2004 year in review
Four hurricanes hitting Florida in six weeks more than ruled the second half of 2004's new events. Fortunately for Islanders, the storms for the most part spared homes and businesses on Anna Maria Island, but there was significant beach erosion.
And now, for the second half of 2004 ...
No room at the inn: The Fourth of July weekend saw swamped accommodations on the Island. As the head of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce put it, "Except for a few single units here and there, everyone was booked solid." Occupancy figures were reported to be up significantly from last year as well.
To the voters: Bradenton Beach voters will face four charter amendments later in the year. The changes would have a city manager operate the day-to-day business of the city as well as creation of a city treasurer. There was also a limitation of all structures of no more than 29 feet above the Federal Emergency Management Agency base-flood elevation. Plus, there was a change to require a super-majority vote of the city commission on comprehensive plan amendments, rezonings, special exceptions or street vacations. The final amendment would ban the sale of any city property that is adjacent to the water.
Where's the parking?: Members of the Bradenton Beach scenic highway committee learned that although there are a plethora of parking spaces indicated on several maps, the actual amount of parking appeared to be much less.
Another condo: The Beach House Resort, 1000 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, was sold and the new owner planned to renovate the rental property into nine condominium units.
Once more into legal fray: The three Island cities, the environmental group ManaSota-88 and Holmes Beach resident Joan Perry filed a lawsuit to block St. Joe Co. plans to develop 686 condominium units on Perico Island. Manatee County filed a separate lawsuit to halt the development.
Impalement re-enactment: A Discovery Channel film crew visited the Island to re-enact the impalement of a man 10 years ago. Ex-Washington, D.C., Metro Police Chief Maurice Cullinane was fishing with friends when an anchor slipped off the boat and boomeranged back into the boat, impaling him in the head. He was taken to the hospital, the anchor removed, and he recovered.
Pile it on: The pile of dredged sand, located near Holmes Beach City Hall, grew bigger and bigger and will remain for several months before being hauled off. The sand is the byproduct of the dredging of canals in the city.
NIMBY: Several Anna Maria City residents objected to the renovation project of the Anna Maria Island Community Center that would change the building's main entry from Magnolia Avenue to Palm Avenue. Center officials said the plans were preliminary and subject to change.
Minimum seven days: Holmes Beach planners recommended the city commission limit short-term rentals to at least seven days in the city's residential zoning districts. Some residents had complained that the current practice of no restrictions had created one-night rentals in their neighborhoods and had changed the quality of life they enjoyed.
Build it: An appellate court ruled that two duplexes should and could be built in the 1400 block of Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach. A lower court had ruled the city's decision to deny the development was in order. The matter has been in court since 2000. The city commission agreed to appeal the appellate court ruling.
Closed: The Palma Sola Golf Club on 75th Street in Bradenton closed after 36 years of operation. The property will become a condominium development.
Elections: Qualifying for public offices came to a close on the Island. In Anna Maria, former Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh will face off against incumbent SueLynn; incumbent commissioners Linda Cramer and Duke Miller will also face challenger Ben Hayes in the two-seat election. In Bradenton Beach, City Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips was unopposed in her re-election bid; incumbent Anna O'Brien will face challenger Bill Shearon for the Ward 4 post. In Holmes Beach, Mayor Carol Whitmore was unopposed for re-election; incumbents Sandy Haas-Martens and Roger Lutz will face David Zaccagnino and former Mayor/Commissioner Pat Geyer for those two seats. The election is Nov. 2 for all cities.
Trashed: Holmes Beach residents "trashed" a proposal by Waste Management, the city's contracted garbage, trash and recycling hauler, to replace resident garbage cans with either 64- or 35-gallon wheeled containers. City commissioners agreed to study the matter further.
Rats!: A rodent infestation of Bradenton Beach City Hall prompted city officials to hire an extermination company to seal the building and trap for 30 days at a cost of $1,500.
Kabris compromise: The Holmes Beach City Commission heard a mediation proposal offered on the Kabris property, 101 75th St. Commissioners agreed to discuss the matter further later.
Players plays for 2004-05: Island Players announced the performances for the next season: "The Sensuous Senator," "The Orphans," "Over the Tavern," "Beu Jest," and The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery."
Turtles coming-out party: The first of the Island's loggerhead turtle eggs hatched and scampered into the surf.
Channel this: State and local officials investigated the creation of two channels off Jewfish Key, channels dredged apparently without permits. The channel on the west side of the island, just southeast of Bradenton Beach in Sarasota Bay, was estimated to be 850 feet long, 30 feet wide and 5 feet deep; another channel on the east side of Jewfish was smaller. "Whoever did the dredging did the people in that area a bad disservice," a marine officer with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said. "We will continue to go forward, and our goal is to have that area restored." Both civil and criminal penalties were being sought for whoever did the dredging and/or had it done.
Bridge replacement speed-up OK'd: Florida Department of Transportation officials agreed to replace the Key Royale Bridge in 2008. Not fast enough for Holmes Beach city officials, who approved borrowing the money to have the bridge replaced within a year and entered into an agreement with the DOT to get the money replaced in 2008.
Gear gone: Thieves took $5,600 in gear, mostly electronics, from the Sea Trek Diver shop in Bradenton Beach.
Shocking tale: Greg LaPensee survived a 23,000-volt shock while installing a water line in Holmes Beach. Four years ago, he lost control of his car while crossing the Anna Maria Island Bridge. It went over the rail, and LaPensee swam from piling to piling until he reached shore and help.
Turtle tragedy: Someone apparently trying to help a collection of caged sea turtles let them loose, and they promptly headed toward lights near Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach. About 50 were squashed by passing cars before turtle volunteers could corral the remaining errant hatchlings and put them in the Gulf.
Off to court: Nikki and Robert Hunt requested Anna Maria City approval to build a three-story residential-office-retail building at 303 Pine Ave. City commissioners rejected the proposal despite approval of the city attorney, the city planning commission and the city engineer. The Hunts vowed to take the matter to court.
Makeover maven: Islander Debbie Scott flew to Los Angeles to meet with producers on the ABC-TV series "Extreme Makeover." She has had dental problems that have caused her to lose weight due to an infection.
Stormwater fee proposed: Bradenton Beach officials pondered a $100-per-year stormwater management utility fee that would, among other things, address drainage problems in the city. Public hearings on the matter were planned at a later date.
Erosion woes: Homeowners in the 700 block of North Shore Drive in Anna Maria that had been hammered by storms and an especially eroded beach were told there was little that could be done to protect their homes until the next beach renourishment cycle in six to eight years.
Closed, but not for long: The Cafe on the Beach at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach closed for eight weeks for remodeling.
Now it's Manatee County's turn: Manatee County building officials stepped in to handle inspections in Bradenton Beach after Holmes Beach backed out of the practice. Bradenton Beach had been without a building official of its own since early January, and Holmes Beach had agreed to step in to help for a brief period of time. Bradenton Beach city commissioners offered the position to Charles Edwards of Bradenton, but he needs state licenses prior to beginning work.
Bridge work: Anna Maria city commissioners approved about $175,000 in repair work for the city's two bridges.
No joint cops: Holmes Beach officials nixed any joint law enforcement effort with Anna Maria due, in part, to Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore's observation that Anna Maria commissioners are subject to "micro-managing issues that are clearly legislative and I cannot subject my police department and myself to this."
Not "extreme" enough: Debbie Scott was rejected by TV executives as being "too pretty and too unhealthy" to receive an "Extreme Makeover." During a physical exam, three lumps were detected on her breast and one of the TV show's producers paid for a biopsy. She ended up back on the Island, where Dr. Gy Yatros said he would look at her dental issues.
Charley: Hurricane Charley, with its 145-mph winds, was predicted to make landfall at the north end of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Friday, Aug. 13. The Island, and much of the barrier island chain from Marco to Clearwater, underwent a mandatory evacuation of all residents. Islanders heeded the call and boarded up homes and businesses and left for higher ground by Thursday night. At about 2 p.m. Friday, Charley began to veer more toward the east, making landfall at Upper Captiva Island and Punta Gorda, eventually exiting the state near Melborne, causing widespread damage to the interior of the state. Islanders were allowed to return to their homes Friday night. Anna Maria Island sustained major power outages for up to four days, plus downed trees and some roof damage, but properties were otherwise unscathed from Hurricane Charley. Some beach erosion occurred. Building officials said that if Charley had struck the Island, it was "absolutely guaranteed" that the roofs of most, if not all Island homes and businesses, would have been blown away.
Charley aid: Islanders rushed to help residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Central Florida, bringing water, food and other supplies to the storm victims. As Mike Shannon at the Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach put it, "It was supposed to be ours. We're extremely lucky, and we need to share with the unlucky people that Charley didn't miss."
One more time: West Manatee Fire & Rescue District officials agreed to ask voters to approve a 1-mill property tax assessment on the Aug. 31 ballot. Voters rejected a similar proposal with a cap of 3.75 mills in March.
Kabris out, again: Holmes Beach city commissioners again rejected the Kabris request to change the zoning on their property at 101 75th St. to allow building another unit.
Turtles go to meet Charley: The sea turtle hatching rate was unprecedented prior to Hurricane Charley's approach, with about 90 percent of the nests on the Island hatching prior to the storm's approach. Only a small number of the remaining nests were flooded by the hurricane's high winds and strong waves.
Record: West Manatee Fire & Rescue District commissioners approved a record $4.6 million budget.
Bad roof: The Anna Maria City Hall roof repair estimate was pegged at $50,000. Further discussion was scheduled on the scope of remodeling work there.
Tidemark: A trustee with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court filed a motion that asked to have the proposed development's bankruptcy either be dismissed or placed under an involuntary ranking because the developer had failed to provide adequate financial information.
NO: Voters rejected the 1-mill property tax assessment requested by West Manatee Fire & Rescue District.
NO, too: Bradenton Beach voters rejected the city manager form of government change proposed by city officials. Voters did approve the limit on building height, the supra-majority vote on major land-use changes and the prohibition of selling public waterfront property.
Out: Anna Maria City Commission candidate Ben Hayes withdrew his name from the ballot, leaving incumbents Linda Cramer and Duke Miller unopposed for re-election in November.
Oops: Developers of a six-unit condo at the former Christian Science Church on Marina Drive in Holmes Beach were told that they need a small-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Map to build the project. The problem: Construction had already begun on the project.
Frances: Hurricane Frances struck the state of Florida just north of West Palm Beach on Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4, and slowly passed across the state, exiting into the Gulf north of Tampa. The storm had 105-mph winds at landfall. A voluntary evacuation of the Island was issued, and things looked good until the big storm neared Tampa, when power lines started to tumble and trees tip. A roof of a resort in Holmes Beach was ripped off, as was the roof at the pier restaurant in Bradenton Beach. Some experienced power outages for several days. Winds were clocked in gusts to 67 mph Sept. 5. Eight sea turtle nests were washed out in the storm's high winds and heavy surf.
Out: Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Anna O'Brien dropped out of her re-election bid for personal reasons, leaving Bill Shearon unopposed in his candidacy.
One more time: West Manatee Fire & Rescue District commissioners agreed to place yet another property tax request on the November ballot, this one requesting a half-mill levy.
Fee OK: Bradenton Beach city commissioners approved a $100-per-year fee for stormwater runoff control. The levy was expected to net $130,000 per year, with the funds to be used to improve drainage.
Ivan: Hurricane Ivan struck the Gulf Coast at the Florida-Alabama border Sept. 15 with 135-mph winds. The storm caused massive destruction in the Pensacola area, but Anna Maria Island was mostly spared except for very heavy surf and beach erosion.
Gone?: Property taxes for small motels on the Island increased up to 70 percent in some cases, prompting some resort owners to vow to sell their properties to condominium developers. "The tax rates are headed toward a level where it will be impossible to maintain any small business on the Island," one motel owner said. Anna Maria Chamber of Commerce representatives vowed to work to fix the problem.
Cleared: Bradenton Beach Code Enforcement Board Chair Ken Lohn was cleared of any ethical wrongdoing by the state ethics commission. Developer Steve Noriega had filed charges against Lohn earlier in the year, claiming he improperly used his position. Civil action against Lohn by Noriega was still working through the courts.
Wow!: Anna Maria Elementary School reconstruction costs were estimated at $7.12 million in 2003. However, raw material cost increases and other factors have increased the actual cost of construction to $10 million. School board members instructed staff to work with parents and the community to cut some costs.
Final rat bill: The last rat was ousted from the Bradenton Beach City Hall, and the final bill to have the rodent infestation cleaned up and hauled out was more than $9,500.
Pier franchise terminated: City commissioners approved the revocation of the franchise agreement between the city and Karen and Jake Gallo to manage the Bradenton Beach City Pier restaurant. The restaurant was damaged by winds and rain from Hurricane Frances, and a clause in the contract allows the city to terminate the agreement if it is damaged by storms. Commissioners agreed to go out to bid for a new pier manager.
Budgets: All three Island cities approved budgets for fiscal year 2004-05. Anna Maria's spending plan was $2.036 million; Bradenton Beach $2.738 million; and Holmes Beach $8.4 million.
Jeanne: Hurricane Jeanne, with winds at landfall of 115 mph, followed a near-identical track to Hurricane Frances earlier in the month, making landfall Sept. 26 and again smacking the Island with high winds and surf, causing some roof damage, power outages and beach erosion.
Trimmed: After lots of pencil-sharpening and hard work, the Anna Maria Elementary School reconstruction budget was trimmed to $8.55 million and approved by school board members. Out was the proposed new auditorium and music and art rooms adjacent to it; the current auditorium and some other buildings will instead be renovated.
We pay and pay and pay ...: With 3 percent of the Manatee County population, property owners on Anna Maria Island and the northern portion of Longboat Key pay about 15 percent of the county budget. Property values have increased 165 percent in the past 10 years as well.
"Too Christian:" A Holmes Beach resident complained the "Christmas decorations" the city puts up every year are "too Christian." Officials said their decorations are generic in nature. A legal review of the decorations eventually deemed the lights and trees as non-religious.
"Critically eroded:" Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials declared Island beaches "critically eroded" in the wake of four hurricanes. The declaration could expedite the next beach renourishment project to as early as 2006, rather than the previously scheduled 2010.
Makeover: Holmes Beach resident Debbie Scott received an "extreme makeover" without benefit of the TV program thanks to the generosity of Islanders. A total of $13,000 in dental reconstruction work was provided to her without charge by Dr. Gy Yatros, Dave Jensen of Natural Prosthetic Dental Lab and Ron Perdue of Ron Perdue Dental Lab. Scott's biopsy results were, happily, negative.
Long, long fight: Business owners on the Island, disgusted with the escalating property tax levy they have to pay, learned that changing the collection process would require a constitutional amendment or the formation of a new county. Members of Citizens Against Rising Taxation continued to discuss options.
Illegal: Anna Maria city commissioners were surprised to learn that outdoor dining in the city was illegal. They vowed to discuss the matter further.
Home again: Anna Maria city employees moved back into their newly remodeled city hall after several months' hiatus at the Island Baptist Church.
Sue you: The former Bradenton Beach City Pier franchisees, Karen and Jake Gallo, sued the city for damages they said they sustained after the roof of the pier restaurant was damaged by Hurricane Frances.
Moratorium, please: Environmental group ManaSota-88 requested officials in Manatee and Sarasota counties enact a building moratorium until hurricane shelter space meets population demands.
New Center plans unveiled: Anna Maria Island Community Center officials unveiled plans for a newly remodeled building, including more space for meetings, a drop-off area on Magnolia Avenue and many other amenities.
Delayed: Hurricanes delayed the reopening of the Cafe on the Beach at the Manatee Public Beach until early December. Manatee County officials had approved a new roof and other improvements with a promise it would reopen by early November.
Island elections: Incumbents ruled in their re-election bids on the Island. In Anna Maria, incumbent Mayor SueLynn defeated former Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh. In Holmes Beach, incumbent commissioners Roger Lutz and Sandy Haas-Martens edged challenges by former Commissioner and Mayor Pat Geyer and political newcomer David Zaccagino.
Fire tax nixed: For the third time in a year, voters rejected a tax increase to augment the budget of the West Manatee Fire & Rescue District.
Perico settlement: After a long day of closed mediation, all of the parties involved in lawsuits to block development on Perico Island reached an accord. Developer St. Joe Co. agreed to lower the height of some buildings on the west side of the Island, raise the height of some others on the east side, offer a large tract of land for sale to Manatee County at a bargain-basement price as long as all parties agreed to drop their lawsuits. Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Manatee County, ManaSota-88 and resident Joan Perry all eventually agreed and the 686-unit high-rise project was cleared to go.
Finally: After almost 10 months, Bradenton Beach officials hired Ed Mc Adam as building official in the city.
Lumber OK: Holmes Beach city commissioners approved renovation plans for Island Lumber on 54th Street that would allow an expansion of storage space and improve overall appearance of the business. Some residents had complained about traffic problems resulting from the business.
Charged: Charges were levied against two Cortez men in the Jewfish Key dredging incident earlier in the year. Carl D. Mora was charged with owning the boat that created the 850-foot-long channel on the west side of the island; Raymond L. Guthrie III was charged with operating the vessel.
Gone: The boat captain of the vessel towing the two Massachusetts girls when the parasail cable broke, forcing the pair to plunge onto Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach, surrendered his captain's license and the business is no longer in operation.
King decision is to bus: King Middle School students will be bussed to temporary lodging at the Braden River High School campus while King undergoes reconstruction, school board members agreed. Some parents and students objected to the move, which would add about 90 minutes a day to the current bus schedule.
Honored: Thomas "Blue" Fulford of Cortez was inducted into the Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame. The commercial fisherman was honored for his service to the industry in the lifetime achievement award.
Stormwater fee: Anna Maria city commissioners approved a stormwater runoff fee, although the actual amount of the fee was still to be determined after further discussion.
Closed: Commercial grouper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico was closed Nov. 15 through the first of the year after yearly quotas of the fish were met. Commercial fishers said the closure would impact them just prior to the holidays; restaurateurs said the ban would cause them to scramble to find other fresh fish to place on the table.
Open: The Seafood Shack restaurant in Cortez reopened after closing shortly after Labor Day for remodeling. Rumors of a sale were unfounded, according to owner Ham Jones.
"Mini-project" on Perico?: Developer Pat Neal owns about 22 acres of land on southern Perico Island that he said could one day be used as a site for a high-end hotel or condominiums, although he said he would be willing to discuss selling it to Manatee County for preservation.
Retiring: Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Officer Walter Wunderlich announced his plans to retire after seven years with the city.
Consolidate: West Manatee Fire & Rescue District officials were told by Florida Sen. Mike Bennett that any proposal to the legislature to increase the district's assessment would not be approved and the board should start consolidation talks with other fire districts in the county as a cost-saving means.
Sand, please: Manatee County officials submitted a request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to receive federal funds for an emergency beach renourishment project to replace sand lost during the four hurricanes over the summer-fall seasons. Total sand loss was estimated at between 130,000 and 300,000 cubic yards.
Don't go changing: Manatee County commissioners agreed to allow some zoning violations in Cortez through the form of a comprehensive plan amendment. The violations include boat storage in yards, crab trap and net storage and other practices of the commercial fishing village that have existed for more than 100 years. Height limitations on new structures and other zoning matters were also "grandfathered."
Charter - not!: Island officials were flabbergasted at a Manatee County Commission proposal to create a charter form of government that the allege would strip land-use decisions from municipalities. Further discussion was expected.
No sand, please: Manatee County officials, upset that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot guarantee the quality of the new sand to be placed on the Island's beaches, decided to request the Corps drop the emergency beach renourishment project.
Daylight plane: Bradenton Beach city commissioners instructed their attorney to draft a "daylight plane" law that would reduce the bulk of buildings in the city.
No parking = not legal: Anna Maria city commissioners learned their "No Parking" zones were not legal and any tickets issued were based on a non-enforceable law. The matter was quickly rectified through an emergency ordinance.
Nice gift: Bradenton Beach officials learned that they are eligible to receive what will amount to more than $600,000 in streetscape improvement money from several Florida Department of Transportation funds.
Fatal fire: A fire claimed a Bradenton Beach man, the first fire-related fatality in almost 20 years on the Island. James Fowler, 43, apparently fell asleep with a lit cigarette in his Fourth Street South apartment and died of smoke inhalation.
Still delayed: After almost nine months, the Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria received the needed permits from the city to begin reconstruction. The restaurant was destroyed by an arson fire.
No-go: Bradenton Beach officials rejected the lone bid received to manage the city pier restaurant and decided to start over again, perhaps this time with a more simplified bid package.
Rezoned: Holmes Beach city commissioners approved a small-scale development amendment to allow an after-the-fact condo project on the former Christian Science Church property on Marina Drive, as well as four lots on Second Avenue and 45th Street.
Well, maybe yes after all: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said they would work with Manatee County to find the best possible sand for an emergency beach renourishment project on the Island, prompting some county officials to reconsider their "no thanks" stance. More discussion was expected.
Happy New Year from The Islander!