Tag Archives: 10-20-2010

Bayfest celebrates 10 years

The big bass boom from Bayfest beckoned Gail and Paul Junger from the beach Oct. 16.

“We were over at the beach, on the Gulf, and we could hear the music,” Paul Junger of Lakewood Ranch said. “We packed up and came over and found this big party.”

The party turned out to be the second day of Bayfest, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce celebration, now in its 10th year, on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria. The party featured a classic car show, live music, a children’s entertainment zone, a Taste of Island food court, a fishing contest and dozens of retail and arts and crafts vendors.

The event also drew a number of politicians, including those seeking votes in the Nov. 2 election.

At-large Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who is seeking re-election to a four-year term, turned out, along with Democratic challenger Sundae Lynn Knight. County commission candidate Roger Galle, seeking to represent District 4, also trekked up and down Pine Avenue.

As for Island candidates, Anna Maria mayoral candidates Sandy Mattick and Mike Selby staffed booths. So did Michael Harrington, who is running for commissioner in Bradenton Beach, and Jean Peelen, who is running for commissioner in Holmes Beach.

The local Democratic Party organization also had a presence, a booth where festival-goers could learn about candidates, pick up signs and sign a petition against oil drilling and exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This is a nice way to pick up on politics,” said Bradenton resident Shelby Whitacre, whose purse was stuffed with papers collected from Bayfest booths and whose hand held a hot dog dripping with mustard and ketchup.

“I never miss a Bayfest,” said Whitacre.

Neither has 6-year-old Meghan Whitacre.

“I like the ice cream and the music,” she said. Her hand held the string to a helium-filled blue balloon. “But everything’s fun.”

Webb: Anna Maria LDR rewrite ‘painful’ process

Make no mistake, Anna Maria Commissioner Chuck Webb told commissioners at their Oct. 14 work session, “Rewriting land-development regulations is absolutely a huge, painful process.”

Webb should know from experience. He worked for Charlotte County as an attorney during the LDR rewrite process there.

“I have done this before and it’s a lot of work,” Webb said.

Webb said when people start arguing about interpretation of the LDRs, it’s a sure sign there are “glitches” in the regulations.

But it’s a process that should have started long ago in Anna Maria, Commissioner Dale Woodland said.

Too many LDRs are unclear, too many are open to different interpretations, and there have been some problems with a number of ordinances since the revised comp plan was adopted in 2007, he noted.

Commissioner Gene Aubry agreed.

“We keep chewing on the paper and don’t get to the problem.”

Commissioners, however, were unsure where to start the process.

Commission Chair John Quam proposed a joint commission-planning and zoning board meeting to list all critical areas of the LDRs.

Former P&Z chair Tom Turner said when the LDRs were written in 1994, an ad hoc committee prepared a list of major areas of concern and presented that to the commission.

Webb said that’s how it was done in Charlotte County, but noted Anna Maria is a small city and it could be difficult to get enough volunteers for the committee.

“In Charlotte County, we had a lot of experts volunteer their time.”

Aubry agreed with an ad hoc committee creating a priority list, but Woodland said commissioners “know where the hot areas are,” such as the parking ordinance and density, and suggested they tackle those now.

Webb agreed. “Take out the hot topics. I think we can do it more efficiently than an ad hoc committee.”

Commissioners eventually agreed to have city planner Alan Garrett and staff prepare a priority list of all LDRs needing revision, in conflict with the comp plan or needing definition, while a joint commission-P&Z board meeting can address the “hot areas” that need immediate attention.

Quam scheduled a joint work session with the P&Z board for 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4.

Stoltzfus asks court to dismiss intervention

Ex-Anna Maria Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus filed a motion with the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal Oct. 15, requesting that it dismiss an Oct. 12 filing from Citizens for Sunshine Inc. pertaining to his appeal of his recall.

Stoltzfus’ attorney, Richard Harrison, said the reply from Citizens, written by attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen, should be dismissed as “the intervenor’s reply is not authorized by the Florida rules of Appellate Procedure” and Citizens was “neither ordered nor invited to make any filing in response to the order to show cause.”

A DCA ruling of Sept. 15 that lifted the stay of the recall election gave Stoltzfus 20 days to file a response why Stoltzfus’ appeal should not be moot. Stoltzfus filed his response Oct. 6.

Mogensen filed the brief for Citizens, a Sarasota organization that works for transparency in government, outlining case law that refuted Stoltzfus’ response to the DCA.

Since the “intervenor” had no authority to file a rebuttal, Harrison asked the DCA to “strike the intervenor’s reply.”

The Recall Commissioner Stoltzfus Committee, which successfully carried out the Stoltzfus recall in a Sept. 7 election, already has filed its response to the court.

As of The Islander’s press deadline Oct. 18, the DCA had not issued a ruling in the matter.

September tourism climbs 16 percent

Although September is supposed to be Anna Maria Island’s slowest month for visitors, the occupancy figures reported by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for last month show a 16.5 percent gain from September 2009.

The increase put occupancy of Island accommodations at 45.9 percent, up 16.5 percent from the 39.4 percent reported for September last year. The 45.9 percent is just 3.8 percent below the August 2010 occupancy level of 49.7 percent.

Longboat Key also gained visitors, with occupancy climbing from 30.8 percent in September 2009 to 33.7 percent for this September, a 9.4 percent increase.

Overall occupancy of all accommodations in the BACVB area for September 2010 was 42.5 percent, up 6 percent from the 40.1 percent reported for the same month last year.

While occupancy of Island accommodations soared compared to last September, mainland occupancy fell in the comparison from 46.7 percent to 43.7 percent, a 6.4 percent drop.

At the same time occupancy was increasing on the Island, the average daily rate was down, according to the BACVB figures.

The ADR on the Island for September 2010 was $131.15, a decline of 5.9 percent from the ADR of $139.38 recorded for September 2009.

For the entire BACVB area, the ADR dropped $4.32.

Last September, the ADR for the Bradenton area was $119.15, while this September, the ADR was $114.83, the BACVB reported.

The marked increase in Island tourism for September shows the BACVB marketing campaign of targeting Florida residents during the slower months of August, September and October is working, said BACVB marketing director Deb Meihls.

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman said many members were “thrilled” to have business during a month that is traditionally the slowest of the year for Island tourism.

“I think many of us have been pleasantly surprised,” she said.

“I know it’s been a boon for a number of accommodations and retail shops.”

City answers citizen complaint

A 7-year-old development dispute is reaching a judicial review at the Manatee County courthouse, where Bradenton Beach resident and property owner Ken Lohn has lodged a complaint against the city.

Lohn has been challenging a development neighboring his bayfront property in Bradenton Beach for years. Last summer, he took the city to court over the matter, which involves his allegation that the city wrongfully issued a certificate of occupancy.

But not until this fall did the court invite the city to respond to Lohn’s complaint.

The city’s response, filed about two weeks ago at the Manatee County Judicial Center in Bradenton, consists of 15 pages, plus an appendix, and it maintains that Lohn’s case has no merit.

Lohn lives on Bay Drive South and owns a nearby duplex. He has long challenged a project adjacent to his property, including the city building official’s issuance of a certificate of occupancy for a duplex at 109 Fifth St. S.

In April 2009, the Bradenton Beach Board of Adjustment recommended that the city commission deny Lohn’s complaint regarding the now privately owned Fifth Street property.

In June 2009, the city commission voted against Lohn’s complaint, which essentially is that a driveway built on an easement alongside his home is too close to his property line and too narrow.

So Lohn went to court in July 2009 to seek a judicial review of the commission’s decision.

“This complaint challenges the city of Bradenton Beach issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the multi-family condominium … despite the fact the location is in violation of express provisions of the Bradenton Beach Land Development Code,” the complaint states.

City attorney Ricinda Perry prepared the city’s response, which stated, “The city determined, based on competent and substantial evidence, that the issuance of the CO was proper and consistent with the applicable zoning and land-use regulations. Absent an abuse of discretion or a clearly erroneous decision by the city commission, the decision of the city must be upheld.”

Perry, in the response, asked the court to issue an order upholding the city decision and did not ask for oral arguments, which she said were unnecessary.

No high-rise condos on Perico – yet

The first phase of Minto Communities Inc.’s north Perico Island housing project is 48 attached dwellings in a two-story configuration, not high-rise condominiums as former owner St. Joe Co. planned in its site plan in 2004.

Tim Polk of the Bradenton Planning Department said he did an “administrative review” of the site plan for Minto and authorized construction of the attached residences. No public hearing was necessary for the site-plan modification, he indicated.

The project will be two-story units with three residences in each building. The homes will range from 1,600 to 2,000 square feet, Minto spokesperson Mike Belmont of Tampa said.

The units would be marketed and sold as condominiums.

Minto can build as many as 686 units according to the site plan that came with its 2009 purchase of the property from St. Joe.

After Minto purchased the project, then known as SevenShores, the company held off the start of construction because of poor market conditions, Minto announced at the time of purchase.

Times have changed.

Belmont said homes in the “first phase of residential construction within the property” would be advertised for sale in the low- to mid-$300,000 range.

That’s about $200,000 below St. Joe’s original price of $550,000 for a small-size condo when it first offered reservations for units in 2006. Only 19 reservations were received in a two-year span, and St. Joe closed its sales office in late 2008.

Belmont said a sales and information office is under construction in the area where the former Perico Harbor Marina was located. The office should open in November, with model units available for inspection by late January or early February 2011.

Phase One will contain only 48 of the 686 units authorized in the site plan and there are still some site-plan issues to be revised and approved by Bradenton officials for future phases, he said.

Belmont said he didn’t know if other phases would involve high-rise buildings or if the company would stay with attached homes throughout the project. The company has 333 acres for the development.

The SevenShores name will be dropped, Belmont said, but a name has not been announced.

Also in the approved site-plan is construction of a 119-slip marina, retail space and a restaurant. However, no start for construction date has been set.

One of the major objections to the project when St. Joe received site-plan approval was its plan to build 10-story high-rise condominium buildings on Perico Island.

Numerous environmental and civic groups along with many Islanders objected that high-rise buildings would spoil the natural view of Perico Island and the shoreline, along with damaging the habitat of a number of birds and wildlife on Perico Island. Another concern was the amount of traffic that would be added to the evacuation route on Manatee Avenue.

Court affirms Cumber’s conviction

Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal affirmed earlier this month a lower court ruling that sent William J. Cumber back to prison.

The former Islander was returned to prison in May 2009 for violating probation on an arson conviction.

Cumber challenged the prison sentence, but even his attorneys disputed his reasons for an appeal.

Cumber, formerly of Anna Maria, was sent back to prison to serve a 13.5-year sentence for violating probation on a 2006 arson conviction.

Cumber admitted to violating probation, but said there were mitigating circumstances that should result in leniency in his sentencing.

The events that drove him to violate probation — to be caught in another county behind the wheel of a truck without a valid license — are directly linked to the investigation into missing Haley’s Motel-owner Sabine Musil-Buehler, according to Cumber.

Cumber was Musil-Buehler’s boyfriend in November 2008, when she was reported missing. He provided authorities with her last known whereabouts. He said the two of them were in their rented apartment on Magnolia Avenue in Anna Maria Nov. 4, 2008, when they argued and she left.

As authorities investigated her disappearance as a likely homicide and the arson fire that destroyed a building at the motel complex in late 2008, Cumber was repeatedly questioned and eventually identified as a person of interest in the cases.

Cumber said he despaired. He lost work, lost friends, lost his apartment and eventually, he told the court last year, he felt compelled to leave the area.

Cumber was arrested Dec. 22, 2008, near Ocala in Marion County. He was driving a pickup truck with an expired tag and without a valid license. He served 10 days in the Marion County jail before being transferred to the Manatee County jail to face a judge on a charge that he violated probation by leaving the county without permission and for being arrested on a new offense.

Last spring, Cumber admitted to violating probation and was sentenced to 13.5 years in state prison.

Soon after, he appealed the sentencing to the district court.

In the spring, Cumber’s lawyers — public defenders James Marion Moorman and Richard P. Albertine Jr. — filed what is known as an Anders brief, which indicated their position that the appeal lacks merit.

Cumber had asked for relief from the court on the grounds that his conviction was obtained by the unconstitutional failure of the prosecution to disclose evidence favorable to him, that the conviction violated the protection against double jeopardy and that the court lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence.

Further, Cumber alleged mental scare tactics, persuasion, neglect by his probation officer, opinionated prosecution, publicity swayed opinion, cruel and unusual punishment and improper counsel.

Regarding the last allegation, Cumber alleged, that his “lawyer didn’t argue certain argumentative arguments that would of possibly helped the judge understand certain over-exaggerated circumstances presented by the prosecution.”

But Cumber’s defense attorneys in the case wrote to the district court, stating, “Despite a thorough reading of the record on appeal and a review of the law on arguable points, the undersigned appellate counsel can find no meritorious argument to support the contention that the trial court committed significant reversible error in this case.”

Earlier this month, the district court issued its finding affirming the circuit court’s ruling. The court did not write an opinion.

Anna Maria man arrested in pain clinic bust

Tampa police arrested Dr. John Lanning, 75, of Sycamore Avenue in Anna Maria for allegedly operating a pain management clinic without a license.

A relatively new Tampa city ordinance toughens rules for pain clinics. Several clinics were closed for allegedly operating as pill mills for patients with questionable prescriptions.

Islander news partner Mike Quinn, publisher of NewsManatee.com, contributed to this report.