Tag Archives: News

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.

ManaSota cities fight for home rule in Tallahassee

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Florida League of Cities ambassador Carol Westmoreland speaks March 9 during a ManaSota League of Cities meeting in the chambers at Longboat Key Town Hall, 501 Bay Isles Road, Longboat Key. Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Searon and service dog Reece are seated in the gallery. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

The 2017 legislative session has begun in Tallahassee and home rule is at risk, according to the ManaSota League of Cities.

At their March 9 meeting, MSLC members discussed their approach for the legislative session, which began March 7.

The MSLC operates under the Florida League of Cities and comprises nine members, each representing a municipality in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Members of the MSLC meet bimonthly to discuss issues affecting the cities.

Their primary goal is to support and protect home rule — the power of local governments to make legislative decisions.

Two bills have been filed — House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 1158 — that would reduce the ability of local governments to regulate business, including vacation rentals.

Palmetto Mayor Brian Williams, the MSLC president, motioned for a resolution urging the Legislature oppose HB 17 and SB 1158. The motion passed unanimously.

Additionally, House Bill 13 would severely restrict the ability of community redevelopment agencies to conduct agency business and create a process by which all CRAs in Florida would be terminated, according to the bill.

Florida League of Cities ambassador Carol Westmoreland, a lobbyist for 18 years, addressed the regional board March 9.

“Tallahassee is the home of the Florida League of Cities and we employ lobbyists that are your representatives and ambassadors that are your links,” she said.

Bradenton Councilman Patrick Roff asked Westmoreland why the Legislature would want to eliminate CRAs.

“What is their purpose?” Roff asked. “Do they like slum and blight?”

Cities that can prove blight exists can create a CRA and are allocated incremental tax dollars from the county to enhance the area.

Bradenton Beach designated its downtown historic district as a CRA in 1992.

Westmoreland said a lot of legislators don’t understand CRAs.

“We try to educate them,” she said.

The MSLC agreed that Williams would write and sign a similar resolution urging lawmakers to oppose HB 13.

The motion passed with a unanimous vote.

Westmoreland said it is important for members of the league and their constituents to advocate in any way they can.

“There is no bad advocacy,” she said. “Phone calls are always best, followed by emails, and resolutions show the Legislature that a group of people is in agreement on a matter.”

The next meeting of the MSLC will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 11, at Longboat Key Town Hall, 501 Bay Isles Road.

Judge agrees to hear 
‘derelict vessel’ case

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John Maguire III smiles after his March 7 pretrial conference in a Manatee County courtroom. Assistant public defender, Rebecca Degel, talks behind him.

A derelict vessel case veered off an ordinary course March 7 in 12th Circuit Court.

Clad in a Bud Light T-shirt, jeans and white fishing boots, bait monger John Maguire III stood in the courtroom as his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Rebecca Degel, addressed the court.

Degel asked Judge Mark Singer to set a hearing for her Jan. 23 motion alleging prosecutorial misconduct for reneging on a plea deal.

Degel’s motion asks the court to dismiss the case and to order the 12th Circuit State Attorney’s Office to perform according to its plea bargain.

Degel told the judge, if necessary, she would press the case to trial. Four trial dates in the Maguire case have been set and canceled since September 2016.

Singer called the Maguire case “well-known,” referenced testimony given by Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Hearn and agreed to a hearing.

At a table in the courtroom, two county prosecutors remained silent.

Maguire lives aboard a sailboat near the Cortez Bridge and, in 2015, sold bait from a platform vessel that he tethered to his sailboat.

Hearn cited Maguire’s 19-foot bait boat in April 2016. According to the citation, the vessel was partially submerged, had holes in the hull and cap and violated a state law against storing, leaving or abandoning a derelict vessel.

Florida law defines a derelict vessel as being “in a wrecked, junked or substantially dismantled condition upon any public waters of the state.”

To support the prosecutorial misconduct allegation, Degel’s motion states Maguire was told at a July 2016 hearing by “representatives of the state” what was “necessary to secure the dismissal of the charges against him,” including the installation of a motor and repairs to render the vessel operable.

Relying on the proffered deal, Maguire completed repairs and provided a video showing the vessel afloat and operational, according to the motion.

The motion also states one prosecutor emailed Degel in September 2016, indicating he had “watched the video and it looks good.”

In an Oct. 14, 2016, email, Assistant State Attorney Lauren P. Benson advised that the state would drop the case on the next court date.

That changed after an Oct. 31, 2016, email from Hearn stating the boat was derelict when it was cited, according to the motion.

In the motion, Degel alleges the state “abused its prosecutorial discretion by continuing a prosecution despite having indicated in writing that the charges would be dismissed.” The motion argues the state instead followed “the instructions of a police officer with a personal and vested interest in the prosecution.”

Acknowledging a dismissal for prosecutorial misconduct is an “extreme sanction,” Degel stated it was within the discretion of the court and appropriate in Maguire’s case.

Responding to Degel’s nine-page motion, Benson filed a one-page motion Feb. 2 asking the court to strike it, stating Maguire “did not comply with the terms of the agreement the state extended in prior plea negotiations.”

The next court date for Maguire on the docket is 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Bert Harris settlement offers continue in Anna Maria

Anna Maria City Commissioners authorized six more settlement offers March 9 for Bert Harris claims filed against the city.

Of 112 claims filed, 59 await a response or initial offer.

The six recommendations were for four new offers and two counter-offers and Vose recommended occupancy settlements between 10 and 12 for all six properties.

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 a property.

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

A vacation rental ordinance that went into effect in Anna Maria in April 2016 prompted a slew of Bert Harris claims primarily motivated by the city’s eight-person limit on occupancy in short-term vacation rentals.

The city has chosen to primarily settle most of the claims by negotiating a higher occupancy rate for claimants.

St. Pat’s parade set to entertain March 19

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The City of Dunedin Pipe Band marches and plays on the parade route in a past Beach Bistro celebration. The bistro’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take step off at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 19, in Holmes Beach. Islander File Photo

Anna Maria Island will show off its enthusiasm for all things Irish Sunday, March 19.

Sean Murphy, the Beach Bistro, Eat Here and the Doctor’s Office will present the 18th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Murphy, in a news release, said the idea for the parade was hatched in a bar. He and journalist Vin Mannix were “toasting St. Patrick’s parades of their ill-spent youth” and they resolved to have a parade on the island.

Over the years, the parade has grown to become the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade “south and east of Savannah, Georgia. It may also be the only St. Patrick’s parade south and east of Savannah, Georgia,” according to Murphy.

The parade — always on Sunday, and this year two days after the holiday — will depart from the Eat Here parking lot at the corner of Marina and Gulf drives and travel north on Marina Drive and then Palm Drive. The parade will end near 79th Street.

Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson and World War II veteran Bob Schwaeger, who was in the second wave of the Allied invasion at Omaha Beach on D-Day, will lead the procession of community groups, civic leaders, marching bands, pipe bands floats, trailered boats and the Pittsburgh Pirates mascot.

Previous parades featured an appearance by “Judy” the circus elephant, who died last year. This year, the parade will feature her longtime companion, “Mr. Bones” the camel.

Parade participants — Murphy invites anyone and everyone to join — will gather about 2 p.m. and the parade will step off at 4 p.m.

When asked about his motivation for staging the parade, Murphy has said, “I did it for my kids when they were little. It was great fun for the family to have its own parade. Now we do it for all the kids and all the families.”

He said at some point during the parade, he and Mannix and bistro bartender Fred “Sully” Sullivan will “stop and look at the crowd and the bands and balloons” and “marvel at all the chaos we have created without getting thrown in jail.”

For more information, call the Beach Bistro at 941-778-6444.

Late-night bridge incident ends in death

A 24-year-old Bradenton woman died after a crash on the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

Florida Highway Patrol reports Sophie L. Isherwood fell out of a 2009 Ford 150 onto Manatee Avenue at 12:22 a.m. March 3.

She and the driver, James R. Fetters III, 28, were traveling east when Isherwood exited the moving truck and it ran over her, the FHP report states.

Isherwood was transported to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton where she died of her injuries, the report states.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer reported the crash occurred on the Anna Maria Island Bridge just east of the bridge tender house, and HBPD officers directed traffic.

According to information provided from the scene to Tokajer, the couple were arguing as they drove across the bridge.

Charges are pending further investigation.