Flashback 2013: The year in review

As 2013 draws to a close, The Islander looks back at a year of highs and lows, celebrations and tragedies, welcomes and farewells. This week: July through December.


27th Street dispute ends: Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy said the documents with a judge’s signature dismissing the long-standing 27th Street dispute between Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach were delivered July 2 to the two city attorneys. “I have been in contact with our city attorney, Ricinda Perry,” said Shaughnessy at a July 3 special meeting. “The dismissal regarding the fence dispute with Holmes Beach has been signed, so it’s over.”

14-year-old boy drowns in rip current: A 14-year-old boy from Winter Haven, visiting Anna Maria with his family, disappeared in the Gulf of Mexico. He was found drowned July 7 south of the Sandbar Restaurant.

Shore returns to FISH board: Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court R.B. “Chips” Shore returned to the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage board in Cortez. Shore, who had quit earlier in the year, assumed a role on the executive board.

Aubry calls for police consolidation talks: Resurrecting an idea that has been discussed many times over the years by various officials, Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry called for a discussion on consolidating law enforcement services with Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. Aubry made his suggestion after learning the proposed Manatee County Sheriff’s Office contract for 2013-14 would cost the city $615,000.

Manatee County expands preserve: Armed with a plan to acquire an additional 150 acres for the Robinson Preserve in northwest Bradenton, Manatee County Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker announced July 15 an ambitious expansion of the park. Hunsicker said funding for the expansion could come from the BP Oil spill settlement.

Resort tax collections on record pace: With $612,529 collected in May and four months remaining in the fiscal year, Manatee County was ahead of last year’s record pace for resort tax collections.

LBK trolley future in doubt: The future of the Sarasota County Area Transit trolley that connects the trolley service from Anna Maria Island at Coquina Beach with Longboat Key and downtown Sarasota seemed in jeopardy after a dispute over funding. Manatee County public works said Longboat Key agreed to pay Manatee County Area Transit $42,000 annually to support the trolley, while Longboat Key said the funding agreement was only for one year.

Protesters gather to protest Long Bar Pointe development: Dozens of protesters departed from Cortez in vessels of all sizes July 20 to form a “boat brigade” that cruised across Sarasota Bay to Long Bar Pointe, a proposed development site that will encompass more than 400 acres of housing, stores, boat slips and a hotel.

Coast Guard rescues 2: A U.S. Coast Guard boat from the Cortez Station rescued two boaters around 1:45 p.m. July 19, after their 9-foot boat capsized near the Cortez Bridge during high winds.

Mainsail-HB mediation to move forward: Holmes Beach commissioners July 23 agreed to move forward with mediating the Mainsail Lodge development project near the intersection of Gulf and Marina drives. Mainsail representatives presented the updated plans based on the June mediation where concessions to the original plans for a lodge, restaurant, marina and housing units were made.

AM mayor: visitors threaten quality of life: Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn told commissioners at their July 25 meeting that the growing influx to the city of visitors on weekends and holidays is threatening residents’ quality of life, and many have told her they will move away unless the city resolves the issue. The mayor said the frequent influx of visitors on weekends and holidays puts a strain on the city’s infrastructure.

AM commission approves revised liquor ordinance: Anna Maria city commissioners at their July 25 meeting adopted an amendment to the city’s liquor ordinance, allowing restaurants that meet certain criteria to apply for a special use permit to serve spirits, as well as beer and wine.

HB tree house declared in violation: At a July 30 Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Board hearing, the owners of Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., were found in violation for their tree house on the Gulf of Mexico shore.


The Anna Maria Island Privateers, keeping an island tradition, lead their own July 4 parade from Bradenton Beach to Holmes Beach to Anna Maria. Islander File Photo


Protesters on boats and kayaks arrive July 20 to raft up and rally against the proposed Long Bar Pointe housing-hotel-commercial development in Sarasota Bay south of Cortez on an area of the Manatee County shoreline that includes mangrove habitat for wildlife and marinelife. Islander Courtesy Photo



Long Bar developer drops marina, gains swing vote: At a marathon hearing on map and text changes to the county’s comprehensive plan requested by the Long Bar Pointe developer, Manatee County commissioners approved the land-use map amendment with a 4-3 vote, but rejected the comprehensive plan text amendment that would have put the county’s environmental protection regulations and policies in jeopardy.

Holmes Beach traffic committee forms: Chair Richard Motzer of the newly formed committee on traffic congestion and parking summed up the committee’s dilemma at its first meeting Aug. 5 at Holmes Beach City Hall, saying, “We have a congestion problem.”

Support for paid parking builds in Anna Maria: The idea of paid parking, at least for day visitors to the city of Anna Maria, gained traction among commissioners at an Aug. 8 meeting. Commissioners quickly agreed that some revenue should come from day visitors, as they have a great deal of impact on the city’s infrastructure.

Anna Maria sets stage for rental challenge in court: Anna Maria’s commission appeared willing to go to court for a judicial decision on whether its hotel/motel ordinance applied to vacation home rentals. Commission Chair Chuck Webb, at an Aug. 22 meeting, said city code states that if a residence in the residential zone with “three or more bedrooms” is rented, it is a hotel/motel, and the code prohibits hotel-motel rentals in any residential zone — other than the retail-office-residential zone and those operations that are grandfathered.

AM mayor says TDC success ruins island lifestyle: Members of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council heard from Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn at their Aug. 19 meeting that all is not well in paradise. SueLynn said there is “no question of the success of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau,” but some of that success comes at the expense of the quality of life in her city.

BB commissioner offers parking proposal: Bradenton Beach Commissioner Ric Gatehouse introduced a seven-point parking plan for the city. “I don’t think anyone can disagree that traffic and parking are among the most pressing issues we have in the city, especially during season,” Gatehouse wrote in a statement.

Forbes includes Anna Maria on ‘prettiest towns’ list: Forbes magazine, known for its lists of the richest Americans and highest-paid stars, put the city of Anna Maria on its list of “prettiest towns.”

Qualifying ends, campaigns begin on AMI: The candidate qualification period in all three island cities for the Nov. 5 election ended at noon Aug. 30 and the races — for commission and mayor in Bradenton Beach, commission in Holmes Beach and commission in Anna Maria – were set.

HB backpedals on domestic partner registry: In what was considered to be a groundbreaking step Aug. 13, city commissioners unanimously voted to move forward with the creation of a domestic partnership registry. But they took a step back at their Aug. 29 meeting, retreating from the proposal to draft a domestic partnership ordinance.


In August, Terry Martsolf of Seminole won the grand prize in The Islander’s annual Top Notch photo contest with an image of brown pelicans playing follow the leader in Holmes Beach. Martsolf received $100 from the newspaper and a bevy of gifts from Islander advertisers.


In August, Alec Sussman, 15, managed to hook and reel in this shark on the beach in Anna Maria, while Connor Gerardi and Alec’s twin, David Sussman, unhooked and released it to hunt again. Connor lives in Anna Maria, while the twins, Alec and David, were visiting from south Tampa. They reported taking an hour and 20 minutes to land the shark.



HB, Mainsail put down swords: Not every obstacle was cleared for Mainsail Lodge to break ground on a proposed hotel, restaurant and marina at the property near the intersection of Gulf and Marina drives, but a major hurdle was crossed Sept. 4 with the successful conclusion of a required mediation process with Holmes Beach.

• Daily fine imposed on tree-house owners: At its Sept. 12 meeting, the Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Board imposed a $100 per day fine on Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran until such time the couple brings into compliance what the city has deemed illegal construction — a tree house fronting the Gulf of Mexico at Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St.

Anna Maria property owners prepare to sue city: With Anna Maria commissioners poised to sue some vacation homeowners over rental terms, property owners also prepared plans for legal action. Attorney Scott Rudacille said 40 vacation rental owners in Anna Maria were poised to “intervene in the action to protect their rights and to invoke their constitutional and statutory protections.”

Contractor arrested for allegedly defrauding city: Holmes Beach police arrested a contractor Sept. 19 for allegedly bilking the city out of money paid for a road project last year. Chris Arnold, 61, of Bradenton, owner of Services by Chris Arnold, was arrested for felony scheming to defraud.

Nesting season breaks record: The 2013 sea turtle nesting season became a record year before the season had ended. Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring reported 368 loggerhead and green sea turtle nests were recorded in 2013, surpassing the 2012 record of 365. The 15-year average before the 2012 season was 168 nests, 156 false crawls and about 9,000 hatchlings.

Bradenton Beach selects new pier concessionaire: Doors to the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier restaurant remained closed, but lease negotiations began with Starfish on the Bay, later named Cast and Cage. City commissioners selected from two bids, the other submitted by owners of the former Fisherman Joe’s in Bradenton.

Bradenton Beach approves tax hike: Bradenton Beach commissioners unanimously passed a final reading of an ordinance to adopt the 2013-14 budget at a special meeting in September. Commissioners also passed resolutions to adopt the tentative millage rate at 2.3329 — a 2.92 percent increase over the rollback rate — the millage needed to produce the same revenue as the current year — and the $2,502,724 budget.

Holmes Beach increases taxes: Holmes Beach commissioners approved a record-high $9 million spending plan Sept. 24. Commissioners also voted to retain the 1.75 millage rate, amounting to a tax increase over the past year’s revenue and spending.

Community unites after Rod & Reel fire: In the wake of the Sept. 30 electrical fire at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria, island churches stepped up to offer aid and assistance to the 30 pier employees who were expecting to be without jobs for several months.


In the fourth month of nesting season, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox looks on as volunteers Betsy Lynch and Ed Sterba, kneeling, tally the remainders of a nest at 28th Street in Holmes Beach, where 112 hatchlings left for the sea. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW


Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran discuss strategy with attorney David Levin during a break at a Sept. 12 code enforcement hearing regarding their tree house at Angelinos Sea Lodge, 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Mark Young



Holmes Beach officials get shady with Sunshine Law: Holmes Beach officials were facing two instances of violating the Sunshine Law. One violation is alleged to have occurred regarding a July 8 City Center Committee meeting and the other occurred at an Oct. 8 city commission meeting.

Rod & Reel fire ruled accidental: Radiant heat from the deep fryers at the Rod & Reel Pier restaurant built up in wiring in the wall over a long period of time, causing the Sept. 30 fire that closed the 66-year-old structure, according to West Manatee Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Brett Pollock. He said the buildup of radiant heat caused spontaneous combustion between the walls of the kitchen.

BB cell tower gets bad reception: It was as close to standing room only as the Bradenton Beach City Hall chambers can get for an Oct. 18 public hearing on a proposed cellular communications tower. Public comment was unanimously opposed to both the construction of a cell tower and the location near the city’s public works facility, which is at 400 Church Ave.

BB mayor announces $1 million funding for pier fix: Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy announced that the Manatee County Tourist Development Council would match up to $1 million funding for renovations to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Anna Maria commission rejects court action on rentals: In a 3-2 vote at their Oct. 24 meeting, commissioners reversed a September decision to pursue declaratory relief to determine if the city’s hotel/motel ordinance could be applied to single-family home vacation rentals.

Chamber says people angry over negative tourism tone: Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce executive director Mary Ann Brockman said a wave of negative talk by island officials about tourism had visitors angry. Brockman, at an Oct. 28 meeting in Holmes Beach, said visitors to the island were well aware of the negative tone public officials had taken in recent months toward them.


Mike Coleman, operating partner for Pine Avenue Restoration, approaches the PAR apiary — on private property — with respect for the newest creatures to take up residence in the city. Islander Photo: Cheryl Schmidt


WMFR firefighters are assisted by Longboat Key and Cedar Hammock fire districts in bringing the Rod & Reel Pier Sept. 30 smoldering electrical fire under control. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy


The Islander’s annual Popcorn and Politics event for candidates and voters from each island city draws a crowd Oct. 25, to the newspaper’s new offices at 5406B Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.



Judge ends statewide net ban: A circuit judge in Tallahassee agreed with commercial fishers that the enforcement of Florida’s net-ban law was an “absolute mess.” She ordered the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to stop prohibiting the use of certain nets, but an emergency stay was enacted at the appeals court level.

Islander newspaper salutes veterans: An estimated 125 people attended the eighth annual Islander Veterans Tribute Nov. 11 at Holmes Beach City Hall.

Bradenton Beach mayor drops legal challenge: Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said one of his first thoughts after winning the Nov. 5 election was that he was, for all intents and purposes, suing himself. So, he dropped out of a lawsuit against the city over a parking and dunes project on the beach across from city hall.

Holmes Beach traffic committee drafts overflow parking proposal: Holmes Beach’s congestion committee came close to finalizing the terms of an agreement that would establish shared parking terms at some churches and businesses for beach overflow parking.

No evidence of homicide in death of Sheena Morris: The five-year quest to decide whether a 22-year-old Tampa woman took her own life in a Bradenton Beach motel room or whether she was murdered was put to rest in November. On Nov. 21, at around 4 p.m., Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale received a phone call from the Florida State Attorney’s Office informing him that there was no evidence of homicide in the death of Sheena Morris.

Former Holmes Beach man sentenced for fraud: Jason Syrek, a 40-year-old former Holmes Beach resident, was sentenced Nov. 4 in U.S. District Court in Detroit to six years in a federal prison and ordered to pay $17.6 million in restitution for health care fraud and false tax returns.

Tourist tax skyrockets above annual record: Revenues from the tax on accommodations rocketed to more than 10 percent over the previous year’s record-setting pace in Manatee County. Manatee County Tourist Development Tax, often called the resort or bed tax, set a record of $8.993 million for the 2013 fiscal year ending Sept. 30. That amounted to an 11 percent increase over the previous record of $8.101 million set in fiscal year 2011-12.

Woman convicted of injuring Bradenton Beach officer: A 25-year-old North Carolina woman was facing up to three years in a Florida prison after being convicted Nov. 27 of grand theft auto and causing serious injury to a law enforcement officer. Amanda Varner will be sentenced in February.


Symphony on the Sand, a joint effort of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Manatee County government, features the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus & Orchestra at Coquina Beach Nov. 8. The event began before sunset and culminated under the stars. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy


Bradenton Beach Commissioner Gay Breuler smiles at a packed gallery during the Nov. 7 city commission meeting, her final meeting as commissioner. Islander Photo: Mark Young


Commissioner Ric Gatehouse and Mayor John Shaughnessy attend their final city commission meeting Nov. 7 after being defeated in the Nov. 5 election.


Veterans and all rise for the Anna Maria Elementary School chorus’ rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner Nov. 16 at CrossPointe Fellowship’s Community Unity. In the front row is World War II veteran Jim Kissick and behind him are Kit Redeker and her veteran husband Dale Redeker. There was entertainment, a barbecue lunch, refreshments, games for kids, speeches and recognition for military veterans. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy



Bradenton Beach commission approves plan to fire administrative staff: Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon began his new policy of holding a work session prior to city meetings with a bang as the city began to overhaul its administration department. A plan put forth by Commissioner Jack Clarke and supported by the majority of the commission essentially terminated every staff position at city hall, but allowed employees to reapply.

Holmes Beach tightens Mainsail agreement: Holmes Beach commissioners, at a Dec. 11 work session, made some minor tweaks to a settlement agreement between the city and the Mainsail Lodge development team.

Anna Maria park debate results in refunds: Mayor SueLynn reported to the commission Dec. 12 that both Pine Avenue Restoration LLC and Rex Hagen want to be refunded their donations for improvements to the vacant lots at the east end of Pine Avenue. The refund requests came after the commission voted 3-2 Dec. 5 to remove 15 parking spaces from plans to develop the park drawn by then-Commissioner Gene Aubry and approved 3-1 by the commission in June.

Mullet run begins: On December mornings well before sunrise, mullet fishers were loading their cast nets and gear aboard boats and heading onto the water. The mullet run had begun, creating a frenzy for fishers seeking female mullet fat with valuable roe.

Beach renourishment begins: The long-awaited renourishment of Anna Maria Island beaches from 79th Street in Holmes Beach to Coquina Beach began Dec. 21 in Holmes Beach.

Long Bar Pointe hearing canceled: A Manatee County Commission public hearing on a map amendment planned for Jan. 23 was canceled after the applicant — Long Bar Pointe withdrew “the comprehensive plan amendment from further consideration or action at this time.”


After arriving to the Sandbar Restaurant, Santa made a surprise entrance to the Lawton Chiles Kids Christmas Party on a scooter. He zipped across the beach on two wheels, greeting children before taking his seat to hear their Christmas wishes. Islander File Photo


A couple heads for the beach near the Blue Water Beach Club, 6306 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, circumventing beach renourishment equipment. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Compiled from The Islander archives


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