Tag Archives: News

New ‘tiny home’ development proposal pops up in Cortez

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Hunters Point Resort & Marina may be the next new development in line for Cortez.

Cortez Road Investments and Finance Inc. proposed a site plan in early May and, after a few engineering calculations, it’s destined for the Manatee County review process.

Sarasota developer Marshall Gobuty said he’s been tweaking the plan for years.

Combining the old with the new, he’s taken the original name of the village to propose a cluster of “net zero” homes on 13.72 upland acres on Cortez Road West about a block from the Cortez Bridge.

The preliminary plan shows 86-97 RV lots, 60 villas, a marina, clubhouse, hotel rooms, tiki huts, a 40-seat restaurant and retail stores.

The development also includes 5.01-acre of submerged lands, canals that horseshoe the property.

Hunters Point includes the existing H&H Marina at 12444 Cortez Road, its 37 slips plus 12 new slips.

Gobuty said he expects to build 148 cracker cottages, ranging 400-800 square feet, starting at $250,000. Outdoor-living space increases some of the homes to 1,000 feet, he said.

Designs call for homes with the “most energy efficient” plumbing, HVAC systems and appliances, certified with a Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design platinum rating.

“This has got me crazy excited. This product doesn’t exist. It should revolutionize the building industry,” Gobuty said.

And he’s ready for “the worse-case scenario” as far as a future Cortez Bridge replacement, he added.

He’s seen the latest Florida Department of Transportation bridge designs, including a possible 65-foot fixed-span bridge. He says Hunters Point is designed accordingly.

District 1 DOT traffic access manager Nathan Kautz expects the developer to submit site approvals for two direct accesses on Cortez Road West.

The land is one of only a few undeveloped parcels along Cortez Road West.

Last year, Gobuty and Eric Grimes partnered on the $10 million purchase of a 17.8-acre tract from Peter and Eva Thurell and son-in-law Christopher Avre of Sweden.

They promoted an upscale RV-park concept, but those plans fell by the wayside and the partners “parted amicably,” Gobuty said.

The developer hopes Hunters Point fits in with the Cortez fishing village, saying he was inspired by Thurell’s vision of cracker cottages.

The developer is presently promoting sales at an ongoing project, Mirabella, in Bradenton.

Nearby on the north side of Cortez Road West, the future development of Peninsula Bay is approved for 1,950 homes on 360 acres with a 12-year build-out.

Lake Flores is county-approved for 6,500 units and 2.4 million square feet of commercial space on 1,291 acres, east of 86th Street and south of Cortez Road West, near Cortez. A 20-year build out is expected.

Also near Cortez, Aqua By The Bay, between El Conquistador and Sarasota Bay — not yet county-approved — is planned for 2,894 units and 78,000 square feet of commercial.

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation posted these road watch advisories for this area for the week of May 15.

• State Road 789 at the Longboat Key Drawbridge: Crews will be working on the bridge. Expect nighttime/overnight intermittent north and southbound lane closures 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Sunday, May 21, through Thursday, May 25.

• State Road 64 at the Anna Maria Island Bridge: Crews will be working on the bridge. Expect nighttime/overnight intermittent east and westbound lane closures 9 p.m.-4 a.m. through Thursday, May 18.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.

DOT’s Cortez Road-119th St. plans 
rile Cortez, spark widespread concern

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Island and Longboat Key leaders met their counterparts from Cortez May 9.

At a presentation and public hearing put on by the Florida Department of Transportation for a $3.7 million project on Cortez Road West between 86th and 123rd streets, more than 150 people came to be heard.

Swordfish Grill general manager Bob Slicker called out the elephant in the room — saying the island and key leaders had imposed their wishes on Cortez.

Swordfish is at 4628 119th St. W. on the bay end of the street.

He said the mayors “all got together” to ask the DOT for the continuous eastbound traffic flow, without input from Cortez.

Slicker said the solution for Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key will hurt Cortez businesses and inconvenience residents, “so you all can get off your island quicker.”

He and others suggested Longboat Key build a bridge to the mainland to bypass Cortez.

While views from Cortezians and mainland residents and Longboat Key clashed, many predicted the corridor problems would worsen as future developments in Cortez and nearby build out.

About 15 people spoke and 40 attendees submitted written comments.

The intersection of 119th Street West and Cortez Road at the east end of the village has a traffic signal with lanes for left hand turns, and serves commercial, business and residential traffic at a busy corner that includes a strip shopping center and the Florida Maritime Museum.

The DOT presented four options May 9 to improve the lighted intersection, where the crossroad, 119th Street West, is separated by about 200 feet:
• Leave as is.
• Remove the signal.
• Allow a free-flow of eastbound traffic from the islands, by eliminating left-hand turns from 119th Street.
• Realign 119th Street through the Florida Maritime Museum property.

Longboat Key officials favor the continuous eastbound lane to alleviate traffic backup on the barrier islands.

Cortezians spoke for the realignment and against the LBK-favored alternative, saying it would cut off westbound traffic from the village.

District 1 DOT director of transportation operations David Gwynn moderated the meeting.

Gwynn said the realignment is the best solution — but likely would take at least two years to build if approval is gained to use the corner of the county property at the Florida Maritime Museum.

After the meeting, he said he’d be looking to try to “fast-track” the alignment if it becomes viable.

He’s also announced the continuous flow option as a temporary solution that could become permanent — or changed if doesn’t work as planned.

The project had included an option to eliminate left turns from Cortez Road West onto 119th Street but the DOT scrapped it after Cortez residents and business owners protested to county and state officials in April.

Longboat Key town manager Dave Bullock said the eastbound continuous-flow option is the “most promising solution” to a 3-mile seasonal backup. He viewed it as “providing reasonable access around Cortez.”

Longboat Key Mayor Terry Gans favored the eastbound flow as well, saying it wasn’t proposed to harm Cortez, “but to find an improvement for a dangerous situation.”

Lenny Landau of the Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force, a town committee that formed in 2011, said the 119th Street bottleneck “becomes controlling” in peak season and at peak hours. He said it’s a “big problem” for employees who can’t get to work or home. He favors the “always green” alternative at 119th Street.

Jane von Hahmann, vice president of Cortez-based Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and a former Manatee County commissioner, urged the DOT and the county to protect the $8.7 million Cortez commercial fishing industry.

She pleaded with at-large County Commissioners Betsy Benac and Carol Whitmore to do “what’s best for everyone” to make the realignment option work.

Cortez has 1,000 permanent residents and more in peak season, who’d be challenged with crossing “not one, but two lanes” of oncoming traffic to turn west because a second eastbound lane is in the plans between 121st and 123rd streets, she said.

She warned about a newly proposed development, east of the Cortez Bridge, with a marina and some 200 units.

“We’ll be much like Sunny Shores,” trying to turn into traffic, von Hahmann said.

From Sunny Shores, several residents appealed to the DOT for relief at their access at 115th Street, which requires them to negotiate access across four lanes of angry drivers and speeding vehicles on Cortez Road West.

Ernest Marshall, a San Remo Shores resident and member of the Federation of Manatee County Community Associations, said the problem has increased with growth in the county. Formed in 1964, his group strives to improve quality of life and government efficiency.

“It’s like pouring 2 gallons of water into a 1-gallon bucket,” he said, adding a need to consider the businesses and the area residents who need safe access to the road.

He suggested all Cortez Road West subdivisions be included in the possible solution, including routing traffic to an existing signal at 103rd Street near the West Manatee Fire Rescue station.

Gwynn expects the DOT to decide a direction for the project in early June.

After the meeting, he said he plans to look at “fast tracking” the realignment solution if headway can be made on avoiding a deed restriction.

“None of these alternatives are great — they just may be better than what we have now,” Gywnn said.

“In order to make it better for some, unfortunately, we had to make it not as good for some, but we’re trying to make it better.”

The DOT will accept written comments until May 19.

Comments can be submitted to David Wheeler, 801 N. Broadway, Bartow FL 33830, or email david.wheeler@dot.state.fl.us.

Complaint against island attorney — former commissioner — in state Supreme Court

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A former Anna Maria commissioner is battling an ethics complaint in the Florida Supreme Court.

Chuck Webb, a practicing attorney with an office in Holmes Beach, is accused of violating the rules of conduct governing Florida lawyers.

Webb has denied the allegations.

Filed in March, the Florida Bar alleges Webb entered a security agreement with David Guy in July 2009 to secure unpaid attorneys’ fees after Webb agreed to defend Guy and wife Jane in a foreclosure.

Three of the clients’ properties, one in Holmes Beach and two in Palmetto, were secured by Webb as collateral, according to the complaint.

Webb also represented the Guys in two other foreclosures and sued his clients for fees in October 2009.

Webb’s firm purchased one of his clients’ Palmetto properties at a foreclosure sale in June 2010.

The complaint alleges on several occasions during his representation of the Guys that Webb told the court his clients had been properly served when they were not.

Specifically, the bar alleges the following violations against Webb:
• Failure to diligently defend the Guys in their 2009 foreclosure case.
• Engaging in a conflict of interest by entering a security agreement with David Guy, without first advising him to seek independent counsel.
• Failure to protect both clients after withdrawing as their attorney in a foreclosure.
• Failure to explain matters to the Guys to help them make informed decisions.
• Misrepresentations to the court and judges.

The bar complaint also alleges Webb broke the rules relating to attorney diligence, communication, conflict of interest, declining or terminating representation, meritorious claims and contentions, candor toward tribunal, truthfulness and misconduct.

Webb denied the allegations in an April response filed by his Orlando attorney, Barry Rigby.

In Webb’s response, he claims the 12th Circuit grievance committee offered him a diversion, which was “overturned” in a “deviation from proper procedures.”

An example of a diversion is a requirement to attend an ethics course, Susannah Lyle, bar spokeswoman, said.

The state bar regulates attorneys and assigns cases to grievance committees to determine “probable cause” before filing complaints on rule violations, such as the one filed against Webb.

Violations can lead to discipline by the state Supreme Court, ranging from a reprimand to law license suspension or discharge from the bar.

Twentieth Circuit Judge Alane Laboda is assigned to referee Webb’s case and will hear evidence, recommend sanctions and/or review a consent judgment.

After the referee hears a case and makes recommendations, the highest state court “very often adopts them,” according to Lyle.

No date has been set for a hearing.

Homeless man faces battery, resisting arrest charges

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James Wallace, 29, listed as homeless, was arrested May 5 for battery on a Bradenton Beach law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence.

Wallace also was cited for violating a city ordinance that prohibits drinking alcohol on the street.

It is his second run-in with BBPD in as many months.

On May 5 at about 3:45 p.m., BBPD Officer John Tsakiri observed Wallace, beer in hand, outside the Freckled Fin Restaurant & Public House, 101 Bridge St., and warned him about having alcohol on the street.

A few minutes later, the officer observed him drinking a beer on the stairs outside the Circle K, 103 Gulf Drive N. As Tsakiri approached, Wallace attempted to flee up the stairway. Wallace pushed the officer and they tumbled down the steps, fighting, according to the police report.

Tsakiri had Wallace against the squad car and was trying to handcuff him when Wallace struck the officer in the chest several times, escaped and ran on Gulf Drive to Bridge Street.

A bystander joined the chase and Wallace was caught, but resisted as Tsakiri cuffed him.

He was transported to Manatee County jail.

Wallace was released May 6 on his own recognizance and assigned to a pre-trial program, requiring him to report to a probation officer.

In April, Wallace faced a charge of resisting arrest without violence when he ran from police while on the Cortez Bridge. In court, he pleaded no contest and 12th Circuit Judge Mark Singer withheld adjudication and sentenced him to time served.

Wallace’s arraignment for his May arrest is set for 9 a.m. Friday, June 9, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Holmes Beach commissioners look into adding tree protections

A city recognized by Tree City USA should do better.

Commissioner Carol Soustek wants the city to find ways to protect trees.

A short supply of shade in Holmes Beach prompted Soustek to bring up discussion of tree protection regulations May 9.

“Our city is kind of trying to be the Tree City of the USA but we’re not protecting anything here,” Soustek said.

Construction of a single-family home in Holmes Beach does not include permitting for tree removal.

“They don’t have to apply for any kind of landscaping permits to knock down these trees,” Soustek said.

Tree City USA is a program under the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation to green up communities by managing and expanding trees. In order to achieve Tree City USA status, cities must meet four core standards of urban forestry management: “maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capital on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day,” according to arborday.org.

Some cities have protections for trees with a trunk circumference of 24 inches or more. Tampa has an aggressive tree-protection ordinance, Soustek said.

“You gotta beg to remove their live oaks,” she said.

All trees 5 inches and larger in trunk diameter are protected in Tampa and require tree removal and site clearing permits, according to tampagov.net.

Building official Jim McGuinness said tree protection is “somewhat of a toothless lion” because of a single-family exemption, which he said is where most of the trees are in the city.

He added the commissioners should remove the exemption for single-family dwellings if they hope to save trees, because his department is receiving a lot of demolition permits for existing dwellings.

“The pace is really picking up,” McGuinness said. “There might be a beautiful tree there.”

Commissioner Marvin Grossman said the city could require a survey of trees and add a replacement factor to the current ordinance.

“They have to allow you to build, but you have to replace them with something, not just a palm tree,” Grossman said.

Mayor Bob Johnson said protecting the trees should be a commission goal.

“I was surprised that you could just take down any tree as I listened here today,” Johnson said. “I think that we have a number of people on this island that can provide good input.”

City attorney Patricia Petruff recommended the commission determine standards for tree protection by gathering examples from other cities.

McGuinness recommended commissioners consider the criteria in Venice’s tree-protection ordinance, which requires a tree removal permit for new construction.

Anna Maria has “tightened up” on landscape and tree standards, Soustek said.

The Anna Maria ordinance was updated in 2014 to include requiring a landscape plan that meets certain criteria submitted with all building permits prior to issuing a certificate of occupancy. For residential property, each plan must include at least six native trees with a minimum of three different tree species and at least nine native shrubs with a minimum of three different shrub species.

The commission will meet next at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Drug charges dropped against Bradenton Beach man

Drug charges filed about a year ago against a Bradenton Beach man recently were tossed out of court.

With the State Attorney Office in agreement, 12th Circuit Judge Deno Economou May 2 dismissed a four-count complaint against Timothy Merritt, 26, of Bradenton Beach.

Charges of intent to deliver cocaine and possession cannabis, paraphernalia and controlled substance were filed by the prosecutor in May 2016 after Merritt’s arrest two months earlier.

Holmes Beach Police Officer Mike Walker arrested Merritt March 1, 2016, at 11:03 p.m., after the officer reported he’d been in an altercation with two or three “white males” in the 2900 block of Gulf Drive.

Manatee County Sheriff’s deputy Patrick Manning assisted Walker and found a “white male” walking at 30th Street and Gulf Drive, according to Merritt’s motion to suppress evidence by defense attorney Brett McIntosh.

At gunpoint, the deputy ordered Merritt to place his hands on the police squad, the motion stated.

The vague description of “white males” in the predominantly white neighborhood, where Merritt was stopped and searched, led the defense down the path of dismissal.

Merritt’s attorney argued there was no “reasonable suspicion” to make the stop and search under the Fourth Amendment.

“My guy happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” McIntosh said, adding that even though police found drugs, because the officer arrested him illegally, the law excludes the evidence.

“It was a strong motion. The state to their credit, after reviewing it, conceded to it,” McIntosh added.

Anna Maria approves 6 Bert Harris counter offers

The negotiations continue.

Six counter offers on Bert Harris claims were approved May 11 by the Anna Maria City Commission, offering occupancy rates between 10 and 16 for vacation homes.

Commissioner Nancy Yetter voted against the settlement offers.

The city of Anna Maria adopted a vacation rental ordinance in 2015 that went into effect in April 2016. Among other things, the VRO specifies that short-term vacation rentals can have an occupancy of no more than eight people, regardless of home size.

Since April 2016, 112 Bert Harris claims have been filed against the city — all but one claim was based on the occupancy rate enacted in the VRO.

The Bert Harris Jr. Private Property Protection Act of 1995 allows property owners to seek relief if they can prove a government action lowered the value of their property.

Claimants must provide appraisals to establish value and settlements, in lieu of cash payments, can either fully or partly restore the rights that existed prior to the prohibitions. The city has 150 days to respond to claims.

Of the 112 claims, all have received an initial offer and 59 were settled as of May 12.

A counter offer was approved for property at 9802 Gulf Drive, owned by 9802 Gulf Drive LLC, offering a 14-person occupancy on the condition that a proposed second living room is of sufficient size to accommodate two guests.

Tommy and Michelle Bolton, who own property at 306 Tarpon St., were given a second 10-person occupancy offer for their property.

Casita Marina Inc. was offered a 16-person occupancy for property at 11101 Gulf Drive upon city staff confirming the living area has a sleeper sofa, an emergency egress and complies with city code.

Luann Marshall and Linda Cedolin were offered a 14-person occupancy rate again for both lots at 404 Spring Ave., which they filed in two claims, with the city requesting they stick to proposed plans to build a six-bedroom residence with 100 square feet or larger rooms.

Owners Gregory Reynolds, Kristine Zelt, Andrew Offerle, Marcus Martin and Heather Martin were offered occupancy of 12 guests by the city commission for their property at 797 N. Shore Drive.

… and historic home preservation, too

Yesterday is history, but it’s still important.

Holmes Beach commissioners are expected to consider outlining historic preservation measures soon after the city of Anna Maria completes its process.

The process is “not hard. It’s just time consuming,” Commission Vice Chair Jean Peelen told commissioners May 9 at their work shop.

Peelen discussed reasons to pursue a local historic home designation, including tax benefits. With the help of resident Jack Brennan, Anna Maria is working to establish a local historic district and “hand us the templates” Peelen said.

Brennan was named 2016 Anna Maria Citizen of the Year for his volunteer work, including maintenance for the Anna Maria Island Historical Society and helping Anna Maria with its historical preservation efforts. He also is vice president of the AMI Community Development Fund, which is also known as Home Sweet Home.

A historic property can include homes, property or cultural monuments. One of the benefits of historic preservation is the ability to receive grants for renovations.

Certified rehabilitation projects must meet standards set by the National Park Service to be eligible for a 20 percent rehabilitation tax credit, according to nps.gov.

Peelen said the city has about 30 ground-level homes that could be considered historic but she recommended waiting until Anna Maria adopts its ordinance before proceeding.