Tag Archives: 08-28-2013

AMITW volunteers shift focus to hatchling season

About 80 sets of eyes belonging to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers maintain a sharp lookout in the morning hours for signs of sea turtle activity but, this time of year, the focus shifts to hatchlings.

With AMITW inching closer to the record 2012 nesting season of 362 nests with more than 355 recorded nests this year, signs of female sea turtles making their way onto the beaches to nest are still evident, although activity has dwindled.

AMITW has recorded a record high for false crawls this year, but they also are becoming scarcer, as the season transitions from nesting to hatching.

Eyes trained to look for telltale tractor-tire size flipper marks during the nesting season now scan the sand for dozens of tiny 1- to 2-inch flipper marks, as nests are hatching and hatchlings are sprinting to the Gulf of Mexico waters.

AMITW volunteer Pat Peterfeso, who also is Section 1 co-coordinator on the side of the city of Anna Maria facing Tampa Bay, has experienced a baptism by fire of sorts in her two years with the conservation group.

The yearly overall average nest count in the past 15 years is about 115 but, in Peterfeso’s two years, more than 700 nests have been documented.

Section 1 is the least active of the nine 1-mile sections along the island’s shoreline and volunteers who patrol the thin, bayside beach that lies in Section 1 almost all describe their nesting turtles as having a mystique all their own.

While there are no physical differences, it is evidence of how much volunteers take pride in their sections. While Section 1 is less active, increased enthusiasm from bayside volunteers for the beloved sea creatures is evident.

Peterfeso, who moved to West Bradenton seven years ago after vacationing to the island for four years, is no exception.

“It’s really exciting when you come across the flipper marks in the peace and quiet of the morning knowing that just a short time ago one of these amazing creatures had just made her way onshore,” said Peterfeso.

She said this time of year is especially exciting because volunteers continue to search the beaches for nesting activity, “but now is the time we keep a really close eye on the beach for signs of hatchlings and we check every nest in our section for signs that a nest is close to hatching.”

It’s important that volunteers still scan the beaches, as was evident earlier in August when a bayside walker came across evidence of hatchling tracks in an area where no nest had been marked or found.

It’s not uncommon for volunteers to miss a nest when dealing with fluctuating tides and frequent summer storms that can wash away evidence of sea turtle tracks. As a co-coordinator, Peterfeso responded to the call and the unrecorded nest was excavated.

Three hatchlings remained at the bottom of the nest and were immediately released to the bay waters.

“There are two things about volunteering that are always exciting,” said Peterfeso. “The first is when you see the tracks and know she has recently come to lay her eggs. The second is when you see the hatchlings in the nest. It’s like watching Mother Nature give birth. It’s a beautiful experience.”

Peterfeso said she is glad she became involved with AMITW and credited its leadership for making the program not only successful for sea turtles, but also fun for its volunteers.

“Our leaders are role models to us,” she said. “They are very knowledgeable, but they make us feel like we are a very important part of the sea turtles and that’s what makes volunteering so enjoyable.”

Peterfeso said the rewards for helping sea turtles is immeasurable, but being able to volunteer for AMITW has its own rewards, as well.

“Watching the sun rise over Tampa Bay while helping sea turtles isn’t a bad way to spend the morning,” she said. “A lot of us lead busy lives and with a busy life comes a fair share of stress. So being out here can be a lot of work, but it’s also very therapeutic.”

Anna Maria sets stage for rental challenge in court

Anna Maria appears willing to go to court for a judicial decision on whether its hotel/motel ordinance applies to vacation home rentals.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb, at an Aug. 22 meeting, said city code states that if a residence in the residential zone with “three or more bedrooms” is rented, it is a hotel/motel, and the code prohibits hotel-motel rentals in any residential zone — other than the retail-office-residential zone and those operations that are grandfathered.

City attorney Jim Dye said the city will need to sue one or two vacation rental owners on the allegation they operate a hotel/motel to obtain a judicial ruling.

In 2012, the Florida Legislature enacted a statute that allows any homeowner unrestricted use of his or her property as a rental, unless the governing authority had restrictions in place at the time the statute was passed.

Webb said that vacation homes are operating as motels, and the city had motel rental restrictions in force when the Legislature passed the rental relief statute.

Dye, however, said he’s looked at the statute several times and, central to the issue, is how a lodging unit is defined in the city code.

He said code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon has called on several vacation rentals, asking if only one bedroom could be rented. Each time she has been told “no,” Dye said.

“So go slowly with this,” the city attorney advised.

Webb, who also is an attorney, was ready to provide Dye with examples of several vacation rentals he believes operate as motels, but Dye said the commission should view “all the evidence” and make a decision on which vacation homes should be sued.

“The court would need to see factual evidence. The city can’t just go and say this is a code violation,” Dye said.

The evidence must include citations for operating as a motel/hotel in violation of the city ordinance. “And it’s not an easy process,” Dye said. He estimated it could take 8-15 months for a case to wend its way through the judicial system and go before a judge.

Attorney Scott Rudacille told commissioners he believed the matter to be concluded several months ago when a commission decision was not to cite vacation rentals.

At that time, Rudacille represented about 40 property owners who opposed the use of code enforcement against a vacation rental home.

But Webb said the commission agreed then not to enforce the code.

“This is different,” Webb said. “We want to seek declaratory relief that our code applies to vacation rentals.”

Rudacille said he’s “baffled that the city is doing this whole process again,” but Webb countered that he and other commissioners have received complaints from residents about vacation rentals, and the city has little control over such properties.

The city needs to know if its code applies to vacation homes, Webb insisted.

Dye advised that the best way to have the statute changed is through the legislative process.

But commissioners appear ready to test the code’s effectiveness.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said it’s time for the city to “fish or cut bait” on the issue.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to move forward with identifying one or two vacation rentals where the city code could be applied.

Webb said the commission would need to have several workshops to identify any problem vacation rentals and determine how to file for judicial relief.

Mayor SueLynn said she wants this process “out in the public” for input, both for and against.

Commissioner Gene Aubry voted against the measure, saying he considered the matter settled when the commission decided previously not to use code enforcement against vacation rentals.

In other business, commissioners unanimously approved a permit for the Waterfront Restaurant, 111 S. Bay Blvd. to offer full-service alcoholic beverages.

Owner Jason Suzor sought the ordinance amendment that paved the way for liquor sales several months ago and was the first to apply under the new rules.

City planner Alan Garrett said the Waterfront met the criteria for the permit, and alcoholic beverage sales at the restaurant, including what until now has included only beer and wine, would end at 10 p.m.

The commission, at the meeting, continued a public hearing on the historic preservation ordinance to Sept. 12.

And the commission approved the final reading of an amendment to the residential parking ordinance, which allows the city to include parking spaces on a residential property for overall lot coverage.

SueLynn told commissioners she met with county administrator Ed Hunzeker and Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione to discuss using resort tax funds for city pier improvements, as well as other tourism needs in Anna Maria.

The next commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at Anna Maria city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

AM, HB officials take paid parking to next level

Any idea floating among island and mainland residents that the mayors in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach are simply talking about — not acting — on paid parking appeared to be put to rest at the Aug. 20 meeting of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials.

Officials at the meeting heard a presentation from Daniel Honyotski, regional manager for PSx Parking Solutions, on how the company designs a paid-parking plan for a city. His company provides equipment that accommodates 100 parking spaces.

The newest PSx operation is in Madeira Beach in Pinellas County, he said.

The machines accept coins, bills and credit cards and users determine the amount of time they want to purchase, he said.

Honyotski said he’s installed machines for 100-space parking lots and one as small as eight spaces.

The machines cost $8,491 plus an $800 installation fee. In addition, the company charges a fee of $55 per month for solar power equipment and services, including processing and information about usage.

But the return on investment is quick. Madeira Beach recovered its investment in about a month, he said. Most cities take about a month-and-a-half to recoup the investment.

“It’s totally programmable for minimum and maximum amount of time to purchase and we provide 24/7 support,” Honyotski said. The company also trains a city staff member for routine maintenance and operation.

He estimated one machine handling a 30-space parking area would recover its cost in about 45 days. “Thirty spaces per meter is our basic rule.”

Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti, who invited Honyotski to the meeting, was impressed. “In one-and-a-half months, the machines could pay back the cost. That’s incredible,” Monti said.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn also was intrigued. She said Anna Maria has been providing free parking to day visitors for too long, and the city gets nothing in return but litter and damaged swales.

“I don’t know what to do with the day visitors,” she said.

“Paid parking is simple and a revenue source, but where do we put it?” she wondered. “If parking is free in one place, and costs in another, people will go where it’s free.”

She added that if paid parking is done it would be “in the best interests of the residents.”

Monti said he’s had discussions with county administrator Ed Hunzeker about paid parking at Manatee Public Beach. He said Hunzeker would like to have the island cities “on board” with the proposal, and Anna Maria could ask for paid parking at Bayfront Park.

“What the county wants is a consensus from us,” Monti said.

“Hunzeker is open-minded. If we go in unified, we have a good chance of getting concessions from the county for paid parking,” he said.

SueLynn said she has several areas for paid parking locations where the PSx machines would work.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy said his parking problems are different from those in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach because both Cortez Beach and Coquina Beach have a large number of parking spaces.

His concern is with parking along Bridge Street and at the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Monti and SueLynn said they would discuss PSx and its proposal with their respective city commissions.

In other business, Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen reported that she and SueLynn now are members of the Florida League of Cities Policy Committee.

The committee plans to ask the 2014 Florida Legislature for changes to House Bill 883, which effectively allows any property owner to rent his or her residence for even one night, unless restrictions were in effect before the bill passed in 2012.

“Some of the legislators apparently have found nightly rentals right next to their homes,” Peelen said.

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

Anna Maria mayor: TDC success ruins island lifestyle

Not all Anna Maria Island elected officials are pleased with the growth of tourism to the island, particularly the increase in the number of visitors who come to the island on weekends and holidays.

Members of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council heard from Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn and Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti at their Aug. 19 meeting that all is not well in paradise.

SueLynn said there is “no question of the success of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau,” but some of that success comes at the expense of the quality of life in her city.

For the six-day period from July 3-9, which included the July 4 holiday parade and fireworks celebrations, SueLynn said a Florida Department of Transportation traffic counter recorded an average of 11,500 vehicles per day entering Anna Maria.

While that’s good news for the BACVB, SueLynn said Anna Maria “simply does not have enough parking spaces for all the visitors. We can’t keep up with parking requirements.”

She said “greed is ruining the island” because the BACVB continues to promote Anna Maria Island as the area’s top tourist attraction.

Tourism continues to rise monthly, putting a strain on infrastructure, she said. But the city cannot use resort tax money collected by Manatee County for improvements to roads or to add parking, she said.

The BACVB data for May shows tourism increased 4.5 percent from the same month in 2012.

SueLynn said resort tax data provided by the Manatee County Tax Collector also indicated tourism was up in June and July, and she expects a similar increase in August. The resort tax is the 5 percent collected by Manatee County on rentals of six months or less.

She said the more marketing the BACVB does, the more visitors come to the island. This results in more resort tax being collected. As more visitors come, more homes are converted from residences to vacation rentals. As more homes become short-term rentals, more tourists arrive, creating problems for a small city such as Anna Maria.

It’s a “vicious cycle,” the mayor said.

The mayor said the city is particularly susceptible to problems caused by “day-trippers.”

She said traffic congestion, parking, trash left on the beach or in a resident’s yard and a shortage of restroom facilities are all issues faced by the city because of day-trippers.

“I’ve been asking and asking for help from the TDC. Where is the agenda item that discusses giving back to the island?” she asked.

“All I keep hearing is we get beach renourishment from the funds. That’s not good enough for us to preserve why everyone comes here,” the mayor said. “The TDC success is destroying the Anna Maria Island style of living.”

The mayor acknowledged that state law limits the use of TDC funds to tourist development.

“Still, I think the TDC should find ways to give back to the island cities,” she said.

She said Anna Maria and Holmes Beach are discussing paid parking and a toll to enter Anna Maria Island “is no longer a laughing matter.”

“We will do whatever we have to do to protect our way of life, and we are hoping for TDC assistance,” she said.

SueLynn said one area the TDC can allocate resort tax funds is the refurbishing of the Anna Maria City Pier, which is permitted by the resort tax statute.

However, terms of the city pier lease require the leaseholder to maintain the pier, and pilings, stringers and plank replacements are an ongoing project of the tenant.

Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti said there is “no more free ride” for the day-trippers who visit his city. He called for open dialogue with the TDC on “what type of visitor we want” to the island,” and how best to use available funds and resources to help island cities.

“We can’t just say we don’t want tourism. We do, but we want a balance in the type of visitor” that comes to the island, Monti said.

TDC chair and County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, an island resident, said she understands the issues. She said she’s asked county administrator Ed Hunzeker to get a legal opinion on spending resort tax funds.

“We understand your stress, but we can’t wreck what we have. We have to go through the process. At the same time, we are at a tipping point. Let’s try to maintain a balance,” Whitmore said.

BACVB executive director Elliott Falcione said he’s discussed island issues with Hunzeker. He suggested island officials contact Hunzeker and meet with him to find solutions and funding. It’s more appropriate for Manatee County to disburse funds than the TDC, which is limited by law on how resort taxes are spent.

“It’s important we maintain the character of the market, but we need to start with good dialogue. Let’s work together and find a good balance,” he said.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy asked the TDC to help the city fund rebuilding the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Whitmore suggested the mayor bring a plan back to the TDC with cost estimates and studies.

In other business, Jack Rynerson of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport said he just returned from the world rowing championships in Sweden.

“I heard from many international rowing officials that there is almost no way we won’t get the 2017 world rowing championships,” he said.

Sarasota-Bradenton is in competition with Bulgaria to host the 2017 International Rowing Association’s world championships.

The championships are expected to draw about 40,000 people, in addition to about 1,200 competitors and coaches, Rynerson has said.

The next TDC meeting will be at 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 21, at Bradenton City Hall, 101 12th St. W., Bradenton.

Bradenton Beach commissioner conceives parking proposal

As Anna Maria Island cities focus on parking and congestion issues, Bradenton Beach Commissioner Ric Gatehouse has created a seven-point parking plan for the city.

“I don’t think anyone can disagree that traffic and parking are among the most pressing issues we have in the city, especially during season,” Gatehouse wrote in a prepared statement.

“We cannot simply stick our heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away,” he said. “It will not, and it’s only going to get worse. The effects of traffic and parking congestion go beyond the gridlock it creates,” he stated.

Like other island officials, Gatehouse says he is concerned with the consequences of traffic to the infrastructure.

“We must reduce this stress and generate some capital to repair our streets and parking areas,” he said.

To achieve that goal, Gatehouse said Coquina Beach, with an estimated 1,600 parking spaces, must be used more effectively.

“For the most part, we need to redirect traffic and parking out of our neighborhoods and into the lots at Coquina Beach,” he said. “We also need to think about providing parking off-island to help reduce traffic and relieve parking congestion.”

While officials across the island are looking at ways to develop park-and-ride opportunities off-island, Gatehouse has a plan on paper.

He proposes to engage Manatee County, including its Tourist Development Council “and other agencies to identify and negotiate a lease, purchase or otherwise procure use of plots of land to be used for parking off the island.”

Gatehouse said there is a vacant lot across from the Seafood Shack in Cortez, where visitors could be shuttled to the island via a jitney, trolley or water taxi.

He suggests making it a private enterprise and points to the growing number of water taxi and boat operators applying to use the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Gatehouse said such an operation could eliminate 100-200 cars a day while keeping the same number of visitors coming to the island to enjoy the beaches and local businesses.

• The so-called “789 Plan” addresses parking at Cortez Beach. Gatehouse said discussion on the plan has been ongoing for years and it’s time to act.

By creating a one-way road in the center of the easement, and creating parking on both sides of the road, it will add as many as 40 parking spaces within walking distance of Bridge Street. It would also eliminate the illegal and unsafe activity of drivers backing up vehicles onto a state road.

Gatehouse said if the project were scheduled during a stormwater drainage refit to address pooling water after a rainfall, “the costs would be kept down.”

• Permit parking is being discussed islandwide and Gatehouse is proposing it in Bradenton Beach.

“We need to do all we can to encourage parking at Coquina Beach,” he said. “Currently, there is no recourse for a property owner who finds a stranger’s car parked on their property, if the vehicle has at least one tire on the right-of-way easement.”

Gatehouse proposes easement parking by permit only throughout the city.

“Permits would be free to resident property owners,” he said.

• Gatehouse also is proposing making all municipal lots paid parking.

“Signage would direct those who do not wish to pay to Coquina Beach,” he said, while noting residents with a valid parking permit or handicap-parking permit would be exempt.

• Time-limited parking restrictions on Bridge Street also are being proposed. Gatehouse said it would help turn over clientele visiting businesses and “prevent day-trippers from parking all day while at the beach.”

He said if Bridge Street business owners wished to park in front of their establishments all day, a permit would be available for a small fee with the creation of a business parking permit. Such a permit, Gatehouse said, could also be used at municipal parking lots.

• Employee parking locations would be established at the north end of Coquina Beach, an idea previously discussed and approved by the county. Gatehouse said the only thing holding up that plan is the availability of jitney services, but that is being addressed.

• Gatehouse said he would propose changes to the land development code to address outdoor dining and parking requirements “to ensure we don’t add more seating without adequate parking provisions.”

Gatehouse said his plan could be implemented over time to lessen the impact, but said in order to make a real impact, all must be accomplished.

“Taken individually, these measures would not help much, but if implemented together, this comprehensive plan could go a long way to relieve some of the parking and traffic pressure in Bradenton Beach,” he said. “It is hard to say how much relief, but if we do nothing, things will surely get much worse.”

Gatehouse said he will present his plan at an upcoming city commission meeting.

Bradenton Beach officials finalize new lease for city pier

Bradenton Beach officials put the finishing touches on modifications to the new lease for a potential new restaurant tenant on the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

At an Aug. 22 pier team meeting, commissioners and city staff hammered out the final details of the 30-page lease, which was drafted by city attorney Ricinda Perry after the former tenant’s lease was voided.

That lease led to a variety of issues for former concessionaire Dave Russell and city staff when Russell fell behind on rent following Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012.

Provisions in the old lease did not allow Russell to make partial payments to the city and accountability issues in ensuring timely payments left the city without knowledge of the escalating debt for several months.

The exact amount owed became an issue as city staff attempted to decipher the lease, and the city eventually settled with Russell for a $15,000 flat fee and an amicable split.

Once the settlement was complete, Perry began drafting the new lease.

The Aug. 22 meeting was the second pier team meeting devoted to the details of the new lease. The previous Aug. 1 meeting was emotionally charged as commissioners debated key issues, such as base rent, percentages, common area maintenance fees and defining the common areas.

Commissioners ultimately settled their differences with a monthly rent of $5,500 for the restaurant, plus an additional 12 percent of monthly gross revenues after the first $5,500 of revenue.

City officials also agreed to establish a common area maintenance fee with the city incurring 60 percent of the costs. The restaurant tenant will incur 20 percent, while the tenants of the bait kiosk and harbor master’s office each will pay 10 percent.

Officials also decided that should a large project be needed, the city would enact an assessment fee based on the same percentages.

The common area under the former lease was the entire pier, but commissioners agreed to an area from the front of the restaurant to the clock tower boardwalk and parking lot.

Among the many lease items addressed, commissioners agreed Aug. 22 rent payments would not begin until 180 days after a new tenant receives a certificate of occupancy.

Commissioners also agreed to set a security deposit at one-half of a month’s rent, or $2,750.

Officials addressed some of the issues that caused problems under the old lease, ensuring the tenant can make partial payments and outlining late payment fees.

If a tenant should find a situation out of his or her control, such as a tropical storm, the committee suggested an appeal system where the tenant could bring the issue to the city pier team, who then would make a recommendation to the city commission on whether to credit the tenant or not.

The parking lot at the restaurant is sometimes used for city festivals. Commissioner Gay Breuler wanted to ensure the city still had access to the parking lot for events.

Perry said the city reserves the right “to do what we want when we want to do it.”

She said providing notice would be the fair thing to do, but the city isn’t obligated to do that.

Breuler then asked about special event applications for events that also use the parking lot, such as the Christmas on Bridge Street celebration.

Police Chief Sam Speciale, the pier team facilitator, said the city typically has to ask the tenant for permission, but there has never been a problem because events bring business to the restaurant.

The city approved the request for proposal at an Aug. 2 city commission meeting and set a deadline of Sept. 6 for bid submissions.

Perry said as of Aug. 23 no bids had been submitted despite several people expressing interest.

She said she believes bidders may be waiting to hear more about the lease, but cautioned that the city may have to extend its bid deadline.

The RFP includes the opportunity to bid on the bait kiosk and harbor master’s office. Bidders may bid on one, two or all three of the pier facilities.

City officials ironed out details for the restaurant lease, but Perry said a lease for the other spaces would be a simpler process.

While commissioners are expected to approve the details of the lease, Perry said it only sets the framework for negotiations.

The winning bidder for the restaurant will negotiate with the city on its lease, and if terms can be reached, the lease will be signed. If not, the city has the right to enter into negotiations with the second highest bidder.

Should those negotiations fail, the RFP process would begin anew.

Interested tenants can contact city hall for lease information at 941-778-1005 or visit the clerk’s office at 107 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach.

Island city elections underway

Qualifying for candidates in the November elections for Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach city offices ends at noon Friday, Aug. 30.

Holmes Beach is unique to the other two island cities, as its charter requires qualifying be performed by the city clerk’s office prior to submittal to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office.

According to city clerk Stacey Johnston, it was difficult to say how the commission race would shape up.

Candidates in the other cities can submit declaration paperwork directly to the county in advance of the qualification period, at which time potential candidates are listed on the election website. That’s not the case in Holmes Beach, where candidates cannot declare with the county until qualified by the city.

However, qualifying began Aug. 26 and the Holmes Beach race will soon become clear enough.

Johnston cautions election hopefuls not to procrastinate. “The paperwork has to come to me for qualifying, but I can’t qualify a candidate until the signatures on the petition have been verified by the county” as registered voters, she said. “I send that to the county, but I would advise that anyone running for commissioner to get their packets to me as soon as possible.”

Commissioners Jean Peelen, Pat Morton and David Zaccagnino are up for re-election and all three have told The Islander they intend to defend their incumbency.

While the trio has no official challengers as of press time, Johnston said former Commissioner John Monetti picked up an election packet.

Also, two people expressing an interest in the city’s charter review committee also have expressed interest in running for commissioner, according to Johnston, who said they can’t do both.

Carol Soustek and Jim Plath picked up election packets with the intention of running for the charter review committee, but both indicated a commission run is possible.

In Holmes Beach, election winners are determined on the highest number of overall votes. There are three commission seats up for election, so the top three vote recipients will be declared the winners.

Pam Lecke joins Soustek and Plath in picking up packets with the intention clearly focused on the charter review committee.

Johnston said the city holds an election for the committee every five years, but has had problems filling the required five seats.

Thus far, three people have expressed interest and two of them are considering other options.

“The charter requires a five-member committee,” said Johnston.

Under prior administrations and before Johnston’s tenure as city clerk, commissioners selected committee members if an election didn’t produce five members, but Johnston said there is nothing in the charter to define the procedure.

“The charter doesn’t say we can’t select members for empty seats, but it doesn’t say we can either,” she said.

Past charter review committees have not had much success in producing changes in the charter. Johnston said the process for a charter change is for a super-majority vote from committee members to make a recommendation to the city commission.

If the commission approves the proposed change, it then goes on the following November’s general election ballot. The last time a suggested change made it through the commission was in 2000, when it was recommended to change the mayoral term to four years.

Johnston said at that time the city was looking to change to a city manager style of government. The recommendation made it past the commission, but failed in the next year’s election.

Johnston said she would need to seek legal advice from city attorney Patricia Petruff should this year’s election fail to produce five charter committee members.

Holmes Beach elected officials do not have term limits.

Those interested in running for city commission or the charter review committee must present all of the necessary documents to Johnston at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, before noon Aug. 30.


Bradenton Beach

    Bradenton Beach commission elections are decided by wards and there are four wards in the city.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse, who was appointed to the dais in early 2012 when no one ran to fill the seat of former Ward 3 Commissioner Janie Robertson in November 2011, declared his candidacy and is expected to qualify through the election office this week.

Robertson also has declared she will seek the seat and is expected to qualify.

Mayor John Shaughnessy, who termed out of his commission seat after six years in 2009 and then successfully ran for mayor in 2011, also is up for re-election. Shaughnessy has declared his candidacy and faces a challenge from former Commissioner Bill Shearon.

Commissioner Gay Breuler’s term is expiring and she will not seek another term for her Ward 1 seat.

John V. “Jack” Clarke filed declaration papers with the county Aug. 8 for Ward 1.

Clarke said Aug. 22 that he would go into depth about his political goals once he qualifies to run for the seat.

In the meantime, Clarke said he and his wife discovered Anna Maria Island in the 1990s and realized Bradenton Beach “was the gem of the island” when it came time to relocate.

He refers to the city as “unpretentious and genuine.”

In his declaratory statement, Clarke wrote, “It is now time for me to step up and give back to maintain the appeal of Bradenton Beach. I will represent the interests of my Ward 1 constituents and work to build on the successes of all the previous commissions.”

Clarke has been a resident of the city for 10 years and a homeowner since 2006.

In closing, Clarke said, “I am dedicated to keeping the city on track going forward, while retaining its inherent charm and atmosphere.”

Those interested in running for Bradenton Beach mayor or commissioner must have their paperwork submitted by noon Aug. 30 to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Suite 108, Bradenton.


Anna Maria

One candidate — incumbent Dale Woodland — had qualified to run in the Nov. 5 commission election in Anna Maria, as of Aug. 23.

The deadline to qualify is Aug. 30 for the election that will decide three commission seats.

Woodland is seeking his sixth term in office

Other potential commission candidates have picked up qualifying forms at Anna Maria City Hall, city clerk Alice Baird said.

She said incumbent Gene Aubry — appointed to fill the commission vacancy last year after Commissioner SueLynn stepped into the mayor’s seat — and planning and zoning board member Carol Carter picked up packets.

Incumbent Doug Copeland has not publicly announced if he will seek an elected term on the commission. Copeland was appointed to the commission in June after Commissioner John Quam resigned in May.

Anna Maria commissioners are elected to two-year terms and earn $400 a month.

Qualifying packets may be obtained at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, or at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd. W., No. 108, Bradenton.


The process

According to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, prospective candidates may state their intention at any time, but they are not considered a “declared” candidate until they register a treasurer and open a campaign bank account.

SOE office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Suite 108, Bradenton, said candidate qualifying packets have been delivered to the island cities.

A prospective candidate must first file a form to appoint a campaign treasurer and designate a campaign depository — a bank account — with the SOE before contributions can be accepted or funds are spent.

The candidate then must file a statement of candidate form within 10 days of filing the treasurer and bank designation forms.

Candidates were able to file early by obtaining a qualifying packet at the SOE office.

Candidate qualifying in the three island cities officially began with Anna Maria on Aug. 19. Qualifying for Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach begins Aug. 26. All three cities wrap up at noon Aug. 30. The city elections are non-partisan and all seats are for two-year terms.

In Anna Maria, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a registered voter in Manatee County and a resident of the city for two years prior to qualifying. The candidate must file a loyalty oath, oath of candidate, a statement of financial interests and a residency affidavit for both the candidate and his/her treasurer.

The candidate must pay from its bank treasury fund 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.

In Bradenton Beach, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a registered voter in Manatee County in the ward for which he/she qualifies and a resident of the city for nine months prior to qualifying. The candidate must file a loyalty oath, oath of candidate, a statement of financial interests and a residency affidavit, as well as 10 resident affidavits attesting to the candidate’s residency.

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.

In Holmes Beach, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a registered voter in Manatee County and a resident of the city for two years prior to qualifying. The candidate must file a loyalty oath, oath of candidate, a statement of financial interests and a residency affidavit.

The candidate must pay a qualifying fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary for the office sought —$60 for a commission seat and $120 for mayor, although the mayor’s seat does not expire until 2014 — and obtain 15 petition signatures of voters residing in the city.

Candidates in all three cites can opt to file an undue burden oath, which eliminates the election assessment fee if all other requirements are met.

HB congestion committee pushes for permit parking

Creating a permitted parking system in Holmes Beach is one of the top ideas being pursued by a newly formed Committee on Traffic Congestion and Parking.

With only three members in attendance at the Aug. 19 meeting at Holmes Beach City Hall, some previously discussed ideas to alleviate island congestion were not addressed, but the committee moved forward with two key suggestions.

Committee chair Richard Motzer said he followed up on how small cities that draw lots of tourists handle congestion issues.

However, Motzer suggested that, if the city implements a permitted parking system the permitted parking should be concentrated in the 100-300 blocks of access streets from Gulf Drive west to the Gulf of Mexico.

The idea, he said, is to open one side of the street for parking with permits, but “I can’t see where parking should go beyond the 300 block. Normally, there is no one looking to park at Manatee Public Beach beyond the 300 block.”

Police Chief Bill Tokajer said once a mapping system is created for where permitted parking would be allowed, he would be able to mark the remainder of the streets as no-parking areas.

The discussion turned to renters and how many on-street parking permits would be allowed per rental unit. The general consensus was to issue one permit per bedroom.

Motzer said that should cover the number of vehicles that a unit’s driveway would accommodate, assuming the unit has the legal number of bedrooms.

“And if they are having another guest, then the guest can park in the driveway and they can park the permitted vehicle on the street,” he said.

Tokajer added that if a non-permitted vehicle is parked on the street outside a rental home, it will be ticketed.


Manatee Avenue overflow parking to shrink

While the committee is charged with coming up with solutions to congestion and parking problems for later presentation to the city commission, certain action can be taken under Tokajer’s authority.

The committee previously discussed developing angled parking along Manatee Avenue where it intersects with Gulf Drive to enhance safety.

Vehicles are prohibited from parking on the north side of Manatee Avenue, but overflow beach parking is allowed on the south side. The problem, Motzer said, is that vehicles parallel park and people exit their vehicles onto Manatee Avenue. He said, sometimes, parents get busy getting beach gear out of their vehicles and children wander dangerously close to the roadway.

Angled parking would make it safer and provide more parking spaces, but Tokajer said Aug. 19 that the city would have to negotiate regulations with the Florida Department of Transportation.

“State law prohibits angled parking on a state road,” said Tokajer. “We would have to go through DOT and that would be a hard thing to do in the time frame we are looking at. We do have a say on whether to continue to let people park there, or make the whole roadway no parking.”

After some discussion, the committee agreed with Tokajer to limit the parking area to the widest stretch of Manatee Avenue and, in the interest of safety, to close off the narrower sections as no-parking zones.

As of Islander press time, Tokajer was expected to begin placing signs from about Sixth Avenue eastward toward East Bay Drive, as well as the narrow section at the Gulf Drive intersection leading east into the wider area.

Tokajer said it would leave about 30 feet of overflow parking.

In other matters, the committee revisited the proposed parking meter plan for Manatee Public Beach.

The state requires a certain number of free parking spaces to qualify for beach renourishment funding and the committee is trying to determine that quantity.

Tokajer said the committee should have those numbers by its Sept. 2 meeting. In the meantime, committee member Carol Soustek said she was referred to a recent traffic study requested by Commissioner Marvin Grossman from the state.

The numbers provided in the study show discrepancies in the numbers of parking spaces counted by Holmes Beach and other island cities.

Tokajer said he had an officer count the number of spaces at Manatee Public Beach and determined there were 400, but the study shows 293.

Similarly, there have been 1,600 spaces counted at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, but the 2013-14 study shows 1,200 spaces.

Soustek said there are 2,100 official public parking spaces on Anna Maria Island. The numbers include beach accesses and beach parking.

The lower numbers in the study could work to the city’s advantage, as it moves forward with ideas for paid parking.

If the study shows 293 spaces at Manatee Public Beach, but there are actually 400 vehicles parking there, the city can look take advantage of the discrepancy.

The committee will begin meeting every other Tuesday beginning at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Motzer said he plans to run meetings through November, at which time he hopes to present the committee’s suggestions to the commission.

Ideas are still being discussed, such as a parking garage at Manatee Public Beach, a toll booth at island entry points and opening bank and church parking lots to weekend and holiday parking.

Church seeks return of statue

Church leaders at the Longboat Island Chapel, 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, are seeking the return of a statue stolen recently from the chapel garden at the rear of the church.

The statue was dedicated to the Rev. Charles Shook, Minister Emeritus of the chapel, and, according to church leaders, is a “reflection of who we are.”

The church, a non-denominational interfaith church, has asked that the statue be returned and no questions will be asked.

The statue is a bubbling fountain waterfall made of basaltic rock and “has a deep meaning for all who see it,” a church press release said.

“If replaced directly to us, no questions will be asked,” church leaders said.

Anyone with information on the statue is asked to call the chapel office at 941-383-6491.




Cities set hearings for 2013-14 budgets

The island cities will finalize budgets — and property tax rates — for 2013-14 in September.

Hearings in Anna Maria will take place at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 and 6 p.m. Sept. 25.

In Bradenton Beach, hearings are at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive, at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, and 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18.

In Holmes Beach, hearings at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 12 and 6 p.m. Sept. 24.

Manatee County also is deciding its budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Hearings will take place at the county administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, at 6 p.m. Sept. 10 and 6 p.m. Sept. 19.

The School District of Manatee County’s budget hearings will take place 1 p.m. Aug. 29 and 5:45 p.m. Sept. 9 at in the boardroom, 215 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Trim notices of proposed 2013 property taxes went out Aug. 19 from the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s office, but property owners should not pay taxes before receiving tax bills on or about Nov. 5.