with vacation rentals. “What that has done is tie our hands. It feels like a taking of our own home rule. It’s had a tremendous impact in Anna Maria,” she said.

SueLynn said longtime residents are moving away and neighborhoods are being lost.

“It’s decimated our quality of life,” she said.

Boyd said the only way to attempt a repeal is to create a new bill to readdress the issue, but he said that would be an uphill climb given the bill’s overwhelming support.

HB883 passed in the House 94-19, but local municipalities claim powerful backers in the development and real estate industries, who managed to get it to a vote, promoted the law.

City officials on Anna Maria Island have previously said they were unaware of the bill until after it passed.

Boyd said there are other ways to address it.

“It could be introduced in terms of an amendment, if that is the will of the community,” he said. “But there are limitations.”

SueLynn said Anna Maria, other island cities and a growing number of inland cities are gearing up to fight the bill.

Boyd said public support against the bill would be key for those representing their constituents.

“I’m an optimist by nature,” he said. “But I can just about guarantee it won’t be repealed. There might be a way to look at an individual community, and I’m happy to advance that conversation.”

Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry said the statute benefits investors over residents and, during recent discussion, the city learned property owners can sue under the Bert J. Harris Jr. Act — an even worse-case scenario.

“The people really hurt by this law are the people that live here,” said Aubry. “The people doing fine are the investors. That bill is destroying every city on the waterfront.”

Aubry noted the commission then learned of the Bert Harris Act, “so if you build a box and the city tries to do something about it, the guy trying to make money has the right to sue the city.”

Boyd, who grew up on Anna Maria Island, acknowledged that investors are changing the character of the city, “in that they don’t care what the community looks like and are only interested in making money.”

Commissioner Dale Woodland said increased rentals create increased expenses for a city that now has no ability to regulate vacation units.

“We have had such an increase of visitors,” he said. “Many of them are coming to vacation rentals and hurting our infrastructure. You have totally tied our hands. The only way to deal with that increase is to raise taxes on the people who live here. That is wrong. They shouldn’t have to pay more for the damage being done by visitors.”

That sparked a conversation about the Manatee County Tourist Development Council and the restrictions placed on the TDC by state statutes that limit its funding — the collection of a tax on accommodation rentals of six months or less — to tourism-related spending.

SueLynn has been actively lobbying to attain some of the TDC funding for city infrastructure needs.

Woodland said if Anna Maria received 5 percent of its own bed tax, “we could lower taxes.”

Boyd said city officials should begin working with other agencies on trying to change how the TDC can spend its money, but that he would address the problems HB883 has created for the island.

“I will work with staff when I get back and try to work the problem,” he said.

Boyd said, otherwise, the 2013 legislative session was productive and that Democrats and Republicans worked well together in passing election reform, ethics reform and campaign finance reform.

He said the new laws would ensure Florida elections are productive and ethics reform will better hold elected officials accountable morally and financially.

“Some elected officials have outstanding fines for three, four or five years,” he said. “We are talking about a lot of money so we extended the statute of limitations from four years to 20 years. I hope that puts us in a better light to the public.”

Education, fire safety and beach renourishment funding were all things Boyd said were improved upon during the recent session.

“Everything we were able to accomplish in these areas was the right things to do for Florida,” he said.

Anna Maria calls up Ridan for cell tower talks

After weeks of meetings between an Anna Maria cell tower committee and three prospective cell tower providers, the city commission June 27 voted to negotiate with Ridan Industries.

The committee recommended Ridan, but it was a close contest between Ridan and F&L towers. The committee, led by building official Bob Welch, also recommended that both companies conduct a presentation to commissioners before a final vote.

“It was that close,” said Welch, who said Ridan was recommended based on it receiving two first-place votes and two second-place votes.

F&L received two first-place votes, one second-place vote and a third-place vote, but scored higher than Ridan by five points in the committee’s overall grading system.

Welch said the city’s request for proposal is structured in such a way that if negotiations stall with a selected company, new negotiations can begin with the next highest scorer, “Or we can simply start over.”

The committee suggested commissioners negotiate with both companies to extract the best deal possible for the city, but city attorney Jim Dye disagreed with that advice.

“That can get complicated,” said Dye. “I would not recommend you enter into two negotiations.”

Dye said the process of leasing the land then undergoing the permit process is a lengthy one and doubling the negotiations and allowing further presentations would only serve to delay the process.

Commissioner Gene Aubry said further delays were unacceptable.

“I remember bringing up this subject forever ago,” he said. “We have appointed three competent people to consider proposals and I count on that committee. Delaying this is typical Anna Maria business as usual. We did what we were going to do, and let’s not sit around and go from one workshop to another.”

Aubry moved to enter into negotiations with the committee’s top recommendation of Ridan. Commissioner Nancy Yetter seconded the motion but, during discussion, a Ridan representative asked to speak.

Since a motion was made before opening public comment, Dye said the commission would have to rescind the motion in order to allow public comment.

The motion was rescinded, which opened the floor for F&L president Stacy Frank, an island resident, to make an argument for her company.

Frank said she didn’t agree with the outcome of the committee and asked the commission to delay the vote.

“I understand this has to move forward, but it has to move forward in the best way possible,” she said.

Frank suggested with a little more inquiry, “you’ll be more comfortable with your decision.”

Frank’s speech prompted public comment in favor of F&L. Aubry and Yetter asked the committee members if they were confident in their selection of Ridan.

The members reiterated that it was close and that all three companies submitted good proposals.

Aubry moved again to negotiate with Ridan, but the motion died for a lack of a second.

Yetter wanted further comment from committee members, who ultimately said they were confident in Ridan as their first choice.

Aubry again moved to negotiate with Ridan. Yetter seconded the motion, which passed 4-0. Commissioner Chuck Webb was absent.

Negotiations will encompass two steps. The first part will be a land-lease agreement, which entails location and lease fees.

The cell tower phase is more complicated and lengthy in obtaining construction permits for a yet-to-be determined tower structure and the technology that will be required to best serve the area.

If the city and Ridan negotiations are unsuccessful, the city reserves the right to end the talks and negotiations then would begin with F&L or the RFP process could be repeated.

Anna Maria moves forward with ‘six lots’ park plan

Frustration turned to celebration at the June 27 city meeting when commissioners voted to accept a park design for the six vacant lots on Pine Avenue at Bay Boulevard after months of stalled discussion.

The city acquired the six-parcel piece of property in 2012 to prevent the possibility of a developer building rental units on the bayfront. The purchase was made following a detailed accounting of the city’s surplus budget during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Commissioner Gene Aubry said the commission wanted to ensure the city could afford to purchase the property, “and only after we were told that we could afford it, did we buy it.”

Once the city had the property, discussions ensued on what to do with it. Aubry suggested the property be used as an open park and presented a minimal landscaping plan that included planting mature live oaks.

He was approached by Rex Hagen in January with an offer to fund the landscaping and trees, but plans then stalled over parking concerns, restrooms and the park’s layout.

Hagen offered to pay for the trees, but also wanted public bathrooms installed on the property. He offered to pay for the construction and one year of maintenance. Hagen said if the bathrooms did not work out to the city’s liking, the city could remove them after the first year.

He made the stipulation that he would not donate any funding toward the park without the bathrooms.

“It only took six months to get it done,” said Aubry. “I’m not being critical. It’s just the way government works, but it’s nice to see a commission in place that works in a cooperative spirit.”

Commissioners had been at odds over adding parking in the area, but ultimately agreed to create enough parking for up to 15 vehicles at the park.

“There won’t be any street parking,” said Aubry. “Vehicles will be able to drive right into the park near where the oak trees will be planted and people won’t even notice it because the vehicles will be inside the park.”

There won’t be traditional parking spaces, rather a parking area, Aubry said.

The bathrooms will be basic, too, he said.

“There will be two unisex wooden structures and they are self-ventilated, so they won’t require a lot of attention,” said Aubry. He also recommended a temporary well and irrigation lines that will be removed after a year.

Aubry said in addition to Hagen donating some $60,000, the Pine Avenue Restoration development group will pay $25,000 a year toward the park for four years.

“This is a great thing,” said Aubry. “The city doesn’t have to do anything. We’ve had some very generous people step forward to make this happen.”

The goal of the park is to make it as natural as possible, said Aubry. The concept is similar to New York’s Central Park, “but obviously on a smaller scale. But New York wouldn’t be New York without Central Park. It’s the same concept here — to have an open space for people to use as they want.”

Aubry said benches may eventually be installed at the park, “but that’s about it. No pathways will be added. It’s a beautiful area and should be left as natural as possible for people to enjoy.”

Summer real estate deals predicted to go fast

Anna Maria Island real estate agents say there are still a few bargains remaining from the winter-spring tourist season.

But they are not likely to last because summer buyers are usually more serious than winter buyers, the agents said.

Jesse Brisson, of Gulf-Bay Realty, 5309 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, reports weekly for The Islander on real estate sales, and he said the small inventory of island homes for sale creates a high demand and often bidding wars among those with cash.

“There’s definitely a few bargains out there, but they will sell quickly. In my opinion, the first week a bargain is on the market is the most critical time. If you see something you like at the right price, you’d better move quick or it will be gone,” he said.

And buyers shouldn’t expect prices to fall by August or September, Brisson added.

He noted that for the first five months of 2012, 166 single-family residences were sold at an average price of $465,000. For the same five months in 2013, 124 homes sold, but the average price was $561,000, a 20.6 percent gain.

While Brisson doesn’t expect prices to continue upward at that pace, he advises the serious buyer not to wait.

“There’s a lack of inventory. Anything that’s a bargain doesn’t last long,” Brisson said.

He has some condominiums in the low $200,000 range, but he anticipates these will be sold within a few weeks, at the most. The days of the condo for under $100,000 are long gone, he said.

The international buyers arrive in the fall and they too are serious about island property and have done their homework, Brisson added.

“From what I’m hearing, it’s going to be a good summer for tourism and that usually means a lot of serious buyers. I wouldn’t wait on the sidelines to buy,” he said.

Liz Codola at Island Real Estate, 6101 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, agreed bargains are out there, but they are “hard to find because they sell quickly.”

She said she had some units recently that were priced under $200,000, but those sold within a few days. She still has some available properties that are priced a bit higher, but there will be a lot of interest, once the summer season peaks at the Fourth of July holiday.

Even those looking for an investment property should come prepared to buy, Codola said.

“My best advice to anyone looking this summer is don’t wait,” she said.

Creighton Faust at RE/MAX, 5316 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, said the summer buyers “seem to have a high confidence level in the island market and they are not depending on prices to drop.”

“The summer buyer is looking for location and a good investment. When one comes on the market, it doesn’t last very long,” he said.

And the summer tourist season should be a good one.

“People have discovered Anna Maria Island. They come here for the old Florida atmosphere, the peace and quiet, the good restaurants and beaches, and all the things we offer,” Faust said.

Many visitors become buyers, but the serious buyers aren’t sitting on the sidelines, he said.

“Island real estate prices have bottomed out and, if buyers know their price range in advance, they can find that bargain,” Faust said.

While the agents all seem to believe it will be a busy summer season, Nicole Skaggs, of Big Fish Real Estate, 5351 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, cautioned that the low inventory might hurt real estate sales.

“People may be serious, and come with cash, but the inventory is so low they might not see anything available they wanted. It’s unlike other years, when the inventory was well above 400 or 500,” she said.

But Skaggs does have a few bargains, including some condo units in the low-to mid-$100,000 range.

“And canalfront homes are in big demand. I’ve got one priced under $500,000, and I doubt that’s going to be around long,” Skaggs said.

“It should be a good real estate season as long as the inventory holds steady or increases. We have to have what people want, and the buyers have to be ready to buy,” she concluded.

 

 

Ghost of cafe flea market drives kayak kiosk criticisms

For some visitors, the Gulf Drive Cafe, 900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, has an appealing attraction of dining under chickee huts on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

For some residents, the Gulf Drive Cafe represents a different picture — traffic and lots of it.

Residents have complained about the increased traffic, noise and litter to city officials as the GDC expanded its operations, but none more so than in early 2012, when the business was granted a temporary special exception permit to hold a flea market adjacent to the restaurant.

By most accounts, the Sunday operation generated a stop-and-go-traffic scenario along Gulf Drive that stretched for more than a half mile in both directions.

The ghost of the GDC market traffic congestion was revived at a June 26 planning and zoning public hearing to consider recommending approval of a special exception use for a kayak rental station adjacent to the restaurant.

The city received several letters objecting to the proposal and about a dozen people attended the meeting. Public comment was unanimously opposed to the request.

“I called many owners to let them know what was being proposed,” said Imperial House resident Barbara Huff. “They all said, ‘Oh no, here we go again with another flea market fiasco.’”

Huff opposed the request for several reasons, including increased traffic, but said foot traffic onto Imperial House property was another concern for the condominium owners.

David Miller, a resident of Summer Sands, said there already has been a noticeable increase in traffic since GDC opened a new restaurant section.

“We have a nice parking garage, but people who aren’t supposed to be parking there love to use it,” he said.

Several other residents who live in the vicinity of GDC objected to any notion of increased traffic and the creation of additional parking issues.

Jack Glennon, owner of Kayak Jacks, based in Cortez, said he was surprised at the negative reaction to his request and that almost all of his clientele would be people already at the beach.

“It’s a witch hunt that has to do with the Gulf Drive Cafe owners,” said Glennon. “I don’t want to be blacklisted because people have problems with something in the past. The bottom line is that the property is commercial and the owner has a right to do what she wants. I’m just a small business guy and shouldn’t be judged on something that has nothing to do with me.”

The planning and zoning board agreed, voting 3-1 to recommend approval with stipulations.

P&Z member Bob Dale said he listened to the comments, which included opinions that the GDC put profit before good neighbor policies and public safety, particularly with regard to inexperienced kayak users around swimmers.

“I understand their concerns,” he said. “Who makes money is irrelevant. And the concerns about safety? There is no cure for stupid.”

Dale said the property is zoned commercial and that’s all that matters in relation to the codes and the P&Z’s decision.

P&Z member Dan DeBaum said the special exception was appropriate for the type of land use designated for the property.

“There seems to be a lot of concern about the sins of those associated with this business,” said DeBaum. “I’m not sure that is relevant to this discussion. I also don’t see a significant change that would create a traffic increase.”

P&Z chair Pat Whitesel voted against the recommendation, saying the situation needed to be looked at more closely. However, Whitesel said the references to Gulf Drive Cafe’s history with the public was not an issue for P&Z.

“I think it’s sad there is some reference to the property owners,” she said. “We do not even listen to that. We are here to discuss what Jack needs to do on the property.”

Dale, DeBaum and Barbara Curtis voted to recommend approval. The stipulations to the special exception include limiting hours of operation to 8 a.m.-4 p.m., reducing the number of craft allowed from 12 to eight, and no signage associated with kayak rentals could be displayed on Gulf Drive.

Other stipulations include that rental operations be a minimum distance of 25 feet from Gulf Drive and that no rental equipment be on the beach, with the exception of transport from the rental kiosk to the water.

Glennon’s operation will be portable. He plans to unload his equipment and kiosk for transport to his beach location in the mornings and remove all equipment at the end of each day.

No one who spoke during public comment was against Kayak Jacks as a business. The opposition was primarily location based. Glennon conducted a two-day trial run at the GDC before approaching the city for a permit.

“It’s a great rental location,” he said. “It’s a pretty spot. In two days, it turned into a fabulous beach walk-up spot.”

In other P&Z matters, the board addressed what city officials required for a cleanup of the land development code.

Lot 10, block H of the Azure Shores subdivision is a city-owned piece of property used for parking. However, the property is zoned Residential 3.

Garrett appeared before the P&Z board asking to change the existing residential use to a public/semi-public use.

“It’s currently being used as a city parking facility, but parking is not allowed,” he said. “The main purpose of this request is to bring the property into compliance with the comprehensive plan.”

After being reassured the change in zoning would not create an environment for commercial development, the board voted unanimously to recommend approval to the city commission, which makes the final determination.

Scentral Park segregates, opens small dog section

Scentral Park dog park in Holmes Beach did not open without controversy, as part of the Birdie Tebbetts Field outfield was sectioned off to be used for a dog park after continued conflicts between dog owners and those wishing to use the baseball field became more numerous.

The city of Holmes Beach expended funds for a fence to create separation between the two uses and helped build benches and a shelter. Today’s Scentral Park began to take shape and, continues to add amenities thanks to almost $15,000 in private contributions.

Controversy between dog owners and ballplayers ended for the most part, although it seemed home-run hitters were targeting the shelter roof, but dog owners then turned to battling one another over the addition of toxic plants and a decorative water fountain — not for use by dogs — all added under the guidance of Barbara Parkman.

People complained the plants and trees were not dog friendly, benches were dangerous for running-playing dogs and dogs lacked a water fountain.

A dog park committee was formed that included Parkman, but members were unable to move toward progression as disagreements blocked the way.

The city turned over the care of the dog park to its beautification committee but, according to Parkman, the dog park has come full circle back to her to make decisions under the guidance of fellow dog owners and city officials.

While arguments have been plentiful over what kind of tree should be planted or where a bench should be located, a new amenity to Scentral Park has opened without much notice.

Parkman said Scentral Park’s northern section was fenced off and a gate was added to open a small dog park section about three weeks ago.

The small dog park has its own trees, water station and benches and Parkman said a smaller version of the large dog park’s gazebo is planned for humans to find shade during the dog days of summer.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Marvin Grossman, a small dog owner who can now enjoy Scentral Park’s newest amenity with his dog Prince, has become the liaison between the city and Parkman.

“I don’t make the decisions,” he said. “I facilitate other people’s decisions.”

There has been some confusion in where the money for Scentral Park comes from and how it is used. Donated funds have paid for everything except the fence separating the park from the ball field.

While donated funds have far surpassed tax dollars, Grossman said there has been some public outcry in why more tax dollars weren’t used for the park.

“There was a letter written asking why individuals should contribute to a city park, and that the city should pay for it,” said Grossman. “The thing is, the park people wanted this done (quickly). Thanks to donations, they didn’t have to wait for the commission to allocate the money. It can be a lengthy process to get funding.”

He said things can work faster and sometimes better when private citizens take over a project.

“It’s so much easier when individuals come together to contribute,” he said. “It was their choice to do this.”

Grossman said $15,000 in private contributions for the dog park says a lot about island dog owners.

“They love their dogs,” he said. “They wanted this and they come out and use it. Personally, I love it because it’s a social thing for the dogs and for people. We need more things like this on our island.”

Scentral Park began making its way into national advertisements for Anna Maria Island as an added amenity for visitors. Rental agencies and Tripadvisor.com have added Scentral Park to promotional campaigns.

Most dog parks have separate parks for small and large dogs. Grossman said it’s a safety issue.

“It’s not so much about a large dog attacking a smaller dog,” he said. “My dog wouldn’t go near the park when a bigger dog was in there. The larger dogs start playing and it would be fairly easy for the smaller dogs to get injured if they are stepped on, so safety for the little dogs is the main reason.”

There has been a lot of conflict over something that many people enjoy, Parkman said.

“If we loved each other as much as our dogs loved us, we wouldn’t have these kinds of problems,” she said.

Grossman agreed.

“I would like to see people get along as good as the dogs do,” he said.

Scentral Park, on Flotilla Drive near 62nd Street welcomes all dog owners. There are no fees, but users are asked to follow some simple rules. Don’t bring aggressive dogs to the park and clean up after your animal.

Parkman said the park is there for dog owners to enjoy time with their dogs and other dog owners, but taking personal responsibility needs to be at the forefront of using the park.

More plans are in the works for Scentral Park. A concrete tile walkway from the large dog park gazebo to the fence, a shade structure for the small dog park, an adjoining gate between the two parks and more are planned.

Donations are welcome for further improvements to the park. Contributors are asked not to write checks to an individual. Checks can be made out to the City of Holmes Beach and Grossman said to be sure to write “Dog park” in the memo line.

The money is separated from the city’s general fund and placed into an account devoted to Scentral Park.

 

Scentral Park opens small dog section

By Mark Young

Islander Reporter

Scentral Park dog park in Holmes Beach did not open without controversy, as part of the Birdie Tebbetts Field outfield was sectioned off to be used for a dog park after continued conflicts between dog owners and those wishing to use the baseball field became more numerous.

The city of Holmes Beach expended funds for a fence to create separation between the two groups. Today’s Scentral Park began to take shape and, continues to add amenities thanks to almost $15,000 in private contributions.

Controversy between dog owners and ballplayers ended, but dog owners then battled one another as trees, water stations, a gazebo and a water fountain were added under the guidance of dog lover Barbara Parkman.

People complained the trees were not dog friendly, benches were dangerous for playing dogs and the fountain was too extravagant for a dog park.

A dog park committee was formed that included Parkman, but members were unable to move toward progression as disagreements blocked the way.

The city turned over the care of the dog park to its beautification committee, but according to Parkman, the continued beautification of the dog park has come full circle back to Parkman, who makes design decisions under the guidance of fellow dog owners and city officials.

While arguments have been plentiful over what kind of tree should be planted or where a bench should be located, a new amenity to Scentral Park has opened without much notice.

Parkman said about three weeks ago, Scentral Park’s northern section was fenced off and a gate was added to open a small dog park section.

The small dog park has its own trees, water station and benches and Parkman said a smaller version of the large dog park’s gazebo is planned for humans to find shade during the dog days of summer.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Marvin Grossman, a small dog owner who can now enjoy Scentral Park’s newest amenity with his dog Prince, has become the liaison between the city and Parkman.

“I don’t make the decisions,” he said. “I facilitate other people’s decisions.”

There has been some confusion in where the money for Scentral Park comes from and how it is used. Donated funds have paid for everything except the fence separating the park from the ball field.

While donated funds have far surpassed tax dollars, Grossman said there has been some public outcry in why more tax dollars weren’t used for the park.

“There was a letter written asking why individuals should contribute money to a city park, and that the city should pay for it,” said Grossman. “The thing is, the park people wanted this done now. Thanks to donations, they didn’t have to wait for the commission to allocate the money during budget. It can be a lengthy process to get funding.”

He said things can work faster and sometimes better when private citizens take over a project.

“It’s so much easier when individuals come together to contribute,” he said. “It was their choice to do it this way.”

Grossman said $15,000 in private contributions for the dog park says a lot about island dog owners.

“They love their dogs,” he said. “They wanted this and they come out and use it. Personally, I love it because it’s a social thing for the dogs and for people. We need more things like this on our island.”

Scentral Park began making its way into national advertisements for Anna Maria Island as an added amenity for visitors. Rental agencies and Tripadvisor.com have added Scentral Park to promotional campaigns.

Most dog parks have separate parks for small and large dogs. Grossman said it’s a safety issue.

“It’s not so much about a large dog attacking a smaller dog,” he said. “My dog wouldn’t go near the park when a bigger dog was in there. The larger dogs start playing and it would be fairly easy for the smaller dogs to get injured if they are stepped on, so safety for the little dogs is the main reason.”

There has been a lot of conflict over something that many people enjoy, Parkman said.

“If we loved each other as much as our dogs loved us, we wouldn’t have these kinds of problems,” she said.

Grossman agreed.

“I would like to see people get along as good as the dogs do,” he said.

Scentral Park, on Flotilla Drive near 62nd Street welcomes all dog owners. There are no fees, but users are asked to follow some simple rules. Don’t bring aggressive dogs to the park and clean up after your animal.

Parkman said the park is there for dog owners to enjoy time with their dogs and other dog owners, but taking personal responsibility needs to be at the forefront of using the park.

More plans are in the works for Scentral Park. A concrete tile walkway from the large dog park gazebo to the fence, a shade structure for the small dog park, an adjoining gate between the two parks and more are planned.

Donations are welcome for further improvements to the park. Contributors are asked not to write checks to an individual. Checks can be made out to the City of Holmes Beach and Grossman said to be sure to write “Dog park” in the memo line.

The money is separated from the city’s general fund and placed into an account devoted to Scentral Park.

Roadwatch this week

State Road 64-Manatee Avenue at the Anna Maria Island Bridge: Work continues to repair the substructure of the bascule bridge.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation, the majority of repair work will be below bridge decks at the water level.

Motorists should expect intermittent night-time lane closures on the bridge 9 p.m.-6 a.m. Project completion is expected this summer. The contractor is L&S Concrete Restoration.

For information, call Robin Stublen at 239-461-4300 or email robin.stublen@dot.state.fl.us.