Tag Archives: News

Land O’ Lakes man pleads no contest to DUI

A Land O’ Lakes man pleaded no contest to a charge of driving under the influence in 12th Circuit Court.

Brian Hull, 36, who refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test after an August 2016 arrest in Holmes Beach, was adjudicated guilty.

Judge Robert Farrance sentenced Hull to 12 months probation, crediting him for time served in jail, in a Feb. 23 order.

Hull was ordered to complete DUI school, attend a victim-impact panel and perform 50 hours of public service.

The judge also suspended Hull’s driving privileges for six months, allowing an exception for business purposes.

In the charges, the state considered a passenger under 18 was in the vehicle Hull was driving, as well as a prior license suspension for refusing a BAC test.

The judge also assessed Hull more than $1,870 in court costs and fines.

HBPD chase ends in Gulf of Mexico

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Abraham Saucedo

A police chase ended with the arrest of a 26-year-old Wimauma man who had fled into the Gulf of Mexico, saying he didn’t want to go back to jail.

Holmes Beach police arrested Abraham Saucedo at 1:52 p.m. March 11 for allegedly possessing drugs, fleeing and evading arrest and driving on a revoked license. He also faces a charge of giving a false name to an officer and citations for traffic violations.

The pursuit began after HBPD Officer Joel Pierce noticed a white Chevy Impala with window tint darker than the legal limit. The vehicle was traveling south in the 3700 block of Gulf Drive.

Running the tag, Pierce found it was expired and belonged to another vehicle. When he attempted to stop the motorist, Saucedo allegedly sped down Avenue F and drove into a backyard in the 3100 block.

Pierce and several other officers, including Chief Bill Tokajer, pursued Saucedo, who exited the vehicle, ran into the Gulf of Mexico and emptied his pockets in waist deep water, according to the police report.

Saucedo got out of the water after repeated demands by the officers.

Saucedo allegedly gave officers a false name, but police learned his real name from his girlfriend when she called his cellphone.

While searching the car, an HBPD officer found an open cigarette pack in the console allegedly containing marijuana, crystal meth and cocaine. Saucedo told police the drugs were for his use, according to the police report.

The next morning Holmes Beach officers returned to the location where Saucedo entered the Gulf after a swimmer reported finding two handguns in waist-deep water. Police recovered a 9 mm gun reported stolen in Port Charlotte, a .380 pistol and a magazine with four rounds of ammunition.

Saucedo remains at the Manatee County jail without bond.

He also is charged with a January 2015 burglary in Parrish. After the Holmes Beach arrest, his bond in the 2015 case was revoked.

Saucedo’s arraignment in the Holmes Beach case is set for 9 a.m. Friday, April 21, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

State declines to file DUI charge in Holmes Beach arrest

The 12th Circuit State Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against a Tampa man arrested for allegedly driving under the influence and drug possession in Holmes Beach.

Signs of impairment noted by the officer were not enough to make the case against Juan Carlos Montero, 39, stopped for speeding in December 2016.

In a Jan. 10 memo, Assistant State Attorney Lauren Benson stated there was insufficient evidence to prove the crime charged, including no field-test observations, no breath-test results and the location of the marijuana in the driver-side door and paraphernalia in the center console.

Also cited in the incident was Montero’s passenger, Danielle Gregory, 26, of St. Petersburg.

Gregory pleaded no contest Jan. 17 to a charge of possessing marijuana.

Judge Robert Farrance assessed Gregory $294.25 in court costs, due by Feb. 18, which she failed to pay, according to the court website.

County commissioner says new pier unlikely for Manatee Public Beach

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The pier at the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach was closed in 2008 and demolished in 2009. Islander File Photo

Some longtime residents of Holmes Beach likely spent time on the pier that used to jut about 100 feet into the Gulf of Mexico at the Manatee Public Beach.

Some residents grew up with fond memories; they met and fell in love there, or just fell in love with the beach and the pier. They took pictures of their young children there.

The snack bar had a rooftop deck and stairs that led to the shoreline pier.

At night, they led to the stars. It was idyllic.

Officials deemed the groin – built to aid in beach renourishment — unsafe and tore it down in 2009. The Manatee County Commission voted to replace it. But the state told the county that since there is no erosion in that area, the groin would not be funded as a beach renourishment tool.

Based on available data, county officials could not prove a new groin would benefit erosion control.

All that’s left are fading memories and photos.

However, the groin could be replaced by a taller recreational pier. County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said at a recent commission meeting that it would be nice to have a recreational pier there. She even has a suggestion for a name. She’d like to name the pier after the late Dave Miller, a longtime Manatee County lifeguard.

“I always wanted to name that after him because he was a head lifeguard for a while and a lifeguard for many years,” Whitmore said in a phone interview.

But pier supporters have a quandary.

Whitmore believes the public wants a structure similar to the low height of the demolished groin, she said, but the state has ruled that out.

That leaves construction of a higher, 15- to 17-foot-tall pier as the only option. Whitmore, a former Holmes Beach mayor, said she believes some residents are opposed to a 15-foot-high pier, “and I can respect that.”

Whitmore said spoke to Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson about a new pier. But Johnson said in a phone call to The Islander that replacement of the groin as a taller recreational pier is not a high priority for the city.

“There is nothing going on right now,” he said. “With the improvements that have been done with beach renourishment, and so forth, I understand the whole business about no groin up here. That makes perfect sense to me.

“The option of going to a very high pier — which is pretty questionable — is not something that’s really high on the list of things to be done.”

With certain funding sources, such as the penny tax for beach renourishment and groins, ineligible for use to pay for a recreational pier, other revenue sources would have to be tapped.

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.