Tag Archives: 08-31-2011

Tortuga pergola nixed, gift shop OK’d

Guests who check in at Tortuga Inn would be able to get quick take-out under a resort expansion that earned a recommendation from the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board.

They’d also be able to browse a new gift shop at the resort, 1325 Gulf Drive N.

The Tortuga management took away recommendations from the P&Z for a special exception that would allow for the gift shop and the take-out operations at the resort. But Tortuga didn’t take away a recommendation from the P&Z that would allow for the construction of a pergola on the resort’s private Gulf of Mexico beach.

The vote to recommend a special exception to create the gift shop and the take-out on the resort property east of Gulf Drive was unanimous.

The vote not to recommend a special exception for the pergola — first proposed as a chickee hut — on the resort’s property west of Gulf Drive also was unanimous.

“The west side failed. The east side succeeds,” planning and zoning board chair Rick Bisio said.

The city commission is expected to take up Tortuga’s requests at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

The planning board’s hearing on Tortuga’s application lasted more than an hour, with David Teitelbaum explaining the resort’s interests, building official Steve Gilbert offering the city staff views and neighbors making several statements, mostly in opposition.


The west side

The plans first presented to the planning and zoning board showed a Seminole chickee hut on Tortuga’s beach. Those plans were amended last week after Gilbert determined that improvements to the parcel under a different owner meant the Tortuga was “at 30 percent building coverage and 40 percent lot coverage.”

Already at the maximum coverage, the Tortuga couldn’t erect something with a roof, Gilbert said.

“A chickee without a roof … isn’t a chickee,” he added.

So, instead Tortuga requested a 1,500-square-foot pergola.

Barbara Rodocker of neighboring Silver Surf resort said she didn’t think the proposed pergola would be “unsightly,” but other neighbors who either submitted letters or spoke during the hearing objected to the proposal or aspects of the plan.

Sandra J. Esch said the expansion would compromise the “family atmosphere” of Bermuda Bay Club, where she lives.

John Skerrett, also of Bermuda Bay, said the installation of a pergola was inconsistent with the land-use plan that identifies the property for “preservation.”

“A 1,500 square-foot structure is more in line with commercial uses than passive recreation,” he stated.

He also questioned what type of activity the pergola would attract after-hours, when it is unattended.

Michael Gallant, also of Bermuda Bay, said he would not have purchased his condominium if he had known Tortuga wanted to erect a chickee hut or a pergola on the beach.

“The beach is beautiful,” he stated. “Please leave it the way it is.”

Steve Thompson, an attorney for the Bermuda Bay Club Condominium Association, said the proposed gift shop, cafe and pergola were incompatible with the residential character of the Bermuda Bay Club.

He said the pergola would block views of the water, that the expansion could hinder access to the beach, that all three amenities would encourage partying and drinking and that the pergola would be dangerous in a storm.

“It would shower our community with spears and projectiles,” he alleged.

Teitelbaum, replying to questions about increased traffic, stressed that the expansion would serve guests, not draw the public.

He said gatherings at the pergola would not become a nuisance, and that many events already take place at the site, either on the private beach or under a tent.

Planning and zoning board members, however, expressed concerns that the installation of a pergola constituted “development” of preservation property.

Bisio recalled the agreement years ago that led to improvements on the east section of the Tortuga property. Essentially, the city said, “If we allow you to build the building over here … the land across the street goes into preservation. That’s the way this property made it into preservation.”

The chairman observed that the proposed pergola — an open structure, pole supported with a lattice top — is larger than the footprint of his home.

“It is not an insignificant thing that we are talking about here,” he said.

A chickee, because of a Florida provision guaranteeing Seminoles the opportunity to erect the huts, would be exempt from the state building code and would not need a building permit.

A pergola, however, would need a building permit, as well as engineering.

Planning board member Jo Ann Meilner said, “To me that says ‘development.’”

Gilbert replied, “Does it constitute ‘development’? That’s the question you folks and the city commission are going to get to answer.”

Teitelbaum emphasized the passive use proposed for the pergola — a gathering place to picnic, watch the sunset or commemorate a wedding.

But the planning board members eventually agreed that the structure would constitute development of the preservation land.

“I see the pergola as development, and that I can’t get around,” Meilner said.


The east side

For the gift shop and take-out cafe, the Tortuga would remodel first-floor offices.

“The gift shop and the restaurant are very much in the confines of this type of zoning area,” Bisio said, referring to the Residential-3/multi-family designation.

In addition to the P&Z endorsement, the city staff recommended approval of the special exception for the cafe and shop.

Teitelbaum, president of the Tortuga condominium association, said the gift shop, which would be about 373 square feet, would provide an opportunity for guests to purchase toiletries, food and beverages and tourist items.

“The store,” Teitelbaum said, “will have no signage, no neon, nothing. It is simply merchandise for our guests. Tortuga T-shirts and caps. Necessities. A case of beer if they need it for their house.… Very simple.”

The 359-square-foot take-out cafe would be managed by the Island Creperie on Bridge Street.

“This is not for cooking. It is for serving,” said Teitelbaum, who envisions guests requesting that the cafe stock their refrigerators ahead of their arrival or providing heated entrées for them to take to their rooms.

County renovating Coquina cafe

Renovations are under way at the cafe at Manatee County’s Coquina Beach.

The project, estimated to cost $162,000, should be completed by late-December, according to Darin Cushing, the county project manager also involved in the construction of the $1.2 million marine rescue headquarters at Coquina Bayside.

While the renovation of the cafe takes place, the concession is being operated from a nearby trailer.

Time and salt air had taken its toll on the cafe building. “County and city building department personnel pointed out numerous code violations that were in need of rectification,” Cushing said.

Deficiencies listed in a structural analysis filed with the building department at Bradenton Beach City Hall included deteriorated exterior door frames and doors, rusted plumbing and pipes, a floor elevation 10 inches below grade, exposed rebar around the roof area, rusted electrical components, mildewed walls, leaks, a sagging drop ceiling and rusted roof rafters.

Now, with construction, the building has no roof.

In addition to correcting problems, the county is reconfiguring “the interior to make it more efficient for operating the snack bar portion, as well as allowing the opportunity to operate a small portion as a gift shop,” Cushing said. The concession vendor, which also operates the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at the Manatee Public Beach, will be responsible for interior items, including the kitchen equipment.

Outside, when the renovation is complete, the cafe will look different, more in line with the design scheme of the marine rescue building across Gulf Drive.

“It will actually be getting a face lift, new railings and stucco finish,” said Cushing. “It will also have a pitched metal roof rather than the flat deck that it had. The color will be changing to the new scheme we are incorporating into all of Coquina.”

The building will retain its current footprint and exterior walls, though they will be strengthened.

Connelly set for bond hearing

A hearing is set for Aug. 31 on a motion to reduce the bond set for an ex-bookkeeper accused of defrauding the Key Royale Club of $387,000.

Holly Elaine Connelly, 29, was arrested in July and charged with one count of scheming to defraud in excess of $50,000.

She has remained at the Manatee County jail since her arrest, with her bond set at $500,000.

The bond hearing was set for 3:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Manatee County Judicial Center in Bradenton, though it was not clear from court records whether Connelly would appear before the judge in person or via a video-transmission from the jail.

Connelly’s attorney, assistant public defender Jessica Casciola, is seeking a reduction in bond, arguing that her client is financially unable to post the amount required under the $500,000 bond and that the amount is excessive and violates the defendant’s U.S. and state constitutional rights.

Connelly has pleaded not guilty to the charge and demanded a jury trial.

In court records, the prosecution alleges that Connelly, who worked at the Holmes Beach golf club from June 2008 to April 2011, forged checks that were deposited into her Wachovia bank account.

If convicted on the charge, which is classified as a first-degree felony, Connelly could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Holmes Beach has possible 4 for election

Incumbent Holmes Beach City Commissioners Pat Morton, Al Robinson and David Zaccagnino and potential challenger Jean Peelen obtained qualifying packets from city hall last week to run for three commission seats up for election in the Nov. 8 voting.

The qualifying deadline to be on the ballot as a Holmes Beach commission candidate is noon Friday, Sept. 2.

If Morton qualifies for re-election, he would be seeking his fifth consecutive term, while Zaccagnino would be running for his fourth straight term on the commission. Robinson would be running for re-election for the first time, having first gained a commission seat in the November 2009 election. Peelen was defeated for a commission seat in the 2010 election.

Qualifying to run for a Holmes Beach commission seat began Aug. 29 and ends Sept. 2.

Prospective candidates may pick up an election packet at Holmes Beach City Hall at 5700 Gulf Drive and qualifying can be completed at city hall.

Holmes Beach city commissioners serve a two-year term and are paid $400 a month while in office.

BB qualifying takes place this week

Two people — Commissioner Gay Breuler and former Commissioner John Shaughnessy — are seeking to qualify this week as candidates in Bradenton Beach’s election Nov. 8.

Two other well-known officeholders — Mayor Bob Bartelt and Commissioner Janie Robertson — are not in the qualifying process.

Bartelt said last week that he will not seek re-election to a full two-year term as mayor.

Bartelt had been a commissioner from Ward 4 when he stepped into the mayor’s role in June 2010, when Michael Pierce resigned.

He was elected to the office last November.

He had been undecided until Aug. 25, when he told The Islander that he was looking forward to focusing on his personal life.

“The job is more time-consuming than I expected,” Bartelt said.

Bartelt, who married last fall, added, “I’ve enjoyed the tenure and so on. I just feel it is time to move on with the chapter in my life that I should be involved in — my marriage and our life together.”

Plus, Bartelt has a cottage on a lake in Wisconsin that he hasn’t visited for nearly two years. “I just haven’t had a chance,” he said, scanning his office for a photograph of the property.

Robertson, who has served six years on the commission representing Ward 3, cannot run again. Bradenton Beach’s charter limits officeholders to three consecutive terms.

The term-limit rule is the reason that Shaughnessy exited the political theater in 2009.

Earlier in August, he decided to run for mayor.

Breuler, meanwhile, is seeking a second two-year term as commissioner in Ward 1, which encompasses the northernmost part of the city.

The qualifying period closes at noon Sept. 2. Prospective candidates can pick up qualifying packets from city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N., where they can collect signatures.

The qualifying process must be completed at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Suite 108, Bradenton.

Election 2011

• Noon, Sept. 2: Qualifying concludes for three commission seats in Holmes Beach.

• Noon, Sept. 2: Qualifying concludes for two commission seats and the mayoral post in Bradenton Beach.

• 10 a.m., Sept. 17: The League of Women Voters of Manatee County and The Islander host the Beaches Candidate Forum at the Island Branch Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

• Oct. 11: The last day to register to vote for the Island elections.

• Oct 19: The Islander hosts Popcorn and Politics for Island candidates at the newspaper office, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

• Nov. 8: Election day.

For more information about the election, go to www.votemanatee.com or call the appropriate city hall — 941-708-6130 for Anna Maria, 941-778-7585 for Bradenton Beach and 941-708-5800 for Holmes Beach.

4 seek 3 commission seats in Anna Maria

Four Anna Maria residents qualified for the Nov. 8 election to fill the three city commission seats.

Joining incumbent Commissioners John Quam and Dale Woodland in the election race are former Mayor SueLynn and planning and zoning board member Nancy Yetter. Commissioner Gene Aubry did not seek a second term.

Early last week, it appeared there might be a crowded field for the election as nine qualifying packets had been distributed since qualifying began Aug. 15.

By the noon Aug. 26 qualifying deadline, however, only Quam, Woodland, SueLynn and Yetter had submitted the required paperwork.

Quam will be seeking his sixth consecutive term on the commission, while Woodland will look for his fifth straight term. SueLynn was mayor from 2002 to 2006, but has not previously sought a commission seat. Yetter was appointed to the P&Z board in June 2010 by former Mayor Fran Barford.

SueLynn said she is seeking a commission seat because she wants to help Anna Maria keep its identity.

“I am interested in a lot of things happening now, and some of them go back to when I was mayor. I am concerned we might be losing our character and I want to get involved to make sure that doesn’t happen. My experience will be a plus, and my learning curve short,” she said.

Woodland said he is running again to “preserve and protect what makes Anna Maria special — the things I’ve been fighting for since I was first elected.”

Quam said he wants to continue to maintain the status quo in the city.

“I just love this city and I want to do my part instead of just sitting on the sidelines and complaining about everything.”

Yetter said she wants to be part of the solution, not the problem.

“I bring a solid understanding of the building codes, land-development regulations, etc. and a strong commitment to keeping Anna Maria at the small town level we have all come to expect and enjoy.”

The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8. Voters will have a choice of three from the slate of four candidates running for a commission seat. The top three vote-getters will take office.

Anna Maria city commissioners are elected for two-year terms and receive $400 a month in compensation.

Voter registration

A spokesperson for the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office said anyone who has recently moved to Manatee County and has not registered to vote, or anyone who has not previously registered, has until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, to register for the Nov. 8 election.

Absentee ballots must be requested no later than 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, to ensure the ballot is received in the mail. Ballots must be returned to the SOE office by Nov. 8.

Voter registration can be done at the SOE office, 600 U.S. 301 Boulevard, Suite 108, Bradenton, across from the DeSoto Mall. The SOE office is in the same complex as the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office headquarters.

Voter registration packets also are available at The Islander Newspaper, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, at public libraries and at city hall.

For more information on registration or to obtain an absentee ballot, call 941-741-3823.

New trolley now in service


The first of five new trolleys that Manatee County Area Transit will use on the fare-free Island route went into service Aug. 22, complete with advertising that will defray some of the operating costs. The second new trolley, also with ads, was slated to roll out Aug. 29, according to David Teitelbaum, who coordinates the advertising on the trolleys for the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Replacement pier study may take years to complete

There is hope for a new pier in Holmes Beach to replace the Manatee Public Beach pier torn down in 2009 after an engineer’s report deemed the structure unsafe.

After Bridge Design Associates of West Palm Beach issued a report that the pier should be closed and torn down, county commissioners voted on March 3, 2009, for a replacement pier.

Conceptual plans were then drawn for a pier extending about 200 feet into the water with an approach ramp that would comply with the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Unfortunately for proponents of a replacement pier, declining property values and accompanying lower revenues quickly ruled out any county funding for a new pier. The project was tabled, and county administrator Ed Hunzeker has not put a new pier in any county budget submitted to the commission since the March 2009 vote.

However, pier lovers may not have to wait for better times.

Manatee County Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker said a study of the beach sand where the pier once stood is ongoing. If the study determines that the pier served to anchor beach sand and prevented or slowed beach erosion, a new pier could be provided from the resort tax fund, he said.

The resort tax is the 5 percent tax collected on all accommodation rentals under six months in Manatee County. The funds are used for beach renourishment projects that occur every six to 10 years on Anna Maria Island.

“If it’s determined that the old pier played a role in keeping beach sand in place,” said Hunsicker, “a new pier could be funded with the resort tax.” But the replacement would have to be a low-profile pier about 8-feet above the mean-high water line — similar to the design of the previous pier — to ensure it would help retain sand on the beach.

But don’t expect a decision any time soon.

Hunsicker said the study might take up to two years to complete, maybe longer. And the answer may not help fund a new pier.

If the study finds that the old pier did not help keep the beach from eroding at that location, it would “not be appropriate to use beach renourishment funds” to build a new pier, Hunsicker said. If that’s the case, alternate funding sources would have to be found for a new pier, he said.

In 2009, Hunsicker estimated a new pier similar to the old public beach pier would cost about $1.6 million. The cost to tear down the old pier and remove all the pilings and concrete was $670,000.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a former Holmes Beach mayor and city commissioner, said the county commission approved a new pier when the old one was declared unsafe and closed. And she’s holding her colleagues to that vote.

“I think we owe it to our residents to build a replacement pier. It was a great attraction and everyone who came to the public beach would use it. It was great for fishing, sunning, watching the water or sunsets or just watching people on the beach,” Whitmore said.

She doesn’t want to wait two years for an answer and said she’ll look for other funding sources as the beach erosion study continues.

Rick Spadoni of Coastal Planning and Engineering, the county’s contracted marine engineering firm, said the study of beach erosion in the area of the MPB was begun and should be completed by spring 2012.

He said the completed survey would be compared with prior beach erosion surveys done when the pier was operational.

Coastal also is surveying beach erosion for the planned 2014-15 beach renourishment project for portions of Anna Maria Island beaches.

Coastal has completed a number of beach erosion studies for Manatee County and other Florida governments, including Longboat Key. Spadoni said each study is different because each beach has different sand composition and currents that affect the beach.

“We’re going as rapidly as possible,” he said.