Anna Maria city officials posted “no trespassing” and “no fishing” signs for about 60 percent of the six lots recently acquired by the city across from the Anna Maria City Pier. Public works director George McKay said the signs are up while the city commission decides the use of the property. Parking is allowed on the remaining portion of the property. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
Anna Maria and Florida Department of Transportation officials will hold a ceremony at 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, at the City Pier entrance to officially open the Anna Maria City Pier boardwalk.
The $858,000 project completed in early October was funded through a federal grant administered by the DOT. Construction began in mid-May.
The project features an 850-foot-long boardwalk along the shoreline from the North Bay Boulevard humpback bridge to about 100 yards south of the pier entrance. One of the two shelters remodeled at the pier entrance also serves as a trolley stop for the Island trolley.
Anna Maria Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick wrote the grant application in 2006 before she was elected to the commission and has followed the project through to completion.
A long-running dispute between a Bradenton Beach property owner and the city ended in late October — about six weeks after the property owner died.
Ken Lohn, who died Sept. 4 at 77, took his complaint against the city as high as the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal and vowed to go as high as the state supreme court if necessary.
He wanted the court to review a ruling from Manatee County Circuit Court rejecting his argument that the city made an error in its decisions upholding a certificate of occupancy for a property that neighbors Lohn’s residence on Bay Drive South.
Lohn, for years, maintained that the city wrongfully issued a certificate of occupancy for a Fifth Street South development abutting his bayfront property and near a duplex he owns.
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 also voted against Lohn’s complaint, which essentially said that a driveway built on an easement alongside his home was too close to his property line and too narrow.
Lohn went to circuit 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.”
In a 13-page decision, Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas did not accept all the city’s arguments, but he did uphold the commission’s decision and denied Lohn’s appeal.
Lohn, in late February, took his case to the appellate court.
City officials then described the appeal as frivolous and potentially expensive for both Lohn and the city.
The appeal court on Oct. 21 denied Lohn’s petition for a review of Nicholas’ ruling.
A Bradenton Beach woman pleaded no contest to culpable negligence, a second-degree misdemeanor.
Phaedra Christina Brace, 31, was arrested last November at her home in Bradenton Beach.
Bradenton Beach police said Brace left her child in the care of an intoxicated man, showing willful neglect.
She initially was charged with child neglect, a felony, and was scheduled for a jury trial.
Brace entered her plea at the Manatee County Judicial Center in Bradenton.
The five candidates in Holmes Beach and four in Anna Maria seeking election to their respective city commissions will remain busy with campaign activities through election day on Nov. 8.
Three seats on each commission are up for election, and voters can choose three candidates on their ballot.
In Anna Maria, incumbent commissioners John Quam and Dale Woodland are seeking re-election, with candidates Nancy Yetter and former Mayor SueLynn also are in the race.
Holmes Beach has five candidates for its three commission seats up for election, including incumbent commissioners Pat Morton, Al Robinson and David Zaccagnino. They are joined by candidates Jean Peelen and Andy Sheridan.
If history is any judge, the candidates can expect a light voter turnout in an odd-year election when no national candidate or issue is on the ballot.
The average voter turnout for an Island city in an odd-year election from 2001 to the present is about 36 percent, according to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections records.
A light voter turnout doesn’t bother Morton.
“I’ve always run in an odd year and it doesn’t change my campaigning,” he said. Morton is seeking his fifth term as a commissioner.
He said he would be walking the streets this week and talking to voters. His campaign is “going as well as can be expected,” he said.
Peelen said she is optimistic about the coming election.
“It’s been very positive. I’ve been out waving my signs, meeting voters and knocking on doors,” she said.
Peelen will hold a “Meet the Candidate” forum Nov. 3 at Island Fitness in Holmes Beach.
Regardless of the election preferences, Peelen urged voters to “get out and vote” Nov. 8
Robinson said he will be mailing out a candidate profile and platform statement this week.
He said he’s had “positive response” to his stance for lower taxes and curbing the influx of large duplexes.
Sheridan also encourages voting in the odd-year election. “I do urge voters to get out and vote,” he said.
His campaign has been “going well” and he’s been placing signs around the city, meeting people and listening to their issues.
Many people are concerned about the city becoming a weekend vacation destination, he said.
Zaccagnino is running for his fourth term. He said his campaign has shown positive results and he’s pleased there are so many qualified candidates seeking office.
“I’ve been knocking on doors, listening to the voters, attending meetings and bicycling around town. The feedback has been great,” he said.
Zaccagnino agreed that the new commission must deal immediately with the increase in construction of vacation accommodations in residential zones. That’s been a major concern of many voters, he said.
Quam is seeking his sixth term in office.
He’s been going house-to-house to talk to voters, and he’s received “good, positive feedback” for the upcoming election, he said.
“I would say the campaign is going very well. I’m pleased at the concern voters have shown for the city.”
SueLynn, the city’s mayor from 2002 to 2006, said she’s heard from many voters who believe she has the experience to be a good commissioner.
“The campaign and feedback has all been positive. I believe voters are pleased that I can step in immediately and understand and help solve the issues.”
For Woodland, running for his fifth term, the campaign has been “going well,” he said.
“I’ve gotten tremendous support from the people for my views and I appreciate the support,” he said.
He’ll be walking around the city this week talking to voters.
While this is Yetter’s first effort to gain elected office, she’s pleased with the feedback she’s received.
“Many voters I’ve talked with believe it’s time for a new voice on the commission to try to solve some of the old problems,” said Yetter, a member of the city’s planning and zoning board.
“My reception has been very warm. I’ve learned there is concern about a cell tower in the city, and what should be the ultimate use of the six lots the city bought” at the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard intersection, she said.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8.
In Anna Maria, voting is at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., while Holmes Beach has voting at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church at 6608 Marina Drive.
Unofficial election results will be announced at each polling location shortly after the polls close, but the official results will come from the elections office, 600 301 Blvd. N., Bradenton.
Election results will be posted shortly after the polls close at www.islander.org.
The Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office was testing voting equipment and mailing the last of absentee ballots this week in preparation for the Nov. 8 election.
Two jurisdictions will conduct polling on election day Tuesday — Holmes Beach, where voters will cast ballots at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Gulf Drive; and Anna Maria, where voters will cast ballots at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave.
In Holmes Beach, voters will elect three people to two-year terms on the city commission. The field includes three incumbents — Pat Morton, Al Robinson and David Zaccagnino. Residents Andy Sheridan and Jean Peelen also are running.
In Anna Maria, voters also will elect three people to two-year terms on the city commission. The field includes two incumbents — John Quam and Dale Woodland. Nancy Yetter and SueLynn also are running.
Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
This week, the supervisor of elections office was conducting accuracy tests Nov. 1 and canvassing absentee ballots Nov. 4.
Canvassing of any provisional ballots would take place Nov. 10, two days after the election.
In 2012, Island voters may go to the polls as many as three times: The presidential preference primary is set for Jan. 31, 2012. The primary election is Aug. 14, 2012. The general election is Nov. 6, 2012.
While each candidates seeking election to the Holmes Beach City Commission have said a major issue is the proliferation of rental homes with four to six bedrooms, there’s apparently little city officials can do about the perceived problems
“Construction is controlled by state law, the Florida Building Code,” said Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.
“We have no power to limit the number of bedrooms. We don’t have that privilege.” The city can make setback and height requirements, but can’t regulate ownership or the number of rooms, he said.
He said he’s had numerous discussions on the subject with city attorney Patricia Petruff and others, and they’ve all given the same answer.
At present, duplexes — two units — are allowed in the R-2 zone. When an applicant applies for a building permit for a unit with five or six bedrooms, the city can require one on-site parking space for each bedroom if the owner-contractor states the unit will be a transient rental. An owner-occupied duplex only needs two spaces per unit.
“You think they are going to say it’s transient?” the mayor asked.
The city cannot control ownership and a duplex is a form of ownership, Bohnenberger explained. It could even be called a two-unit condominium, and a condominium also is a form of ownership.
Public works superintendent Joe Duennes, who is in charge of the building department, said that when a site plan is presented, building inspectors do not question someone planning a six-bedroom unit or duplex.
“We can’t assume it’s going to be a transient vacation rental,” Duennes said. A transient rental site plan would require one on-site parking space for each bedroom, he said. And there are some people who have a need for a large home, he noted.
“We can’t presume the application is false,” Duennes said.
Although a duplex site plan can’t be denied because inspectors think it’s a vacation rental, Duennes has put a hold on any duplex building permit application with four or more bedrooms, pending action by the commission.
And there may yet be a solution to halt the sudden growth in the city of large duplexes and land condos that are being used as vacation accommodations.
The commission can amend the land-development code to require one on-site parking space for each bedroom, regardless of ownership, Bohnenberger said.
The mayor said he plans to ask the commission to move fast on just such an amendment.
Developers have realized they can “condoize” a duplex, he said, and market it as an investment, a transient rental property.
That’s already happening, according to the website www.9solutions.net.
The website advertises rental portfolios and vacation rentals and says it has built a number of four- to six-bedroom duplexes as vacation investment properties.
“The primary attraction of Anna Maria Island to investors,” the website states, “lies with the strength of the vacation rental market, which continues to outperform its competitors and run contrary to the prevailing economic climate.
The recent increase in multi-unit construction prompted 60-year resident Mary Buonagura to ask commissioners at their Oct. 25 meeting for answers to her concerns and those of her neighbors.
“Many of us are concerned about the plethora of ‘pastel palaces’ popping up all over faster than sand spurs in summer,” she said.
While she does not have a problem with anyone buying and selling property, it is “troubling,” she said, to read in the newspaper the “manner in which they are going up.”
These duplexes are “changing the Island from a balanced use of land, including residential and a rental mix, to a short-term rental vacation resort,” she said.
According to the 9solutions website, the company is managed by Hanson Ventures LLP and Steven Hanson of Bradenton.
Hanson and Anna Maria Island developer Shawn Kaleta are listed on the website as officers and/or agents for a number of corporations and condominium associations on Anna Maria Island.
Efforts to reach Hanson and Kaleta for comment were unsuccessful.
Duennes and building officials have been re-inspecting all duplexes and homes built in the past 18 months to determine whether they violate city. Inspectors found 10 alleged violations three weeks ago and sent notices to the owners. The rental tax licenses of those 10 properties were suspended pending resolution of the complaints.
Duennes said inspections last week found two more properties allegedly violating city code, and notices will be sent to the owners and the rental tax licenses suspended. A few more inspections are scheduled, Duennes said.
Holmes Beach code states any unit rented for 30 days or less is a transient vacation rental.
A proposal for an open-air market in Holmes Beach every Sunday for the next six months was rejected Oct. 25 by the Holmes Beach City Commission.
Ambrose Inc. had requested a special-event permit for Sundays from Nov. 6 through April for the open-air market from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the Tidemark Shoppes, 3500 Gulf Drive.
The routine procedure is for the mayor to approve or deny a special event permit, but Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said that most requests are for just one or two days. Because this was for one day a week for six months, he elected to have the commission decide.
Commissioners learned that Nancy Ambrose of Ambrose Inc. formerly organized and operated the Bridge Street Merchants market on Sundays.
A Holmes Beach resident, Ambrose, who did not attend the meeting, said in correspondence with city hall some time ago that a Holmes Beach business owner approached her to bring an open-air market to Holmes Beach.
According to Ambrose’s e-mail, her new market would be called the Holmes Beach Sunday Market.
Before voting, commissioners heard from people both for and against the market, and learned from the mayor he had received several e-mails opposed to the idea.
Val Graties of Island Jewel said open-air markets would rejuvenate the economy and bring much-needed foot traffic to downtown Holmes Beach.
She added that Ambrose “knows what she’s doing” and “runs a quality market.”
The fresh produce sold at the market would be highly sought after, she said.
But Nicole Heslop of Holmes Beach, owner of the Island Flea on Marina Drive, said she offers fresh produce at her business that she buys three times a week in Plant City, and rents space to a number of people who sell crafts and other items.
Heslop said most of the 35-odd vendors that Ambrose lined up for her market were formerly with the Bridge Street Market. Many of them do not live on Anna Maria Island, she said.
“There’s no reason to bring in these people,” she said. “Why would you want to bring in someone from Bradenton when I have this affordable space at my store for other merchants to sell goods?”
Heslop said she went to an organizational meeting of downtown Holmes Beach merchants and they had an idea for a market that would use Holmes Beach vendors.
Other speakers had concerns the market would pose vehicle and pedestrian safety issues on a Sunday afternoon during the winter season.
Commissioner David Zaccagnino said having a special event for six months is just “too long.” If the commission approved this application it would open “Pandora’s Box,” and other businesses would want the same special treatment, he said.
The application was denied 5-0 by the commission.
In other business, commissioners agreed to move forward with an amendment to the city’s golf cart ordinance that would require all operators of unlicensed golf carts to have a valid driver’s license.
The ordinance also would allow unlicensed golf carts on all city roads with less than a 35-mph speed limit and eliminate unlicensed golf cart use on Marina Drive, East Bay Drive, Gulf Drive north of the Manatee Avenue intersection, Manatee Avenue and Gulf Drive south of the East Bay Drive intersection.
Gulf Drive from the Manatee Avenue intersection southward to the East Bay Drive intersection has a 25-mph speed limit.
Unlicensed golf carts can only cross roads with a 35- mph speed limit at Florida Department of Transportation approved crossings.
There are no such crossings in the city, although Police Chief Jay Romine has sought one from the DOT for years for the Gulf Drive-East Bay Drive intersection.
BigBelly sits outside Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive, with an empty stomach Oct. 28.
BigBelly, the first solar-powered trash compactor installed in the area, can collect 32 gallons of trash, compact the waste and consume 32 more gallons before automatically telephoning a Waste Management representative to be emptied.
Holmes Beach City Commissioner Pat Morton, the city’s liaison to Waste Management, stands beside BigBelly and demonstrates the feeding process.
Morton opens a bin, where trash is dropped.
“When it’s full, it mushes it down to make room for more,” he says.
To the unfamiliar, BigBelly looks like a new trash container not yet stained with splashes of soda pop or smeared with ketchup.
But the container, which retails for about $8,000, is part of a new trend in municipal trash collection. The compactor more than doubles the amount of trash a can will hold, better protects contents from scavenging animals, more securely conceals odors and features an intelligent notification system so that a collection crew can be dispatched when the container is full.
All this saves money, fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, according to Waste Management.
BigBelly was a gift from Waste Management to Holmes Beach. The company also plans to give Anna Maria a BigBelly, probably to place at the Anna Maria City Pier.
“This is new for us in this market,” says Mike Bridges, the Island route manager for Waste Management.
Waste Management and the municipalities plan to see how the machines weather the barrier island elements — the sand, but especially the salt air.
“We’ll have to see,” Morton says, adding that he would like to see compactors installed to collect recyclables at beach accesses, as well as city parks.
Earlier this year, the city of Kissimmee installed 30 BigBelly solar-powered trash and recycling compactors in its downtown.
“There’s no doubt the BigBelly system will save a lot in terms of money and resources,” says Dave Derrick, Kissimmee public works director. “The city is pleased to provide the public with an efficient and convenient way to properly dispose of trash and recycle bottles and cans downtown.”
It’s a tale of two cities with one boundary, and the mayor-elect of one city — Bradenton Beach — said that settling the issue with lawyers would do nothing but cause “ill-will and hard feelings” between the two cities.
Holmes Beach commissioners at their Oct. 25 meeting decided not to wait for informal discussions between Mayor Rich Bohnenberger and Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt regarding the quitclaim of 27th Street in 2008 by the Bradenton Beach Commission to the Sandpiper Resort.
While Holmes Beach commissioners took no action at that time, they were opposed to giving up the street and remain so.
Holmes Beach commissioners voted 4-0 at their Oct. 25 meeting, with Commissioner John Monetti recusing himself, to proceed with an initial conflict resolution against Bradenton Beach that will result in officials of both cities meeting to seek a solution. If that meeting doesn’t solve the dispute, the next step could be mediation or a court battle.
Holmes Beach regards the Bradenton Beach commission’s 2008 quitclaim of 27th Street east of Gulf Drive as illegal.
The unimproved street — a grassy area partly used by the mobile home park for parking — is the dividing line between the two cities.
In 2008, Holmes Beach commissioners decided not to pursue any action, instead sending a letter of complaint to Bradenton Beach.
Monetti, who owns rental property near 27th Street, informed the commission in August that the Sandpiper was building a fence along the boundary between the two cities. He said he was concerned for nearby residents who use 27th Street for access to the bay or Gulf Drive.
Holmes Beach city attorney Patricia Petruff investigated and informed Bohnenberger and commissioners that she could not find a quitclaim deed that allowed Bradenton Beach to give the street to the Sandpiper Resort. She also said she found a locked gate that denied pedestrian access from Holmes Beach to the Sandpiper.
Those findings by Petruff prompted discussion of conflict resolution on the commission’s Sept. 13 meeting agenda.
At that meeting, commissioners agreed to postpone initiating the conflict resolution process until Bartelt had a chance to report to his commission and return to Bohnenberger with some negotiating points.
No position paper had reached the Holmes Beach commission by its Oct. 25 meeting and commissioners agreed Bradenton Beach had sufficient time to act.
Monetti recused himself after Petruff advised him he might place himself in a possible ethics situation if he voted on the matter, regardless of whether he would profit or not from the vote.
Monetti said it “seems as if someone, somehow is trying to keep me from voting. The 40 homes in that neighborhood would suffer because access to a public road is denied. I had not contemplated someone would say I had financial gain. I see a financial loss.”
Following the meeting, Bartelt said he was disappointed with the Holmes Beach decision and that Bohnenberger appeared to push conflict resolution for an affirmative vote.
“As I told Rich the other night, our city attorney was preparing a positional paper and I thought we could discuss the issue as agreed.
“I’m sorry it’s come to this, especially the expense of involving all the lawyers. It’s a ‘no-win’ situation,” Bartelt said.
He rejected the suggestion by Monetti that the quitclaim and fence might deny public access.
“That’s absolutely not true. Since the vacation, no one has been denied access. The fence issue started with someone driving a golf cart through Sandpiper and tearing up the grass,” Bartelt said.
The Sandpiper put up the fence, but the gates that give pedestrians access to 27th Street East, Gulf Drive and north Bradenton Beach businesses remain open, he said.
Bartelt said the Sandpiper “is just asking a few people to respect private property, that’s all. And unlicensed golf carts are illegal in that part of Holmes Beach, I believe. The Sandpiper is not supposed to be someone’s personal go-kart track,” he said.
Someone with an unlicensed golf cart was using the Sandpiper to avoid Gulf Drive, where unlicensed golf carts are prohibited, Bartelt observed.
For three years since the quitclaim, nobody had a problem, he noted. “Suddenly, a fence is going up and now we’re hearing all this talk from the politicians about declining property values, restricting access and filing a legal action. It’s just going to cost both cities money,” Bartelt said.
Bartelt said he would have the city attorney issue a statement when the conflict resolution letter is received from Petruff.
But conflict resolution is going to “create ill-will and hard feelings between two neighbors,” said Bradenton Beach Mayor-elect John Shaughnessy, a Sandpiper resident.
“No one has ever been denied access to 27th Street and no one will,” he said.
Bohnenberger, however, said his city has to protect the interests of the 40-plus residents in that area affected by the fence. He claimed property values would be lowered because of the fence, but the conflict resolution is not directed toward the Sandpiper.
“Our fight is with Bradenton Beach,” not the Sandpiper, he said.
Petruff was to send a certified letter to Bradenton Beach within five days of the commission vote. Within 30 days of the letter’s receipt by Bradenton Beach, a dispute resolution meeting will be held between both city attorneys, the chair of both commissions and both mayors.
Commissioner David Zaccagnino suggested that if the conflict resolution letter gets Bradenton Beach “moving in the right direction,” the commission could “put the brakes on” while discussions ensue.