Tag Archives: News

Holmes Beach commissioner sparks kerfuffle over cabana

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An innovative design for an outdoor kitchen on 68th Street in Holmes Beach prompted Commissioner Marvin Grossman to call for a moratorium on cabanas, although he withdrew his request March 16. Islander Photo: Jennifer Sheppard

It’s all about outdoor living.

A home with a towering covered outdoor kitchen and a bridge feature over the pool connecting the cabana to the home’s attached deck, caused Commissioner Marvin Grossman to call for a moratorium on construction, but he withdrew his request March 16.

“I think maybe I’ve been a little bit too paranoid about this thing in terms of what I’m seeing happening and afraid that it’s another way to disturb residents,” Grossman told commissioners. “If this comes in again and the neighbors don’t like it, let’s discuss it … let’s just wait and see if this manifests.”

The property on 68th Street between Palm Drive and Holmes Boulevard is in the R-2 district, which includes single-family and two-family residential dwellings. In the R-2, accessories such as private swimming pools and/or cabanas are allowed “to protect and enhance the character of such residential areas” according to the code.

“It’s very impressive, I mean, not in a good way,” Grossman told commissioners at a meeting March 2 at city hall and he expressed amazement the cabana was allowed.

“I can see this as an attraction that every other resort rental that’s coming up will do because it’s even better than the grottos. It’s more impressive.”

But the structure was reclassified as an outdoor kitchen since it contains electricity and gas.

A cabana, according to the code, is an “accessory shade structure not exceeding 150 square feet in area, which is open on at least one side, permanent in nature with construction compliant with the Florida Building Code, and containing no electrical, plumbing or gas utilities.”

Building official Jim McGuiness said the structure was built to replicate a “detached summer kitchen” but labeled a “pool deck cabana” on plans.

“In this case, this is not a cabana at all,” McGuinness said. “It doesn’t meet the definition of a cabana. It’s too big, it’s got utilities in it and it’s elevated. …Basically it’s an outdoor bar and kitchen connected by a walkway.”

Commission Chair Judy Titsworth said the role of commissioners is not to prohibit innovative designs; but to make sure the laws are being followed.

“If it meets the setbacks, there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been a house sitting right in the same spot looking right over that fence,” Titsworth said.

Commissioner Carol Soustek said she observed the construction of the cabana through a neighboring backyard and her mouth “fell open.”

“My hesitation with this is that sound carries extremely well here on this island. It’s going to carry,” she said. “There’s no way it’s not going to. I think it’s just taken to the extreme too much.”

McGuinness said the rear wall of the structure is solid and faces the house, which in a typical summer kitchen would be open and the noise would go off-site.

“There’s a bit of an advantage there in this design,” McGuinness said. “It’s a strange animal. It’s quite innovative.”

He asked commissioners for an “expressed prohibition on this if you don’t want it to happen again.”

“I can’t administer opinions,” he said. “I can only enforce laws.”

Commissioners asked McGuinness to notify them if he sees another innovative structure application.

The commission will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

Parrish man arrested for DUI

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Joseph Perusek II

Joseph Perusek II, of Parrish, was stopped for speeding March 15 in Holmes Beach and taken into custody for alleged DUI.

Holmes Beach Police Officer Alan Bores stopped Perusek after clocking his vehicle on radar traveling 64 miles per hour in a 35-mph speed zone.

Bores stopped Perusek in the 12000 block of Manatee and observed signs of alcohol impairment.

Perusek failed a field-sobriety test and was transported to the Manatee County jail where he was booked and a blood alcohol test was performed, measuring 0.123, 0.49 and 0.126. The legal limit is 0.08.

He was released on a $500 bond, pending an arraignment 8:25 a.m. Monday, April 17, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

State: Groin not needed at Manatee Public Beach

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The Manatee Public Beach pier was closed in 2008 shortly after this photo was taken. It was demolished in 2009.The pier was popular with strollers, fishers and surfers, but it lacked maintenance from storm damages. Islander File Photo

Never say never.

Citing a lack of erosion, the state will not issue a permit for the replacement of a pier-like groin once prominent at the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

But never say never, Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, told county commissioners March 9.

The original groin was one of four built on Anna Maria Island about 50 years ago — three at Cortez Beach and one at Manatee Public Beach — to hold sand in place. The Manatee beach groin did its job for decades before being demolished in 2009, after being deemed in derelict condition, Hunsicker told commissioners.

“We let it go for so long that repairs were not feasible,” he said. “We could not save it. It was falling in on people who walked underneath it.”

When the county removed the groin, officials were concerned about not having a structure in place to protect beach sand in that area. State officials, who disdain hard structures on beaches, told the county to prove that the groin was holding the beach together by itself and, without it, a large amount of beach erosion would occur.

And the county commission made a promise to Holmes Beach to find funding and replace the pier.

The county began monitoring the “beach’s performance” from the day the groin was removed and, Hunsicker said, “we’re not finding any retreat or erosion at all.”

Hunsicker said erosion is not a problem there because past efforts to renourish beaches to the north and south — at equal lengths and depths — created a bookend effect at the Manatee Public Beach.

“Because of the effect of sand on both sides, Manatee is no longer eroding,” Hunsicker said, adding that the whole beach is “moving back and forth” with a loss of about 8 to 10 feet of beach per year along the entire island.

“But there are really no hotspots where it’s accelerated because we’ve book-ended everything,” he said.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a former mayor and commissioner in Holmes Beach, noted island cities likely would oppose the proposal of a new, 15-foot tall groin at Manatee Public Beach. She stated that a recreational pier still is an option, but Hunsicker said such a project would not be eligible for funding from the tourist-tax fund.

Hunsicker updated commissioners on the county’s beach renourishment efforts. Through three projects spread out in nine segments, the first of which began in 1992, the county plans to renourish 6.6 miles of island beach by 2022. Looking further out, the county predicts spending $17.3 million on beach renourishment between now and 2031, with $20.2 million contributed by the state and $19.7 million allocated by the federal government as well.


More renourishment funds?

Meanwhile, state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and state Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, introduced legislation March 3 intended to protect Florida’s beaches.

The proposal, which Hunsicker referenced in his March 9 presentation to commissioners, dedicates a minimum of $50 million annually to state beach nourishment and inlet management restoration projects. The measure also would revisit an old ranking system to ensure funding is used for projects that address the most severe erosion problems, according to the bill’s sponsors.

“Florida’s beaches define our state’s unique brand and drive our tourism economy,” Latvala said in a news release. “Unfortunately, over half of Florida’s sandy beaches are eroding and only half of these miles of eroded beaches are part of a beach project. We can point fingers or offer excuses, but the simple answer is not enough funding, and this bill addresses that.”

In 2016, the amount of state funding totaled a third of the requested funds by local governments, leaving a backlog of eroded beaches needing repair, according to the news release. In recent years, Florida has spent about $30 million annually on beach repair, including on Anna Maria Island.

5th DCA hears Neal-McClash-Swiftmud Perico Island case

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Before the three 5th District Court of Appeals judges heard arguments March 9 from attorneys for developer Pat Neal, adversary Joe McClash and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, work was underway at the disputed project site for Harbor Sound, where Michael Neal, right, and a worker meet Harbour Isle resident Dennis Cohen March 6. Story, page 16. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
Lisa Davies and Dennis Cohen, residents at the adjacent Harbour Isles development on Perico Island, discuss the March 6 construction activity at Harbor Sound. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
A March 7 photo shows a long view of the 3.46-acre waterfront site targeted for the development of four homes on Perico Island.

Three judges in Daytona Beach heard a 40-minute argument about Perico Island.

Squaring off March 9 were Ralf Brookes of Cape Coral, representing former Manatee County Commissioner and environmentalist Joe McClash, against Tampa attorney William S. Bilenky, on behalf of a land trust controlled by developer Pat Neal of Neal Communities, and attorney Amy Wells Brennan for the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The arguments streamed live online on the 5th District Court of Appeal website.

At issue was an August 2015 Swiftmud governing board decision that granted the developer a state wetlands permit to build four homes on 3.46 acres, including about 1 acre of mangroves and wetlands. The board was chaired by Long Bar Pointe/Aqua by the Bay developer Carlos Beruff. Beruff resigned from the board a day after the decision in the Neal case.

Brookes urged the panel to uphold an administrative decision that denied Swiftmud’s state wetlands permit due to the adverse effects to fish, wildlife and marine productivity as well as storm buffering.

The environmental attorney also argued the Swiftmud governing board improperly substituted its own facts for the judge’s findings — that the destruction of mangroves and proposed mitigation was not in the public interest.

Bilenky responded that the judge’s findings were conclusions of law.

Brennan and Bilenky also argued McClash did not possess the proper standing to wage the appellate challenge. Actual injury from the permit issuance was required, they said.

The judges inquired about the appellate standing and mitigation issues.

Brookes replied evidence of McClash as a fisherman, crabber and recreational boater meets the requisite appellate court standard of someone who “could be” adversely affected by the permit. He said the Swiftmud mitigation requirement in another Hillsborough County case was not in the public interest.

Bilenky argued a case holding the administrative agency’s power to choose the type of mitigation.

A federal wetlands permit needed for the development is pending with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The three appellate judges, Kerry I. Evander, Wendy W. Berger, Bruce W. Jacobus, are expected to render opinions and decide the case.

Bradenton Beach CRA approves contract to build day dock

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Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon, left, and deputy clerk Marie Montoya listen March 1 as Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale discusses the day dock at the city pier during a community redevelopment agency meeting at city hall. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
The day dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach awaits replacement March 8. See story, page 3. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
The day dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach awaits replacement March 8. See story, page 3. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Bradenton Beach is making strides to increase boat and foot traffic at the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The first in a series of proposed large-scale projects in the historic district, replacement of the damaged floating dock adjacent to the pier, is in final contract negotiations.

At its March 1 meeting, the community redevelopment agency unanimously approved with revisions a $119,980 contract with Technomarine, a contractor based in North Palm Beach, to construct and install the day dock.

As with the current dock, the new dock will be available for all boaters on a first-come, first-served basis, with a loading and unloading area for commercial vessels.

Half of the cost for the dock will be reimbursed from Manatee County’s tourist development tax revenues.

Storms last summer further damaged the already compromised dock, which had been reduced in size since its installation in 2007, due to repeated storm incidents.

Before the March 1 vote, city attorney Ricinda Perry said she had concerns there were differences between the request for proposals advertised by the city, the bid from Technomarine and the contract.

Mayor Bill Shearon said he supports the contract and any revisions would be made through “change orders.”

“We need to get this implemented,” he said.

CRA representative member/AMOB owner John Horne said he disagreed with Shearon.

“I want it up as bad as anyone, but it needs to be specific,” Horne said. “Otherwise, you just open yourself up for ‘change orders.’”

Perry also was concerned with maintaining the 15-year warranty.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, the pier team chair, said the RFP stated the maintenance requirements.

The pier team also includes building official Steve Gilbert and public works director Tom Woodard, who reviewed the bids and recommended Technomarine to the CRA.

Perry also raised concerns regarding the materials to be used to construct the day dock and whether the dock could withstand wave action.

Speciale said Gilbert designed the specifications for the RFP and he is confident Technomarine’s design is based on these requirements.

The board agreed to direct Perry to revise the contract stating the RFP would take precedence if a conflict were to arise with Technomarine.

According to the revised contract, installation will begin on signature by the parties and will be completed within six months.

Judge seeks evidence at bond hearing

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Manatee County sheriff’s deputies escort Eugene Matthews into a 12th Circuit Court March 8 bond hearing. Matthews is charged with the second-degree murder of a former Anna Maria Island resident and hairdresser. Islander Photos: Courtesy Tiffany Tompkins/Bradenton Herald

Judge Deno Economou wanted to hear evidence.

But it didn’t happen March 8 at a packed hearing to set bond for Eugene Matthews, 83, jailed since Jan. 10, when he allegedly shot and killed Rebecca Rawson, 65, of Bradenton, outside his Parrish residence.

The hearing was requested by Matthews’ attorney, D. Scott Rieth of Lakewood Ranch.

At the hearing, Rieth asked for a $50,000 bond, telling the judge his client has a “pretty good stand-your-ground” defense and the Manatee County Sheriff’s reports “conveniently left out” the Rawsons’ vehicle drove to Matthews’ house after dark and broke down a gate.

Assistant State Attorney Darlene Ragoonaman said the state is “vehemently opposed” to allowing Matthews’ bond, the gate was open, the Rawson vehicle crashed through a fence on the way out and Matthews talked about killing people.

Rieth and Ragoonanan argued about Matthews’ criminal history.

Ragoonanan told the judge she had the probable cause affidavits of deputies who responded to the scene.

The judge declined to decide the bond question based on what the attorneys were saying. He said he wanted to hear evidence, and labeled the PCAs hearsay.

Rieth said he was not prepared to present evidence and didn’t want to continue the bond hearing for the next day because he hadn’t received discovery from the state.

The state filed discovery March 8, listing 70 witnesses, including deputies, detectives, crime scene technicians, nurses, paramedics and experts, including the medical examiner, according to the court’s online records.

The document lists marijuana as “tangible evidence obtained from or belonging” to Matthews. It also mentions a foot mark on Matthews’ front door.

Matthews faces one charge of second-degree murder in Rawson’s death and two counts of attempted murder in connection with shots fired at Rodney Rawson, Rawson’s brother-in-law, and her daughter, Kathryn Rawson. The Rawsons had come to the Matthews residence to pick up a family dog.

Matthews is being held in the Manatee County jail without bond.

Rawson is a former Holmes Beach resident and, for 30 years, a hairstylist at Head Quarters Salon in Holmes Beach and at Lor-Ells Hair Design in Anna Maria until it closed in June 2016.

Deputies estimated about 100 people came for the hearing, most of them Rawsons’ friends. Rieth spoke to a group of about 20 Matthews’ supporters after the hearing.

According to the online records, a bond hearing was set for 9 a.m. Thursday, March 30.

Hearings are held at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

And bulldozers return to Neal compound

The bulldozer motors started up March 6 without warning.

The appellate judges heard a challenge several days later to the state wetlands permit, which if upheld, would advance the four-home development  known as Harbor Sound, as well as the destruction of 1.05 acres of mangroves for Pat Neal of Neal Communities.

Meanwhile, neighbors watched the work.

“Workers were deep in the mangroves,” Harbour Isle resident Debbie Wilcox wrote in a March 6 email to federal regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Wilcox enclosed photos and wrote she observed “trees cut down, roots hacked at and chopped off, hauled away and now just mucky, murky, swampy low area water is left.”

The area was then covered with dirt and graded.

According to Corps public information officer Nakeir Nobles, the Corps received a report of an alleged violation of the Clean Water Act at the site.

McClash said he emailed Wilcox’s photos to the Corps, saying the developer “commenced work today without a permit in an area that contains mangroves and wetlands.”

McClash questioned why Neal began the work the week of court arguments and when a Corps wetlands permit decision is pending.

“A distraction?” McClash said while heavy equipment bulldozed what once was 200-square feet of vegetation.

Pat Neal defended the work, saying it was approved in September 2016, when the Corps determined a federal wetlands jurisdictional line.

He described the Corps jurisdictional line decision as an “unmitigated victory.”

Riprap was being placed the week of March 6 to protect the land from erosion, according to Pat Neal’s son, Michael Neal, who is overseeing the work.

Pat Neal added that dirt and construction textile will be added and a berm constructed. Work is expected to continue for two to three weeks, he said.

AM commission approves gift guidelines, clerk’s new role

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Anna Maria city clerk LeAnne Addy takes notes at her desk during a March 9 city commission meeting. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí
The day dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach awaits replacement March 8. See story, page 3. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
The day dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach awaits replacement March 8. See story, page 3. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

A resolution to guide the acceptance of city gifts and an ordinance for special events permitting were on the March 9 Anna Maria Commission agenda.

The commission approved a policy for gifts to the city valued less than $2,500, which can be accepted by the mayor without consulting the commission. Offers of gifts to the city worth more than $2,500 must go before commissioners for approval.

Also, the resolution says the review of offers to donate property will include a title search, environmental investigation and inspection of the land.

The commission unanimously voted to approve the resolution.

An ordinance specifying that applicants for a special event permit can limit participation also was unanimously approved by the commission.

According to the ordinance, an applicant can limit participation in an event but not based on race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, gender, disability, veteran status or any other protected class.

The resolution was prompted partly by a December 2016 disagreement in which the Anna Maria Island Privateers were asked to allow a former member to participate in the nonprofit’s parade. The protester asked the city to deny the parade permit.

However, city attorney Becky Vose advised commissioners they could not deny the Privateer permit because the complainant was not a protected class.

Also during the March 9 meeting, Mayor Dan Murphy presented a proposal to assign the responsibilities of finance director to city clerk LeAnne Addy.

He proposed a salary increase of $15,000, amounting to $87,000 per year, and the elimination of the finance director position. Murphy said the change would save the city nearly $32,000 a year.

The commission unanimously approved the change.

The next city commission meeting will be 6 p.m. Thursday, March 23. at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

13 new Bert Harris claims filed against Holmes Beach

Nearly $6 million in Bert Harris claims fell March 6 on the desk of Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson.

Thirteen new claims invoking the Bert J. Harris Jr. Property Rights Protection Act now join 21 pending claims filed by property owners against Holmes Beach since 2014.

As of March 9, the city faced $12.5 million in alleged losses.

Each claim asserts the city inordinately burdened property rights by imposing restrictions on resort housing in a VRO ordinance passed in September 2015.

Most claims allege losses in reasonable-investment backed expectations due to the VRO, including occupancy limits of two people per bedroom or six people, whichever is greater, as well as restrictions on parking, pool sizes and building footprints.

Attorney Aaron Thomas of Najmy Thompson LP of Bradenton filed these new claims:

  • 102 77th St., Gulf Front Paradise LLC, $900,000, building code restrictions, eight bedrooms.
  • 102 77th St., Gulf Front Paradise LLC, $1.42 million, occupancy, eight bedrooms.
  • 108 78th St., Shawn Kaleta, $1.195 million, occupancy, and restrictions to footprint, pool size and parking, 12-bedrooms, two-unit duplex.
  • 111 81st S., Brian Wien, $220,000, occupancy restrictions, five-bedrooms.
  • 118 50th St., Unit A, Robert and Michele Carl, $400,000, occupancy, six-bedrooms.
  • 121 49th St., Shawn Kaleta, $176,700, construction restrictions on reduced footprint, living area, pool size, driveway width and parking limits, plans for six bedrooms.
  • 121 49th St., Shawn Kaleta, $280,000, occupancy limits for six bedrooms.
  • 132 50th St., Unit A, Coral Escape of Holmes Beach LLC, $240,000, occupancy, six-bedrooms.
  • 203 N. Harbor Drive, Coral AMI LLC, $205,000, occupancy, five-bedrooms.
  • 303 56th St., 56th St. Cottages LLC, $390,000, limits on habitable area, footprint, pool size and parking, property to be redeveloped.
  • 303 56th St., 56th St. Cottages LLC, $1.22 million, occupancy, property to be redeveloped.
  • 312 61st St., David and Diana Geudtner, $170,000, occupancy, three-bedrooms.
  • 4805 Second Ave., Unit B, $275,000, $275,000, occupancy, four-bedrooms.

When a government entity receives a Bert Harris claim, state law requires a response within 150 days.

The response can be a settlement offer or a letter of no change in the alleged governmental interference. To date, the “no change” letter has been the only response from Holmes Beach.

After the 150-day response period, a claimant can file suit.

Of three Bert Harris lawsuits filed against Holmes Beach, litigation over the 2-bedroom VRO limit at 306 Clark was dropped March 6.

In the case of Bob and Ellen McCaffrey and their home at 7003 Holmes Blvd., a city motion to dismiss or strike is set to be heard at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W.

City commissioners are expected to consider three “no-change” letters pertaining to 4804 Gulf Drive, 211 54th St. and an additional claim for 7003 Holmes Blvd., at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.