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HBPD arrests Bradenton man in stolen Lexus

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Nicholas Kimon

A 37-year-old Bradenton man was caught in a 2002 silver Lexus a day after a Holmes Beach woman reported it stolen.

Nicholas Kimon was arrested May 3 by Holmes Beach police for grand theft auto and driving with a revoked license as a habitual offender in the 2800 block of Gulf Drive.

The woman reported the Lexus stolen May 2 after a burglary at Delores Baker Real Estate, 2810 Gulf Drive.

Officer Alan Desantis ran the tag as he observed Kimon driving the Lexus and appearing nervous in the 2800 block of Avenue E, according to a HBPD report.

When Kimon saw the officer, he pulled the Lexus into a parking lot on Gulf Drive.

Kimon told police he had seen the Lexus on the street, with keys in the ignition, and decided to take the vehicle, which had been ticketed, according to Desantis’ report.

He also told police he intended to bring the vehicle to the address on the ticket.

Two briefcases with paperwork, keys, credit cards, checkbook and other items police connected to the burglary were found in the Lexus.

The items returned to the owner.

In addition to the grand theft and license charges, HBPD determined Kimon was wanted for a burglary warrant out of Manatee County.

He was arrested and transported to Manatee County jail.

Assigned a $3,000 bond, Kimon remained in the Manatee County jail at press time.

His arraignment is set at 9 a.m. Friday, June 1, in the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Motion denied in pretrial hearing for Bradenton Beach lawsuit

The judge has ruled on the first decision in a Bradenton Beach lawsuit.

A motion to sequester nonparty witnesses during depositions for a suit initiated August 2017 by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city against six now-former board members was denied May 9 during a pretrial hearing at the Manatee County Judicial Center before Judge Lon Arend.

Clarke alleges the defendants violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws by discussing city matters at a meeting of the now-defunct grass-roots group Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach, putting the city in danger of being in violation of Sunshine Laws regarding open meetings.

Additionally, Clarke is alleging several of the defendants exchanged emails regarding city matters brought before them as board members.

Defendant John Metz, a former planning and zoning board member, filed a motion to sequester nonparty witnesses during the depositions, preventing nonparty access to the discovery proceedings.

Additionally, Metz filed a motion to compel production of documents from Clarke. However, this motion was continued due to time limitations.

During the May 9 hearing, Jodi Ruberg with Kirk Pinkerton P.A. of Sarasota, representing Metz, said the defendants anticipate the city will call nonparty witnesses to give depositions and it is “essential” that witnesses are not influenced by other testimony.

Ruberg referenced the Florida sequestration rule, which says, “at the request of a party the court shall order, or upon its own motion the court may order, witnesses excluded from a proceeding so that they cannot hear the testimony of other witnesses…”

Previously, Metz said since city attorney Ricinda Perry is not a party, she could be considered a nonparty witness.

However, Perry filed documents May 9, before the hearing, to appear as co-counsel, along with Clarke and Bradenton Beach’s attorney for the suit, Robert Watrous of Sarasota.

Arend asked Ruberg who the defendants are expecting to appear as a nonparty witness. Ruberg responded that because the suit involves city meetings and neighborhood gatherings, there are a variety of people, including “people who are in communication with city officials” that could be deposed as nonparty witnesses.

Arend said someone could get a copy of the transcripts as public record. He also said he has not had someone come before him with a sequestration request that was not specific.

Watrous said since no one has been deposed, neither the defendant’s nor plaintiff’s representation knows the identity of the nonparty witnesses. He said he inquired with the defendant’s counsel regarding the “mysterious nonparty witnesses,” who would not name names.

He also said the Florida rule of civil procedure states there must be “good cause shown” to approve the motion and there has been “no cause shown.”

Watrous said the city wants all proceeding to be open to the public, but the defendants want to keep out the press. He added he has seen the press attend depositions in his cases without a problem.

Ruberg said the motion was not directed at the media.

Arend asked if the concern was the depositions could attract a large crowd, interfering with the discovery.

Attorney Jim Dye, representing former planning and zoning board member Reed Mapes, objected to opening depositions to the public because “factions have formed” in the city regarding the case. He is concerned if word gets out that the depositions are open, they “could lose control” of the proceedings.

Watrous said that would be a separate motion and he is not making this “an open invitation” to the depositions. He also said space in the court reporter’s room would limit the number of people who could attend.

Arend denied the motion to sequester nonparty witnesses under the sequestration rule, but expressed concerns about how the depositions would be conducted.

Depositions for the lawsuit are set for May 23.

As of May 11, the lawsuit has cost the city $56,318.

3 boats tagged as abandoned, 1 derelict in Bradenton Beach anchorage

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Bradenton Beach chalks up court win in derelict vessel case
Two abandoned cabin cruisers were tagged May 8 by Bradenton Beach police for removal.

Bradenton Beach police took the first step under a new ordinance.

BBPD Lt. John Cosby and Officer Eric Hill tagged four boats — one derelict and three abandoned vessels — May 8 with florescent orange removal orders while patrolling the city’s jurisdiction in Sarasota Bay.

The city received state authority in June 2006 to exercise police powers in the bay, about 500-800 feet from its mainland borders to the Intracoastal Waterway. The city also was granted 500 feet of jurisdiction into the Gulf of Mexico.

And, under the ordinance adopted by the city commission in April, the BBPD will continue to operate a derelict and abandoned vessel program Cosby has administered for the city since 2011.

With the latest boats tagged, Cosby will have removed 31 abandoned and derelict vessels during his tenure.

“The four we did today were problem childs,” he said May 8, adding the new ordinance will provide hearing opportunities recommended by the state for boats considered derelict.

For derelict boats, where ownership is known, people have 21 days to ask for a hearing and, if no hearing is requested, they will have 45 days to remove the vessel.

Posting in city hall is required if the owner does not reside on the boat, Cosby said.

For the abandoned boats, the new ordinance gives boat owners five days to claim their boats before the city begins the removal process.

Cosby said he’d been waiting for the new ordinance to begin removals under his 2017-18 $20,000 budget and the $9,300 remaining from last year’s allocation.

The cost to remove each vessel runs about $3,000-$5,000. The city contracts with N.E. Taylor Boatworks of Cortez to extract the boats and is reimbursed by the West Coast Inland Navigational District through a partnership with Manatee County.

The Sea Claire, the abandoned vessel tagged May 8, may cost more because it’s taken on water, Cosby said.

State law provides law enforcement with authority to remove derelict and abandoned vessels, which can become threats to navigation, the environment and cause damage to property during storms.

Cosby said none of the four vessels currently pose environmental threats.

The anchorage community includes about 40 vessels.

Police say regular BBPD patrols over the past several years have improved the boaters’ compliance to registration and equipment violations, including improper navigational or anchor lights.

“And that’s all we are asking — to become compliant,” Cosby said.

BBPD Officer Eric Hill, who patrols the anchorage, also noted a reduction in calls for police service.

With the boat removals, Hill said, people who have returned from prison and others looking for living quarters on abandoned or derelict boats “have moved on.”

“You’re not giving them a place to stay,” he added.


Bradenton Beach chalks up court win in derelict vessel case
Enforcement efforts by Bradenton Beach police led to an April 3 ruling in 12th Circuit Court against an owner of a derelict vessel in the anchorage south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Judge Renee Inman found John Avery guilty on misdemeanor counts for failing to register the boat and violating the state law against derelict vessels.

Her judgment states it is unlawful for a person to store, leave or abandon a vessel that is wrecked, junked or dismantled “upon any public waters of the state.”

Avery testified he had no permanent motor, only a portable motor, no sail and no ability to fix the boat, according to Inman’s judgment.

Officer Josh Betts, formerly with the BBPD, told the court he’d cited Avery’s vessel three times and no corrections were made. The boat posed a “potential environmental and navigational hazard,” having faded registration numbers, no sails, no motor and no means of propulsion, the judgment states.

Inman withheld adjudication and assessed $294 in court costs and $100 to the BBPD.

She also ordered Avery to “get his boat in compliance with Florida statutes or have the vessel removed from its current location.”

The judge deferred sentencing to July 20, “at which time the court will consider the status of this vessel.”

Cortez, FISH members vow to fight high bridge

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Traffic stops on the Cortez Bridge April 7. Bridge delays for boat traffic would not occur on a fixed-span bridge. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor

This FISH fight isn’t over.

Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage board members discussed during a May 7 meeting ways to resist the Florida Department of Transportation and its plans for a high fixed-span bridge in Cortez.

As part of their charter, FISH members lobby against land developments seen as detrimental to the commercial fishing way of life. FISH consistently opposed a 65-foot-clearance fixed-span option at previous DOT public meetings.

The DOT decision announced at the April 23 Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting made stronger opposition imperative, members said.

“A high-rise bridge would be horrific for Cortez,” said board member John Stevely. “I think there has to be a compromise.”

“We will try to stop it,” said Plum Taylor, FISH Board member. “We always have.”

Board member Linda Molto was tasked with coordinating with Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, who also is opposed to a large bridge, to discuss mutual options.

“I want to get together with Bradenton Beach because they are not happy about it at all. They’re not happy. We’re not happy,” Molto said. “I always believe there is something we can do.”

Support for the fight is gaining momentum.

The Holmes Beach City Commission unanimously voted at its May 8 meeting to issue a letter of opposition to the DOT’s bridge proposal.

FISH members say the National Register of Historic Places designation secured for the Cortez Historic District in 1995 may afford some protection.

The district is bounded by Cortez Road, 119th Street West, Sarasota Bay and 124th Street Court West.

“I would think it would be a very, very strong point,” Stevely said. “I would think it’s a way to go at this.”

The national register is the federal government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects worthy of preservation by virtue of historical significance.

A listing does not automatically invoke local historic district zoning or local landmark designations, according to Sarah Revell, director of communications for the Florida Division of Historical Resources.

“Listing in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places does not offer specific protections,” Revell wrote in a May 8 email to The Islander.

It could provide protection coupled with the Cortez vision plan, Molto said. Cortez, Bradenton Beach and the other island cities, Anna Maria and Holmes Beach, are low-rise communities, and the proposed DOT span just doesn’t fit the profile, Molto said.

“Cortez has a vision plan, and you can only build to a certain height,” Molto said. “How can the government come in and say, ‘We can build higher.’”
Ironically, the state government funded the Cortez vision plan process, Molto said.

“If the government funds this project to have us decide what we want Cortez to be, how can the government come in and destroy that?” she asked.

FISH leadership could file a lawsuit to oppose the DOT decision to build a new, $72-million megabridge rather than repair the present structure.

“Not sure on what legal grounds we would oppose the bridge,” said FISH vice president Jane von Hahmann.

Von Hahmann said FISH would need support from Manatee County officials, which is unlikely. District 3 Commissioner Steve Jonsson, who represents Anna Maria Island and west Bradenton, and at-large Commissioner Betsy Benac already have expressed strong support for the DOT’s choice of a high bridge.

The drawbridge — officially opened in 1957 — links Bradenton Beach with the mainland at Cortez. DOT inspections between 2008 and 2012 found it repairable but ranked it functionally obsolete.

Eventually, the cost of repairing the older structure will outstrip the price of a new span by millions of dollars, according to a DOT report.

Design is scheduled to begin this year, while the right-of-way acquisition phase is funded in 2020.

The bridge still requires final approval from the DOT Office of Environmental Management in Tallahassee.

Construction is not funded, so it could be seven to 10 years before a new Cortez Bridge rises, according to L.K. Nandam, DOT District 1 secretary.

There is time to change the DOT’s direction.

“Back in 1995, they didn’t think we had a chance,” said FISH board member Kaye Bell, recounting the last time Cortezians convinced the DOT to keep the low bridge. “Every Saturday, the whole village practically got out there holding signs. We have to all get together and support each other.

We have to write letters and make noise.”

Miller said she believes the communities can band together to win an uphill fight. “It appears that decisions are made, despite what the community residents voice, and that’s the distressing part,” Miller said. “This bridge just makes no sense no matter how you look at it.”

Founded in 1991, FISH supports a 95-acre preserve and community programs. It will next meet at 7 p.m. Monday, June 4, at Fishermen’s Hall, 4511 124th St. W.

Longboat Key man walks into traffic, dies

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Longboat Key police respond May 8 to a fatal pedestrian accident in the 6800 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

A man on his 85th birthday was on his morning walk.

Warren Roberts, 85, of Longboat Key, died at 6 a.m. May 8 after he entered the path of two northbound vehicles in the 6800 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

Roberts was walking west from the east side of the Gulf of Mexico Drive near the Whitney Beach Plaza, the report stated.

Longboat Key police responded at 6:02 a.m., closed Gulf of Mexico Drive between the 6700 block and Broadway Street and posted a screen and perimeter around the deceased. The FHP arrived at 9:15 a.m.

“He was out on his morning walk,” Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming said, who added it was his birthday.

“That’s just what he does. His wife told him to take his hearing aid, but he forgot it and got hit.”

A 2016 Hyundai Tuscan that was the first vehicle to strike Roberts was totaled in the accident, according to the FHP.

The Hyundai was driven by Richard Sullo, 71, of Palmetto, who was transported to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton due to chest pains after the collision, the report stated.

FHP reported a second vehicle, a 2008 Mercedes ML 350, also struck Roberts after the first collision.

The motorist, Cheri Zupa, 41, of Longboat Key, and a 15-year-old passenger, were in the Mercedes SUV, according to the report.

No charges were issued.

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following notices for the week of May 14:

• Avenue C: Manatee County crews are replacing force mains. Installation of a 6-inch water main is underway along Avenue C from 24th to 26th streets north. Crews are installing water services across Avenue C. Intermediate road closures will take place. The route from Avenue C southbound onto Gulf Drive is temporarily closed. The roadway is open northbound to local traffic and emergency vehicles from Gulf Drive to 22nd Street North.

• Gulf Drive, between Avenue C and Cortez Road: Continuing through June 29, directional drilling and open-cut installation of a force main is underway. Traffic will be shifted to the west to allow for construction activities. For more information about the project, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

• SR 64/Manatee Avenue on Perico Island from Martinique Drive to 107th Court West: Crews are improving drainage, constructing sidewalk and bicycle lanes and installing new signage and pavement markings. Work occurs off the roadway and does not require lane closures. Florida Safety Contractors Inc. is the contractor. Expected completion is fall 2018.

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

Holmes Beach OKs money for center despite concerns

The city relinquished in spite of misgivings.

A wary Holmes Beach Commission released $22,500 budgeted last year for the Center of Anna Maria Island at its May 8 meeting.

The money had been withheld as the center dealt with financial concerns over the past year, including questions over recently departed executive director Kristen Lessig’s handling of funds.

At the urging of Commissioner Rick Hurst, who advocated for the community center and coaches soccer there, the commission voted 3-1 to release the money despite reservations expressed by the mayor, two commissioners and a member of the public.

“They have done a great job,” Hurst said. “They are in the black right now. I think we have punished them enough for what happened four or five years ago. We’ve got to be done with that.”

Hurst said the center’s financial snarls have been untangled. He cited figures posted on the center’s website as evidence of transparency.

Questions also were raised about Chris Culhane, who was announced May 4 as the new center leader.

Commissioner Pat Morton wondered why Culhane wasn’t at the meeting asking for the money instead of Hurst.

“I don’t know the man,” Morton said. “I’d just like the new gentleman to explain some situations.”

Commissioner Carol Soustek said she questions the center’s posted financial results, citing $100,000 in “unbudgeted capital expenditures,” and asked why center leadership is doing so little fundraising.

Soustek also voiced reservations about the center’s board, reservations she said she’s harbored a long time.

She called for the center to furnish audited financial figures.

“Every time I tried to get figures from the center, they changed all the time,” Soustek said. “I’ve just got a lot of unanswered questions.”

Mayor Bob Johnson said it’s not been a smooth road working out the financial kinks with center officials over the past couple of years, although there has been progress. It’s been months, however, since he received detailed financial reports from the center, the mayor said.

“I don’t think we’re in a position right now, tonight, to say ‘yes,’ because we really don’t have a financial view,” Johnson said.

Hurst responded that the mayor can reference audited financial information online at centerami.org.

“Do you want them to walk up and hand them to you?” Hurst said.

The mayor said center officials should be present to discuss the financial situation.

Resident Nancy Deal raised another concern in citing a story in the May 9 issue of The Islander. She called for caution in dispensing funds to the center and its newly appointed, unproven executive director.

The Islander reported Culhane characterized himself as a sovereign citizen not subject to state laws in settling traffic and divorce court cases.

“Can he please reassure us taxpayers that he is a trustworthy caretaker of taxpayer money?” Deal asked during public comment.

“Until we meet the man, I don’t think any of us are going to be comfortable he’s the appropriate selection,” Titsworth said.

Holmes Beach has supported the center over the past two decades with more than $500,000 — an average contribution of $26,816 per fiscal year.

The top amount was $51,000 in 2006-07, the year before the start of the Great Recession.

“I personally think we’re nitpicking them to death,” Hurst said. “It’s going to fail if we as a community don’t support it.”

Hurst, Titsworth and Morton voted to continue the giving streak. Soustek voted no. The mayor does not have a vote.

“I’m done saying no,” Titsworth said. “I’m done saying prove it.”

The commission will next meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Bradenton Beach ‘pulls trigger’ on historic district plans

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The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency plans to enhance the safety and aesthetics of the roundabout and surrounding landscaping at Bridge Street and Gulf Drive. Islander File Photo: 
ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

It’s time to break down the plan and “pull the trigger.”

The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency May 2 reviewed a 15-year budget planning work sheet and determined which projects to begin this year and in 2018-19.

With guidance from city engineer Lynn Burnett, the CRA has developed an updated master plan to hardscape — incorporate architectural features — and landscape in the CRA district, which is bounded by the north side of Cortez Road, Sarasota Bay, Fifth Street South and the Gulf of Mexico.

The CRA consists of the city commission and two business members, restaurateurs John Horne, AMOB owner, and Ed Chiles, owner of the Beach House.

The CRA, along with Burnett and city attorney Ricinda Perry, reviewed the list and determined which items to address.

“This spreadsheet is a tool to help us figure out what we want to plan for and what we want to go ahead and pull the trigger on,” Perry said.

A motion to move forward with short-term projects — updated benches, garbage receptacles, retrofitted planter boxes with new landscaping, solar beacon lights, pavers and bike-path and gateway signage — passed unanimously.

Other items on the list, including a new well for irrigating the landscaping and 22 hanging baskets along Bridge Street, remain under consideration.

The estimated cost for short-term projects totals $470,052.

Commissioner Jake Spooner suggested the CRA implement the short-term projects that “can be done now” to enhance the look of the district, while considering longer-term options, including the well.

Mayor John Chappie said he is concerned the hanging baskets could become a “maintenance nightmare” and reminded the board that CRA funds cannot be used for maintenance, so the cost would fall to the city.

Members agreed to postpone discussion of the well and hanging baskets to a future meeting.

Additionally, CRA members discussed implementing plans to enhance the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The first phase is the replacement of the floating dock for loading and unloading passengers adjacent to the pier, expected to be in place by the end of June.

The next phase — approved, but not funded — would include slips, or finger-docks, attached to the floating dock.

The final phase would be seagrass mitigation for additional finger docks between the floating dock and a city-owned dock on the south side of the pier.

Chiles suggested placing clams from the Gulf Shellfish Institute — of which he is treasurer — into the anchorage by the pier.

“We could put a half-million clams in there cheap,” Chiles said. It could amount to an attraction for people. “It’s another hook and it’s great for the water, great for the environment.”

Commissioner Ralph Cole, also CRA chair, said this supports his idea to create a “living shoreline” in the anchorage adjacent to the pier.

A motion for Chiles to work with the GSI to develop a proposal for a living shoreline for the CRA to consider, including a cost and time frame, passed unanimously.

Homeless man arrested for Holmes Beach burglary

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John Villecco Jr

A 27-year-old man stayed the night at a friend’s house without permission and he was arrested for burglary.

John Villecco Jr., listed as homeless, was arrested May 2 by Holmes Beach police for burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and criminal mischief in the 5600 block of Gulf Drive.

When Villecco’s friend returned home, he found his door open and the man sleeping on his couch.

According to the police report, Villecco allegedly trashed the house and wrote on the door.

Villecco’s friend wanted him to leave, so he took him to the Manatee Public Beach, called 911 and pressed the charge.

Villecco told police he entered his friend’s home because he was scared and needed help.

Villecco said he didn’t remember writing on the door but “had things in his head I just needed to get out,” the police report stated.

Villecco was arrested and transported to the Manatee County jail, where he posted $7,620 bond and was released.

His arraignment is set at 9 a.m. Friday, June 1, in the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.