Tag Archives: 09-11-2013

AM’s planned legal action against vacation rentals fuels heat

Not everyone is pleased in paradise, particularly with a decision made by Anna Maria city commissioners to proceed with a legal challenge that would determine whether the city’s hotel/motel ordinance applies to vacation rentals.

While the voice vote Aug. 22 was announced as unanimous by Commission Chair Chuck Webb, Commissioner Gene Aubry says he voted against the move.

“I think this is a total waste of time and much ado about nothing,” said Aubry.

Aubry said commissioners, Mayor SueLynn and vacation property owners and managers spent nearly a year working on “best practices” for vacation renters and agents to ease problems associated with noise, trash and parking.

“We worked for a year to get those practices approved and we amended our codes to reduce noise and other actions by renters,” he said. “We’ve already done this. Why are we doing it again? People need to wake up and understand where they live.”

The commission move, introduced by Webb, would engage the city in a legal action to determine whether the city’s hotel/motel ordinance supersedes Florida law, commonly called H.B. 883, effective July 1, 2012. The statute allows any home in Florida to be a vacation rental unless the local governing body had restrictions in place at the time the law went into effect.

If the commission goes to court, Aubry predicted “zillions and zillions of lawsuits.”

“This state law is affecting everyone in the state. To go forward with this would be a waste of money and effort,” he said.

Mayor SueLynn said she and staff had no input into the commission decision, but would do as the commission directs.

“My concern is at what cost the city might be successful. Not just in dollars but in the ill will from vacation renters such action would foster,” she said.

Aubry, who is not running for election in November, has said he would seek another term as commissioner in a future election.

“I do plan to run again and I will bring a slate of candidates that see this legal action as a waste of time,” he said. “That Aug. 22 meeting was embarrassing to me after all the time we spent with best practices and amending ordinances.”

Aubry has support against the legal action from several prominent vacation rental owners and managers in the city.

One local property manager, who asked not to be identified so he “would not be targeted by the commission,” agreed with Aubry.

“This is a waste of city time and money. I don’t understand the way Webb is interpreting this ordinance. I’m baffled.”

The property manager suggested they “mitigate these issues as we did with the best practices.”

Code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon said she has had only seven noise complaints since Jan. 1.

But the commission has voted 4-1 to proceed with the process, a process that city attorney Jim Dye said would likely be long and costly.

First the city must identify the offending vacation property rentals, and, Dye also told commissioners they had to identify rental properties that violate the ordinance.

According to Dye, the city must proceed with the code process. That requires the city to issue a citation to an offending property for operating a hotel/motel in violation of the code. The property owner/manager then has the option of coming “into compliance with the code” by not renting the property, or taking the citation before the city’s special magistrate for a ruling.

If the special magistrate rules in favor of the city, the owner may appeal to the circuit court. If the magistrate rules against the city, the city can appeal the ruling to the district court.

Any district court ruling can be appealed, Dye said.

Webb has said he wants to know if the city’s hotel/motel ordinance applies to vacation rentals and only a judge’s ruling can decide that issue.

Dye estimated it would take between nine and 15 months to obtain a judgment on the validity of the ordinance applying to vacation rentals.

If the city proceeds and loses, a judge could order the city to pay attorney fees for the defendant, Aubry said.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the issue at their Sept. 12 meeting, and again at a Sept. 26 work session.

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman had no comment on the commission’s decision, but she will present the commission measure to the chamber’s board of directors for consideration.

Mainsail Lodge, Holmes Beach put down swords

Not every obstacle has been cleared for Mainsail Lodge to break ground on a proposed hotel, restaurant and marina at the property near the intersection of Gulf and Marina drives, but a major hurdle was crossed Sept. 4 with the successful conclusion of a required mediation process with Holmes Beach.

The Mainsail development team ended the mediation with significant changes to its proposed development by reducing the size of the project and easing tension with nearby residents by eliminating all but two accessory buildings.

It’s been an up-and-down road for both sides since commissioners voted 3-2 in March to revoke the Mainsail Lodge site plan and the subsequent initiation of a legal process and mediation by Mainsail to have that vote rescinded.

Talk of unavoidable litigation ensued until the two sides sat down in June for the first round of mediation, which started on shaky ground but ended with hope that an agreement could be reached.

In the weeks that followed, threats and promises renewed for litigation from both sides leading up to the Sept. 4 second round with the mediator at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Once again, the process faltered, but Special Magistrate Steven Seibert offered a clear reminder: “I’m not a fan of litigation. This process is designed to drive people to common ground. Litigation is an expenditure of time, dollars and emotion, and when public entities are involved, are almost never worth it.”

Seibert said it’s his job to create a forum to avoid that scenario, but if it came to that, then both sides could “go to separate corners and draw your swords and do what you have to do.”

Swords would become irrelevant by the session’s close.

Mainsail attorney Robert Lincoln started off the session by presenting the proposed changes agreed to in the June mediation, as well as further changes discussed during ongoing meetings with city staff.

In Mainsail’s updated proposal is the removal of Building A and portions of Building B on the peninsula of land within the basin leading to the bay, and some restructuring to reduce setback violations.

One sticking point in negotiations has been Building D, which sits along Sunrise Lane, a privately owned road. Mainsail owns most of it, but residents own the rest.

Lincoln said Building D was reduced more since the June meeting to one level over parking and pulled back farther from the road.

Mainsail also removed tandem parking — prohibited end-to-end parking under the units — and, with the proposed adjustments, calculated 97 parking spaces. In June, it reduced the number of restaurant seats from 120 to 80 and has since reduced the number of boat slips from 75 to 50 — all in an effort to ensure adequate on-site parking.

There was some concern going into mediation that Mainsail would need a height variance to accommodate more units in the remaining buildings, but Lincoln told Holmes Beach representatives that all buildings are within the 36-foot height restriction.

Mainsail president Joe Collier said his team has done everything the city has requested.

“Everything you asked from us, we did,” he said. “Building B has gone from seven units to four and we reduced it by a story. The site is self park, we reduced our marina entitlements and are not asking for a height variance for the lodge. Now you have a plan before you that corresponds to those requests.”

Commissioner Judy Titsworth, who resides on Sunrise Lane adjacent to the project, wasn’t impressed.

“In regards to the items you say you’ve given up, you’ve only given up three units,” she said. “The other developer gave up the same things.”

Titsworth said she appreciates the effort, but Mainsail shouldn’t act as though it’s conceding anything to the city because it’s the city that has the rights at this point.

Discussion continued on parking issues in that Mainsail wanted to use the city’s current codes, but wanted to retain density allowances under the 2001 codes.

Titsworth said, “You can’t pick and choose. If we don’t make sure we do it right the first time, it sticks with us forever.”

Titsworth wanted the exact number of parking spaces that would be allocated to the lodge and marina, but Lincoln said it’s an unfair request at this stage.

“To sit here today and say exactly how many slips to calculate parking in order to have a settlement isn’t reasonable,” he said. “All of that will be a part of the site plan. We can finalize the numbers for the restaurant, but there are some mixed uses with that. At the point that we do a site plan and we need to specify numbers, we can do that, but saying we have to decide on the fly isn’t possible.”

City attorney Patricia Petruff said it appears Mainsail is going to have about 10 extra parking spaces and can, at the point of a site plan, designate their uses or come in after the fact to make the same request.

“We would do that for any other business in the city,” she said.

Titsworth said Mainsail has not proven it has adequate parking.

“You keep saying you have extra, but we don’t know that,” she said.

Lincoln reiterated, “You’ll know when you have the site plan. Right now, it’s important to lock down the principles of an agreement.”

Titsworth said there was too much room for abuse with banquet space, which requires designated parking to accommodate events, but Lincoln agreed to include in the settlement language that banquet space could only be used by lodge guests.

With that language in place, parking at the lodge would be mixed-use because only guests would be allowed to use the assembly rooms.

Collier said everything would be addressed in the site plan.

“Here’s what I hope to leave here with today,” said Collier. “I can’t spend any more money on the details. All the things we’re talking about will have to go through the building department. We have to comply to all those things.”

During public comment, Commissioner Marvin Grossman told Mainsail representatives they were getting closer to receiving his approval.

“So far, I see many changes I like,” he said. “I don’t know how far away you are from a ‘yes’ vote, but we are getting a lot closer than where we were.”

Grossman said what would put him over the top would be to remove Building D — backing up to Sunrise Lane — altogether to reduce density and possibly appease residential neighbors.

“I would be happy with that,” said Grossman. “It’s not that many units and I wouldn’t even object to trying to put more units into the lodge.”

Lincoln called for a break in mediation to discuss some options with the Mainsail team. Upon returning, he said he and his clients discussed two issues.

“We propose to modify and agree to have the 2001 parking ratio apply to the 37 units in the lodge and restaurant seats and to non-accessory uses in the marina,” he said. “But that any future modifications would be based on the code as it exists at time of modification.”

Lincoln said the group also agreed to remove Building D “on the condition we can reconfigure Buildings B and C to connect to the main lodge,” he said.

Collier added, “While staying in the proposed footprint.”

Grossman expressed concern over the size of the building that would create, but Lincoln said it was an idea to put on paper if the city agreed.

“If we can move forward with a settlement, then it would come back as a site plan,” said Lincoln. “Then we can work on the implementation of that. It gives us an opportunity to better articulate the architecture of the buildings and actually make them look smaller. But we can only do that after a settlement.”

After also agreeing to the original stipulations issued in the original special exception, the two sides came to an agreement.

“I’m thrilled and grateful for you all to hang in here and approach it the way you have,” said Seibert.

The agreement must go before the city commission for consideration and, if approved, Mainsail will create a new site plan.

The process then will involve city staff review, planning and zoning review and, ultimately, a review by the city commission before any construction begins.

Islanders ride surfin’ safari to Cocoa Beach benefit

The 28th annual National Kidney Foundation Rich Salick Pro/AM Surf Festival presented by Ron Jon Surf Shop and NKF of Florida was held Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Cocoa Beach in memory of the late Rich Salick.

The competition was co-founded by twins Rich and Phil Salick, who grew up on Anna Maria Island, learning to surf in the Gulf of Mexico waves. Their sister Joanie Mills lives in Holmes Beach with her family.

The Salick brothers championed the festival to raise money for the National Kidney Foundation of Florida for early screening programs, diagnostic services, financial aid to patients, legislative advocating, and education and awareness efforts.

The event began small, as a benefit for chronically ill dialysis patients, as a commitment of Rich, a surfer with the original Dewey Weber Surf Team in the late 1960s and the U.S. team in 1972 who, shortly after signing pro endorsement contracts, suffered a radical and rapid deterioration in his health. After spending much of his life surfing around the globe, Rich Salick couldn’t walk a block from his home to the shore in Cocoa Beach.

In 1974, Phil Salick donated a kidney to save his brother’s life and, after making some innovations to protect his transplanted kidney, Rich surfed again.

Phil and Rich also continued to build the National Kidney Foundation of Florida and the festival, even as Phil battled illness – he underwent a second transplant surgery with older brother Channing as the donor and a third transplant surgery with younger brother Wilson as the donor.

Rich Salick died last summer at the age of 62, after 40 years of riding waves and battling tremendous odds.

The event he co-founded has raised more than $5 million for kidney foundation programs since 1985.

As a tribute to Rich and twin Phil, a group of islanders made the trip across the state on a path much-worn by surfers to attend the festival.

For tournament information, go online at www.nkfsurf.com.



Nov. 5 races set in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach

Two new political candidates will join two incumbents in the Nov. 5 election campaign for one of the three seats on the Anna Maria City Commission.

    An early look at the candidates:

    • Carol Carter: Carter lives on Willow Avenue and is a member of the city’s planning and zoning board. She was active in the 2009 recall campaign of then-Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus.

    Her employers are Feeding America and the Alzheimer’s Association, both based in Chicago.

    This is her first run for elected office in Anna Maria.

    • Michael Jaworski: Jaworski lives in the 800 block of North Shore Drive and is a part-time employee of the Anna Maria public works department. He has not previously sought political office.

    He is retired from the Ford Motor Co., and from Visteon Inc. of Kentucky. He also has income from real estate.

    • Doug Copeland: Copeland, who was appointed to the commission in June, is a former chair of the planning and zoning board and was a P&Z board member for nearly 20 years.

    He works as a self-employed woodworker and resides in the 700 block of North Bay Boulevard.

    Copeland has not previously campaigned for public office.

    • Dale Woodland: Woodland is seeking his sixth term as a commissioner. He lives in the 100 block of Hammock Road and lists his occupation as the owner/operator of a pool cleaning and supply company.

    He also has a retirement pension from L-3 Benefit Center in Texas.

    Woodland also has been a member of the planning and zoning board.

    Anna Maria commissioners are elected for two-year terms and are paid $400 per month. At the election, the city voters will choose three names from the four candidates. The top three vote-getters in Anna Maria will take the three available seats.

Bradenton Beach mayoral race:

    It’s been almost four years since Bradenton Beach voters have gone to the polls for a contested race, while Holmes Beach vacation rentals and duplex issues spawned back-to-back contests.

    Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy termed out of his Ward 1 commission seat in 2009 after six years on the dais.

    He took two years off from politics before running for mayor in 2011, when the incumbent mayor chose not to run. Unopposed, Shaughnessy was automatically elected.

    He’s most proud of leading the city through a difficult economic period, working with Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti to settle the lawsuit with Holmes Beach over the 27th Street-Sandpiper Resort quit claim deed and bringing a common sense approach to the mayor’s office.

    Bill Shearon served two terms as commissioner before making an unsuccessful mayoral run. He joined the planning and zoning board, where he served for several years until resigning in 2012 when commissioners and city staff summarily disregarded the board’s recommendation to deny a dune and parking lot project at the BeachHouse Restaurant.

    Shearon is one-third of a plaintiff group currently suing the city over that decision, claiming, among other issues that the area scheduled for improvements is renourished beach that should not be developed.

    Four members of the P&Z resigned over the dispute and Shearon said part of the reason he is running for mayor is because the current administration discourages public involvement.

    He calls for more financial accountability and personal responsibility from the dais.

BB commissioner race: Ward 3

    Commissioner Ric Gatehouse was appointed to the dais in early 2012 when former Ward 3 Commissioner Janie Robertson termed out of office and no one stepped up to run for her seat in the 2011 election.

    Gatehouse said he is most proud of correcting a prior administration’s mistake in giving away too much authority to third parties, improving the cell tower ordinance, he claims, in particular.

    He led the charge to have that ordinance amended. He said he’s is running for a second term because he has unfinished business. Gatehouse has been at the forefront of ensuring infrastructure projects are budgeted and completed. He recently presented a comprehensive parking plan designed to create more parking, generate revenue and alleviate congestion.

    Janie Robertson is running for the same Ward 3 commissioner seat she held for six years before terming out of office in 2011. She also faces the very person who replaced her on the dais.

    She has remained involved at city meetings, but grew frustrated with what she said was a lack of willingness to listen by the current administration.

    Robertson said commissioners mean well, but don’t have the kind of experience with local governing she brings to the table. She calls for more fiscal responsibility and said proper procedures need to be followed to keep the city out of trouble.

BB commissioner race: Ward 1

    Gay Breuler has cited personal reasons not to seek a second term in office as Ward 1 commissioner. She is recently married and is preparin to move out of the city and off island.

    John “Jack” Clarke is a newcomer to city politics and, as the only qualified candidate for Ward 1, is automatically elected.

    Clarke said he decided to run for office because it was time to give back to a city he calls “unpretentious and genuine.”

    A resident of 10 years, Clarke pledged to keep the city on a forward track while retaining its charm.

Holmes Beach: 3 incumbents, 2 newcomers


    David Zaccagnino has served as a city commissioner for eight years.

    He is a proponent of stemming overdevelopment of so-called party houses and big-box rentals. He is working with the newly formed congestion-parking committee and believes solutions are possible without hurting local business.

    Jean Peelen was voted into office during the 2011 election. She said she decided to run again to “finish what I started.”

    Peelen said there are too many important issues that have come up in her tenure as commissioner and doesn’t believe she could walk away from an unfinished job.

    Pat Morton is the longest-seated commissioner in Holmes Beach, having served on the dais for 10 years. He opposes overdevelopment in the city, and has most notably stood his ground during the Mainsail Lodge development process, voting to revoke the site plan and insisting the process start anew under current codes and limitations.

The challengers

    Carol Soustek says she will fight hard to enforce the city’s codes and help stop overdevelopment of Holmes Beach.

    She has a history of working with local environmental groups and pledges to continue to protect the city’s shoreline, mangroves and wildlife and enhance Grassy Point Nature Preserve.

    C. Melissa Williams operates a graphics and marketing business with her husband in Holmes Beach, SteamDesigns. She has been an active member of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and the chamber’s 2009 Small Business of the Year award-winner. She has served as president of the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island and also served other island nonprofits, including the Anna Maria Island Historical Society and Island Players.

    Williams said she is looking forward to leading the city into a “more balanced and brighter future.”


As sea turtles hatch, count inches AMITW closer to record

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring is two nests shy of tying its 2012 record of 362 nests.

Volunteers in Section 3 have confirmed an unverified nest near the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria.

An unverified nest, or possible false crawl, occurs when volunteers spot a potential crawl, but are unable to confirm the nest by digging down and locating eggs. The area is marked as if a nest existed, but not recorded until hatching occurs and can be confirmed.

Employees at the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, arrived to work in the early morning hours of Sept. 6 and spotted a hatchling in the parking lot. They scooped it up and began looking for where it came from and located the nest. They then found a phone number on the nest marker and called AMITW.

Section 3 volunteers, law enforcement officers and neighbors soon joined in the search for wayward hatchlings and found two more “vigorous” hatchlings searching for the Gulf of Mexico, according to AMITW volunteer Marilyn George.

George said dozens of hatchling tracks were found at the nest site leading to the water and the three wayward hatchlings also were released into the Gulf.

In recent days, AMITW volunteers located a couple of hatched nests that went unrecorded. According to AMITW executive director Suzi Fox, the nests were laid about 55 days ago during high tides and storms, when volunteers struggled with difficult beach conditions.

Because female sea turtles typically emerge at night on the shore to nest — the species only venture on land — it often can be difficult due to weather and wave action to locate the crawl and the nest.

The number of nests stood at 354 for two weeks, but between the unrecorded nests and unverified nests, the number has climbed by six.

Fox said between the possibility of other unverified nests and late season nesters, the 2012 record stands a good chance of being broken.

In the meantime, more than 12,000 hatchlings have sprinted from nests to the sea and there are about 200 nests that have yet to hatch.

Section 3 remains the hot spot for nesting out of the island’s nine sections. The stretch of beach from Pine Avenue in Anna Maria southward to 66th Street in Holmes Beach has recorded 80 nests, 74 false crawls and 1,056 hatchlings from 36 hatched nests.

Sea turtle nesting season began May 1 and officially ends Oct. 31, although, as proven last year with a green turtle nest that hatched in December, sea turtles can stretch man’s calendar beyond the official dates.

Bradenton Beach passes 1st reading of 2013-14 budget

It was a mere formality for Bradenton Beach commissioners at the first reading of an ordinance to adopt the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

With no one present from the public, the process moved along quickly with commissioners passing resolutions to adopt the tentative millage rate at 2.3329 with a 2.92 percent increase over the rollback rate — the millage needed to produce the same revenue as the current year — and a tentative $2,502,724 budget.

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

Commissioners moved quickly to pass the first reading of two required budget ordinances.

The public will have one more opportunity to address commissioners at the city’s final public hearing for the budget, which is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive.

Commissioners raised taxes for the 2012-13 fiscal year after facing a $450,000 budget shortfall, but opted to keep the tax increase to a minimum by taking half of the shortfall from the city’s reserve fund.

The increase in property taxes this year for homeowners will be amount to about $85 for a home valued at $450,000. However, property values increased this year by about 6.5 percent, meaning the city increased its coffers more than expected through higher property valuations.

Ad valorem revenue is expected to increase for the 2013-14 budget by more than $23,000 because of higher property values.

If ad valorem revenues increase even though the millage rate does not, state statutes consider it a tax increase.

BB pier renovation behind schedule, restaurant bidding closes

Renovation for the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier was due to be completed by the end of August, but the project is months behind schedule.

At a Sept. 5 city pier team meeting, Police Chief Sam Speciale, who facilitates the pier team, said design drawings from ZNS Engineering have been submitted and city staff is beginning the process to draft a request for proposal.

The RFP will need to be approved by commissioners before the project goes out for bid. In the meantime, half of the pier remains closed after being damaged when it was struck by two boats in June during Tropical Storm Andrea. The collisions occurred almost a year after the pier was damaged by boats that broke loose from their anchors in Sarasota Bay during Tropical Storm Debby.

Part of the renovation project will include the installation of additional pilings to act as a protective barrier to prevent boats from striking the pier in the event of future storm mishaps.

Speciale estimates that renovation will not begin until after the first of the year and construction could run into the high tourist season sometime in March or April.

Officials are becoming increasingly concerned with renovation costs, which are estimated to be about $900,000 based on 2-year-old estimates done when the project first gained traction.

Rising construction costs have left the pier team focused on cost-saving measures well before a scope of work has been completed.

The committee, which includes city commissioners, has focused on preserving the T-end of the pier while considering savings on materials, design and the removal of three copulas.


TDC to the rescue?

The pier could receive a boost from the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, according to Mayor John Shaughnessy.

State statutes limit the TDC in what it can fund as far as infrastructure projects, but tourist attractions fall within the guidelines and the pier may be eligible for TDC funding.

Shaughnessy said he approached the TDC for financial help with the pier and received a “positive” response.

“It’s within their laws that they can give money for the pier,” said Shaughnessy. “I’ve had two meetings this month about the process of submitting a request.”

Shaughnessy asked the pier team for suggestions on how much funding to seek and the general consensus was to ask for half of the current estimated costs, or around $500,000.

“That should allow us the ability to put the three copulas back into the plan and for us to use better materials, as well as helping with anticipating cost overruns.” said Commissioner Ric Gatehouse.

Shaughnessy agreed, saying the goal of the project is to update the pier, but not to change the design of what is an important and historic structure.

The pier was originally created using the landing of the wooden bridge linking Cortez and Bradenton Beach prior to the Cortez Bridge opening in 1956.

“My discussion with the TDC is that we want to put the pier back to the way it was,” said Shaughnessy. “I explained the history of the pier and that the pier is part of their philosophy of a family destination. They agreed, but wanted more information.”

The $900,000 cost estimate is old and doesn’t include the permitting process. Public works director Tom Woodard offered that the cost difference between using wood decking and composite materials would be about $115,000.

“The $900,000 estimate doesn’t include lighting and electricity,” said Woodard. “If we went with decorative lighting like we did on Bridge Street, you are looking at $5,000 a pole and just to do the electricity with new fixtures is about $35,000.”

Woodard said it’s going to be another $5,000 to replace the air conditioner in the harbor master’s office as just another example of how cost overruns can add up quickly.

“Everything we want to do relies on the funding on whether or not we can put the pier exactly back to the way it is,” said Shaughnessy.


Bids trickle in for pier restaurant

At least one bid was submitted to the city clerk’s office by the Sept. 6 deadline in the RFP.

If the city receives enough bids to consider it a competitive process, the sealed bids were to be opened Sept. 9 and commissioners will begin the ranking process the following week.

There have been some investors and entrepreneurs following the process as city officials worked through the creation of a new lease. The old lease was discarded following several issues that were raised when the former tenant fell behind on rent.

Accountability, enforcement and fairness were all thrust to the forefront of the problem when the rent went unpaid for almost a year and a subsequent eviction process ended in a settlement — ending the lease and a $15,000 payment to the city.

Commissioners and city staff had several discussions, sometimes heated, in working through the lease, but settled on a base payment of $5,500 plus 12 percent of the gross profits after the base rent is met.

There were still some split concerns on whether it was too high, but city attorney Ricinda Perry previously reminded commissioners that it was only a starting point for negotiations with the winning bidder.

An investor attending the lease discussions raised a new issue, saying the city will be required to pay property taxes on the restaurant when it’s leased.

As long as the property is empty, it is city property and exempt from taxes, but the investor said he was told that once the property is leased for a profitable venture, it becomes taxable.

However, the county has never valued the restaurant and it is never been placed on the tax rolls.

Perry wasn’t at the Sept. 5 meeting, but commissioners said they would direct her to look into the matter and how that might affect their negotiations.

Honey bees, beekeepers feel squeeze of development

Beekeeper Lynn Osborn remembers a time when honey bees were as abundant and healthy in this part of the Sunshine State as the sun’s rays.

“I used to open hives up and when I would lift the inner corner, the bees would flow out like a waterfall. They’d overflow the edges of the box and fall in clumps on the ground. You’d have a 2-inch thick layer of bees,’’ said Osborn.

He doesn’t see honey bee waterfalls these days. And like other beekeepers in the United States, Canada and Europe, he would like to know why.

Osborn has been keeping bees for 39 years and is vice president of the Suncoast Beekeepers Association, which has members in Manatee and Sarasota counties, including some on Anna Maria Island. The association’s purpose is to support and promote beekeeping, and keep it from becoming a dying hobby.

There are some island beekeepers, but they were reluctant to talk about their passion like Osborn. They worry there’s an inherent fear of bees and neighbors may be touchy about hives in their midst.

But Osborn says there are island beekeepers with strong hives “because of the diversity of plants out there and there isn’t a lot of competition’’ from other bees.

But, like all bees, “they have to bring in literally hundreds of pounds of pollen just to support the hive, let alone produce honey,” Osborn adds.

“Today, honey bees and beekeepers are locked in an unprecedented battle with pests, parasites, insecticides, Africanized bees and Colony-Collapse Disorder,’’ the association states on its website at www.suncoastbeekeepers.com.

“These problems affect all beekeepers, causing unsustainable losses of 30 to 50 percent of the hives per year. Considering that one-third of all food production in the U.S. is dependent on honey bees, the funding of research is paramount for local beekeeping associations,” according to the website.

Colony-Collapse Disorder, or CCD, is the name given to a phenomena first noticed in the fall of 2006. Beekeepers would visit previously healthy colonies and, surprisingly, find them practically empty.

According to Suncoast Beekeepers, what they would find on examination was, “there would be honey, pollen, capped larvae and even a queen bee, but little else.

“Beekeepers report that colonies with CCD do not contain any dead bees, neither are there dead bees on the ground outside of the colonies. The adult bees simply vanish,’’ according to Jamie Ellis, associate professor of Entomology at the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory at the University of Florida.

“In a country where honey bees contribute billions of dollars in added revenue to the agriculture industry, these bee losses cannot be taken lightly,” Ellis said in an bulletin sent out by the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For seven years, researchers and scientists at universities, federal and state agencies, private agriculture-related companies and beekeepers in the field have been looking for the cause of CCD. No clear answer has emerged and bees continue to die or disappear.

Imagining a life without some of the foods dependent on honey bees for pollination is one reason the public has begun to take notice of the bee crisis. Apples, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, blueberries and onions are 90 percent reliant on bees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cherries, cucumbers, celery, watermelon and plums also are highly dependent.

Just this spring, the almond crop in California — which relies 100 percent on honey-bee pollination — faced a shortage of healthy bee hives. Commercial beekeepers from all over the nation, including Florida, used tractor-trailers to annually move their hives — about 1.5 million of them — to that state’s Central Valley. But this year, growers reported trouble finding beekeepers with enough bees to do the job. Eventually, the almonds were pollinated, but growers wonder what future years will be like if the bee population continues to decline. And both groups ask: How will they sustain any growth in almond production?

“We are one poor weather event or high winter bee loss away from a pollination disaster,” Jeff Pettis, the research leader at the USDA’s Bee Research Laboratory told bee experts gathered at a conference in October 2012. Following the conference, the USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a joint report stating there are multiple factors causing the honey bee population decline.

Some factors exist within the colonies — including parasites and diseases and not enough genetic diversity among the bees themselves, the report said. And some are outside the hive, including poor nutrition caused by less natural habitat for bees and land management practices that have increased crops, such as corn and soybean, which are undesirable to bees; plus the pesticides used on crops.

The report cited one parasite in particular, the Varroa destructor mite, calling it a “major factor’’ in colony loss. The mite acts like a vampire, sucking the blood of baby and adult bees while also spreading disease.

Many bee experts, like Osborn and Ellis, agree the mite is a major contributor to bee population decline and that most likely CCD is caused by a combination of factors.

But some beekeepers and researchers are placing stronger blame on a new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which are nicotine-related and were banned in some European countries after CCD was linked to their use.

In the United States, a coalition of beekeepers, conservation and sustainable agriculture advocates sued the EPA in March to suspend use of some of the neonicotinoids and perform more evaluations on their effects. Sierra Clubs in both Canada and the United States have been questioning their use for several years.

“The EPA needs to suspend use of neonicotinoids or Congress needs to pass a bill prohibiting use of neonics on bee-attractive plants as some legislators have already proposed,’’ said Linda Jones, chair of the Sarasota-Manatee Sierra Club. “While a ban doesn’t address all of the factors that may be contributing to the bee die-off, it is something we can do something about.’’

Jones and other environmental activists also see loss of habitat as a major blow to honey bees. “Bees need forage, flowers and wild spaces to survive,’’ Jones said, but the country’s industrialized agriculture system is taking away those spaces by encouraging monoculture — the growing of a single crop over a wide area.

“The same thing happens with development that occurs in previously wild places,’’ said Jones. One reason the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are opposing Long Bar Pointe, a proposed 500-plus acre development along Sarasota Bay, is the loss of natural coastline habitat.

In many places— including Anna Maria Island and Sarasota Bay — mangroves have been trimmed and natural shorelines are hardened by seawalls. The coastline no longer proivdes the vast areas of mangroves needed for nesting birds and the foraging areas sought after by bees, according to Jones.

“When you look at the Long Bar Pointe mangroves from the bay they are high, when you look toward Tidy Island, they’re trimmed so low there’s nothing flying around there,’’ said Jones.

“Mangroves along Long Bar Pointe are 30-40 feet tall and have not been cut. Trimming mangroves can hurt their growth and the wildlife, birds and bees that need them. We have called for protection of our natural coastal resources and to move development away from the coastline. Much of the Long Bar Pointe area is in the state-designated coastal high hazard area and should not be developed,’’ Jones said.

According to Osborn, commercial beekeepers moved hundreds of hives into the area around Long Bar Pointe so bees can feed on the mangroves. “Without that forage, those beekeepers couldn’t provide bees for pollinating local farms,’’ Osborn and his wife, Karen, wrote in a letter to the Manatee County Commission.

They sent the letter so it would be considered during an Aug. 6 meeting on proposed changes to the county’s comprehensive plan requested by Long Bar developers. “People don’t think about it, but if they let this area develop, there is going to be impact on the cost, quality and availability of food they now take for granted.’’ the letter said.

Already, as development grows in Manatee County, beekeepers have lost vast areas of opportunity for hives to survive, including on Perico Island.

Whether Long Bar Pointe is developed or not, Osborn said after the meeting, he wants to spread the word that there are environmental impacts that may seem small — bee-sized even — that can have huge repercussions.

He hopes in the future, whenever large-scale projects are considered, people remember to ask: “Will this hurt the bees?’”

Cheryl Nordby Schmidt is a freelance writer based in Holmes Beach.


If you suspect you have a bee nest and want it removed, call Karen Osborn at 941-792-2112 or email kosborn7@verizon.net. Someone from Suncoast Beekeepers Association will respond, usually within about 48 hours.


How to be a friend to honey bees

• Support bee research.

• Reduce pesticide use in the lawn and garden.

• Plant bee-friendly flowers.

• Allow weeds to flower before pulling.

• Help communities protect bee habitat.

• Volunteer to plant wildflowers and other native vegetation along roadways.

• Become a beekeeper.

Sources: Jamie Ellis, University of Florida bee expert, and The Daily Green consumer guide.


Bee-friendly flowers and trees

Bee-friendly flowers and trees include: aster, avocado, black mangrove, cabbage palm, citrus, goldenrod, holly, lychee, saw palmetto, seagrape, star fruit, viburnum, white tupelo.

Sources: University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Deptartment and Lynn Osborn.

HBPD officer arrests alleged sleeping car thief

alleged car thief was arrested Sept. 5 at the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, after illegally parking the stolen vehicle and then falling asleep in the backseat.

Matthew Rodgers, 24, of Bradenton, faces a charge of felony grand theft auto.

According to the police report, HBPD Officer Mike Walker was on routine patrol just before midnight when he observed a vehicle parked after hours in the beach lot. Walker ran the tag and discovered the vehicle was reported stolen out of Sarasota.

Walker drew his firearm and approached the vehicle, at which time he observed a man sleeping in the backseat. He told the man to show his hands, exit the vehicle and lay on the ground, at which time the man was taken into custody.

According to the report, Rodgers said he paid the owner of the vehicle $3,000 and then picked up three friends for a drive to Holmes Beach. Police located and interviewed the three companions, but Rodgers told police they did not know anything about the vehicle being reported stolen.

The Bradenton Beach Police Department and Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy assisted in the incident.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer praised Walker for his due diligence, saying he did “a great job.”

Rodgers was booked into the Manatee County Jail and was held on $750 bond. As of Islander press time, he remained in custody.

Manatee-Sarasota hosting 2017 world rowing championships

The International Federation of Rowing announced Sept. 1 that Manatee and Sarasota counties will host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

The announcement was made at this year’s world championships in South Korea. The vote of the governing body of the federation was unanimous.

More than 1,500 athletes and coaches are expected to attend, along with 100,000 spectators. The championships will be held in late September.

The events will be held at Nathan Benderson Park, 2500 Honore Blvd., Sarasota. The venue, which includes covered stands for spectators, is under construction.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who chairs the Manatee County Tourist Development Council that has worked in conjunction with the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to obtain the event, said, “It’s welcome news for all of us in Manatee County.”

Whitmore said spectators and athletes will fill local hotel rooms and visit area attractions, including Anna Maria Island.

“Everyone involved in obtaining the championships is to be congratulated,” she said. “It will help diversify our tourism, and it shows our efforts to promote sports events in east Manatee County are succeeding. I’m excited,” she said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a news release it was a “great day for Florida” to receive the invitation to host the event and the games would spread the news about Florida and its attractions “around the world.”

BACVB executive director Elliott Falcione said during the next four years, the Sarasota-Bradenton area will have the rare opportunity to “showcase globally how beautiful our destination is to visit.

“It is truly great to see how two communities can jointly set a goal and accomplish that goal, by working in a diligent and unselfish manner. We believe that this type of event will no doubt generate future business and real estate opportunities in our community that is vital to our future economy; that’s what makes this accomplished objective so special,” he said.