Tag Archives: 07-31-2013

The Star Awards – July 2013

AMI ranks in top worldwide family vacations

Anna Maria Island was listed among the 12 best family vacation spots in the world by FlipKey.com, a vacation rental website.

FlipKey a relatively new TripAdvisor partner website, said in its rating, “This hidden gem is considered to be Florida’s best kept secret. (It) features gorgeous beaches, beautiful weather and a fun and family-friendly environment ideal for the ultimate family vacation.”

Maui in Hawaii is listed first by FlipKey, and Orlando is the only other Florida destination. London, Paris and Playa del Carmen, Mexico, also are listed.

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman said she learned of the ranking last week and was thrilled.

“I think it shows we are a top family destination and we have the real old Florida atmosphere every other Florida destination would like to have,” she said.

“I guess it shows we’re no longer unknown to families, especially with tourism increasing this past winter and spring. And it looks like the summer season is going to be one of the best ever.”

Brockman said FlipKey is one of the newer vacation rental websites, but is fast growing in popularity, and it’s a chamber member.

The notice about the listing came by email to the chamber from Claire Fischer of FlipKey.com in Boston, along with the 12 ranked destinations.

David Teitelbaum, owner of four Bradenton Beach resorts and a member of the chamber board of directors, agreed FlipKey is making inroads in the online reservations industry.

“In my opinion, they are rapidly becoming fairly big players in the online reservations industry. Their ranking of the island is very big for us,” he said.

FlipKey said in a release its rankings were determined from visitor surveys about the family friendliness of a chosen destination.

FlipKey Announces Top 12 Family Vacation Destinations

Vacation Rental Site Uncovers the Top Family Vacation Destinations around the World

BOSTON, July 10, 2013 – FlipKey.com, a leading vacation rental marketplace, announced the top spots for family vacation travel that included Anna Maria Island, Florida. From learning more about America’s history in Washington D.C. to “The Theme Park Capital of the World” in Orlando, there are endless amounts of fun in each of these locations. These top spots offer an array of choices in order to help travelers pick a family vacation that is just right for their needs.

Maui, HI, The second largest Hawaiian island is full of endless fun opportunities for all family members. Hiking, water sports, sand-castle contests and more all await travelers on this special island.

Orlando, FL, Dubbed “The Theme Park Capital of the World”, Orlando offers Universal Studios, Disneyland and Discovery Cove for endless summer fun. Live entertainment venues, family-friendly restaurant, and sunny skies make Orlando perfect families.

Myrtle Beach, SC, Not only famous for the perfect subtropical climate and miles of beautiful beaches, but the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is one of the best in the US. Golfing, boating and of course, riding to the top of the 187-foot Skywheel are just some of the activities that keep families coming back every year for more fun.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Originally known as a small fishing town, this destination has become a hot spot famous for its beautiful beaches, endless boutiques, a selection of fine dining and even an eco-archaeological park with Mayan ruins.

Anna Maria Island, FL, This hidden gem is considered to be Florida’s best kept secret. This hidden gem features gorgeous beaches, beautiful weather, and a fun, family-friendly environment ideal for the ultimate family vacation.

San Diego, CA, From the San Diego Zoo to Balboa Park there are plenty of activities for the family. Special annual festivities like Comic-Con and the Street Scene Music Festival are other fun ways to spend your time.

San Francisco, CA, The City by the Bay is known for its cool summers, rolling hills, and famous landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. The city is completely walkable and there are plenty of museums, events, and sports games to attend to keep the whole family entertained.

Tybee Island, GA, This small island city off the coast of Savannah is a long-time family favorite. The annual Beach Bum parade is fun parade for family members of all ages and the Tybee Island Light Station and Fort Screven are perfect ways to learn more about the history of the island.

Washington D.C. The capital of the United States is a great place for children to learn about the history of our country. The White House, Washington National Cathedral, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the United States Capitol are just some of the many different landmarks this city is famous for.

Rehobeth Beach, DE, The town is the ultimate summer town for vacationers. During the year the population remains at a steady 1,300, but during the summer it spikes to over 25,000. Families come for the beaches and boardwalk, but stay for the amusement parks and tax-free shopping.

Paris, France, Paris is the perfect first European location to bring families to. Known as “La Ville-Lumiere” (“The City of Light”), Paris is enlightening to visitors with its rich architecture, museums, entertainment, cuisine, and of course, fashion. Some of the most famous landmarks in Paris are Palace of Versailles, Pyramid of the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower.

London, England, Europe’s most visited city attracts travelers of all ages. Some of the most visited attractions include the British Museum, London Eye, Tower of London, and the National Gallery. The city is packed full of exciting restaurants, entertainment, and annual events such as the Notting Hill Carnival.

 Claire Fischer, 

Opposition stiffens to Long Bar Pointe development

American photographer, author and environmental activist Ansel Adams once wrote, “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”

That sentiment runs parallel to a growing number of people and organizations rallying against a proposed development on Sarasota Bay on the mainland between Cortez and IMG Academy called Long Bar Pointe.

The Manatee County Board of Commissioners will hold a special land-use meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto, to address proposals from the developer that will facilitate the development plan.

The county previously approved in June a new zoning designation — although not yet approved by the state — that will allow a combination of marina, hotel and commercial development in addition to residential housing.

A mix of single- and multi-family residential development was approved with stipulations by the county in 2008.

The August meeting was moved to the convention center with an expectation of a large crowd and, like Adams’ quote, the crowd is expected to fight their government to save the environment.

“Why is this even a question?” asked Capt. Kathe Fannon, who operates a charter boat from docks at the Star Fish Co. Market and Restaurant in Cortez.

“Why are we even wasting taxpayer dollars and paying commissioner salaries in an attempt to get this stopped? We’ve said ‘no’ to so many developers and projects and all of a sudden now we want to discuss it?” she asked.

Developer Carlos Beruff partnered with developer Larry Lieberman in 2011 on certain development entitlements that were approved for Lieberman at the site by the Manatee County Commission in 2004.

The approved plan allows a subdivision with thousands of single- and multi-story homes with an additional 150,000 square feet of commercial development.

Beruff has submitted a revised development plan that calls for more than 1,600 low-rise multi-family homes, a 300-room hotel, a boat basin, an 84,000 square foot conference center and 120,000 square feet of retail space.

At issue are the text amendment changes required for the revised plan that would change the county’s comprehensive plan requirements and the environmental impact to the bay.

Fannon invited Beruff to tour the coastline July 21, hoping to give him a better understanding of the stakes — that Long Bar is the last large undeveloped, unprotected shoreline area in the county.

“He’s never seen it that close and I wanted to show him the depth and beauty of the area when you are out on the bay,” said Fannon. “I pointed to the south and all we could see is Sarasota high-rises and then pointed to Long Bar Pointe so he could understand what his development will do.”

Fannon said the 55-year-old Beruff told her the development is a family legacy.

“I told him in another 55 years, neither one of us were going to be here,” said Fannon. “I can appreciate him wanting to do something for his family, but I told him if he really wanted to leave something for his children and grandchildren, does he really want it to be a 55-year-old building?”

Fannon said a preserve named after Be ruff’s family would be a more substantial legacy and it would be more of an impact to say he chose to give a sensitive environment back to the people.

According to Fannon, Beruff declined.

“Three hours later we got back to the fish house and I pointed to the Plum House and told him the difference between me and him,” she said. “I said I could live the rest of my life in the Plum House and be happy.”

Fannon told Beruff he could not.

“I told him if he owned it, he would want to tear it down and build a $2 million house,” she said. “He told me I was right.”

Fannon said the effort to get Beruff to understand the environmentally sensitive nature of the bay “went nowhere.”

Equally unsuccessful approaching Beruff on a tour of the land was Barbara Hines of Holmes Beach, vice chair of ManaSota-88, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the environment.

Hines met with Beruff at the Long Bar Pointe property July 19. While it might appear Beruff is willing to discuss the development with opposition groups, Hines said, it’s largely for show.

“Carlos is a charming person and a smart businessman,” said Hines. “He’s doing things he needs to do in order to keep a record so he can say ‘Look who I met with.’”

Hines said she wanted to meet with Beruff with other members of ManaSota-88, as well as members of the Sierra Club, but Beruff refused.

“He said he would only go if it was just me and he told me I couldn’t take pictures,” said Hines. “He said if I didn’t put my camera away, then he would call the whole thing off.”

Hines said the tour didn’t go well for Beruff either.

“We didn’t get very far on the property before his truck got stuck in the mud,” she said. “Keep in mind that we were still in the uplands and nowhere near the wetlands yet.”

They eventually freed the vehicle and briefly continued the tour in another area of the property. According to Hines, Beruff said he has never had problems getting around the property before.

“I told him obviously not during the rainy season,” she said, and he had no reply.

Hines said Beruff’s vision for Long Bar Pointe is incompatible with the property.

“We talked about how important the seagrass and mangroves are to the bay’s health and wildlife,” she said. “I told him what he wants to do is totally unacceptable.”

Beruff has made a lot out of the fact that his plans only call for the clearing of 225 linear feet of mangroves in order to make way for a channel entry for the proposed boat basin. He has claimed more than 15,000 linear feet of mangroves would remain.

However, Hines said his plans are to have all the mangroves cut down to 6 feet tall to create a uniform hedge and ensure visibility from his development of the bay waters.

“The seabirds nesting in those mangroves will either no longer nest there or be more exposed to predators,” she said. “The whole concept is awful. This is going to be an environmental disaster if it is allowed.”

Both Hines and Fannon, as well as an anticipated large crowd of opposition, will attend the Aug. 6 meeting.

Both are hopeful that commissioners will “do the right thing,” but have seen these battles go the wrong way in the past.

“I just hope the commissioners look at their citizens and do the right thing,” said Fannon.

City commissions from Holmes Beach and Anna Maria have either written letters to county commissioners or adopted resolutions expressing opposition to the Long Bar Pointe development.

Bradenton Beach commissioners July 25 said a similar resolution is being drafted to send to the county.

The Manatee County League of Women Voters also has joined the opposition and issued a “call to action.”

The call to action states, “Our Manatee County coastal environment, natural resources and comprehensive plan are currently under an unprecedented threat.”

If commissioners approve Beruff’s text amendment changes to the comprehensive plan, the league says 47 pages of the conservation and coastal management that cover air, water, habitat, wetlands and coastal protection could be exploited by future developers.

The call to action claims approval would set a precedent and send a message to developers that amending the county’s comprehensive plan is a “casual, easily-obtained option.”

An attempt to reach Beruff for comment was unsuccessful by Islander press time.


Long Bar zoning
change incomplete

Long Bar Pointe now falls within an Urban Service Area zone that the Manatee County Board of Commissioners approved in June, but whether it will be approved by the state remains unknown.

The county sent its USA zone, encompassing most of unincorporated west Bradenton, a broad area bordered by U.S. 301, Sarasota Bay, the Sarasota county line and the Manatee River to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The USA zone is intended to discourage urban sprawl, allow “developments of regional impact” approved by the county, and exempt those projects from additional state review for site plan approval.

The proposed Long Bar Pointe rezone will allow a 300-berth marina, additional office and retail space and a hotel where presently only residential housing is allowed.

Barrington Group’s Larry Lieberman and Medallion Homes’ Carlos Beruff teamed up on the development this year, and asked for changes to the county comprehensive plan to build on 500-plus acres on Sarasota Bay.

The county’s proposed USA zone must have state approval, and that decision had not been made by the state as of press time for The Islander.

Mainsail Lodge-Holmes Beach mediation to move forward

Holmes Beach commissioners July 23 agreed to move forward with mediating the Mainsail development project near the intersection of Gulf and Marina drives. However, after an encouraging first round of negotiations June 21, doubts were renewed if mediation would be successful.

Commissioners voted 3-2 in March to revoke the Mainsail site plan, which launched Mainsail attorney Robert Lincoln into action, prompting a petition for relief from the city in April.

That action spurred the mediation process, which began in June and was scheduled to continue in July, but commissioners were unable to provide guidance to the city’s mediation representatives when an updated site plan was not presented.

Mainsail representatives presented the updated plans July 23 based on the June mediation where concessions to the original plans for a lodge, restaurant, marina and housing units were made.

Mainsail designer Brian Check said he feels the city’s concerns were addressed.

The revised site plan lowers the building closest to the adjacent neighborhood, removes Building A from the project and reduces the number of units from about 40 to 35, thus eliminating the need for off-site parking.

Improved landscaping is being considered to better buffer the property and adjacent residential neighbors, while Building D was pulled farther from the shared property line on Sunrise Lane.

In exchange for eliminating Building A and reducing Building D, the site plan adds housing units to the lodge, which concerned commissioners.

“To summarize, we are trying to hold 35-37 units,” said Check. “However, some of the units are single bedroom, so our bed count has been reduced.”

Check said by reducing the bed count, it would reduce the number of people able to stay at the resort, essentially addressing another concern of increased congestion.

Mainsail also is increasing parking under the buildings. Check said the revised parking plan would increase parking to 97 spaces, ensuring ample parking beyond the required 74 spaces.

One of the sticking points in moving forward has been the use of Sunrise Lane. Lincoln said Mainsail will work with the property owners but, in the end, he said it didn’t need to because Mainsail owns 20 feet of the road, which was enough to use as an emergency access.

Commissioners Marvin Grossman and Judy Titsworth, who along with Commissioner Pat Morton voted to revoke the site plan, insisted the mediation process include more effort to appease Sunrise Lane residents.

Grossman also wanted assurance that Mainsail would help defend the city from lawsuits from Sunrise Lane residents if the project moves forward. Titsworth resides on Sunshine Lane.

City attorney Patricia Petruff said it was clear from letters to the city that “there is a substantial likelihood someone is going to sue the city no matter which direction the city takes. However, if Mr. Lincoln provides the city with an emergency access easement, that will suffice for the city.”

Petruff said discussions with Lincoln are ongoing in regards to Mainsail assisting the city in defense of a lawsuit.

Mainsail president Joe Collier maintains it is time to move forward.

“In theory, I’d like to get to the point where we can stop with lawyers and start spending money on construction,” he said.


Can mediation work?

The tone changed quickly during commissioner discussion. Titsworth said she wants a lot more from Mainsail before she changes her mind.

“I do want a lot more,” she said. “I guess my biggest issue is we did the right thing. We did play by the rules by voting to revoke. Abandonment was enough to revoke. I just feel we were right in what we did.”

Titsworth said the project still encroaches on setbacks and “now you are going to ask for a height variance for the lodge to accommodate parking. If we are going to another round of mediation, I want to see more.”

Titsworth said she has felt bullied, in particular over the Sunrise Lane issue.

“It wasn’t a friendly, neighborly thing to do,” she said.

Titsworth said she wants the project to succeed, but feels the city has a lot more room to stand its ground compared to Mainsail.

“The fact that we are even mediating is a big concession on the city’s part,” she said. “I still think we can get a lot more.”

Commission Chair Jean Peelen asked Titsworth to be more specific, as the discussion was geared toward specifics for negotiations.

Titsworth and Grossman said Building B needs to be moved farther off the narrow spit of land that juts into the basin.

Commissioner Pat Morton called the whole process a “shell game. I would like to see them get in and develop something, but personally think we should uphold our decision and bring back a new site plan.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino, who along with Peelen supports continuing to work with Mainsail said negotiations are supposed to be a shell game.

“I think Mainsail has done an outstanding job and made significant modifications,” said Zaccagnino. “They changed Buildings B, C and D and Building A is gone.”

Zaccagnino said mediation isn’t easy. It can’t be one-sided, with the city making all the demands and giving nothing in return.

“It’s about compromise,” he said. “Not everybody is going to be happy with everything. At some point, Mainsail is going to make a business decision and decide to pull out of this altogether and sell the property for a profit.”

Zaccagnino said if that happens, the city could lose all control in deciding what is developed on the property.

Mayor Carmel Monti expressed discouragement over the discussion.

“I guess I thought we decided as a group to go forward and negotiate in good faith,” said Monti. “I think that’s what we’ve done and we came up with some good compromises. This has happened before in the first negotiations. I feel we are back to the same thing in not giving them a fair shake.”

Monti said Mainsail addressed every concern raised during mediation.

“We are kind of beating a dead horse at this point,” he said. “We made some decisions to delegate and now we are going backward and saying we want more. I don’t think we are being as fair to them as they are being fair to us.”

Monti said the appropriate thing to do was to return to mediation.

Titsworth said Mainsail needs to follow city codes and ordinances.

“That’s all I’m asking for,” she said. “I don’t see them budging because I’ve been begging and pleading. But we are a team and if we want to continue mediation, you need to let me know what you want. But mediation can only work if it is going forward.”

Grossman indicated Mainsail does not have the standing in negotiations that Lincoln implied during the initial mediation.

Grossman also said he does not feel Mainsail’s entitlements are valid and that special exceptions should only be issued when they are beneficial to the city.

“To come and argue that we owe these entitlements to you doesn’t ring true to me,” said Grossman. “So essentially, I don’t think you really have these entitlements.”

However, while Titsworth and Morton appeared to be unwilling to budge, Grossman said he was willing to see more from Mainsail. Then he drew a line in the sand.

“One of the things I’m concerned about is the neighbors,” said Grossman. “I don’t want to litigate with them. Since I don’t believe you have entitlements, I would rather litigate with you. I don’t think you have the right to push us.”

Monti said the discussion was getting out of control.

“Let’s go back to mediation like civilized negotiators,” he said. “I don’t think pointing fingers is fruitful. We aren’t respecting the process right now.”

Peelen agreed, saying as long as mediation continues, the city still has a say.

“Once it hits the courts, it’s out of our hands and I don’t want that,” she said. “I never foresaw mediation as Mainsail making a complete change. That’s surrender, not mediation.”

Peelen said she felt the first round of negotiations went well for the city, but “I feel as though some things I’m hearing tonight, I didn’t hear at those negotiations.”

Monti asked building official Tom O’Brien for input, who said all the problems were created by a poor planning review when the concept first came before the city years ago.

“But at this stage, you should limit your discussion to conceptual issues and not get sidetracked on the details,” he said. I don’t think they are going to want to continue to invest money in pursuing a design if they know it won’t be well received.”

O’Brien said it was his opinion that Mainsail made the concessions the city asked for during mediation and to change compromise goals now “is pretty disingenuous.”

Petruff said she would contact the special magistrate and attempt to reschedule mediation for some time in late August or early September.

Anna Maria mayor says visitors threaten quality of life

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn told commissioners at their July 25 meeting that the growing influx to the city of visitors on weekends and holidays is threatening residents’ quality of life, and many have told her they will move unless the city resolves the issue.

The mayor said the problem is severe on weekends and holidays, and the day visitors also put a strain on the city’s infrastructure.

The mayor said it’s not the people who come for stays in accommodations of a week or longer, but the large number of day visitors who apparently ignore the city’s parking regulations and other codes, leave trash on the beach, and often park in a residential driveway or block driveways.

SueLynn said the city requested the Florida Department of Transportation post a traffic counter at the city entrance from July 3-9 and 51,857 cars entered the city during the six-day period, which included a parade through the city and July 4 fireworks celebration.

“Obviously, there was more than one person per car, but figure two people per car. That’s more than 100,000 people coming to our city in a six-day period,” she said. That’s about 16,500 people each of those days.

Granted that was during a holiday period, but the mayor said the traffic is typical of what she’s seen on most weekends and holidays with good weather.

All of this for a city of about 1,500 people, she noted.

“And the daytrippers are all trying to find a parking space,” the mayor added.

“I don’t like the idea of paid parking, but it may be an answer. I’m proud that everything is free, but this heavy influx every weekend and holiday is wearing on our residents’ nerves and infrastructure,” she said.

It’s time for the commission to consider paid parking for day visitors, no parking in the rights of way, or a combination, she said.

“Other Florida resort cities have paid parking or no right-of-way parking,” she said. Allowing visitors to park in the rights of way has resulted in destruction of many drainage swales that the city must maintain.

The mayor noted the city gets no revenue from the bed tax other than beach renourishment funds. Yet the city still has to maintain its roads and infrastructure and keep streets free of trash.

Beach renourishment funding also is dependent on the city maintaining a certain amount of public parking.

“I struggle daily with this idea of paid parking, but we get nothing from these day visitors. They come here and have a wonderful time and leave, but they abuse the very things they come here for,” she said.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb said this is the start of a long brainstorming process. Commissioner Dale Woodland agreed, saying he’s talked to many people who have said the same things as the mayor.

“But we have to establish our goals first. We won’t be productive if we start on details tonight,” Woodland said.

Commissioner Gene Aubry said the city has been “too nice” in the past, often issuing parking warnings for violations instead of a ticket. He said he grew up in Galveston, Texas, where cars were towed or a boot was used to lock the wheel and prevent the car from moving until the fine was paid. And the parking fines were a lot more than the $30 that Anna Maria charges, he said. Charge a hefty parking fine or tow vehicles and see how fast the problem is solved, he suggested.

“But Dale is right. We first need a concept. We have to deal with tourism. No matter what we do, we are going to rub someone the wrong way,” Aubry said.

Woodland said the daytripper issue has only surfaced in the past few years as Manatee County and surrounding areas have grown significantly in popularity. This is the first year, he said, he’s observed a real problem with people parking in private driveways.

The solution won’t be difficult, Woodland said, but getting there will be the difficulty. There will be criticism from many on the mainland if the city institutes a form of paid parking, he said.

Webb said Anna Maria doesn’t have to accept what everybody else thinks or wants the city to do. “It’s our city. It’s stated in our comp plan we are a residential city. We have a duty to protect our city, despite what others might think.”

Webb said some form of paid parking seems to be the only solution for the problem.

But he agreed to set goals and objectives first. He suggested that from commission discussion, the goals be to generate revenue, control where people park and not over-use the city’s resources. The objective of the solution is to preserve Anna Maria’s way of life. Commissioners agreed with Webb’s basic goals and objective.

SueLynn will have staff study various options and bring them to the commission for discussion. At that time, commissioners can agree to meet weekly to find a solution, Webb said. He advised commissioners and the attendees at the meeting that the solution will not be easy and there will always be someone who complains. The commission just has to “bite the bullet,” he said.

Anna Maria settles on tentative 2.10 millage, tax increase likely

Anna Maria commissioners in a special session July 25 adopted a tentative millage rate of 2.10 — a tax increase for the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb noted that the tentative rate can only be lowered during public hearings on the budget in September.

If adopted, the rate is 0.05 mills higher than the current 2.05 rate and, the 2.10 rate would bring an additional $31,000 in ad valorem revenue to the city.

A 2.10 millage rate would be a 7.7 percent increase over the rollback rate of 1.9507. The rollback rate is the tax rate that would generate the same amount of ad valorem revenue in the 2013-14 budget as the 2012-13 budget.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said he would approve the tentative millage, but was sure the commission could cut enough spending to adopt a final millage of 2.05.

Mayor SueLynn has proposed some major road and drainage spending in the 2013-14 budget and justified the increase by noting the improvements have to be done eventually.

The increased millage rate is a 2.3 percent hike from the current 2.05 rate. At a 2.10 millage rate, a property owner with a home valued for tax purposes at 400,000 would pay $840 in city property taxes. At the 2.05 rate, the same owner would pay $820.

The proposed $3.05 million budget includes revenue of $350,000 from Ridan Industries, a one-time payment. The company has been selected by the city to build a cell tower on city property. It also includes $30,000 in monthly payments from Ridan as the city’s share of cell tower profits. Mayor SueLynn, however, has not allocated any of the cell tower funds for expenditures, but has assigned them to cell tower maintenance, pending receipt of the funds.

When received, the commission decides where that money should be spent. It could go for road and drainage improvements, to pay the mortgage on the city’s Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard park or for other expenses, the mayor said.

Once the cell tower is built, Ridan will maintain the facility, not the city. The money was placed under “maintenance” to balance the budget, Percycoe said.

The commission’s July 24 budget work-session was the first time all five commissioners saw the budget, as Commissioners Gene Aubry and Nancy Yetter were absent from the July 17 work session.

At the start of the July 24 session, Commissioner Dale Woodland proposed commissioners lower the millage rate rather than increase the tentative rate in order to “place the burden on us” to come up with the needed funding.

Other commissioners, however, wanted to go through the work session and discuss each spending and revenue item.

Webb said making a decision on the millage rate at a work session was “too early in the process,” and the commission should make that decision at its final work session.

Woodland said he would oppose any increase in the millage rate, and would seek to have it remain at 2.05 or lower.

The proposed $3.05 million budget is a 22.5 percent increase from the $2.45 million in the 2012-13 spending plan, but the increase includes the $380,000 from the cell tower builder, a $145,000 grant for Lake LaVista dredging and an estimated $7,000 increase in payments from the City Pier Restaurant. Taking out those revenues would leave the budget at $2.51 million, a 2.4 percent increase.

The next budget session will be 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, while the first public hearing on the budget is 6 p.m. Sept. 12.

Anna Maria says yes to liquor, no to lifeguards

Anna Maria city commissioners at their July 25 meeting adopted an amendment to the city’s liquor ordinance, allowing restaurants that meet certain criteria to apply for a special use permit to serve liquor and mixed drinks.

The city’s present ordinance approved in 1987 restricts the serving of alcoholic beverages at establishments less than 2,500 feet from a church or other establishments serving alcohol. That ordinance grandfathered existing establishments and numerous exceptions have been granted in the interim.

Under the amended ordinance, a restaurant must first have had a beer and wine license for five years and be in “good standing” with the city. The restaurant owner must also obtain a liquor license from the state of Florida before applying to the city for a special use permit.

Additionally, the commission can issue the permit with conditions particular to the establishment.

The state regulates issuance of beer, wine and liquor licenses, and the number of licenses for full liquor sales is limited in each county by a population quota. Those licenses are presently selling for $160,000-plus in Manatee County.

Other city conditions include the hours liquor and mixed drinks can only be sold, which will be 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Under a beer and wine license, sales are allowed 7:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m.

There also is a fee for the city’s special use permit.

Commissioner Nancy Yetter asked about inspecting a restaurant’s books to ensure a minimum of 60 percent of revenue is derived from food sales. Such a provision is in the amendment, Commission Chair Chuck Webb said, and the city will audit the restaurant.

Webb proposed several new changes to the amendment, but city attorney Jim Dye was not in attendance to provide legal opinions.

The amendment passed 3-2, with Webb and Yetter voting no.

The commission also agreed it does not have sufficient funds to pay and station lifeguards along the beaches in the city.

The suggestion for lifeguards came after a 14-year-old boy from Winter Haven was caught in a strong current along the beach and died earlier this month.

Webb noted the city has signs posted at beach accesses advising people of possible rip currents and the risk of swimming without lifeguards.

Webb suggested the mayor have Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Anna Maria substation, look into the feasibility and cost of a flag at the city entrance denoting beach conditions, much like the flag posted at the Manatee Public Beach lifeguard station in Holmes Beach.

Flag colors signal various water conditions for swimmers. A red flag indicates hazardous conditions, while a green flag means no adverse water conditions exist. A yellow flag is a caution. The display of two flags, red with a black square, signals a hurricane is coming.

Commissioners continued talks on an ordinance that would require existing ground-level homes to have at least one covered or garage parking space.

Building official Bob Welch suggested pre-firm homes —those built before Jan. 1, 1975 — be exempt from the ordinance.

Homes built after adoption of the ordinance would be required to have designated parking for each bedroom.

Welch said the ordinance is in response to the practice of buyers tearing down older residences to avoid meeting new parking requirements.

Commissioners continued the hearing to 6 p.m. Aug. 22.

In other matters, commissioners held the first reading of an ordinance allowing permeable materials to be used for sidewalks and pedestrian pathways.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said he plans to meet with biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to do a survey of the flora and fauna at Gulffront Park along Gulf Boulevard. After the survey, the FWC will develop a master plan for the park for commissioners to study.

“It’s only going to be a recommendation, but it will be designed to maintain the park in its natural state before man arrived,” Copeland said.

The biologists want to ensure gopher turtle habitats are not disrupted by invasive plants in the park, he said.

The master plan also will suggest how the city should deal with non-native plant species such as Australian pines and Brazilian pepper trees.

The next commission meeting is 6 p.m. Aug. 8.

Coast Guard rescues two near Cortez Bridge

A U.S. Coast Guard boat from the Cortez Station rescued two boaters around 1:45 p.m. July 19, after their 9-foot boat capsized near the Cortez Bridge during high winds.

A bystander called the Coast Guard and the two men were pulled aboard by the Coast Guard crew. The boat was towed to Annie’s Bait and Tackle at the east end of the Cortez Bridge.

A Coast Guard spokesperson in St. Petersburg said the boaters were unharmed in the incident and walked away from the rescue.

Holmes Beach mayor presents $9 million spending plan

Despite several new hires in various Holmes Beach departments, Mayor Carmel Monti announced July 23 that he was comfortable keeping the city’s millage rate for the 2013-14 fiscal year the same as this year — 1.7500.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Increased revenues may have something to do with the mayor’s comfort level. According to city financial records, Holmes Beach is expecting an increase in overall revenues of more than $500,000.

The 2012-13 revenues are $8,394,950, while expected revenues for the 2013-14 budget are $9,003,727.

Property taxes collected in Holmes Beach for 2012-13 amount to $2,081,305 at the existing millage rate. Increased property values are expected to generate a total of $2,223,156 in property taxes for 2013-14.

The city is projected to increase permit revenues across the board, with the largest increase of $75,000 in building permits. This year, $275,000 was raised from building permits and the city is projecting a revenue increase for permits to $325,000 for 2013-14.

Other bumps in projected revenues are a $5,000 increase in ordinance violation fines, $11,225 increase in dock fees and $21,000 increase in electric franchise fees.

The city’s largest expenditures are in its police department with a budget of almost $2 million, while more than half of that amount is geared toward salaries. More than $448,000 of the police budget is sunk into insurance and more than $352,000 is allocated to retirement contributions.

Public works is the city’s next highest budget with a total of $905,422 in expenses, and $515,623 of the budget is salaries. More than $237,000 of the public works department’s budget covers life and health insurance.

City administration has a proposed budget of $328,587 with $211,490 covering salaries.

Between all city departments, a proposed operating budget of more than $3.3 million is projected with close to $2 million accounting for salaries.

The city is budgeting more than $1.7 million for capital improvement projects.

Property values rose this year 6.8 percent, amounting to a 1.6588 rollback rate — the millage required to produce the same revenue as the current year — and an additional 6.5 percent increase in ad valorem revenues for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

While elected officials sometimes tout maintaining the previous year’s millage rate as holding the line, increased property values result in increased revenue to the city at the current millage and that’s a tax increase. State statutes provide that an increase in revenue is a tax increase.

While the millage will remain the same, Holmes Beach property owners will pay more in property taxes due to higher property values.

The city will hold its first public hearing to adopt the proposed budget and millage rate Sept. 10, followed by a second public hearing Sept. 24. Both meetings will be at 7 p.m., at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5401 Marina Drive.