Tag Archives: News

Tree house owners seek rehearing after loss

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Tree house and Angelinos Sea Lodge owner Lynn Tran stands May 19 on the beach in front of the tree house, the subject of controversy in Holmes Beach since 2011. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Voters won’t be weighing in on grandfathering a beachfront tree house in Holmes Beach if the most recent court decision stays its course.

The newest city win came in early May, when the 2nd District Court of Appeal let stand a lower court order prohibiting a city ballot question based on the petitions of Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen in 2013 under the city charter.

The 2nd DCA affirmation of the 12th Circuit Court came without a decision from the justice panel.

In response, the owners’ attorney, David Levin, of Icard Merrill, filed a motion May 17 for a full rehearing.

The motion seeks a decision from 16 appellate justices of the 2nd DCA.

The attorney handling the tree house cases for the city, Jim Dye, of Dye Deitrich Petruff & St. Paul P.L., wrote a May 18 email to Mayor Bob Johnson, saying such motions have “an astonishing low chance of success.”

“The rule governing a rehearing is strict in that it requires that a new issue is present or the court overlooked something the first go-around,” Dye wrote.

Johnson called the newest legal maneuver “one more phase.”

The tree house is in a towering Australian pine within the 50-foot setback of the erosion control line, seaward of the builders’ home at 103 29 St., where they operate Angelinos Sea Lodge.

Tran and Hazen built the elevated two-story tree house in 2011 without permits. The owners claim former city officials told them permits were not needed.

Tran said May 16 she’ll “wait and see” what her attorney recommends, but added she’s “completely lost faith in the whole system.”

Tran is considering hiring a contractor for a plan to keep the tree house. She’s also looking at selling her property and taking down the tree house.

“I’m considering it all,” Tran said, adding her frustration with new and proposed city ordinances, including rental advertising, occupancy and building rules.

“Life wasn’t like this five to seven years ago,” she added.

Since an anonymous complaint called the beachfront structure to the city’s attention, the Tran-Hazen tree house matters have wound through city code enforcement, state environmental regulators and the courts.

The owners abandoned their Florida Department of Environment Protection case when the city refused to issue a no-objection letter required for state after-the-fact permits.

In July 2013, a city code board fined and ordered the owners to comply with city code or remove the structure.

The decision was upheld by the courts and updated by a special city magistrate, who, in May 2016, assessed the owners a $50 daily fine from July 22, 2015, plus $4,000 in costs. The fine is still accumulating.

With the latest 12th Circuit ruling, Judge Don T. Hall — rubberstamping a proposed order from Dye — determined the petitioned-for ballot question would ask for a development order, and as such, was outlawed by a 2013 state law.

In the order, Hall adopted Dye’s position that the initiative called for a development order because it would ask voters to authorize the construction and maintenance of the tree house.

Levin’s position, however, is the ballot question would not rise to the level of a development order because the structure is an accessory use, incidental to the residence.

Tran submitted an application to the city in September 2016 for a building permit for an accessory structure, a two-level deck.

According to Johnson, a Jan. 18 decision of Holmes Beach building official Jim McGuinness leaves no room for a new plan from Tran and Hazen.

In the decision, McGuinness concluded the “structure cannot be permitted as located and constructed” and the “removal of the existing structure will require a demolition permit.”

Cortez Bridge fails — but not falling down

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Draw up: Starting at about 1:30 p.m. and continuing for about two hours May 16, motorists were rerouted due to valve and electrical problems with the bascule on the Cortez Bridge. When the bridge failed to close completely, the Florida Department of Transportation dispatched a repair crew to the bridge that crosses the Intracoastal Waterway on Cortez Road/State Road 684. According to David Gywnn, District 1 director of operations, the repair was successful and it “shouldn’t happen again.” The bridge reopened at 3:30 p.m. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

The Florida Department of Transportation is not worried about the May 16 midday malfunction of the Cortez Bridge.

For about two hours, the bridge on Cortez Road West/State Road 684 between Anna Maria Island and Cortez shut down, causing traffic to be rerouted and delayed.

Built in 1956 and repaired about two years ago, the Cortez Bridge should last another 10-12 years, according to DOT communications specialist Robin Stublen.

Bradenton Beach police redirected the island traffic at Cortez Road West and Gulf Drive.

With the BBPD station next to the bridge, Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz sees the bridge close for repairs unexpectedly “twice a year maybe.”

Stublen blamed the recent bridge closure on an electrical malfunction in a mechanism that raises and lowers the bridge, preventing the bridge from locking down.

“This is not unusual,” he said, considering the effect of salt water on the bascules.

David Gywnn, DOT District 1 director of operations, said the bridge failure was due to a release valve that lost power and a hydraulic malfunction.

Both DOT representatives agreed the most recent repair was successful and the bridge operating without problems.

“It shouldn’t happen again,” Gywnn said.

Couple charged in Bradenton Beach condo fraud

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Alyson Colosia, 51
Javier Colosia, 53

A former president and treasurer of Gulf Reach Condominium Association in Bradenton Beach have been charged with defrauding the Florida not-for-profit corporation of more than $50,000 over a six-year period.

The association address is 1303 Gulf Drive S.

Alyson Colosia, 51, and Javier Colosia, 53, who also own a condo in the 1300 block of Gulf Drive North, were arrested May 3 and charged with the first-degree felony.

The couple pleaded not guilty May 9 in 12th Circuit Court, posted $20,000 bond and were released that day from the Manatee County jail.

Their ability to post bond was delayed by the court to ensure none of it came from a nefarious source. A court investigation into the bond money showed a parent provided the funds.

According to police and court records, the couple made about $134,000 in unauthorized ATM cash withdrawals and other transfers between January 2009 and August 2015.

The alleged fraud was revealed by new leadership of the condo association in March 2016.

The three-unit association installed a new board Aug. 8, 2015, and its new president, Alan Gary, reported the alleged theft to the Bradenton Beach Police Department in March 2016.

Gary said he attempted to obtain the financial records from the Colosias, who had controlled the association’s finances since its inception in 2004, but they refused, and the board commissioned an audit.

Gary went to police with the audit and annual financial statements prepared by the Colosias.

According to the police report, the Colosias failed to pay association dues and pocketed money acquired from renting vacant units without authorization.

The couple allegedly skimmed $500 a day from the association bank account for about six weeks.

Transfers from the account also went to a company the couple owned and managed, according to a BBPD report.

The state and BBPD spent a year investigating the couple before making their arrests, Gary said.

The association has filed a foreclosure against Colosias’ unit for their failure to pay dues.

Case management hearings on the fraud cases are set for 8:15 a.m. May 31 at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

‘Lights out’ season

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Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, stands May 16 by the recently placed “Lights Out” sign on the public facility building near the south entrance to Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. Manatee County approved placement of the sign at Coquina Beach, when its previous location on Manatee Avenue, west of the Anna Maria Island Bridge, was no longer available. The sign stays up through sea turtle nesting season, which ends Oct. 31. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver EsformesW

Loggerhead sea turtle tracks indicate nest in HB

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Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteer Linda Caldwell prepares May 15 to stake off a nest near 29th Street in Holmes Beach after she and her husband, AMITW volunteer Pat Caldwell, discovered tracks made the night before. “The tracks are a really clear example of what loggerhead tracks look like,” AMITW executive director Suzi Fox said May 15. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW

FDOT begins islands traffic study

The long-awaited traffic study of the barrier islands is underway and members of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials are hoping it will be the final word on the issue.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s study began May 15, according to an announcement from David Gwynn, director of transportation operations in district 1.

The study is looking at improving infrastructure and traffic circulation on local barrier islands, as well as traffic flow to and from the mainland.

Elements for review include travel patterns on the islands, trips on and off the islands, destination points, existing transit service, existing parking facilities, bicycle/pedestrian facilities and needs, event operations and land development codes.

The study will take place in three phases.

The first phase involves reviewing existing studies on the issue.

The second phase involves collecting observational data regarding traffic, land use and parking.

The final phase involves developing a transportation management plan and recommendations to reduce traffic.

The DOT will hold six public meetings as it conducts the study, with schedules to be announced.

The DOT also plans to create a steering committee.

AMOB proposes expenses for 2-week closure on BB pier

AMOB on the city pier in Bradenton Beach is being asked to shutter its operation for two weeks in September while the city replaces the restaurant’s air conditioning system on the Historic Bridge Street Pier, leaving the city to negotiate with AMOB for its costs due to the closure.

During a May 18 city commission meeting, AMOB owner John Horne presented the commission with his estimate of costs.

Horne said, according to his calculations, the city will need to pay $5,000 in employee compensation, $4,000 in advertising fees and $1,750 for rent abatement and “whatever the override is.”

Additionally, he suggested a $3,000-per-day penalty if construction extends beyond the projected two-week closure period.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the contract with Southern Cross Contracting Inc., which is in negotiation, specifies a $250-per-day penalty, although staff recommended increasing the daily penalty to $500.

Horne said there is a difference between the city’s damages and the consequences for AMOB. “You incur no damage by the pier not being complete,” Horne said May 18. “I do by not being open.”

The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency approved a $73,536.89 bid in April for engineering and construction to install new air conditioners and a new rooftop deck to support the units at the restaurant on the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The project is located within CRA boundaries, so it was funded through the CRA. However, AMOB leases the facility from the city and the money from AMOB’s lease goes to the city pier account, which currently holds more than $400,000.

Horne said May 18 that his main concern is losing staff. He said some employees have earned two-week vacations and he can rotate managers to his other restaurant locations, but he is worried about losing hourly rate employees.

“We just want to get as far away from the pier as possible during that time, so the contractor can get in, get their remodel done and get out,” Horne said May 18.

Additionally, Horne said he needs an “advertising blitz” to let people know the restaurant will be closed, followed by advertising for a “grand reopening.”

“We need to let people know so they don’t come out here and think, ‘Uh oh, another one has gone away,’” Horne said.

Perry said the city pier team — Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, chairman, building official Steve Gilbert, public works director Tom Woodard and Horne — is supposed to be negotiating with AMOB on the funding agreement that will be presented to the commission.

The city commissioners reached consensus that the pier team and Perry will negotiate with AMOB, then bring it back for discussion at their next meeting, which will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 1, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Bradenton Beach considers WCIND funding request

Bradenton Beach is asking Manatee County to provide funding to regulate the anchorage area adjacent to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The city is applying for a $50,000 grant from the West Coast Inland Navigational District for a lift for the police boat at the Historic Bridge Street Pier and $90,000 for derelict boat removal.

At the May 18 city commission meeting, Vice Mayor John Chappie said the matter was to be discussed at a county meeting May 23 and he is concerned the funding would not be approved. The meeting was after The Islander went to press.

He said the county is looking at a deficit. “The WCIND funds are just scarce,” he said.

The WCIND is a multi-county taxing district that assists local governments in planning and maintaining projects that promote safe navigation in the Intracoastal Waterway.

Chappie said the boat lift is important to safety, as it would more efficiently allow police to regulate behavior on the water.

“It’s all connected with public safety of our community, whether it’s a county facility or not,” Chappie said.

Chappie said much of the county WCIND funding is allotted to repairing boat ramps, including reconstructing a boat ramp at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. The work began in May.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the accessibility for a police boat provided by the boat lift could reduce the need to remove derelict vessels and suggested the city prioritize the $50,000 for the boat lift, if funding is a concern.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said funding for vessel removal should still be pursued.

“We’re trying to increase enforcement out there, but until it’s a totally controlled environment, we’re going to have vessels to remove,” he said.

Shearon closed the discussion by saying he would report the county results to the city commission.

Stone crab season wraps up with a bang

Stone crab season is over.

Stone crabbers have picked up their traps and the crabs will be left to reproduce and repopulate until Oct. 15, when the season begins again.

The harvest of this popular Florida crab ended with a strong finish, with crabbers statewide pulling in nearly 3 million pounds of claw fish worth almost $30 million, according to Ryan Gandy, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Since the 1980s, when the FWC began tracking population information, stone crab harvests have ranged from 2 million pounds to 3.5 million pounds, putting this year’s harvest at the upper end.

Karen Bell, who operates A.P. Bell Fish Co. at 4600 124th St. W., Cortez, and the Starfish Company Market & Restaurant next door, said the season went better than it in the recent past.

“It went better than three years ago. I think we had a pretty good year. Comparable to last year, production was better,” she said. “We’ll do it again in October.”

She said crabs sold at $20 per pound of jumbo size claws, and wholesale prices ranged $9-$20, depending on the quantity purchased.

Bell sources her stone crabs from 12 independent crabbers. She also runs a bait boat, a shrimp boat and 13 grouper boats from Cortez.

Each season, crabbers set out baited crab traps. After waiting a few days at a time, crabbers pull up the traps and harvest legal size claws before throwing the rest back in the water and re-setting the traps.

Only claws 2.7 inches or larger can be harvested. The claws are the only harvestable portion of the crab.

Bell said the Starfish restaurant continued selling stone crabs until May 15 and sold out of clam chowder May 16.

According to Adam Ellis, owner of the Blue Marlin Seafood Restaurant at 121 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, his business wrapped up stone crab season in February.

“They were catching them good this year,” he said. The restaurant sold mixed sizes of stone crab legs at $20 a pound and prepared crabs at $25-$35 a pound.


Population recovery: Myths and Facts

According to the FWC, stone crab numbers have made a significant rebound since 2014, when only 1.9 million pounds of stone crabs were caught.

In 2015, the crabs appeared to make a decent recovery, with crabbers pulling in 2.2 million pounds worth $27.8 million. In 2016, 3.1 million pounds were caught, a $31.5 million value.

Stone crabs can regrow their claws.
But studies have shown that stone crabs with one claw removed have a 40 percent mortality rate and crabs with both claws removed have a 60 percent mortality rate once thrown back in the water. Without their claws, which they use as tools and weapons, stone crabs are more vulnerable to predation from other animals.

In addition, Gandy said, stone crabs rarely regrow claws large enough to reharvest.

Sustainability efforts should include population reproduction, not just claw regrowth, Gandy said.

The recovery period from May to October allows female crabs to lay millions of eggs in an effort to repopulate.

Palmetto man sentenced to probation for ‘wet reckless’

A Palmetto man arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Holmes Beach pleaded no contest April 27 to a reduced charge of wet reckless.

Twelfth Circuit Judge Charles Sniffin found Andrew Brownewell, 38, guilty of reckless driving and sentenced him to a 12-month probation — requiring him to complete an advanced DUI course and, for 60 days, to wear a remote alcohol monitor.

A plea bargain from DUI to reckless driving, including a DUI probation, is referred to as a “wet reckless.” The monitoring bracelet detects alcohol consumption through the skin and substitutes for check-in probation testing.

Brownewell was charged with DUI in May 2015 after he rear-ended a vehicle at Gulf and Marina drives and refused to perform field-sobriety and blood-alcohol-content tests, according to a Holmes Beach police report.

With his sentencing, the judge impounded Brownewell’s vehicle for 10 days and ordered the man to 50 hours of public service with an option to pay a $500 fine in lieu of the service.

Brownewell was allowed travel between Ohio and Florida until May 27. After 30 days, the order states that out-of-state travel is to be approved by his probation officer.

Brownewell was assessed $3,236 in court costs and fines.