Tag Archives: 10-26-2011

2011 AME-PTO Fall Festival

Third-grader David Daigle cashed in the tickets he won playing carnival games at the Anna Maria Elementary School Fall Festival Oct. 22, for this giant gumball machine. Islander Photos: Karen Riley-Love

Scooping up some giant-sized pumpkins in the fifth-grade pumpkin patch at the AME Fall Festival are gal pals Madelyn Rogers, second-grade, Lilah Bowers, third-grade and Fiona Turner-Lathem, second-grade.

Anna Maria Elementary School Principal David Marshall is willing to take the plunge into a dunk tank to help the school raise money.

AME kindergarten student Kolbe Huffman in his Earth costume earned game tickets for having the most creative costume in his class.

 

First-grader Sam Waterman and kindergartner Tyler Kosmider lead the AME costume parade down Gulf Drive from the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce to the school campus. The students earned the privilege of serving as grand marshals by collecting the most box tops for the school.

 

Ghostbuster Andrew Burgess, right, zaps ghosts Tyler Brewer and Morgan Horesh.

AM dock to remain under compromise

38-foot-long dock at 715 Holly Road in Anna Maria — possibly built without a permit in the 1970s and recently renovated — can remain, provided owners reduce the length to 28 feet.

The odd case went before the city’s code enforcement board Oct. 17.

Building official Bob Welch said the case dates to 2010, when property owners Alan and Ann Chappell hired Wood Dock Construction Inc. to renovate the dock at the property they purchased several years earlier. The dock had fallen into disrepair, Welch said.

But the dock is a non-conforming structure. A non-conforming dock could be repaired or maintained, but a completely new dock would have to meet new city code. The permit application stated the owners would “reconstruct the dock and replace pilings as needed” and made no mention of replacing the dock.

When Welch went looking for the original permit for the dock, he couldn’t find one.

Attorney Peter Mackey, representing the Chappells, said he believes the dock was built in the 1970s. Welch and city officials indicated that was probable.

Welch said the permit that Wood Dock applied for was to “reconstruct the dock and replace pilings as needed.” Welch said he interpreted that to mean a dock repair, not a replacement structure, and he approved the permit.

Later, Wood Dock asked Welch if it could reconfigure the dock, but Welch said that would add additional area to a non-conforming structure and was not allowed under the code.

When Welch inspected the repaired dock, however, he found a new dock had been built.

Although he considered the structure non-conforming, he told Wood Dock that if the last 18 feet of the dock were removed, it could remain as a legal non-conforming structure.

“I could have viewed the dock as entirely illegal and ordered everything removed, but that was not good for everyone, so I allowed what was the maximum non-conformity, 20 feet,” Welch said.

“I was trying to be generous without hurting anyone too badly.”

The Chappells, however, declined to remove 18 feet of the dock.

That brought in code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon, who cited the Chappells for violating city code. When the Chappells failed to bring the dock into compliance after being given several notices, Rathvon said she had to bring the violation to the code board.

“That’s why we’re here,” Welch said. “They don’t want to take off 18 feet. If they did, it would comply.”

Board chair Bill Iseman asked Welch if he would have approved an application that had the word “replacement” in it. Welch responded he could not, because a replacement dock could only be 13 feet long under present city code.

Mackey argued that the code allows rotting parts of any dock to be replaced, and the approved application said Wood Dock would “reconstruct the dock and replace pilings as needed.” Nothing was done that was not in the original permit, Mackey said.

“The city is hung up on the fact that most, if not all of the dock has been replaced,” Mackey said. “But I say ‘who cares’ because the code doesn’t prohibit repair as long as you don’t change the footprint.”

Mackey said the permit was legal and the Chappells were “perfectly within their rights” to replace the pilings “as needed.”

Iseman and a majority of board members agreed that it appeared the dock was replaced, not repaired, but Dye then asked for a 10-minute recess before the board proceeded with a formal vote.

When the hearing continued, Dye said he and Mackey agreed that if the last 10 feet of the 38-foot-long dock is removed, the city would consider it a legal, non-conforming structure.

Removing 10 feet would bring the dock back to the riparian rights line, Dye said.

“It’s a win, win solution for everyone,” he said.

Iseman and the board agreed to continue the case to the board’s Nov. 14 meeting. The Chappells will use the time to remove 10 feet of the dock, and Rathvon will advise the board at the meeting if the dock complies with the agreed length.

SBEP plans $20,000 reef expansion

A donation from a sporting group will help build up an artificial reef program in Sarasota Bay.

The Sarasota Sportsmen’s Association recently donated $5,000 to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program for a reef program. The SSA is a nonprofit outdoors organization. The SBEP was founded to protect the Sarasota Bay estuary and partners with local, state and federal governments.

The SSA’s total contribution to SBEP since 2003 is $42,500.

And SBEP’s investment in artificial reefs has resulted in the placement of nearly 3,000 habitat modules on nine new reefs since 2000.

In the next year, SBEP plans to invest $20,000 to build and deploy 100 habitat modules at three reefs in the region. Modules, depending on size, range in price from $50 to $300.

The organization has a new, larger module that can provide deep cover to juvenile gag groupers.

BB names park for Chappie

Bradenton Beach commissioners last week recognized a beach-loving former mayor by putting his name on a beachfront park.

A Gulffront parcel at 1402 Gulf Drive N. will be named John R. Chappie Gulfside Park.

Chappie, who currently represents Anna Maria Island and other parts of western Manatee on the county commission, is a former Bradenton Beach mayor and commissioner and longtime resident.

Chappie still regularly attends city commission meetings, including the Oct. 20 meeting at which commissioners voted unanimously to honor him with a park.

Dozens of friends and colleagues also attended, crowding the small commission chambers named for another former mayor, Katie Pierola, to celebrate the honor.

County Commissioners Carol Whitmore, a longtime friend, and Michael Gallen and Robin DiSabatino attended, as did county administrator Ed Hunzeker and many Bradenton Beach residents and businesspeople.

Chappie teared up when he arrived to the chambers to see the crowd. He fought tears when, about an hour into the meeting, he stepped to the podium to thank the commission for the honor.

“I’m kind of blown away here,” Chappie said. “I don’t know what to say.… I’m really honored that you’d do this.”

Mayor Bob Bartelt suggested naming the park for Chappie, who “has been a stalwart of Bradenton Beach and a pillar of our community for many years.

“He has served as mayor for six years and as a commissioner before that. He has also served on various boards throughout his history of Bradenton Beach dating back to the late 1970s.”

Chappie moved to Bradenton Beach about 38 years ago from Ohio, where he grew up. He first was elected to the city commission in 1997 and then to his first term as mayor in 2001. In that office, Chappie is credited with leading the revitalization of the Bridge Street commercial area.

The city acquired John R. Chappie Gulfside Park for $300,000 earlier this year. The acquisition of the four-lot property settled a longstanding legal dispute between the city and developers who had wanted to build housing on the site.

Chappie said he was humbled, and that “so many people are involved in making Bradenton Beach what it is today.”

City CIP

Bradenton Beach residents may notice increased activity in the next month.

As a stormwater improvements project continues in the north side neighborhood near Herb Dolan Park, Avenue A will be resurfaced — from the park south.

Also, installation of new trolley shelters at several Gulf Drive locations could begin as early as this week, said public works director Tom Woodard.

Additionally, an improved public parking lot near the public works and police departments between Highland Avenue and Church Street is nearly finished.

 

BB advances dunes projects

By Lisa Neff

Islander Reporter

High winds at high tides sprayed saltwater over Island streets last week, prompting Bradenton Beach commissioners to fortify their push for more dunes projects in the coming years.

Commissioners and Mayor Bob Bartelt assembled at city hall with city staff Oct. 19 for two regular meetings — one to discuss projects in the downtown community redevelopment district and one to discuss capital improvements.

Many Islanders were discussing the weather that windy Wednesday, including the city’s elected representatives, who shared reports of fish washing into streets, saltwater pooling in gardens and waves crashing against beachfront residences.

Outgoing Commissioner Janie Robertson, who has focused on dunes restoration and construction for the past six years, said she walked the beach Oct. 19.

At the beach access at Third Street South, she observed a 20-inch drop off. “It washed away last night,” she said of the sand at the location.

She said the multi-purpose trail that parallels the shore at Coquina and Cortez beaches “is threatened in three places, because water came out to the trail and started going underneath.”

Robertson said the situation illustrated why protecting existing dunes and building new dunes on the Gulf shore is vital. Where dunes exist, they create a natural protection from damaging wind and waves.

Commissioner Ed Straight said he remembered a minor storm event years ago when waves “actually were coming up and hitting this building. It’s a good lesson.”

Commissioners said they were eager to see construction of a proposed dune line across the street from city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Construction of the dunes, a private-public project involving ELRA Inc. and the city, could begin in early 2012, according to Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby, who chairs the city CIP committee.

“We’re still doing the legal mumbo jumbo,” Cosby told commissioners. And, he added, LTA Engineers of Bradenton is working on the engineering plan.

ELRA Inc. owns the BeachHouse, 200 Gulf Drive N., and the 200 feet of beach frontage south of the restaurant. The city owns about 50 feet fronting the beach.

The partnership involves creating a dune line and adding landscaping. The BeachHouse would continue to use property that would be east of the dunes for valet parking and the city could create several parking spaces.

“It’s really going to be nice,” Cosby said.

The details — an agreement, engineering and design — still must be worked out. Under a draft agreement, the city would pay for actual improvements to its property and ELRA Inc. would pay for improvements to its land. The corporation also would pay for all the engineering, design and permitting for the project.

The city planning and zoning board, the community redevelopment agency, the city commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would review plans.

In the next year, commissioners also plan to improve seawalls on the bayside of the city and deal with at least one private-public dock in disrepair.

Island candidates have common issue

A common theme among city commission candidates at The Islander’s Popcorn & Politics event Oct. 20 was the increase in the number of vacation rental properties in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach and the accompanying problems for residents.

The candidates from Anna Maria and Holmes Beach gave 3-5 minute addresses to the estimated 75 people who showed up for free popcorn, entertainment and politicking.

Island musician Mike Sales provided entertainment and The Islander provided popcorn, refreshments and the political forum.

The consensus among Holmes Beach candidates Jean Peelen, Andy Sheridan, Pat Morton, David Zaccagnino and Al Robinson was that the vacation rental problem is growing, and they don’t want to see the city turned into a weekend vacation destination at the expense of residents.

Anna Maria candidates want to keep the village atmosphere of the city, while at the same time avoid being over-run by visitors.

Four candidates — Commissioner Dale Woodland and John Quam, former Mayor SueLynn and Nancy Yetter — are campaigning for the three seats in Anna Maria. Quam sent regrets for the forum.

The five candidates running in the Holmes Beach election also are campaigning for three available seats.

While the candidates spoke and Sales sang at Popcorn & Politics, the League of Women Voters of Manatee County conducted a straw poll.

 

Anna Maria candidates

SueLynn named her No. 1 concern the increase in vacation rentals in Anna Maria and the increase in the number of businesses since she left office in 2006.

At the same time, the city is experiencing a decline in permanent residents, she said.

Instead of a resident having a neighbor next door, SueLynn said many people now live next to a rental and have a weekend visitor as a neighbor.

She said as commissioner, she would work to strike a balance between visitors and businesses and the “quality of life” enjoyed by residents.

As commissioner, she would work to ensure residents are not ignored at the expense of tourism, and she would get all Island cities involved in addressing the vacation rental issue, not just Anna Maria.

With four years experience as mayor, SueLynn said she has the knowledge and experience to be a good commissioner.

She wants to look for new revenue streams, either from a cell tower on city property, the 500 rental units in the city, or both.

“Right now, we get nothing from renters,” she said.

Anna Maria Commissioner Dale Woodland is seeking his fifth term in office.

He proposed three voluntary plans for more revenue in the city treasury. One is a public-private partnership to finance the city’s recent purchase of the six lots across from the city pier.

Another plan is for businesses to voluntarily add 1 or 2 percent to their gross sales at the time an item or service is sold. The extra revenue would be for the city’s reserve fund.

A third idea is for residents to voluntarily give more to the city for its annual budget. The extra money from citizens would go in the city’s general fund. At present, the city gets back about 10 percent of the property taxes paid to Manatee County by a property owner.

Nancy Yetter of Anna Maria is running for the first time for public office.

A member of the city’s planning and zoning board, Yetter said her “learning curve” would not be long, and she would bring new energy and focus if elected to the commission.

Immediate problems the city must address are the trash, beach parking and beach traffic issues, she said.

As commissioner, she would work with rental agents and property owners to educate them and their renters on trash and parking issues.

The “health and safety of the citizens is of major concern,” Yetter said.

She believes in communicating with people and investigating for answers to problems. Yetter said she is a good listener, especially at budget time.

She wants Anna Maria to remain “a small-town village,” with a few guests, not “hordes” of tourists.

 

Holmes Beach candidates

Commissioner Pat Morton is running for his fifth term on the commission.

Immediately addressing the vacation rental problem, he said the time has come to stop some weekend vacationers from “terrorizing residents.”

Morton said the city is losing residents as homes are converted to vacation rentals, or new duplexes are built for  vacation rentals. This is driving some residents away from the city.

Some weekend visitors leave trash out on the street or lawn, put the trash by the curb before a scheduled pickup day, ignore the noise ordinance and create parking problems for permanent residents. Morton wants to solve those issues quickly.

“I won’t promise what I can’t keep, so I need the whole commission working together and with rental agents,” Morton said.

Holmes Beach resident Jean Peelen is a semi-retired attorney. She said she’s talked to hundreds of residents and all agree that the recent construction of giant duplex houses is “a great tragedy.”

Peelen wants to know why the duplexes were permitted. If the code needs to be changed, the commission needs to take swift action so these duplex rentals “are not permitted in the future.”

She believes the commission needs to do a better job of communicating with city residents and hold meetings with the public on specific issues. The commission needs to “reach out” to city residents.

All three Island cities should work together on common issues such as trash collection, beautification and grants, Peelen said.

Commissioner Al Robinson, seeking his second term in office, also noted that the vacation rental problem is “out of control.” Every commissioner and candidate recognizes this fact.

He said that regardless of who is elected, the new commission “will take care of it.” Unfortunately, it’s been “festering” but the mayor is taking positive action, he said.

As commissioner, Robinson said he always looks at city spending and the bottom line. He wants the city to look at the cost of the police department and would seek a raise in pay for the mayor’s position. If re-elected, he would raise those issues with the commission.

More people need to come to commission meetings to discuss problems, he said.

Robinson also wants more people to attend the West Manatee Fire Rescue District monthly meetings.

“I am the only attendee from Holmes Beach” at the WMFR meetings, he said, and WMFR district residents are “being abused” by the cost of running the fire district.

Holmes Beach commission candidate Andy Sheridan sees vacation rentals as the major problem in the city because, he said, it is affecting “our quality of life.”

Somehow, things have gone wrong for the city because affordable housing for service industry employees has disappeared, said Sheridan. It’s been torn down and turned into vacation duplexes and Sheridan doesn’t want Holmes Beach to become a “weekend party destination” at the expense of lower-income residents.

“Many people can no longer afford to live on the Island,” he said.

He wants to become involved as a commissioner because he doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines.

But very few problems are solved alone, he said. More people need to attend commission meetings.

It’s only when people start complaining to the commission that “things get done,” he said.

Sheridan said that, if elected, he would be open-minded and work with other commissioners.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino is seeking his fourth term as commissioner.

The commissioner said the vacation rental problem is “No. 1” on his list of city problems.

“I’ve seen it first-hand,” he said, and it’s time to “think of the well-being of citizens.”

He disagreed with Robinson about the police department, saying it was “a good bang for our buck,” and noted the city’s ad valorem millage rate is the lowest in the county. “And there’s no cut in emergency services,” he said.

As a commissioner, Zaccagnino said he listens to people and seeks solutions to problems.

He said that since he’s been a commissioner, he’s been involved in creating a solid police pension fund, written a grant that helped bring parks to the city and worked with the parks and beautification committee.

But the vacation rental problem is still No. 1 on his list of issues to deal with if elected to the commission.

If there are loopholes in existing building codes, the commission needs to rewrite the codes to halt more vacation rental construction, he said.

At the polls

In balloting at The Islander’s Popcorn & Politics forum Oct. 19:

• Jean Peelen placed first in the race for three seats on the Holmes Beach City Commission. Incumbents Pat Morton came in second and David Zaccagnino placed third.

Incumbent Al Robinson and challenger Andy Sheridan tied at the bottom.

• SueLynn and Nancy Yetter tied for first in the race for three seats on the Anna Maria City Commission. Incumbent Dale Woodland placed second.

Incumbent John Quam, who did not attend, came in last.

The vote that counts will be held Nov. 8, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

HB mayor passes weekly market consideration to commission

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he’s had about 10 e-mails from residents stating their opposition to a proposed Sunday market at the Tidemark Shoppes on Gulf Drive. The complaints were forwarded to commissioners to consider at their Oct. 25 meeting.

Bohnenberger had authority to grant a special-event permit for the markets, but because they were planned for Sundays from November through April, he decided to send the issue to the commission.

Most event permits are for one or two days, he said, but commissioners should decide an application for a special event every week for six months.

The commission was expected to decide on the application Oct. 25, during a 7 p.m. meeting at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Nancy Ambrose, former manager of the Bridge Street Market, submitted the special-event permit application.

Ambrose said she had about 35 vendors lined up for the Holmes Beach market, and was surprised when the mayor delayed the application approval.

She said Bohnenberger appeared to favor the idea originally.

The  market would be held in the parking lot at 5313 Gulf Drive, adjacent to Wells Fargo and fronting the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and other storefronts.

HB mayor says code inspections to continue

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said code violation notices sent Oct. 14 to 10 property owners mark the beginning of city efforts to identify code violators.

“All properties listed as rentals are going to be inspected,” Bohnenberger said.

The bad news for a vacation property owner or manager found violating city code is that the vacation rental tax license for the property is “automatically suspended,” the mayor said, and rentals at that location are not permitted until the property complies with the code.

Public Works Director Joe Duennes, who is in charge of the inspections, said he will be scheduling about 10-15 inspections each week.

Code enforcement officer Dave Forbes and building official Bob Shaffer inspected 14 properties, found 10 that violated codes for rental properties and curbside trash placement, and mailed certified letters to the owners.

Shaffer said those who received a code violation letter had 14 days to respond. If no response is received, the violation can be forwarded to the code enforcement board for action.

If the board finds a code violation, the offending party can be fined up to $250 a day until the violation is corrected and the property brought into compliance.

The crackdown began after Forbes’ efforts to informally resolve many code violations, particularly trash left curbside on non-pickup days, were unsuccessful.

At the same time, the mayor said, he was receiving more and more complaints about loud noise at rental units, cars parked on the rights of way and trash left curbside on non-pickup days.

“We had to show our residents and the offending property owners that we are not going to just ignore these violations,” the mayor said.

City code requires the owner of a new home to attest to the structure being either a residence or a vacation rental, Bohnenberger said.

A residence needs only two parking spaces and parking is allowed on the right of way.

A rental property needs one parking space not in the right of way for each bedroom, and the owner or rental agent has to obtain a vacation rental license for the property, the mayor said.

The city’s trash pickup ordinance requires curbside placement of trash no earlier than the evening before a scheduled trash pickup day. If this can’t be done at a vacation rental or home, the owner is required to pay for rear-door trash pickup service from Waste Management Inc., the city’s trash-hauling contractor.

Bohnenberger said some renters don’t know the code and leave trash curbside several days before a scheduled pickup.

Shaffer said he’s already heard from several property owners who received code violation letters. Efforts to resolve those violations are under way, Shaffer said.

He’s also had some unverified reports of houses that are vacation properties, but were declared a single-family residence, thus avoiding the rental license and the 5 percent resort tax due on all rentals of six months or less. Those houses will be inspected, Shaffer said.

But facing the Holmes Beach code enforcement board is not the end of an issue for the owner of a vacation rental property listed as a single-family home.

“These property owners not only have to face the city, but also the resort tax collection unit,” said Sue Sinquefield of the Manatee County Tax Collector’s resort tax office.

Sinquefield said when inspectors find a home that is being rented without a rental license, or question the resort tax payment, they go through records and determine how much is owed to the tax office in back taxes. Inspectors work closely with municipal and county code enforcement officers, Sinquefield said.

Property owners who declared a house a residence and claimed a homestead exemption, then made the house a vacation rental, may also face difficulty with the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office, Sinquefield said.

Duennes, who has overall responsibility for the code enforcement department, said the current spate of vacation rental inspections is focusing on transient rentals, not annual or semi-annual rentals.

Transient rental properties are those rented for 30 days or less. Houses and duplexes rented year-round or for more than 30 days are not the subject of the inspections, Duennes said.

Most of the violations found Oct. 13 were related to landscaping, which is required between a transient rental property and a residence and inadequate parking, Duennes said. A few had trash at the curb on an unscheduled pickup day.

“If you have a vacation rental, you have to have one on-site parking space for each bedroom,” he said. “You also have to have a landscaping buffer between the rental property and the next-door residence.”

The number of transient rentals built in the city has increased considerably the past six months, he said, and code enforcement officers will inspect properties built in the past 18 months to determine if the construction or usage violates city code.

Constructing a single-family home, then turning it into a vacation rental, or building an owner-occupied duplex, then renting both units for 30 days or less is a code violation. Additionally, duplexes are only allowed in the R-2 residential district, he said.

Duennes said the city has taken people at their word, but it appears some Holmes Beach property owners and builders have found a “loophole” to build transient accommodations without adequate parking or a landscaping buffer.

Duennes said inspections will be unannounced.

BB woman arrested for abuse

A Bradenton Beach woman faces an allegation of abusing two minor children.

The Bradenton Beach Police Department arrested Laura Campanello, 44, Oct. 16 in the 1800 block of Gulf Drive North.

She faces two felony charges of child abuse.

Two children were taken into child protective care.

A police report indicates that a relative visiting Bradenton Beach became concerned for the children’s well-being after witnessing Campanello’s verbal abuse.

In interviews, investigators were told that Campanello had repeatedly slapped, punched and kicked the children, leaving them bruised and battered.

Investigators also were told that the woman verbally abused the children and abused drugs.

Campanello was released from the Manatee County jail on $2,500 bond.