Tag Archives: 10-19-2011

Rescuers get heroes’ reception




The adjectives flowed in the Holmes Beach City Hall commission chambers Oct. 12, when local mayors honored the six friends who rescued C.J. Wickersham, 21, of Longboat Key, from the Gulf of Mexico after a bull shark ripped open his leg.

The gathering, organized by Islander publisher Bonner Joy, brought mayors Jim Brown of Longboat Key, Mike Selby of Anna Maria, Bob Bartelt of Bradenton Beach and Rich Bohnenberger of Holmes Beach to the podium to praise “C.J.’s Heroes” and dedicate Oct. 12 to their heroics.

“You are remarkable people,” Bohnenberger, a retired firefighter, told Wickersham’s rescuers — Oceanna Beard, Connor Bystrom, Kiera Dunn, Max Gazzo, Katie Mattas and Lee White.

They were seated in the first row of seats in the chambers.

Behind them, parents, grandparents, siblings and Island well-wishers delivered applause with each mayoral statement.

“I want to thank all of you for saving one of our citizens of Longboat Key,” Brown said.

“It’s such a wonderful thing that you did,” he added.

“Congratulations,” said Bartelt, also a retired firefighter.

“Your reaction was exemplary,” he continued. In the face of real adversity, you rose to the occasion. …You did exactly what you were supposed to do. You young people are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. We all hope and wish that you will use the same courage and fortitude in your future lives.”

Selby said, “You kids are amazing.”

Irene Bystrom, whose grandson is Connor Bystrom, sat in the audience. “They’re heroes,” she said. “I’m not surprised they did what they did.”

The friends were about 6 miles offshore of Anna Maria Island enjoying an afternoon of swimming, spearfishing and picnicking, when a shark bit Wickersham.

His friends pulled him into the boat, called 911 and tended to the wound as they raced toward awaiting paramedics at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria.

Lyn Mattas, who attended the ceremony with daughter Katie, said she “was scared to death” after learning of the shark bite. But she was not shocked to learn her daughter and friends acted “so maturely, so level-headed” in the crisis.

Grandmother Joan Coons said proudly that Wickersham’s rescuers were “fearsome.”

Each mayor presented the young people — all residents or with ties to Longboat Key or Anna Maria Island — with copies of proclamations. The mayors then presented the rescuers with ribbons and medallions and showed off commemorative plaques to hang in each city hall.

After the ceremony, Wickersham entered the chambers on crutches, his left leg in a brace.

Bohnenberger welcomed Wickersham. “You’ve got some good friends,” he said.

Wickersham hugged each of his friends and, at the microphone, said, “I want to thank all these guys for saving me that day. …I’m just glad they were out there with me.”

AM comp plan amendment approved

Anna Maria now has an amendment to its 2007 comprehensive plan that allows construction in the conservation land-use zone on lots that were previously platted and accepted by the city.

The 2007 comp-plan contained language that prohibited any development in the conservation land-use zone because commissioners at that time believed there were no privately owned lots in the zone.

City attorney Jim Dye later reviewed the zone and found 11 lots accepted as “buildable” by the city before World War II.

He also found other privately owned lots in the zone with structures on them. Under the “no development” clause of the comp plan, owners of those structures could not receive a building permit for even minor renovations, such as roof repairs or window replacements.

Commissioners first approved the amendment in October 2010.

The amendment then had to be reviewed by the Florida Department of Community Affairs and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the state’s land-planning agency, before it could become law.

The DEO approved the amendment on Aug. 25 and no challenge to the amendment was presented within the allowed 30 days from the date of approval, building official Bob Welch said.

“It’s now a comprehensive plan amendment,” Welch said.

Only new structures can be built on the 11 lots and each of those lots is limited to one single-family residence, according to the amendment. Existing structures in the zone can be renovated, but construction of a new residence on lots where homes already exist is prohibited.

3-D pirate ship haunts AME Oct. 22

Once a year the Island’s young and young-at-heart descend upon the grounds of Anna Maria Elementary School dressed as goblins, wizards, witches, fairies and super heroes to raise money for the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization.

The annual Fall Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 22, and the event kicks off with a costume parade along Gulf Drive. Costumed characters will gather at 10:15 a.m. for judging in the parking lot at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. The parade will begin at 10:45 a.m. with the procession leading from the chamber to the school, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Costumes kids gather on the basketball court where winners will be announced. The festivities on campus open at 11 a.m.

Island DJ and AME-parent Chris Grumley will be volunteering his time entertaining throughout the day. Also providing music are the Island Rockers, all students or former students at AME.

The Fall Festival will feature what Islanders have come to love best — namely the haunted house, bake sale and games of chance.

A three-dimensional haunted ship will be moored inside the auditorium. For the first hour the haunted ship will be open with the lights on for younger children to enjoy. When the lights go out at noon, visitors will be given 3D glasses to view the attraction.

Food is another big draw of the festival. AME parent and Sandbar Restaurant manager Joe Rodgers will be heading up the food station with a choice of hot dogs, hamburgers or salad.

A bake sale will take place in the school’s main lobby. Parents donate the homemade goodies that are sold. Those who purchase items at the bake sale will be entered into a drawing to win a chance to create a personal flavor of ice cream at Tyler’s Ice Cream.

New this year will be the fifth-grade pumpkin patch, where pumpkins will be available for sale.

All the festival games will be on the field behind the school. Game tickets will be available in the caboose and students will have the opportunity to win prize tickets at each game booth.

The fall festival winds up at 3 p.m. and all proceeds are used by the PTO to the benefit of the staff and students.

For more information, call the school office, 941-708-5525.


Bayfest celebrates11-year success

Judy and Gus Perez, along with golden retrievers Madison and Rudy, came from Sarasota Oct. 15 to the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Bayfest, as they have in many years past. This year they had a particular purpose.

Among the tents, booths and tables lining Anna Maria’s Pine Avenue, there was a group known as Dogs on the Beach gathering signatures on a petition proposing a small area of beach on Anna Maria Island where dogs would be permitted.

The Perezes and their canine companions went to Bayfest, but also to support the cause.

Just down the street, a group of volunteers from Safe Haven Animal Rescue of Florida spent Bayfest trying to help homeless pets. By midday, a spokesperson said some of the dogs they brought to Bayfest might soon go home with new families.

“Bayfest is always a very successful event for us. It’s a relaxed and fun environment to get a chance to speak with people,” Glenda Campbell of Safe Haven said as she corralled a couple of rambunctious pups. She went on to say they received more inquiries about their animals and the organization than in years past.

Also, in a booth on Pine Avenue, the Rotary Club of Anna Maria was raising money to send World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials.

Rotary member Dawn Maley was pleased with the efforts. “Today we’ve raised more than enough to send two veterans up there,” she said.

There also was a booth for Cultural Connections, a committee of arts organizations promoting ArtsHop Nov. 11-13. Facilitator Joan Voyles said, “This is a great event for spreading the word that we have an excellent arts community here, something which many people don’t realize.”

There was plenty going on along the street throughout the day, including the classic car show — with a wide array of vehicles from all eras of motoring the roads — that stretched nearly two blocks on Pine.

There was a children’s entertainment area, a fishing contest, a pie contest, retail arts and crafts vendors, and, of course, an extensive food court that included libations and non-stop live music.

The celebration continued to 10 p.m. and the crowd, which was consistently strong throughout Oct. 15, focused on the main stage talent and a bath of pink colors across the sky at sunset.

Bayfest began Oct. 14 with a nighttime concert at Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard.

Connelly released from jail

The former bookkeeper accused of stealing as much as $500,000 from the Key Royale Club bonded out of jail earlier this month.

Holly Connelly, 30, of Bradenton, is set to go to trial in May 2012. She faces one felony charge of scheme to defraud in excess of $50,000.

She was released from the Manatee County jail on $15,000 bond, an amount reduced from $500,000 by 12th Circuit Court Judge Gilbert Smith Jr. despite objections from the prosecuting attorney.

Under Smith’s release order, Connelly is required to live at a specific address, where she must observe a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.

She also must wear an ankle monitor 24 hours a day until the disposition of her case, and was required to surrender her passport.

Smith’s order also forbade Connelly from having any contact with witnesses or alleged victims in the case.

During a brief hearing Oct. 12, the judge authorized Connelly to leave Manatee County to work in adjacent counties, but she still must abide by the curfew.

A Holmes Beach Police Department investigation into alleged embezzlement at the Holmes Beach club led to Connelly’s arrest in late July.

Authorities charge that Connelly, while employed at the Key Royale Club, stole about $400,000 over a three-year period, and that there is evidence of the theft in bank records, including videotape.

Key Royale Club officials allege that Connelly stole about $500,000, including about $100,000 in ATM withdrawals.

The months before the scheduled trial likely will involve the deposing of witnesses, evidentiary review and hearings on pre-trial motions.

HB man requests trial

A Holmes Beach man accused of raiding a neighbor’s dresser for panties has a new attorney and is demanding a jury trial, which could take place in December.

Ernest Kendler, who faces a second-degree felony charge of burglary of an occupied dwelling, had been scheduled to appear in court Oct. 11 for a plea hearing.

But Kendler is now scheduled for trial the week beginning Dec. 12.

Defense attorney Connie Mederos-Jacobs filed a motion to enter a plea of not guilty on behalf of Kendler and demanded police reports and prosecutorial information in the case.

Kendler is accused of stealing underwear from two women who live near his home on Neptune Lane.

Islander serves popcorn, politics

The Islander’s Popcorn & Politics forum takes place at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the newspaper office, 5404 Marina Drive.

The event provides an opportunity for candidates and voters to converse about Island issues before the Nov. 8 election in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.

The event, which The Islander is hosting in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Manatee County, will feature straw polls for Island offices, as well as entertainment and refreshments.

In Anna Maria, four people are vying for three two-year terms on the city commission. The candidates include incumbents John J. Quam and Dale Woodland, former Mayor SueLynn and planning board member Nancy L. Yetter.

In Holmes Beach, five people are campaigning for three two-year terms on the commission. The candidates include incumbents Pat Morton, Al Robinson and David Zaccagnino and challengers Andy Sheridan and Jean Peelen.

In Bradenton Beach, incumbent Commissioner Gay Breuler will be returned to another two-year term representing Ward 1, and former Commissioner John Shaughnessy will become mayor. After the election, a new commission will appoint someone to represent Ward 3, where no one qualified for the seat.

Holmes Beach toughens stance on rentals

Holmes Beach’s mayor has decided to get tough on owners of single-family homes that have become vacation rentals and violate city codes.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he’s had numerous complaints the past six months about loud parties after 10 p.m. at some locations and trash left at the curb on non-pickup days. After so many complaints and efforts to settle the issues informally with property owners and managers, he’s now decided direct action is needed.

Bohnenberger directed code enforcement officer Dave Forbes and building official Bob Shaffer to inspect 14 properties that were the subject of complaints.

“We want to show the residents that we are listening to them, that our intent is to have these properties come into compliance with our ordinances,” Bohnenberger said.

Shaffer said he and Forbes inspected the 14 properties on Oct. 13 to determine if they met the city code for a residence or were in violation of the code for trash left out or for being a vacation rental.

Shaffer said 10 of those houses were found to be “not in compliance” with code.

Shaffer said the mayor authorized certified letters sent Oct. 14 to property owners — with a copy to rental managers — asking them to bring their property into compliance with the code or face suspension of the city rental license and/or the code enforcement board.

Bohnenberger said when a house is built, the owner attests in a signed document that the property is either a family residence or a rental. A residential house needs to provide parking for two cars and vehicles can park on the right of way. A house that is declared a vacation rental needs one dedicated parking space for each bedroom and no parking is allocated in the right of way.

And there are other regulations that a rental property must comply with, Shaffer added.

He said he and Forbes found several houses that appeared to be vacation rentals but lacked sufficient parking.

Bohnenberger said it appears some people have attested to building a family residence, when the house was to be a vacation property all along.

“Notice of violation” was sent on Oct. 14 to the 10 offending property owners with copies to property managers, the mayor said.

“A lot of the owners don’t live here,” he said. By sending a copy of the notice to the rental manager, Bohnenberger said he hopes to expedite compliance with city codes.

Trash left on the curb on days when no trash pickup is scheduled also is part of the inspections, Shaffer said. The solution is to require rear-door pickup at those locations.

Shaffer said he did not have a breakdown of which of the 10 properties were considered a vacation rental and which were found in violation of the trash collection ordinance.

“But there will be more inspections in the coming weeks,” he said.

Bohnenberger said he and Forbes originally tried working with the managers and owners to correct violations, particularly trash left out on the curb, but that didn’t work.

If the owners do not bring the properties into compliance with city code, they can be ordered to appear before the code enforcement board, which can impose a fine of up to $250 per day for each code violation.

The list of properties found in violation Oct. 13 and the last name or corporate name of the owner are:

• 214 67th St., Hohendal.

• 4808 Gulf Drive-A, James.

• 132 50th St., Wien.

• 103 81st St., Pakbaz.

• 207 N. Harbor Drive, Derr.

• 304 65th St., Kaleta.

• 201 73rd St., Maz.

• 4913 Gulf Drive, Salinas.

• 208 72nd St., Landis.

• 101 81st St., Island Blowfish.

Shaffer said the certified letters were mailed to the property owner’s address, not the offending property address. If a rental manager for the offending location was identified, a copy was mailed to the manager’s address as well.

Flea market application heads to commission

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger has forwarded a permit application for a weekly Holmes Beach flea market at 5313 Gulf Drive to the city commission for consideration.

The application by Nancy Ambrose, who formerly managed the Bridge Street Merchants’ seasonal markets, is asking for a special event permit for each Sunday from Nov. 6 through April. The markets would be held in the parking lot in front of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

Ambrose said she has about 35 merchants who would set up booths at the market and sell a variety of items, including clothes, jewelry, crafts, food and art.

Bohnenberger said he has authority to approve the application, but elected to have the commission decide the issue because the permit is not just for one or two days.

“In the past, all special event applications went to the commission, but the policy was changed to make it an administrative decision. Normally, the special event is for one day or just a few days, but this is for each Sunday for several months. I believe that’s something the commission should discuss and decide,” he said.

The commission is expected to review the application at its 7 p.m. Oct. 25 meeting, the mayor said.

Ambrose, a Holmes Beach resident who previously organized the Bridge Street markets, said that after she left that job, she was asked by a Holmes Beach merchant to organize a similar market for the city.

She said she had approval from the city public works department for the markets, which are scheduled to start Nov. 6.

“I was surprised it is going to the commission. The mayor seemed to favor the idea when I presented it to him,” Ambrose said.

Most businesses in the Holmes Beach business district at the Gulf Drive-Marina Drive intersection are closed Sunday, Ambrose said, and said she didn’t believe the open-air markets on Sunday would be competitors.

“I thought the market would attract more people to Holmes Beach, and that can only help all businesses in the city,” she said.

A few Holmes Beach business owners, including Nicole Heslop of the Island Flea, just north of Ambrose’s proposed location, said there are already enough merchants for the city.

Heslop’s Island Flea sells fresh juices, crafts, clothing, jewelry, garden and lawn furnishings and other household items. Her business and others in the city would be hurt by the proposed market, she said.

“I am opposed to anything that would come in and hurt the Holmes Beach businesses already here,” Heslop said.

Ambrose said a representative for the Holmes Beach Sunday Market would be at the Oct. 25 commission meeting to make a presentation and answer commission questions.

If Holmes Beach rejects the permit application, Ambrose said she might look for another city where her event could be held.

HBPD investigates Eat Here burglary

The Holmes Beach Police Department is investigating a break-in Oct. 9 or Oct. 10 at Eat Here, 5315 Gulf Drive.

The break-in occurred between 11 p.m. Oct. 9 and 5:50 a.m. Oct. 10, according to an incident report from the HBPD.

An employee of neighboring Island Fitness, after noticing broken glass at the door to the restaurant, reported the crime just before 6 a.m. Oct. 10.

The police report indicates that about $3,000 was stolen.

A crow bar, collected by police for evidence, apparently was used to break into a cabinet below the cash register.

The thief or thieves took cash but left other valuables, including electronic equipment and a checkbook.