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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Bell, Cortez partners buy Sigma property

Karen Bell was to realize a long-standing dream late Tuesday, closing on a transaction to purchase the old Sigma fish house property in Cortez.

She had been negotiating with owner Pierro Rivolta for months, and arranging financing for just as long. It all came together this week, with four partners involved.

They are paying $1.865 million for the choice Cortez waterfront property, known lately as the Cortez Cove Marina which Rivolta tried to develop. That program fell through with the opposition of several Cortez individuals.

Involved with Bell in the deal are her husband, Paul Brugger, who with Bell will share one-fourth ownership; Judy Breuggeman, one-fourth; and Eva and Peter Thurell, one-half.

The property is just under three acres with 900 feet of waterfront. It has one large restored building, one smaller needing work, and one long shed used for parking and storage.

There are 20-some boat slips which Rivolta rebuilt in a lagoon that he had dredged at his own expense along with the approach channel, Bell noted. His plan for a marina ran aground when he proposed building residences there, arousing ire among some Cortezians, and then Manatee County planners decided Sigma was not zoned for a marina.

The property has been idle for a couple of years since Rivolta moved his boat-finishing woodworking shop to the mainland in Sarasota - excepting use for the Denzel Washington film "Out of Time." It never has been listed for sale, but he has said he liked Bell personally and gave her a 60-day option some time ago and extended it to give her time to get financing in order.

Bell said her group will try now to change county zoning to permit a marina operation. She wants to put the slips to use as moorages for yachts and commercial fishing boats and provide facilities for working on boats, along with some upland storage.

She noted that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection believes the property is indeed a legal marina, though the county disagrees.

She has spent much of her adult life at A.P. Bell Fish Co. near the other end of the waterfront, the business her family has owned for generations and which her father Walter has headed for years. She and Brugger own Star Fish Co. Market and Dockside Restaurant, next door to Bell.