Tag Archives: 10-30-2013

P&P draws straw poll voters

The Islander’s annual Popcorn and Politics event for candidates and voters from each island city drew a good crowd Oct. 25, to the newspaper’s new offices at 5406B Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

Also attending were members of the Manatee County branch of the League of Women Voters. Rosalie Schaffer, Kathleen Dodge and Lesley Jacobs, offering attendees straw poll ballots for each of the island’s three municipal elections.

The straw poll appeared to attract a large volume of voters at the onset, possibly because some interested parties solicited a voting bloc  to tip the scales. Of note were two Holmes Beach elected officials — Mayor Carmel Monti and Commissioner Marvin Grossman — and others who voted and left the event without hearing introductions or speeches from the candidates.

The only candidates not present were Commissioner Ric Gatehouse, and Anna Maria commission candidate Carol Carter. Carter said she was hosting a family event that was planned ahead of Popcorn & Politics.

Each candidate presented his or her views and gave a brief description of their background.

John Shaughnessy is seeking re-election as Bradenton Beach mayor. He said he wants to continue the work his administration and the current commission have ongoing. That includes procuring up to $1 million in funding from the Manatee County Tourist Development Council to fully repair and reopen the city pier.

Also seeking the mayoral post is former Bradenton Beach Commissioner Bill Shearon. He noted the city failed to collect 11 months of payments from the former city pier restaurant and, not only was the public not informed, the city was unaware of the arrears. He wants to focus on the budget and lowering taxes, responsible spending and improved department planning.

Running against Gatehouse for Bradenton Beach commissioner is Janie Robertson. She previously served as a commissioner for six years before being termed out of office. She spent two years on the sidelines and is now seeking a return to the commission. Robertson said people know how straightforward she is. She also wants more public input and comments on decisions of the city.

She said Gatehouse has done a good job, but she wants more for the city.

Holmes Beach has five candidates for three two-year commission seats in its municipal election.

Incumbent Jean Peelen said she enjoys public service, but not the politics involved. She said she wants to keep the commission energized, much as it has been the past year.

Political newcomer C. Melissa Williams said she wants to return harmony to Holmes Beach between visitors and residents and the business community and city hall.

She said her established record of public service to a variety of nonprofits, including the island chamber of commerce, Rotary club and historical society are positive proof of her commitment to the community.

A second political newcomer, Carol Soustek, said she wants to join the team presently serving the city. She wants to see affordable housing for people who work on the island. She said she would not give in to the developers who are taking away the community.

Commissioner Pat Morton is seeking his sixth term as Holmes Beach commissioner.

He said people know him and know they can always talk to him about problems. He wants to stop the lawsuits against the city and said he is seeking another term on behalf of the residents. He said he is here for the city, the citizens and the community.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino also is seeking re-election in Holmes Beach.

He said he is the voice of reason on the commission. He said some current commissioners want him out because he speaks the truth. He said the attitude of “my way or the highway” should not be used by the administration or other commissioners. He said he gives balance and fairness to the commission, and he is “not under the thumb of the mayor.”

Anna Maria has four candidates for three commission seats.

Doug Copeland, who was appointed to the commission in June, said he originally thought he would not seek election but, after four months of service and seeing some of the good work he and the commission have accomplished, he wants another two years. He said he obtained a master plan for Gulf Front Park and is applying for a grant to improve the park. He served on the planning and zoning board for more than 20 years.

Commissioner Dale Woodland is seeking his sixth term. He said he loves the job of helping the city improve itself. He said he is always upfront with people and does not let disagreements bother him. There are many issues common to all three island cities, but the solutions are going to be different in each city.

Political newcomer Michael Jaworski said he is running for office because he was “embarrassed” after nobody ran for mayor in 2012. He said he wants to keep the “family-friendly atmosphere” of Anna Maria with planned growth, such as the city has experienced on Pine Avenue.

   

League of Women Voters’ straw poll results

ANNA MARIA COMMISSIONER

1. Carol Carter

2. Dale Woodland

Tie: Doug Copleland and Michael Jaworski

 

BRADENTON BEACH MAYOR

John Shaughnessy

 

BRADENTON BEACH COMMISSIONER

Ric Gatehouse

 

HOLMES BEACH COMMISSIONER

1. Pat Morton

2. Carol Soustek

3. Jean Peelen

 

        Official election results will be posted online shortly after the polls close Nov. 5.

Anna Maria voters face a tough decision:

Four good candidates are seeking to serve the city and there are only three seats to fill.

Commissioner Dale Woodland has served the city well, and while it may seem he comes to a point from a long distance, he eventually gets there.

Newly appointed Commissioner Doug Copeland was at first reluctant to step onto the dais, but it seems he’s found a comfort zone. His longtime public service on volunteer boards is admirable and it should continue.

Carol Carter also put her name in the ring for the appointed seat, but stepped aside. Now she wants to serve, and her past experience in management and fundraising could be a great asset to the commission and to the city.

And along comes political newcomer Michael Jaworski, also ready to serve and give back to the city he loves. He brings a refreshing sense of logic and street smarts that would serve the city well.

The voters can’t go wrong, but we like the combination of strengths offered by Woodland, Carter and Jaworski.

Bradenton Beach doesn’t have such easy choices. Of two candidates for one seat on the commission, and two for mayor, all have served the city.

And all have served well.

It seems former Commissioner Janie Robertson is frustrated from being on the outside at city hall, and she now realizes, so is the public. For too many years, the city has quashed public opinion and charged through issues by relying on staff and its attorney.

That’s where former Commissioner Bill Shearon comes in. He promises to bring city government back to the people, and to administer the government.

While we’re pleased that Mayor John Shaughnessy has had great success with obtaining pier repair funds in the past week, it’s been business as usual for too long.

It’s time both the city and its staff had a manager.

Incumbent Commissioner Ric Gatehouse was appointed to fill Robertson’s seat almost two years ago when no one stepped up to run for office from Ward 3.

He’s made a positive impression with logical ideas and progress on some issues, but we think he erred on the cell tower.

The former ordinance and the contract crafted by one of the country’s leading cellular communication companies went shamefully by the wayside largely because Gatehouse misconstrued and criticized the terms.

We recommend a vote for Robertson and Shearon in Bradenton Beach.

 

My momma said…

My mom, like just about everyone’s mom, told us kids if we had nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. I used the same advice with my children.

I took her advice to heart. Still do. But I also believe in putting the truth on the table.

The election in Holmes Beach took a sour turn in the past few weeks, and spelling out the circumstances is the only way to explain it.

It’s the first time in almost 22 years of newspapers and annual elections that I’ve seen partisan-style, angry and twisted political tactics and attacks enter our municipal races.

I suppose it got its start with last year’s election, which saw a pack of candidates rise up to defeat three incumbents on a platform of curtailing rental homes and tourism. Regulations were revved up and enforcement was stepped up, but it was rental agents putting their best practices to work that really had a positive effect.

City spending is up … way up. But much of it flies under the radar of the commission. The body of government that legislates now bows to the whim of the mayor, whose job should be to carry out the commission’s whims.

Just as this year’s elections kicked off, there was rumbling.

We heard the mayor and Commissioner Marvin Grossman — both just one year into their political jobs — were on the outs.

Then Grossman said he wanted Commissioner David Zaccagnino out, although he almost always was on the down side of a 4-1 vote. Grossman wanted harmony.

Hold that thought.

Grossman’s wife, a seasoned Democratic party campaigner, inserted herself in the campaign, solicited a candidate to target Zaccagnino at the polls and Marvin Grossman threw his support to the newcomer in the hopes of ousting the 8-year seated commissioner.

On learning that Zaccagnino had inquired to the city attorney — a discreet and proper inquiry — about the Grossmans’ properties and a possible improper homestead exemption, the Grossmans went on the attack.

The attorney told the mayor, who, with his assistant and the police chief, launched an inquiry, followed by a public memo detailing the Grossmans’ personal information.

The mayor’s public airing of the matter became fuel for their fury and the campaign. Instead of directing their wrath at the administration, they worked a political angle.

The fact the Grossmans had a proper homestead was easily determined by a call to the property appraiser’s office. The matter did not need to be addressed further.

So along comes old-style partisan party politics to nonpartisan Anna Maria Island, while in past years, the island’s seated commissioners only campaigned for, not against colleagues.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth, meanwhile, stacked up in favor of another incumbent, 10-year Commissioner Pat Morton. That left incumbent Jean Peelen, seemingly, to fend for herself.

Peelen had a contemptuous start three years ago and some questionable communications before she lapsed last year in a public attack on the wrong builder — literally. It resulted in a libel suit that remains in the courts, and lacking an apology to the intended subject for her mistruths and a lack of contrition, we don’t recommend a vote for her.

Meanwhile, politics came to The Islander’s Popcorn & Politics Oct. 25 event, where the game changed to soliciting votes to tip the scales on the straw poll.

Well, that’s not how we play the game on Anna Maria Island. At least, I hope not.

Marvin Grossman has a better handle on city issues than he does on politics, and he’s not on the ballot this year.

And so you and the Grossmans don’t get me wrong, I love Jane and enjoy frequent discussions with Marvin. I just think this situation went sideways, and it’s likely a defensive reaction that went too far.

Zaccagnino has done an honorable and diligent job for the city, watching over spending and the employee pension plans through tough times, among other attributes. There’s no lack of experience for him.

Maybe he doesn’t agree on everything all the time, but at least he’s honest and direct in his dealings.

Zaccagnino deserves to be re-elected.

Don’t play games with city government. Vote to preserve the integrity of the city.

The Islander recommends Holmes Beach voters choose three fair, deserving, honest people: Zaccagnino, Morton and C. Melissa Williams.

        — Bonner Joy

HB shade meeting sparks Sunshine investigation

You might say a controversial tree house cast an ominous shadow at Holmes Beach City Hall. Or the sun don’t shine under that tree. Or more trouble grows …. But you get it.

David Levin, a Sarasota attorney representing Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran in the Holmes Beach matter of a tree house on the beachfront of Angelino’s Sea Lodge, has alleged a Sunshine Law violation against the city of Holmes Beach.

The state attorney’s office has assigned the case to the Bradenton Police Department following a recusal by Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer, an employee of the city undergoing scrutiny.

Levin contacted the state attorney’s office in early September following an Aug. 29 shade meeting called by city attorney Patricia Petruff to discuss litigation strategy related to the tree house, which has since been found to be in violation of city, state and federal codes.

Levin is appealing the city’s code enforcement decision in the 12th Judicial District. Hazen and Tran also are pursuing their right to file a petition demanding either approval of the tree house by the commission or a special election to have Holmes Beach voters decide its fate.

However, the city has filed legal action asking for a declaratory judgment on statute language that defines a building order before proceeding with any action. The statute states that a referendum cannot be held on a matter under the definition of a building order and the city maintains a required building permit is a building order.

The tree house matter has gone in almost as many directions as the branches of the Australian pine tree that supports it and, while the city can hold a closed meeting to discuss litigation, how the meeting is noticed to the public also matters.

Levin points out that the city met under the auspice of “litigation strategy,” according to its public notice.

The Sunshine Law provides that public officials can meet in closed session to discuss “litigation expenditures.”

Levin is arguing litigation strategy is not a valid reason for the city’s shade meeting.

This is the third such Sunshine Law issue that has surfaced in recent weeks for Mayor Carmel Monti’s administration.

One violation is alleged to have occurred at the onset of meetings by an advisory committee formed to address improvements around the intersection of Marina and Gulf drives. The committee met July 8 without public notice.

Monti was informed by city staff prior to the July meeting that it was required to be public, but the group and Monti proceeded to hold the meeting. They have since been properly noticed.

Another Sunshine Law issue occurred during an Oct. 8 city commission meeting when Islander publisher Bonner Joy challenged a potential illegal communication between Monti and Commissioner Judy Titsworth.

Joy addressed the commission during public comment at the end of the agenda items, and said the public witnessed a note being passed from Monti to Titsworth. Monti said nothing, while Titsworth adamantly denied the existence of a note.

But Titsworth later apologized in a letter to the newspaper and the public, saying she was reminded by the mayor that he had, in fact, shown her a note at the meeting.

The note stated, “Everybody is being nice tonight. What’s up with that?”

Joy stated a public records request at the meeting, and again the following day to the city clerk, after which Monti produced the note.

Joy maintains whispers among commissioners and the mayor and passed notes are improper at public meetings where the citizens in the gallery are entitled to know what is being said or shared in notes.

$1M matchup: Bradenton Beach meets TDC

 

‘This pier is a symbol of our city. It’s the first thing people see coming over the bridge. It’s important to all of us.’ — Mayor John Shaughnessy

 

Bravo TV host Patti Stanger matches single millionaires with their true love for a lifetime partnership on “Millionaire Matchmaker.” Stanger might like the local angle of two government entities finding their way to a similar matchup.

A long-delayed project to restore the Historic Bridge Street Pier will now get a big million-dollar boost from the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy approached the TDC in early September for assistance after it became apparent that, due to financial constraints, the city would have to eliminate features from the pier.

The city devoted about a $1 million to the project, but did so about two years ago. Since then, delays in the project due to storms, priorities and other factors piled up, while construction prices have risen to the point of having to simplify the design, ultimately changing the pier design.

Some changes being considered were reducing the number of copulas, using less expensive materials that have a shorter life span and, at one point, the city struggled with retaining the T-end of the pier — what some might consider the most important feature for fishing and long walks over the water.

Shaughnessy said the goal of the project was never to enhance the look of the pier, rather to maintain the charm and appearance of a historical symbol of the city.

Meanwhile, the mayor began meeting with members of the TDC and other Manatee County government officials. At an Oct. 21 meeting of the TDC, Shaughnessy was informed that the city would receive matching funds of up to $1 million.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Shaughnessy. “We had $1 million to do the pier and with rising costs, I wasn’t sure if we could do a true restoration of the pier. We started cutting things here and there, but now we don’t have to.”

Shaughnessy said it’s a win-win for the city and the TDC.

“We both have $1 million available for this project, but with the partnership in place, it won’t cost us that much. Say the city puts in $650,000 and the TDC does the same. We both will have money left over.”

The TDC has strict guidelines in allocating tourist development tax funds — the 5 percent tax on accommodations of six months or less. State statutes limit the TDC to investing tax funds in tourist-related projects, of which the pier qualifies.

Once the TDC determined it could assist the city, the process was quick.

“I was surprised that this was put on such a fast track,” said Shaughnessy. “I know how government works and thought this would take awhile, but the TDC was on board with this right away and I’m thankful for that.”

The city can now pursue its original construction plans, and use composite materials that will give the pier a longer life span. The project includes the replacement of 151 pilings, replacing the wooden deck and implementing solar lighting.

More importantly, Shaughnessy said, even though better materials are being used, the “look of the pier isn’t going to change at all. This pier is a symbol of our city. It’s the first thing people see coming over the bridge. It’s important to all of us.”

The city had been frustrated over long delays in a proposed timeline that now is two months past the pier’s projected completion, which was by mid-August.

“Everything happens for a reason,” said Shaughnessy. “If we didn’t have those delays, we would probably have a different looking pier. You can’t imagine how excited I am about this.”

The city has been working on a request for proposal based on the possibility that there would be some design changes. Shaughnessy said it won’t take long to adjust the RFP. “We’ll have it out soon,” he said.

 

 

Bradenton Beach cooks up final pier restaurant lease

Ordering! Perhaps by January, workers will be hired by new operators and pier diners will be ordering from a new menu on Bradenton Beach’s historic pier.

Bradenton Beach commissioners voted 4-0 at an Oct. 24 special city commission meeting to pass the first reading of an ordinance accepting a lease agreement between the city and a new tenant for the city pier restaurant.

Vice Mayor Ed Straight was absent for the vote.

Negotiations between the city and Cast and Cage restaurant operators have been ongoing with some minor changes occurring at the meeting in preparation for a Nov. 7 final reading.

After two meetings of working out lease concerns on both sides of the table, restaurant operator Roland Pena had few issues to address before commissioners moved on with the first reading of the ordinance. He did, however, bring up a negotiation point that was not clarified for commissioners.

Pena said that during negotiations, it was agreed that if the restaurant was damaged and closed due to influences outside of his control, such as storms, the city would consider abating monthly rent fees.

Further, he said, should the restaurant be granted an abatement and later default on the lease, it would be required to pay the back rent for the time it was abated.

“It says we have to go back and pay the whole thing,” said Pena.

Mayor John Shaughnessy said if an abatement should be granted, then the renter should not be required to pay for that period of time.

“An abatement is an abatement,” the mayor said. “If the roof flies off and you need six months and default a year later, the fact remains that we agreed to the abatement. I don’t see why you would have to pay that back. What’s the point of giving an abatement if, in the end, you have to pay it back?”

Commissioners Gay Breuler and Ric Gatehouse agreed, but city attorney Ricinda Perry said such a provision is allowable under state law.

“The way I viewed it is we negotiated to abate in good faith, but if they default for some (other) reason then it becomes a bad tenant situation,” said Perry. “Then the city should come back and say, ‘We negotiated in good faith and now you aren’t operating in good faith.’”

Perry allowed, however, that it was a policy decision for the commissioners to make.

Gatehouse said it should be stricken from the lease.

“In a sense of fair play, if there is a legitimate reason to give them an abatement and a year a later they default for some other reason, I think making them pay that back is piling on,” he said. “We make a deal and we should stand up to our end of the bargain.”

Perry said she would strike it from the lease before the final reading at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, city commission meeting.

Highlights of the agreement include a two-year term for the lease with the right to renew at two years, three years and five years — a total of 12 years.

The tenants agree to pay a base rent of $5,500 a month through the first two years, $5,665 for the second two years and $5,835 a month for the remaining periods.

The restaurant also will pay 12 percent of gross revenue above the base rent and an undetermined maintenance fee.

Pena said he hopes to have the restaurant open by mid-January, but his group is shooting for an earlier date.

Rusty Roberts, who will operate the bait shop, said the kiosk, as well as the harbor master’s office, should be open within 30 days of the lease being signed. The harbor master’s office is being subleased to a charter boat company that will launch tours from the pier.

Perry said negotiations with Pena went well.

“I have done a lot of negotiations that have been difficult and highly unsuccessful,” said Perry. “I just want to say that I found him to be very responsive and easy to negotiate with. He never waited to the last minute and always came prepared for a clarification he needed.”

Pena said he knows the first year will be rough, but is excited that the island community is showing strong support for his plans.

He said his cousin is a graduate of a New York culinary school and owns two restaurants.

“He’s going to come to work with our chefs for the first 90 days to help get the menu going,” said Pena. “The amazing thing is that everyone from the island is reaching out to my family.

“We have a lot of support. Everyone wants to see Bridge Street succeed again and so do we.”

Property owner wants free fence from Anna Maria

Barbara Nally, owner of a vacation rental at 110 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, is asking the city to pay for a privacy fence between the home and a yet-to-be-completed walkway carrying pedestrians to the Sandbar Restaurant and a public beach access.

Attorney Leah Ellington, representing Nally, said work has begun on a drainage ditch along the west side of the Nally property where the walkway is proposed, even though the site plan has not received final approval.

Ellington stated, “If the site plan is not approved, even if work has already commenced, the easement will be moved back to its prior location. This plan is presumptuous, inefficient and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

However, Ellington said Nally would “cease fighting the conversion of the ditch into a pedestrian walkway” if the city “pays for a privacy fence between her house and the ditch, subject to her approval, and 6 feet high, and maintained by the city for as a long as Mrs. Nally owns the house.”

Mayor SueLynn said she would bring the matter to the attention of the city commission. She also planned to ask city attorney Jim Dye for an opinion.

The mayor said she was “unaware” the city had stirred up another fight with Nally.

The Sandbar — which is paying for the project — is providing for an improved pedestrian-only pathway to the restaurant and a public beach access from its parking lot, culminating on the north side of the restaurant. The restaurant has agreed to maintain the walkway and stormwater drainage swale at its expense, even though the swale is city property.

Nally opposed the pedestrian walkway when first presented the proposal by the Sandbar. The project must pass a final site-plan review by city commissioners.

AM commission reverses, rejects filing court action

Vacation property owners and managers in Anna Maria can call off their attack dogs. There won’t be a legal battle over vacation rentals after all.

In a 3-2 vote at the Oct. 24 meeting, commissioners reversed a September decision to file a court action for declaratory relief to determine if the city’s hotel/motel ordinance could be applied to single-family home vacation rentals.

In September, commissioners voted 4-1 to proceed with declaratory relief, but city attorney Jim Dye said the city would need specific examples of code violations to pursue the owners of those properties as defendants in a declaratory relief judgment.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb, who brought the concept to the dais, said he researched the city’s database of code violations for examples of two or more complaints against a vacation home in the past year.

Locations that fit that criteria were 111 Gulf Drive, 780 Jacaranda St., 804 N. Shore Drive, and 314, 505, 509 and 514 Magnolia Ave., Webb said.

Webb said he found a few other properties with two or more violations written the past year, but the owners were foreign nationals. It would be difficult to proceed with a court case against them, he said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland, however, said he was no longer in favor of “moving forward” with legal action.

He agreed there were some problems at a few vacation rental properties, particularly noise issues. But the use of best practices by owners and managers of vacation rentals seems to be working, Woodland said.

“I applaud the effort, but is this where we want to go?” he asked of the legal action.

Attorney Scott Rudacille of the Bradenton law firm of Blalock Walters P.A. said he represents the owners of several properties identified by Webb as problem rentals.

But, Rudacille said, all of the complaints were settled amicably and no violation letters were sent from the city to owners about the complaints, which were made against tenants at the properties.

Seeking judicial relief is “just wrong,” he said, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Additionally, if the city were to obtain a favorable declaratory relief, it would only be against the specific property owners named as defendants. Each time the city wanted to enforce the hotel/motel code against an owner, it would have to file another declaratory relief action.

Rudacille also said the commission voted in January to encourage use by property owners and managers of the best practices rules and those seem to be working well.

Commissioner Doug Copeland, who originally wanted to postpone any vote while he had a chance to study the issue, said he was against pursuing court action.

“I’m torn,” he said. “I’m just not sure it’s the right approach to the problem.”

Commissioner Gene Aubry, who voted against the measure when it was presented in September, remained opposed.

But Commissioner Nancy Yetter disagreed.

“We have to protect what we have. Let’s stand firm and do it,” she said.

Resident Larry Albert, who owns a vacation rental, called the issue an enforcement problem, noting that one rental unit had amassed half the complaints on Webb’s list.

Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration, a resident and vacation property owner, suggested it’s the approach — threatening a lawsuit — to the problem of noisy vacation renters that appears wrong.

Webb said the city has been “kicking this can down the road” for a long time. “We’re just not enforcing our own codes.”

Following the 3-2 vote not to proceed, Woodland wanted to make another motion about vacation rentals, but Webb said, “It’s a dead issue.”

The commission then moved on to other matters.

Commissioners unanimously adopted a master plan prepared for Gulf Front Park by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

With adoption of the plan, Copeland said he will pursue a $30,000 matching grant to clean out invasive plant species in the park. He also said there are some private donors who might assist the city. However, Copeland emphasized, no mature Australian pines will be removed.

Mayor SueLynn then honored planning and zoning board chair Tom Turner on the occasion of his 90th birthday with a proclamation and plaque. She named Oct. 25 as “Tom Turner Day” in the city.

The city staff also prepared a banner in Turner’s honor. Turner first bought property in Anna Maria in 1968 and has been on the P&Z board for more than 20 years.

City officials also honored Aubry with a standing ovation, as this was his final meeting as commissioner. Aubry, whose term is up, is not seeking re-election.

SueLynn thanked him for all the volunteer architecture work he’s done for the city. He promised to stay involved with the development of the city park at the east end of Pine Avenue.

Commissioners then continued the second reading of the off-street parking ordinance and the stormwater management ordinance amendment to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14.

The November meeting will be preceded by the newly elected commission’s swearing into office and an organizational meeting, following the results of the Nov. 5 municipal election.

Island sea turtle volunteers sing finale on high note

It’s almost as if the sea turtle population in the Gulf of Mexico is singing its finale for a long, successful concert season.

While sea turtle nesting season doesn’t officially end until Oct. 31, the final recorded nest of the 2013 season hatched and was excavated the morning of Oct. 22 following an Oct. 20 hatching.

The nest was located at the end of Oak Avenue in Anna Maria and the turtle hatching marks the conclusion of what Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox called “The biggest, best and busiest season in our history.”

Virtually every record fell this year. In 2012, the prior record was shattered with 362 nests, while AMITW recorded 370 nests this year. More than 12,000 hatchlings made it to the Gulf of Mexico during the 2012 season, but Tropical Storm Debby is blamed for approximately 100 lost nests.

At an average of 80 eggs per nest, an estimated 8,000 hatchlings were subsequently lost to the storm.

Mother Nature gave the sea turtles good weather this year and the result was a record-breaking number of hatchlings with 23,234 sea turtles scampering to open water, almost doubling last year’s record.

AMITW also recorded a record number of false crawls this year with 360.

The 2012 season caught AMITW and other turtle watch groups across the coastal counties of Florida off guard, but back-to-back booming seasons has set expectations high for sea turtle conservation.

Fox said it is too soon and not enough data available to make any conclusions as to the increased number of nesting turtles, but the consensus is that education, dark beaches, public involvement and responsible fishing practices are key to the sea turtle success story.

A beach renourishment project is expected to take place late this year from the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach south to Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, but Fox said she isn’t concerned about renourishment having an impact on the 2014 season, which begins May 1.

“We are still preparing for another busy year,” she said. “Everyone says beach renourishment keeps nesting down, but we saw a different story in 1997 when Coquina Beach was renourished and we had more nests.”

Fox said she is concerned about what renourishment will do for disorientation events when hatchlings emerge from the nest seeking the twinkle of stars and the reflection of the moon on the Gulf of Mexico for guidance to the water.

“Sky glow is becoming an issue on the island,” she said. “We had several disorientations as far as Section 3 — from 68th Street in Holmes Beach to Pine Avenue in Anna Maria — this year, where hatchlings took off toward the glow of the lights in Bradenton Beach.”

Fox said with renourishment, the beach is expected to be wider and higher, and she is concerned that the sky glow issue will become more prevalent.

She is bringing in an expert on the issue before next season to review any potential problem and possibly make a presentation to island officials.

While thoughts already turn to next season, this season concluded on a high note.

Fox pulled 80 eggs from the hatched nest — 56 of them hatched, while 24 were deemed to be infertile.

She said it’s not uncommon for the late nests to have very few hatchlings. A recently excavated nest had nothing but infertile eggs, Fox said.

She said the females need to purge their remaining eggs, “so to have 56 hatchlings out of the last nest is great.”

While AMITW will close the record books on 2013, Fox said sea turtle season doesn’t end until Oct. 31 and cautions people to be wary of the possibility that one or two more unrecorded nests may still be on the beach.

And, while sea turtle season ends, AMITW is gearing up to bring its full attention on its other obligation: shorebird monitoring.

Fox said the first round of shorebird nesting should begin within a couple of weeks and monthly bird counts will begin soon.

“We are going to monitor the birds this year much like we do the turtles,” said Fox. “We are using the same sections we use for turtles and we will have our volunteers walk the sections in the same way.”

40-year repair shop must make way

Barry Grooms says he has concerns abut the volume of misinformation circulating about his commercial property in Holmes Beach and the termination of his tenant’s lease on Jan. 2.

He also says he “feels bad” that Island Auto Repair will need to relocate from 5608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

“There is a lot of misinformation being spread around about the lease. Some of the stuff has been crazy,” Grooms said.

A few months ago, he told Island Auto Repair owners Judi and Aaron Rickerson that their lease would not be renewed. Grooms said he and his family have been planning a new project at their property for several years.

“I can definitely say it’s not condominiums. That’s one of the crazier things I’ve heard,” he said.

He’s also heard people blame him for putting the shop out of business.

That’s just not true, Grooms said. Island Auto Repair can relocate. And he’s allowing them to take the large equipment that was leased with the shop.

Judi Rickerson said the family would like the business to stay on Anna Maria Island, but it might not be possible if a location can’t be found.

Rickerson first worked at the Grooms’ shop, then took over the space when the Grooms’ family retired its business, Grooms Motors and Automotive.

Judi Rickerson said she offered to pay Grooms twice the monthly rent to be allowed to stay, but that Grooms told her money was “not the issue.”

“I feel like we’re getting a raw deal,” Rickerson said. She said Grooms came to her in early October to tell her the lease would not be renewed. She believes he could have told her sooner.

“I’m sure he’s known about the project for some time,” she said.

But she also told The Islander recently she owes more than $10,000 in back taxes, and was struggling to pay the shop’s bills.

She said she is thankful that so many in the community have offered to help her raise funds to relocate.

And it’s not like Grooms just arrived in Holmes Beach or just bought the property.

“I do feel bad for them. My mom rented them space years ago because they were friends,” he said.

The Grooms family operated at the location from 1968 to 1998. Barry Grooms’ said after his parents retired, they leased the entire shop to Rickerson.

Another issue Grooms said is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has found some contaminants in the ground that must be removed.

It’s not the first time he’s had to pay to have chemicals and other materials cleared from the property.

“We have spent thousands of dollars to mediate the issue with the DEP and are continuing to spend for monitoring. We have to remove the source of the contamination, Grooms said.

Pirates and all, set clocks back Nov. 3

Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, just as the clock is winding down on the Anna Maria Island Privateers inaugural pirate invasion — a three-day affair that starts Nov. 1.

For most of the United States, clocks will turn back an hour for added sleep, more chores, longer playtime, although here, it will likely be the last “Hazah” for late-night crews.

Daylight saving time was established to reduce energy use by extending daylight hours in the spring.

An energy bill signed into law in August 2005 changed the longstanding months for time changes from April and October to March and November, adding to the time saving by four weeks.

Benjamin Franklin gets the credit for the concept of daylight saving time, suggesting in a French journal that Parisians could save thousands of francs by getting an earlier start on their days in the summer. The savings then came from using fewer candles.

The United States instituted daylight saving time in 1918 to save energy during World War I, but the concept proved unpopular and was repealed in 1919.

Daylight saving time again was tried from 1941 to 1945 to conserve energy during World War II, and, following the war, many states adopted summer time changes. It was popular for farmers wanting to get a jump on their work in the mornings.

In 1966, Congress established a national daylight saving time program with the Uniform Time Act.

A year-round daylight saving time was tried in 1974 to respond to the oil crisis of those days. However, the trial was controversial because children had to walk to school in the dark that winter.

A 1986 federal law officially set daylight saving time to begin on the first Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October, but that changed with the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005.

DST now starts the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

For calendar planners, DST resumes at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 9.