Tag Archives: 05-01-2013

The Islander Star Best of AMI Awards

On April 25, The Islander’s partners, restaurateurs, business owners and representatives came together to celebrate the winners of the newspaper’s first-ever reader’s preference poll at the Key Royale Club.

Not everyone was able to be present, but we are pleased to announce to our readers ‘the voters’ the results.

We waited 20 years to conduct an honest poll, distributed only to home-delivery customers on Anna Maria Island, mail subscribers and paid online subscribers, which made it more credible and sincere – all the sweeter for the winners.

We also honored some of our 20-year partners – those people and businesses that put faith in The Islander newspaper from its humble beginning in November 1992, and continue to do so today.

To all the winners, all of us at The Islander take great pride in being able to honor and congratulate you.

You’re the stars. you deserve it.

20 YEAR PARTNER
Anna Maria Realty

20 YEAR PARTNER
Beach Bistro

20 YEAR PARTNER
Christie’s Plumbing

20 YEAR PARTNER
Fat Cat Carpet Cleaning

20 YEAR PARTNER
Mike Norman Realty

20 YEAR PARTNER
Mixon Insurance

20 YEAR PARTNER
Sandy’s Lawn Service

20 YEAR PARTNER
Sun & Surf Resortwear

20 YEAR PARTNER
West Coast Refrigeration

A/C HEATING
Air & Energy

ACCOUNTANT
Julie Krokroskia

ACUPUNCTURIST
Dr. Tricia Graziano, DOM

ALL AROUND RESTAURANT
The Feast

ANTIQUES
Ginny’s & Jane E’s at the Old IGA

ART & CRAFT SHOW
Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, Bayfest

ART BOUTIQUE
Emerson Quillin

ART GALLERY
Island Gallery West

ARTIST
“Cheeta” Chad Ruis

ATTORNEY
Garret T Barnes, Esq

AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE
Holmes Beach Service

BANK
Wells Fargo

BANQUET FACILITY
Sandbar

BARBER
Don Madden

BARBERSHOP
Holmes Beach Barber Shop

BEACH CRUISE
Captain Kim’s Charters

BEACH CRUISE
Gnarly Mangrove

BEACHWEAR/RESORT WEAR
Mr Roberts Resort Wear

BOAT RENTAL
Just 4 Fun

BUILDER
Bob Dale Construction

BUILDER
Shoreline Builders

BUSINESS DISTRICT
Pine Avenue, Pine Avenue Merchants

CARPET CLEANING
Fat Cat Carpet Cleaning

CARPET/FLOORING STORE
Coastal Floors

CASUAL DINING
Hurricane Hanks

CASUAL WEAR MEN
Mr. Roberts Resort Wear

CASUAL WEAR WOMEN
Bella By the Sea

CATERING BUSINESS
The Feast

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER
David Zaccagnino, Ameriprise

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER
Tom Breiter, Breiter Capital Management

CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT
Walter & Associates

CHARTER BOAT
Miss Anna Maria, Capt. Chris Galati

CHEAP EATS
Tortilla Bay

CLUB
Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island

COLLECTIBLES
Niki’s Island Treasures

COMPUTER REPAIRS
Bill Krokroskia

CONSIGNMENTS/THRIFT STORE
Roser Church Thrift Store

THRIFT SHOP
Runner Up
Really relish

COSMETIC SURGEON
Andre Renard, MD

DAY CARE/CHILD CARE
School for Constructive Play

DENTIST
Dr. John Norman, DDS

DOCK SEAWALL
Duncan Seawall, Dock & Boat Lift

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monotoring

FAMILY PRACTITIONER
Stephen Pelham, MD

FISHING GEAR/TACKLE
Island Discount Tackle

FITNESS CENTER
AmI Health & Fitness

FLIP FLOPS
West Coast Surf Shop

FLORIST
Silvia’s Flower Corner

FUNERAL CREMATION SERVICE
Covell Funeral Home

GAS STATION
Jessie’s Island Store

GIFT SHOP
Sand Dollar Gift Shop

GOLF COURSE
Key Royale Club

GOURMET MARKET
Island Fresh Market

HAIR SALON
Salon Salon

HAIR STYLIST
Nikita Fosmore, Salon Salon

HARDWARE STORE
Home True Value Hardware

HOME BUILDING HARDWARE
Island Lumber & Hardware

HOTEL/MOTEL
Blue Water Beach Club

ICE CREAM SHOP
Tylers Homemade Ice Cream

INSURANCE AGENCY
Mixon Insurance

INSURANCE AGENCY
Advanced Insurance Brokerage

INTERIOR DECORATOR
Bettina Sego Interiors

ISLAND ARCHITECTURE
Laura Gee

ISLAND T-SHIRT
Joe Hutchinson “Hey Now”

JEWELRY CUSTOM DESIGN
Bridge St Jewelers

JEWELRY CUSTOM DESIGN
Tide and Moon Jewelry

JEWELRY STORE
Bridge St Jewelers

JEWELRY STORE
Creations By L

KARAOKE
Anna Maria Moose Lodge

LANDSCAPING
Trees by Breeze

LAWN SERVICE
Sandy’s Lawn Service

LIMO/TRANSPORTATION
Island Limosine

LIVE ENTERTAINER OR EVENT
Mike Sales

LOCAL BAND
Koko Ray and the Soul Providers

MAIL/SHIPPING
Island Mail & More

MARINA
Galati Marine

MARINE STORE
West Marine

MARKETING/GRAPHIC DESIGN
SteamDesigns

MARTIAL ARTS CENTER
AMI Health & Fitness

MASSAGE THERAPIST
Jen Crady Massage and Skincare

MEDICAL WALK -IN CLINIC
Pinnacle Medical Group

MORTGAGE BROKER
Wayne Gunter, BB&T

NAIL TECH MANI-PEDI
Four Seasons Nails & Skincare

NEIGHBORHOOD
Key Royale Resident Owners Assoc.

NIGHTCLUB
Dcoy Ducks

NON PROFIT
Anna Maria Island Privateers

OPTOMETRIST
The Eye Associates

ORTHOPEDIST
Coastal Orthopedic, Arthur Valadie

OUTDOOR DINING
Sandbar

PERSONAL TRAINER
John Monteforte/AMI Health & Fitness

PET GROOMER
The Paw Spa Grooming Salon

PET STORE
Dogs for the Earth

PHOTO SERVICE/CUSTOM PRINTS
Walgreens

PHOTOGRAPHER
Jack Elka

PIER
Rod & Reel Pier

PIZZA
The Feast

PLACE TO WATCH FOOTBALL
Slim’s Place

PLUMBER
LaPensee Plumbing & Pools

POLITICIAN
Marvin Grossman

POOL CONSTRUCTION
American Beauty Pools

POOL SERVICE
Pool America

REAL ESTATE AGENCY
Florida Dreams Realty of AMI

REAL ESTATE AGENT
Joe Praetor, Florida Dreams Realty

REMODELING
FHM Construction

RENTAL AGENCY
Sato Real Estate

RENTAL MANAGEMENT COMPANY
Florida Dreams Realty

RESORT
Sunrise Garden Resort

RESORT
Runner Up
Tortuga Inn

RESTAURANT FOR ASIAN CUISINE
Ocean Star Sushi and Japanese Restaurant

RESTAURANT FOR BARBECUE
Mr Bones BBQ

RESTAURANT FOR RIBS
Mr Bones BBQ

RESTAURANT FOR BEER
Hurricane Hanks

RESTAURANT FOR BURGERS
Skinny’s Place

RESTAURANT FOR CHICKEN WINGS
Slim’s Place

RESTAURANT FOR CHILDREN
Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe

COFFEE SHOP
Minnie’s Beach Cafe

RESTAURANT FOR BREAKFAST
Minnie’s Beach Cafe

RESTAURANT FOR COFFEE
Minnie’s Beach Cafe

RESTAURANT FOR CASUAL LUNCH
Minnie’s Beach Cafe

RESTAURANT FOR CUBAN CUISINE
Jose’s Real Cuban Food

RESTAURANT FOR DESSERTS
Sign of The Mermaid

RESTAURANT FOR DINNER
Eat Here

RESTAURANT FOR FRENCH FRIES
Eat Here

ROMANTIC DINING
Beach Bistro

RESTAURANT FOR ELEGANT DINING
Beach Bistro

RESTAURANT FOR FRENCH CUISINE
Island Creperie

RESTAURANT FOR GERMAN CUISINE
Old Hamburg Schnitzelhaus

RESTAURANT FOR GROUPER SANDWICH
Rod & Reel Pier

RESTAURANT FOR HOTDOGS
Two Scoops

RESTAURANT FOR ITALIAN CUISINE
Oma’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant

RESTAURANT FOR CHICKEN
Hurricane Hanks

RESTAURANT FOR MARGARITAS
Hurricane Hanks

RESTAURANT FOR STEAK
Hurricane Hanks

CASUAL DINING
The Feast

RESTAURANT FOR PIZZA
The Feast

RESTAURANT FOR SALAD
The Feast

RESTAURANT FOR SEAFOOD
The Feast

RESTAURANT FOR SEAFOOD
Star Fish Company

SEAFOOD MARKET
Star Fish Company

RESTAURANT FOR SOUTHWEST CUISINE
Tortilla Bay

RESTAURANT FOR STEAK
Stonewood Grill & Tavern

RESTAURANT FOR STEAK
The Waterfront Restaurant

RESTAURANT FOR WINE
The Waterfront Restaurant

RESTAURANT FOR POWER LUNCH
The Waterfront Restaurant

RESTAURANT FOR SUBS/SANDWICHES
Rudy’s Subs & More

RESTAURANT FOR SUSHI
Ocean Star Sushi and Japanese Restaurant

SHOPPING DESTINATION
Pine Avenue, Pine Avenue Merchants

SIGNS AND BANNERS
SteamDesigns

SMALL MARKET
Anna Maria General Store & Deli

SPORTS BAR
Slim’s Place

SPOT FOR FIREWORKS
BeachHouse Restaurant

SPOT FOR FISHING
Rod & Reel Pier

STORAGE FACILITY
Holmes Beach Storage

TAX SERVICE
Walter & Associates, LLC/Key Income Tax

THEATER COMPANY
Island Players

VETERINARIAN
William Bystrom, DVM

WATCH, CLOCK REPAIR
Pierro’s Jewelers

WATCH, CLOCK REPAIR
LD’s

WATERFRONT RESTAURANT
The Waterfront Restaurant

WAY TO GET AROUND
Anna Maria Island Trolley-Manatee County Area Transit

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring

LIMO/TRANSPORTATION
Island Limousine

Drowning tragedy: Reminder to heed warning, danger signs

It was a frantic three-day search for 6-year-old Lomontea Taylor, but it was only hours after the boy went missing at Coquina Beach that authorities knew the search had turned from rescue to recovery.

Lomontea went missing on the evening of April 20 when he and his siblings slipped into the dangerous waters of Longboat Pass.

The strong current almost immediately began sweeping the children away.

According to the final Bradenton Beach Police Department report, four children entered the water near the wood-and-rock jetty. When the first officer responded to the area he saw a large group of people gathered and a female, later identified as Lomontea’s mother, screaming, “My baby is missing, he’s still out there.”

Sea-bound units from the U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez arrived, followed by air units from the Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

In short time, Manatee County Marine Rescue, Longboat Key Police Department, BBPD, Westside Fire Rescue District and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission personnel had swarmed the area, but the boy was not to be found.

Witnesses, who managed to pull three of the four children from the water, reported that the current was pulling the children to the south into Sarasota Bay.

At approximately 10:09 a.m. on the morning of April 22, four marine units from FWC and a MCSO marine patrol unit were still searching for Lomontea when one of the FWC boats happened upon the boy’s floating body.

He was pulled from the water and taken to the Manatee County Marine Rescue building on the bayfront at Coquina Beach, where the 12th District medical examiner arrived to officially pronounce Lomontea as deceased.

His body was discovered about three-quarters of a mile from the pass in Sarasota Bay.

Lead investigator from the BBPD Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz said the preliminary cause of death is drowning and there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

Diaz said the incident is a reminder of the importance to heed warning signs and to take personal responsibility.

“The signs at Longboat Pass are there for a reason and marked so everybody knows that there are strong currents,” said Diaz. “When that water comes around the curve at that speed it creates an undertow. It’s really strong out there and even adults have problems with it.”

Diaz said an adult male drowned in the same area a few years ago.

“There’s a good chance you are going to get swept away if you enter that water,” said Diaz. “If adults have a problem with that current, imagine the struggle a child of his age will have. Add the undertow that is there and someone who doesn’t know what to do, he’s absolutely going to struggle. And that’s what happened.”

Diaz said the beach is a place for families to enjoy the sun and water, “but keep an eye on your kids and know where they are at all times. Respect the signs. They are there for a reason.”

Diaz said the drowning of Lomontea is an unfortunate tragedy and an example of what happens when parents aren’t watching their kids.

Lomontea and his siblings were being supervised by two family members ages 15 and 16, according to the report, but the majority of his family was at a picnic area located a short distance away from the water.

“Anyway you see it, it’s a tragedy,” said Diaz.

Diaz said he is grateful to all the law enforcement and  rescue agencies that responded quickly and professionally to the incident.

“The response was professional and an enormous amount of resources were used, but nothing was going to change the outcome,” said Diaz. “After so many hours of not finding the child, it became a recovery search.”

In addition to the agencies responding, a number of volunteers in boats and using personal watercraft assisted in the search on the day Lomontea went missing.

Diaz said if it wasn’t for the resources devoted to the effort, Lomontea may have never been found.

“If it wasn’t for them, there is a good chance we would have never found him,” he said. “Because of the resources dedicated to the search, we were able to at least provide closure for the family.”

Parking ‘yes,’ restrooms ‘no’ for future Pine Avenue park

By a 3-2 vote, Anna Maria commissioners at their April 25 meeting approved a park and parking plan for the vacant land owned by the city at the east end of Pine Avenue, but they rejected providing public restrooms at the park.

The original plan proposed by Commissioner Gene Aubry called for parking on a portion of land that would be surrounded by live oak trees, including some along North Bay Boulevard and the seawall on the Lake LaVista inlet. The trees and landscaping are being donated by resident Rex Hagen

An open space in the middle would be sufficient for public events such as Bayfest, Aubry said. He also clarified the city would not put in turf, but grass would be allowed to grow naturally in the open areas.

At the April 25 meeting, commissioners revised the plan, allowing angled parking only along North Bay Boulevard, providing between 15 and 19 spaces. No parking would be allowed within the park.

Commission Chair John Quam proposed straight-in parking on Bay Boulevard, but Commissioners Nancy Yetter and Dale Woodland preferred a 60-degree angle for parking spaces. Commissioner Chuck Webb was opposed to any parking.

Webb, Quam and Yetter rejected adding public restrooms, citing objections from the public, as well as maintenance and safety issues.

Quam, Yetter and Woodland voted for the angled parking plan, while Aubry and Webb were opposed.

Quam asked building official Bob Welch to take the parking project through the site-plan process, while noting that the commission already accepted Hagen’s donation.

Commissioners at a previous meeting approved a rendering by Aubry that showed the trees planted around the perimeter, with the park interior vacant except for some parking.

The restroom portion appeared doomed from the start. A number of members of the public spoke against that option, including Ernie Moon, president of the Bayou Condominium Owners Association.

He said the 32 owners at the Bayou, which is adjacent to the lots on the west side, were concerned the park and restrooms would become a haven for vagrants, who could jump the fence and burglarize their condos.

Resident Jim Conoly called for documentation, showing the cost to the city, but Aubry responded that Hagen would donate the trees along with an irrigation system, while Pine Avenue Restoration LLC pledged $100,000 toward improvements, including the parking.

Aubry said he would help Welch lay out the parking.

The added parking will help alleviate the crowding at Bayview Plaza, where residents check their mail at the post office, planning and zoning board chair Tom Turner said.

Quam said the final parking plan will be whatever is safest and not near the humpback bridge. “We may not get 19 spaces but we’ll see,” he said.

Turner also favored the restrooms, but the motion to build them failed 2-3.

Commissioners asked Welch to begin the tree-planting process as soon as possible. The oaks will be young trees that will eventually grow to considerable heights, Aubry said.

In other matters, city attorney Jim Dye told commissioners, in response to a request by the Olive Oil Outpost to sell takeout organic wines, that the Florida statute on take-out liquor sales preempts any local statute. In addition, said Dye, if a store can sell beer for takeout, it can also sell wine.

Quam asked if that meant any store could sell wine for takeout. Dye responded that if a store sells beer for takeout, the store could also sell wine, but only on a takeout basis.

Randy Dillingham of the accounting firm of CS&L then gave the city a “clean and unqualified opinion” of city finances following an audit of the city books for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

He said it was the highest rating the city could receive.

Financially, the city is in “good shape,” Dillingham said, with a surplus of $212,000 left at the end of the fiscal year in the city treasury.

Commissioners congratulated city treasurer Diane Percycoe for her efforts, and Mayor SueLynn added that no one realizes how much work Percycoe puts into preparing financial reports, while at the same time performing her other duties.

“We really have to stay on top of this” at all times, the mayor said.

SueLynn said Percycoe also helped significantly to gather the public records requested by St. Augustine attorney Rick Rumrell. The cost includes staff time, prorated based on the salary of the worker, considering the record request was extensive. The cost to Rumrell was $409, but SueLynn said it cost the city considerably more, because staff could have been performing work for the city.

Rumrell’s request came after commissioners discussed a moratorium on new residential construction that includes an ordinance limiting the height of some new construction to 27 feet, once the moratorium is lifted.

Commissioners then unanimously approved a new fee schedule for the building department, and agreed with Welch that his department needs a new software program.

Commissioners agreed the evaluation phase of crushed shell and other permeable materials for sidewalks on Pine Avenue has concluded, although Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration argued the evaluation should continue to August.

Coleman has used permeable substances — a shell mix — to build sidewalks fronting PAR’s Pine Avenue projects.

Commissioners, however, said it was time to install either concrete or decking.

Welch said no one is going to put in wood decking for a sidewalk because of the cost and maintenance.

Aubry said PAR has done some good things with its sidewalks, but everyone needs to get on the same page.

He motioned for Welch to draft an ordinance and the commission to schedule a special work session solely to examine the ordinance and “fine tune it if necessary.” The motion passed unanimously.

SueLynn appointed a cell tower committee to study the three proposals the city received to build a cell tower. She nominated Jon Kane, former Mayor Mike Selby, former Commissioner Tom Aposporos, Welch, Woodland and Yetter to the committee. All meetings will be noticed and subject to the Sunshine Law, she said.

Commissioners unanimously accepted the committee members as proposed.

AM commissioner quells critic, park plan moves forward

At the April 25 Anna Maria Commission meeting, Commissioner Gene Aubry responded to a letter he received in mid-April that was critical of his design — presented April 11 — to add live oak trees, parking and public restrooms to the city’s vacant land at Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard.

Aubry also said the letter contained “some not very nice things” about him. He also reported that the writer claimed people have to sleep in Anna Maria with one eye open as the commission takes the action it wants.

The writer of the letter said Aubry was ignoring the wishes of the city with his plan.

Aubry’s rendering was in response to a commission request to see how the lots would look with some parking and restrooms surrounded by live oak trees. The trees are being donated by resident Rex Hagen, who first asked to remain anonymous, then came forward.

Aubry noted the commission took no action April 11.

Commissioners eventually voted 3-2 at the April 25 meeting for a modified plan that eliminates the restrooms and has angled parking for about 15-19 cars along North Bay Boulevard where cars now park parallel opposite the pier parking lot along the road.

Aubry told commissioners before voting that if they didn’t like what he drew, they could “throw it in the trash can” and it “wouldn’t hurt my feelings.”

Aubry and Commissioner Chuck Webb voted against the modified plan, with Commissioners John Quam, Nancy Yetter and Dale Woodland voting for it.

Before voting, Aubry quashed a rumor he said he’d heard around the city that he and some other commissioners wanted people to urinate in public places to draw support for public restrooms at the proposed park.

Aubry said the gossip was ridiculous.

Aubry, a licensed architect, has been asked on several occasions the past five years by the city to draw plans and renderings of buildings, projects and Pine Avenue parking proposals.

Some of the past requests were made when Aubry was not a commissioner, and he continues to volunteer his services when asked. He has not been compensated by the city for his planning or design services.

Island retail sales soar during ‘greatest ever’ season

A record number of visitors to Anna Maria Island during the February-April period this year helped retail sales follow their accommodation cousins to seasonal success.

As direct spending by visitors to the island the past three months totaled just under $300,000, according to the latest Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau report, many in the local retail industry said it’s been the best season ever for sales.

Signa Bouziane, co-owner of Mister Roberts Resort Wear, 5330 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, should be one to know.

Her father opened the clothing store more than 40 years ago and she and sister Linda now operate the business.

They grew up on the island and worked at the store as youngsters. Together, they’ve seen great seasons for sales and not-so-great seasons. This one, however, tops them all, Signa Bouziane said.

“It’s been the greatest-ever season for us,” she said.

“Absolutely fabulous, and we’re still busy here in late April. I hope traffic continues through the summer,” she continued. “I hope it never ends.”

Similar comments came from Laura Shely of Tide and Moon Jewelry, 314 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

“We’ve been so busy we had to open on Sundays to take care of everyone. I’ve been in retail 21 years and this was absolutely my best ever season,” Shely said.

And the demand for her handmade Anna Maria Island silver pendants has been terrific, she said. The only problem was finding time to craft more of the pendants, Shely added.

“They have definitely been my No. 1 seller,” she said.

She’s still busy and open seven days a week. “I’m hoping summer will be just as good,” she said.

At the Bridge Street Bazaar. 107 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, owner Jake Spooner said retail sales were better than last year, but cool weather kept some visitors away from his adventure golf course, The Fish Hole.

“It was a bit cold in March and early April. The golf was still good, and retail sales up from last year. We did great and I have to check the figures from April to say it’s been the best ever season,” Spooner said.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m very happy with the season and the Bridge Street Merchants … is doing a lot to bring visitors to the street,” he said. Spooner is treasurer of the organization.

Bridge Street Interiors co-owner Deb Myers said she and husband Matt had a very successful season at the boutique and interior design store, 114 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach.

They were so busy, they had part-time staff to help with the flow of visitors to the shop, which this year celebrated its 10th anniversary on Bridge Street.

“Who would have thought we’d make it 10 years?” said Myers. “We did, but Bridge Street and the association have really grown to make all the retail stores here vibrant.”

Jessica Foraker of Pink and Navy Boutique, 210 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, said clothing and shoe sales were excellent during the season. This is the store’s third year in business, and Foraker said it’s been the busiest in sales since the grand opening in 2010.

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman said she’s had nothing but good reports from retail members for the January-March period.

“And many indications are that our summer will be a very busy one for accommodations, restaurants and the retail trade,” she said.

Cortez fans voting for village in online contest

More than 1,500 fans of Cortez have kept the fishing village in the running in the “ultimate fishing town” contest sponsored by worldfishingnetwork.com.

The online voting was to continue to Friday, May 3.

Fans can vote repeatedly for their favorite fishing town.

Cortez, on April 29, about a week after the voting began, was on the leaderboard with more than 1,500 votes.

The top vote-getters included Cape Hatteras, N.C., with 10,881 votes; Grand Lake, Colo., with 49.751 votes; Point Breeze on Lake Ontario in New York with 9,069 votes; Cocodrie, La., with 5,093 votes; Waddington, N.Y., with 3,114 votes; Cortez with 1,576 votes and Byrdstown, Tenn., with 1,381 votes.

Chamber helps BACVB with its partners

An ad campaign in Europe by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has worked so well that the six-member Schull family from Germany decided, at the last minute, to come to Anna Maria Island in April for a week’s stay.

The BACVB is promoting European visitors for October through December, and an April arrival is still within the high season. So the Schulls were unable to find a suitable resort to keep the three couples in the same location until they sought help at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

Terri Kinder of the chamber spent about an hour on the phone looking for a rental that could hold three couples for a week. She found a location at Queens Gate Resort in Bradenton Beach, and at the White Sands Resort, 6505 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

After a difficult explanation — the Schull’s speak little English — and help from another office visitor who spoke German, the party eventually took the White Sands offer.

Kinder said that’s how the chamber often works with its members, particularly during the winter and summer seasons.

“When someone can’t help, we ask if they know of a member who can. If not, we go to the next member on the list who has informed us of vacancies,” chamber vice president Deb Wing said.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds because of the number in the party, the accommodation they want, if they plan to cook, how long they’re staying and if they want to be on the Gulf of Mexico or not,” she said.

The Schull family said they were grateful for the chamber help. They also said they didn’t realize the island would be nearly full of visitors in late April.

Holmes Beach responds to Mainsail developer’s petition

The city of Holmes Beach responded at its April 23 commission meeting to an April 18 filing of a petition for relief by attorney Robert Lincoln representing the Mainsail development team.

The petition outlines the history of the Mainsail development project at 5325 Marina Drive and seeks relief from the commission’s 3-2 vote in March to revoke the site plan.

The petition accuses the city of taking unlawful action in its decision by violating its procedures and alleges the commission lacked authority with jurisdiction in the decision belonging instead to the mayor and building official.

The petition reminds the city of prior resolutions and ordinances passed to move the lodging and marina project forward, and that more than $1 million was spent in good faith.

The petitioning is part of the Bert Harris Jr. Act, a Florida law that allows a property owner to seek relief from a government organization’s action that “inordinately burdens” a property’s existing use.

City attorney Patricia Petruff said the petition is an alternative to litigation, but also can be a first step toward litigation.

“It’s a two-phase process,” said Petruff. “There’s the dispute resolution phase, where a special magistrate tries to determine if the parties can reach an agreement. If no agreement can be reached, then the special master takes evidence and provides a written recommendation to the commission. The commission can accept, accept with conditions or deny the recommendation.”

If denied, Petruff said the next step would likely be litigation.

Petruff said the Bert Harris Act can be used as a first step to litigation because if Mainsail had filed for relief in a court of law first, “They would have given up the right to pursue the Bert Harris procedure.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino asked if Petruff thought the petition for relief is a “shot across the bow to do a full lawsuit if this doesn’t conclude to their satisfaction.”

She said Mainsail has already supplied her a “courtesy copy” of the lawsuit that she believes will soon be served on the city.

The suit calls for the city commission to be issued a writ of quo warranto — which would require the city to appear in court to “demonstrate its authority for its action taken on March 26,” according to the documents not yet served on the city as of Islander press time.

The city revoked the Mainsail/Tidemark site plan March 26 based on significant changes to the site plan among other reasons.

Under the Bert Harris Jr. Act, the city had 10 days to respond to Mainsail’s petition by supplying its attorney with three names of potential special masters to mediate the dispute.

Petruff presented commissioners with biographies of Steven Seibert, Dennis Stotts and Carlos Alvarez.

She said Stotts has performed mediation work for the city of Anna Maria, but has not done a Bert Harris petition.

“The other two have vast experience, but I included Mr. Stotts because he has done work in our area before,” she said.

Petruff asked the commission for authorization to send Mainsail’s attorney the three names. Mainsail has the right to reject any of the city’s nominations, but the city retains the right to choose any of the special masters who are not rejected.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth wanted the decision moved to the April 25 work session in order to review the three special masters Petruff suggested.

“You don’t have to make a decision on one of them tonight,” said Petruff. “Basically, to fulfill our obligations, the city is required to send three names to the opposing side. These are the three names I suggest. There aren’t a lot of people who do this kind of work.”

Commissioner Pat Morton agreed with Titsworth, saying he would like to move the decision to the work session, but Commission Chair Jean Peelen disagreed.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” she said. “We have three names from our attorney out of a few people who do this work. Our deadline is Monday.”

Peelen called for a vote and she, Zaccagnino and Commissioner Marvin Grossman gave Petruff the authority to send the city’s three suggestions for special master to the Mainsail attorney.

Titsworth and Morton voted “nay.”

Petruff suggested that commissioners review the biographies of each one to make an informed decision when the time comes to select the special master.

Petruff also suggested commissioners schedule a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, to discuss the city’s response to Mainsail.

There is a 15-day deadline for the city to file its response to the petition for relief and Petruff said there would not be sufficient time to wait until the commission’s next regular meeting.

The Bert Harris Act “is a fast process and we have limited time,” she said. “I’m more comfortable with commission input on the response because I know there were differing opinions during the Mainsail process.”

A consensus was given to schedule the April 29 special meeting, which is after press time for the May 1 edition of The Islander.

Petruff said the city’s response will basically contain the rationale of why the city reached its decision to revoke the Mainsail site plan.

Holmes Beach police officer’s heroic actions to be recognized

There is another side to law enforcement.

As first responders, law enforcement officers are trained to save lives and it is that training that saved the

life of a Holmes Beach man Nov. 8, 2012.

“We were dispatched to a possible overdose,” said Holmes Beach Police Officer Joshua Fleischer, who

responded to the call with another officer. “I arrived first and ran into the house and observed a man lying on the bed.”

Fleischer said the man wasn’t breathing and he wasturning blue.

“I grabbed my CPR mask and (automated external defibrillator) and hooked it up to him,” he said. “As soon

as I did, it sounded like he was gasping for air. At that time, I tilted his head back to clear his airway and he took a huge gasp of air.”

Fleischer left the AED hooked up to the man because “you just never know what can happen at that point. He

could be breathing, but could still go at any minute. I just held his head back until EMS arrived and they took over from there.”

His heroic actions earned him the Congressional Law Enforcement Preserver of Life Award, which he

will receive May 13, at the Sarasota County Commission chambers, 1660 Ringling Blvd.

While his actions are heroic, Fleischer is visibly uncomfortable with the word “hero.”

“Anyone else would have done the same thing in that situation,” he said. “You don’t think, you react. That’s our job, and that’s what we get paid to do.”

Fleischer said he is honored to receive the recognition.

He started on the Holmes Beach police reserves in 2009 and became a full-time police officer in January 2010,  after serving six years with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “Law enforcement is just something I’ve  always wanted to do,” he said.

In 2005, Fleischer was named Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy of the Year for saving the life of a

child. The boy had wandered into a canal and was on the verge of drowning when Fleischer arrived.

“I was flagged down by a kid who was screaming that his brother was drowning,” said Fleischer. “I ran into

the backyard and all I could see were bubbles coming up from the canal. I jumped in, found him and pulled him out.”

A U.S. Navy veteran lived next door and saw the commotion and he and Fleischer successfully initiated CPR. The boy fully recovered.

Fleischer credits his training for the November lifesaving event.

“The thing we are taught more than CPR is the AED, because the AED will save your life,” he said.

The man was wide-awake by the time he arrived at the hospital and made a full recovery.

“You rely on your training in situations like that,” said Fleischer. “We get paid to make those split second

decisions, so the training is important.” CPR procedures have continuously evolved over the

past several years. While Fleischer is fully certified, he continues to sit in on CPR classes when the instructor is in Holmes Beach.

Fleischer’s actions also led former acting Chief of Police Dale Stephenson to nominate him for the 2012

Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. The winner of that award will be announced May 13.

In a February nomination letter, Stephenson wrote,

HB won’t budge on treehouse removal

Lynn Tran addressed Holmes Beach commissioners April 23 in an attempt to open a dialogue over the city’s April 5 notice of violation issued for a treehouse built at her home and lodging facility, Angelino’s Sea Lodge, at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach.

The structure was built around an Australian pine tree, a tree considered to be an invasive species in Florida, and has two supporting 12-inch posts concreted into the ground in front and an additional 6-inch post in the rear.

Tran and co-owner Richard Hazen approached the city in 2011 about building the treehouse and were given an informal verbal approval from former building official Bob Schaffer.

Following a 2011 Islander report about the completed treehouse, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a possible notice of violation due to the structure’s location seaward of the coastal construction control line.

DEP informed Tran and Hazen that if the city issued a letter of no objection, they could apply for an after-the-fact permit.

Tran said she has tried to schedule a meeting with building official Tom O’Brien to discuss the letter of no objection, but O’Brien said a meeting isn’t necessary.

“DEP has never said they would issue an after-the-fact permit,” said O’Brien. “They simply explained the process to them. They took it upon themselves to build a structure without a permit. It’s not my fault. I’m just the one with the unpleasant task of doing something about it.”

The city issued a notice of violation via email April 3 and followed it up with a certified letter dated April 5.

O’Brien said the matter now has to be addressed by the code enforcement board and, if the notice of violation stands, the city will begin fining Tran and Hazen $500 a day until the structure is removed.

Tran apologized for a recent bout of emails that were critical of the city in tone, but said, “I’d like to ask you for your time to review this. I don’t want to lose the treehouse and don’t want to pay the heavy fines moving forward.”

In a prepared statement to the city, Tran wrote the proposed fine is “harsh and unfair” and a “waste of both ours and the city’s resources and disputing issues that have been examined and evaluated by both legal and DEP for over a year.”

O’Brien said the city has continued attempts to communicate that DEP has not guaranteed issuance of an after-the-fact permit and, because of the location of the treehouse, it also would not qualify for a variance.

“And it’s a safety issue,” he said. “It’s not a kid’s treehouse. They basically have a four-unit resort and have the public use the treehouse, so that elevates the standards of public safety.”

O’Brien said the notice of violation would not be discussed.

“It needs to come down,” he said.

O’Brien provided an update to city commissioners at an April 25 work session. He said Tran and Hazen want the city to sign a letter saying they are not in violation of the 50-foot erosion control line setback requirements.

“We refused to author that letter,” said O’Brien. “I had to make a determination that yes, they are in violation.”

Commission Chair Jean Peelen said she didn’t understand why the issue was being “kicked back and forth between the state and the city.”

She wanted to know why DEP hasn’t handled the situation since the erosion control line is a state matter.

O’Brien said the issue isn’t going back and forth and that the city is handling it because the treehouse violates the land development code and because it was built without a city permit.