Tag Archives: 05-20-2020

Candidate qualifying ahead

thumb image
U.S. flag header or “I voted” button….

Candidate qualifying for the 2020 municipal elections in Anna Maria will open at noon June 1 and close at noon June 12.

Commission seats held by Amy Tripp and Mark Short and the mayoral post held by Dan Murphy are up for election.

Qualifying in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach will begin at noon June 8 and end at noon June 12. Commission seats held by Marilyn Maro and Ralph Cole are up for election in Bradenton Beach.

In Holmes Beach, the mayoral post held by Judy Titsworth and commission seats held by Pat Morton and Kim Rash are up for election.

The qualifying period also is June 8-12 for those seeking to run for state legislative and Manatee County offices, including the board of county commissioners.

The general election will be Nov. 3.

The primary will be Aug. 18.

For more details about candidate qualifying, as well as information about registering to vote or voting by mail, go online to votemanatee.com.

— Lisa Neff

County opens public beach parking; cities, beachgoers react

thumb image
People gather May 13 at Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Manatee County opened its public beach parking lots to full capacity for the first time since beaches were closed March 20 due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Allen
Manatee County sheriff’s deputies patrol Bayfront Park, 316 N. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria, May 13. The deputies were ensuring vehicles were legally parked and people maintained social distancing at the park.
Beachgoers stroll May 13 through the parking lot at the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, on their way to the shore. Manatee County opened public beach parking to full capacity and the lot at the public beach was filled by noon.

“So we undertook a little experiment last week at our public beaches,” Manatee County administrator Cheri Coryea said as she began her May 12 presentation to county commissioners about reopening public beach parking during a teleconferenced commission meeting.

The county opened parking May 4 to limited numbers of vehicles at Coquina and Cortez beaches in Bradenton Beach and the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach. Parking capacity was reduced to about half in the county-run beach lots and people were allowed to stay for two hours.

The “experiment” was deemed a success by the county, and commissioners unanimously voted May 12 to open the lots to full capacity and also to open parking at Bayfront Park, 316 N. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria.

The motion also included beach and parking patrol assistance for the municipal authorities from the sheriff on weekends and holidays through July 12.

“We were a little nervous,” Coryea said. “We weren’t sure what was going to happen, but the residents really, really stood out and did a great job.”

She added, “It’s busy out there.”

About 20,000 parking passes were issued the week beginning May 4 during monitoring by county code enforcement, and no citations were issued for violating the governor’s order or the parking regulations.

However, following holiday weekend-level traffic and a glut of illegally parked vehicles the weekend of May 9-10, officials and staff in the island cities opted to keep beach access and right-of-way parking closed.

During the May 14 Holmes Beach meeting, Police Chief Bill Tokajer told commissioners that he and Mayor Judy Titsworth reached out to Coryea during the county meeting and asked her not to open the public parking lot to full capacity.

“We told them that social distancing was more difficult to achieve with Saturday’s crowd and, it appeared to be the busiest beach day so far in 2020. Tokajer said that had the parking lot been filled to capacity, “the beach in front of it would not be able to handle another group from 150 more cars.”

In late April, Holmes Beach commissioners agreed to a parking plan proposed by Tokajer to remove 2,000 parking spaces from city rights of way after the city reopens parking. To qualify for beach renourishment, the city must provide 364 parking spots. Tokajer said the city will have 479 spots after the reduction.

The city prohibited on-street parking and beach access and rights of way parking April 10 to prevent crowding on the beach.

Tokajer said May 12 about 250 new “no parking” signs were ordered but would take about two weeks to arrive and another two weeks to install.

“Before we open our streets up, we need to get the new signs in place,” he said. “So we are looking at about 3-4 weeks at the earliest before we are prepared to open our streets.”

At a teleconferenced meeting May 14, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said the city issued more parking tickets May 9 than it had in one day in its history.

He supported the county’s decision to open public beach parking without restrictions.

Murphy also said reduced parking in Holmes Beach may result in increased illegal parking in Anna Maria and proposed a seven-day order, increasing parking fines from $35 to $100. The temporary increase was allowed, due to the declaration of emergency.

“At this point, we’re forced to react to it,” Murphy said. “We can’t let that situation happen again.”

Commissioners reached consensus on the increase and planned to meet in seven days to determine if the order would be renewed.

Murphy also directed public works and code enforcement to expand “no parking” zones, mostly in the northern part of the city, starting May 15.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said May 14 that he asked the county to install temporary barricades in the rights of way along Gulf Drive, near Coquina Beach, due to problems with people parking on the side of the road the weekend of May 9-10.

“We had people parking everywhere,” he said. “And my officers had to deal with a lot of verbal abuse from people.”

Speciale said social distancing became a concern when frustrated people approached his officers about the tickets.

With the expected Memorial Day weekend surge approaching May 23-25, the chief asked that people be more considerate of officers and other first responders.

“We understand that everyone has been cooped up for the last month or so, but there are certain things you can’t lose,” Speciale said. “People have to realize, if the county decides this isn’t working, they could go ahead and close the beaches again.”

Island businesses charge up for ‘reopening’

thumb image
A family crosses Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach May 16 after Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed reopening restaurants and retail stores within his phase 1 orders.
Doug Bidwell plays music May 16 for people at the dockside dining area at the Bridge Tender Inn & Dockside Bar, 135 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach.
A waiter serves a couple May 16 on the outdoor deck at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced May 15 that the state would enter “full phase 1” of reopening at half capacity for restaurants, retailers, museums, libraries, fitness centers and other operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The American people never signed up for a perpetual shelter in place,” DeSantis said in a televised news conference.

The phase 1 reopening was set for May 18, as The Islander went to press.

After a monthlong closure of nonessential businesses and tight limits on essential operations, restaurants opened dining rooms and retailers opened shops to 25% capacity May 4, in partial implementation of phase 1.

Beginning May 18, restaurants were allowed double capacity with social distancing and encouragement to utilize outdoor seating.

Barbershops, hair and nail salons were allowed to reopen May 11, but only 10 people are allowed in a business and they must maintain social distancing.

Fitness centers, allowed to open May 18, must adhere to social distancing guidelines, as well as requirements for sanitization.

“Bar areas” in restaurants were to remain closed, and owners were encouraged to adopt a reservation-only business model or call-ahead seating to manage interior spaces. Bars and nightclubs remained closed.

DeSantis, during a news conference May 15, reviewed what’s ahead with phase 2, including reopening schools and bars, allowing gatherings of up to 50 people while adhering to social distancing guidelines and increasing restaurant capacity.

So with beaches and businesses opening, visitors were returning to Anna Maria Island, resulting in foot traffic on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, Pine Avenue in Anna Maria and the shopping centers in Holmes Beach, including heavy vehicle traffic on the bridges and Gulf Drive and some parking problems.

Holmes Beach received complaints that people were parking at businesses and shopping centers to go to the beach, “and some store owners resorted to towing vehicles,” Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth wrote May 14 in an email to The Islander.

But Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer told The Islander May 15 that, besides the beach and some issues with parking, there wasn’t much excessive activity.

“We had a lot of people here on Saturday and Sunday,” Tokajer said. “But we were not overrun. We still had social distancing.”

In Anna Maria, Mayor Dan Murphy said May 9 “was one of unprecedented traffic and parking issues” due to an influx of visitors.

“The Saturday prior to Mother’s Day was an absolutely colossal day — for lack of a better word — for traffic, congestion and parking,” Murphy told city commissioners May 14. “We issued a record number of parking tickets that day.”

“It reminded me of the old days: Helter-skelter within the city,” he continued.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said May 12 that May 9-10 was “extremely busy.”

“Social distancing was tough,” the mayor said. “A lot of people that were asked to (practice social distancing) didn’t really care, which was sad to hear.”

There were incidents of verbal abuse of police officers as they carried out their duties — issuing tickets or requesting social distancing compliance, according to Chappie. “It wasn’t pretty.”

Holmes Beach resident Mike Roaldi emailed The Islander May 13 and said Bridge Street May 9 looked “like Mardi Gras,” with crowds and people practicing “zero social distancing” and wearing “virtually no masks.”

“My point is that there was no sense whatsoever that there was any kind of health crisis,” Roaldi added. “Nothing was any different than it would have been prior to the lockdown.”

His wife, Carol Roaldi, said despite the hustle and bustle, Bridge Street businesses abided by capacity limits, social distancing and employees wore face coverings.

“While the atmosphere was fun, I felt the merchants were very responsible,” she said.

Officials on AMI had no issues with businesses on capacity or social distancing.

The Roaldis did not oppose the business activity on Bridge Street but instead challenged the continued limits on short-term vacation rentals, which could be changing.

“If we can go to restaurants and walk around outside, why would we not be allowed to stay in a vacation rental?” Carol Roaldi said. “Let’s be fair across the board.”

 

Vacation rental restrictions

The state, as of May 18, continued to prohibit short-term vacation rental advertising and new check-ins of fewer than 30 days.

The island cities have been issuing citations since late March to alleged offenders and reporting property owners and management companies to the state.

Murphy said law and code enforcement officers investigated 198 complaints of suspected vacation rental activity and identified 38 violations.

Three Anna Maria violators refused to comply with the state order and were given notices to appear in court for second-degree misdemeanors. The properties also were reported to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

At press time, the city was investigating another 10 complaints while another investigation, responding to a house party May 10 in the 100 block of North Bay Boulevard, resulted in the discovery of drugs and guns.

A group of people with open containers of alcohol bound for the party attracted law enforcement attention. At the property, where the owner later said his son had a party that got out of hand, deputies said there were at least 10 parked cars.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report indicated several people jumped out of windows into a canal to flee the deputies, who found two guns, as well as 8 pounds of marijuana and 40 ecstasy pills.

No arrests were made.

In Holmes Beach, Titsworth said the city cited “a few more” rentals the week ending May 17, bringing the city’s violations to “about 10-15.”

One alleged violation involved a lodger who claimed an exemption because he was the owner’s nephew.

Tokajer consulted with the governor’s general council, which confirmed only the owner or an immediate family member were allowed in vacation rentals before the city gave the lodger a notice to appear in court and the property was reported to the DBPR.

Tokajer has supported the restriction on vacation rentals but also said he believes it should have applied to hotels, motels, inns and resorts.

Chappie did not respond to a May 14 email from The Islander asking about vacation rental violations.

The situation with rentals could change soon, as “full phase 1” allows county governments to submit a request with a safety plan to the DBPR to allow short-term vacation rentals.

Meeting early May 18, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council voted to recommend that the county submit a plan that follows public health guidelines to the DBPR to allow short-term rentals.

The county commission would need to approve the recommendation.

TDC backs lifting vacation rental ban

thumb image
When asked what one word best describes feelings about travel, many respondents to the Research Data Services survey said “scary” and “dangerous,” but about 15.9% said “eager,” “hopeful,” and even “essential” and “necessary.” Islander Screenshot
Kimmy Kollmeyer and Kassi Childer, guest services manager and stylist respectively, are ready to serve clients at Acqua Aveda Salon and Spa in Holmes Beach May 16 after many weeks of closure due to the governor’s emergency orders to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

“We’re back” is the message heard from many business owners this month.

And Florida is preparing to roll out the “welcome mat” to vacationers.

A state restriction on new short-term vacation rental bookings and new check-ins at vacation homes remained in place May 18, but the Manatee County Tourist Development Council was recommending the county commission seek state permission to lift the restriction at the local level.

“We are working in coordination with the other counties, mainly on the west coast of Florida, so there is a lot of consistency,” Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the TDC members May 18. “So we have a nice, safe experience for our visitors and our residents.”

Travel and lodging were two topics for discussion for the Tourist Development Council, which was holding a virtual meeting May 18, as The Islander went to press.

The TDC is a nine-member advisory committee that makes recommendations to the board of county commissioners on the expenditures of tourist tax revenues. The council had not met since late winter, when members were looking forward to a robust spring season with an influx of vacationers in March and April.

The robust season never materialized.

By mid-March, the tourist economy had begun to shutter and nearly shut down in April, when the state adjusted to “safer-at-home” orders from the governor.

The TDC’s agenda included a presentation of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s short-term marketing recovery plan by Falcione.

The 44-page PowerPoint presentation outlines how “to return to the market at the proper time, with limited funds” in two phases — June-August and September-December.

The CVB would market to larger cities in the South in the first phase, targeting families with household incomes of more than $100,000 a year.

In the second phase, the CVB would extend its marketing reach to the Northeast.

The agenda also included reviews of:

  • Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport’s COVID-19 safety plan, “SRQ Strong: When You’re Ready … We’re Ready,” which states airport personnel must wear face coverings and travelers are strongly encouraged to wear masks and use mobile ticketing.

SRQ installed sanitizing stations and plastic shields, widened security lanes and marked floors for social distancing.

  • Research Data Services Inc.’s March visitor profile report showed visitors for October 2019-March 2020 down 0.6% compared with fiscal year 2019 and economic impact down 2.3%.

Comparing month to month, visitors were down 40.2% in March compared to March 2019 and room nights were down 33.7%.

  • Research Data Service’s “traveler sentiment survey” was conducted in early May, the same week that county-run public beaches on Anna Maria Island reopened and the governor announced implementation of phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan.

As restaurant dining rooms opened to 25% capacity and people returned to the Gulf shore, RDS used its database of “likely Florida travelers” to check the pulse on the “pandemic state of mind.”

The survey revealed more than half of respondents canceled a trip because of the coronavirus outbreak but two in five still had future travel plans.

About 18% rescheduled travel for June or July, 14.7% planned to travel in August or September, 26.7% October-December and 40.5% postponed plans to 2021.

Asked how reopening was moving, about 54% said too quickly, 26.6% said “at the right pace” and 13.3% said too slowly.

Asked “how much have you missed travel?” about 60.7% said “very much” and 53.2% said they dreamed “often” about taking a vacation.

Majorities said they’d feel safe “at the moment” with outdoor recreation and travel by car.

But majorities also said they would not feel safe dining at restaurants, attending sporting events, visiting indoor attractions, going to theme parks, taking a cruise, traveling by air or attending a conference.

About going to the beach, 42.7% said they’d feel safe.

People’s biggest concerns about COVID-19 and travel? Health and safety, a second wave of cases with the easing of restrictions and “not being able to return home.”

“What would persuade you it is safe to book a trip?” the researchers asked.

About 72% said, “A vaccine being found.”

Second best: “Things reopening with no increase in cases.”

 

About the TDC

The TDC makes recommendations to the board of county commissioners on the expenditures of tourist tax revenues — a 5% tax on accommodations of six months or less.

The board includes Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia, Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston, Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, hoteliers Jiten Patel, Ed Chiles, Eric Cairns and Barbara Baker and citizens Jack Rynerson and Vernon DeSear.

COVID-19 curve lessens, caution still required

thumb image
Staff with the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County prepare and label kits May 13 for COVID-19 testing at Turning Points, a homeless assistance facility at 701 17th Ave. W., Bradenton. Islander Photos: Courtesy DOH-MC

It’s not over yet.

The percentage of positive numbers dropped, but cases still were being confirmed daily in Manatee County as of May 17.

“The effects of the pandemic continue to rise,” Jake Saur, the county’s public safety director, said May 12 during a teleconferenced county commission meeting.

He continued, “That being said, fatalities and the percent of the population testing positive, both Manatee County and the statewide average, is finally trending downward, while the number of new positive cases are trending slightly upward.”

As of May 17, the rate of positive COVID-19 cases in Manatee County was 8.5% of 9,964 people tested, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Health.

The rate decreased by more than 5% in one week due to increased tested through the second week of May.

Statewide, the positive test rate May 17 was 7% of 653,081 people tested.

As of May 17, there were:

  • 81 fatalities in Manatee County attributed to COVID-19;
  • 193 people were hospitalized;
  • More than 457 people who tested positive had recovered.

Residents and staff of long-term care facilities accounted for 52 deaths, totaling 64% of fatalities in Manatee County related to the novel coronavirus.

State-initiated incident management teams were assisting facilities the weeks of May 4 and May 11 with infectious disease control, according to Saur.

As of May 17, 140 residents and 66 staff members tested positive, totaling 206 positive cases in LTCFs — 24% of 845 Manatee County cases.

Saur reported May 12 that the county had results on 8,511 tests, exceeding a goal to test 2% of the population — about 8,220 people of 403,253.

He said the short-term goal was to test another 2% of the population, about 16,400 people, by mid-June.

Previously, Saur said a shortage of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved tests inhibited the county testing numbers. This changed in late April, when state and local support, including four testing locations provided by Manatee Rural Health Services, helped the county secure 6,100 test kits.

The week of May 11, the health department conducted walk-up testing at Turning Points, a homeless facility in downtown Bradenton, and was encouraging the underserved population to get tested.

Saur said the health department also started assisting management teams by conducting mobile testing on a bus that traveled to long-term care facilities and was training paramedics to swab so they could test people that could not drive to a test site.

At a positive percentage rate of 9.3%, Saur said the county had dropped below 10%, the state’s target rate for reopening established by the Florida Department of Health.

However, Saur noted some delays in state-reported test results.

“Until the data proves otherwise,” Saur said, it is likely that we will see peaks and valleys, as have occurred in recent weeks.”

 

Testing sites in Manatee County, antibodies

Manatee County is encouraging people, with or without virus symptoms, to get tested for COVID-19.

A state-run regional testing site for Manatee and Sarasota counties was open seven days a week 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Mall at University Town Center, 140 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota, until further notice. No prescriptions or appointments were required.

The health department plans to hold drive-thru testing 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, May 29, at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto. A prescription is not required, but people must make an appointment and present a photo ID, as well as proof of residency, such as a utility bill. Appointments are available by calling 941-748-0747.

Testing at the state and DOH sites was provided to Manatee County residents at no cost.

Also, people now can be tested for antibodies, indicating they likely were infected and recovered.

Rapid antibodies testing was available at Ellenton Urgent Care, 4015, U.S. 301, Ellenton. People were asked to call 941-531-2800 for an appointment.

— ChrisAnn Allen

 

Health Dept.: Homemade face coverings can prevent spread of COVID-19

The Manatee County Health Department issued a statement May 13 urging people to wear cloth face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted guidance on cloth face coverings to www.cdc.gov and recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain … especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

The CDC also advises that “cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”

Also, the CDC and the health department urge people to remain at home as much as possible and practice physical distancing, remaining 6 feet away from others to help prevent spread of COVID-19.

Additional prevention tips include:

  • Wash hands often;
  • Keep away from sick people;
  • Stock up on supplies;
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces;
  • Avoid all cruise travel and nonessential air travel.

County eyes August deadline to wrap up Gulf Drive work

thumb image
Harris-McBurney employees excavate a section of Gulf Drive/State Road 789 May 13 during the replacement of Force Main 1 in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

There is light at the end of the pipelines.

But it might take the rest of the summer to reach it.

Manatee County strategic affairs manager Ogden Clark wrote in a May 13 email to The Islander that Tampa-based Harris-McBurney was set to finish its work to replace Force Main 1 and resurfacing roadways by August.

The contractor began replacing 50-year-old water and sewer lines along Gulf Drive, Bay Drive South and Church Street, as well as Fifth and Sixth streets south, in January.

Clark said Harris-McBurney was replacing a 15-foot-deep sanitary sewer line on Gulf Drive, as well as force main pipelines between Fifth and Sixth streets south and on Fifth.

He added that motorists on Gulf, Fifth and Sixth can expect traffic delays until the work is completed.

The project has slowed traffic, especially in February, when a section of Gulf Drive around Fifth Street South was reduced to one lane to accommodate construction of a manhole. Clark previously said additional lane closures may be needed to resurface and restore Gulf Drive.

However, Clark told The Islander no lane closures were needed for the contractor the week of May 18 to begin resurfacing and restriping Gulf Drive travel lanes and adjacent pedestrian pathways between Fifth and Sixth streets south.

The first section of restoration work will take a day to complete. The northbound lane of Gulf Drive will be shifted to accommodate the work, according to Clark.

Clark did not provide a time frame for additional work needed to restore the remaining impacted areas.

People with questions regarding the work can reach Clark at ogden.clark@mymanatee.org or 941-708-7450, ext. 7432.

Anna Maria reverses gear on pier negotiations, begins talks

thumb image
Fine-tuning continues May 13 on the new Anna Maria City Pier, 101 Bay Blvd. Construction on the pier began in 2018 and is in its final stages. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Allen
The new Anna Maria City Pier, 101 Bay Blvd., with construction nearly complete, is silhouetted May 13 in the sparkle of the morning sun on Tampa Bay.

Let the negotiations begin.

During a May 14 teleconference meeting, Anna Maria commissioners unanimously approved a motion directing Mayor Dan Murphy to begin negotiations with Mike Ross, co-owner of the Ugly Grouper restaurant in Holmes Beach, to lease the restaurant and bait shop at the new Anna Maria City Pier, 101 Bay Blvd.

The new pier was built to replace the pier that opened in 1911 but was closed after damages from Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

Construction on the new pier started in 2018.

Ross and restaurateur Sean Murphy, owner of the Beach Bistro and Eat Here restaurants, and the Doctor’s Office bar, all in Holmes Beach, were the only bidders to respond to the request for proposals in April.

During a teleconferenced meeting May 6, the commission voted to approve Sean Murphy’s bid, but he withdrew his offer May 10, citing concerns with opening a restaurant during a pandemic.

So the mayor, who is not related to Sean Murphy, told commissioners at their May 14 meeting they could either do nothing, accept the Ugly Grouper’s bid and allow the mayor to start negotiating a lease, or repost the RFP at a later date and seek new bids.

City officials hope to have the restaurant and bait shop open in late 2020 or early 2021.

In discussions May 14, Commissioner Amy Tripp said she was leaning toward putting out another RFP, mainly because she suspected the novel coronavirus contributed to a lack of bids.

Commissioner Mark Short also favored reposting the RFP, adding that representatives of about 20 businesses attended the pre-bid meeting in late February, prior to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

Commission Chair Carol Carter said it is the commission’s fiduciary responsibility to move forward with negotiations for a restaurant on the new pier and she supported the Ugly Grouper’s offer. She also said the family-friendly atmosphere offered at the Ugly Grouper would be a good fit for the pier.

The Ugly Grouper’s bid totaled $2,376,000 for annual base rent over a 10-year lease, including the bait shop — 28.6% more revenue than Sean Murphy’s offer.

For an alternative rent formula, the Ugly Grouper offered $144,000 per year and 2% of net sales.

Ross was aboard for the May 14 meeting call and said he was “at a loss” that the commission would consider putting the RFP back out to bid when the Ugly Grouper had a proven record and he met the terms of the RFP.

“In four years, we took a restaurant in the middle of the island from what it was to a restaurant that had, overwhelmingly, the highest average experience rating across four different social media platforms,” Ross said, referring to the renovation of the Barefoot Tiki Bar, the outdoor bar and music venue purchased by the Ugly Grouper partners. “I only do things to do them right.”

Five people spoke in favor of the Ugly Grouper during public comment May 14.

Steve Rose, owner of Bortell’s Lounge in Anna Maria and a restaurant investor, as well as a resident of Anna Maria, said one of his restaurants is over water, similar to the pier, and projects such as the pier restaurant are complex.

“Any restaurant that you put over water, down a dock, you face hurricanes, red tide and any delivery you have is going to require at least two other employees,” Rose said. “It’s a project.”

He said he was impressed by the transformation of the outdoor bar to the Ugly Grouper and, even though they are business competitors, he supported Ross for the pier.

Commissioners acknowledged the public support for the Ugly Grouper and Ross’ willingness to continue his bid and unanimously approved a motion to start negotiations.

Although construction nearly was complete May 15, the city planned to wait to open the pier to fishing and sightseeing until the novel coronavirus impact has been significantly decreased in Manatee County.

BB makes allowances for streetside dining, retail sales

thumb image
A waiter delivers food to people eating May 16 in the outside “Trap Yard” at the Blue Marlin Seafood Restaurant, 121 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

The lingering COVID-19 pandemic is challenging restaurants and retailers to squeeze out an income going forward.

Bradenton Beach officials want to give struggling businesses an opportunity to make up for lost revenue.

City commissioners voted 5-0 May 14 to approve the first reading of an ordinance lifting land development code restrictions to allow open-air dining and retail sales on private property. It will allow businesses to use adjoining sidewalks and rights of way to expand their sales and seating.

It will allow for more customers than what is allowed under the state’s 50% capacity for indoor seating at restaurants and retail customers as of May 18.

The ordinance would allow a business to convert up to 50% of its on-site parking spaces to outdoor dining and retail space.

However, no handicap-access parking can be included.

Businesses also would be permitted to erect tents in outdoor dining and retail areas, as well as ignore setbacks for the temporary placement of equipment.

The ordinance states that the commission “desires to promote safer operational standards for local food establishments, while also helping local businesses as Florida begins its economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The policy would remain in place for the duration of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-112, as well as throughout any subsequent orders limiting occupancy, seating capacity or mandating social distancing requirements for such businesses.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the city would close public parking spaces on the south side of Bridge Street from the intersection of Bridge Street at Gulf Drive to the westernmost side of 119 Bridge St. She said the parking spaces would be converted into a “pedestrian walkway” separated from traffic with signage and vertical delineators.

Commissioners unanimously approved spending $800 on delineators.

Mayor John Chappie said caution tape would be tied between delineators to cordon areas from the street.

The cost would be included in the city’s reimbursement request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for COVID-19 relief.

The ordinance calls for the city to create an application that requires a business name, proof of insurance, contact information and a sketch of how the business would use its outdoor area.

Perry said the application would be posted to the city’s website, www.cityofbradentonbeach.com. There would be no application fee.

Commissioners reached consensus to create a form before the final reading so businesses can apply for immediate consideration if the ordinance passes.

Violation of the ordinance would result in the business forfeiting the area used for expansion.

A hearing and final reading for the ordinance will be held at noon Thursday, May 21, via teleconference. People can participate via Zoom by joining the meeting ID 137-695-523 and using access code 072455.

Bradenton Beach shifts boatlift location, sets dock inspection

thumb image
Clouds gather as a couple gazes toward Sarasota Bay May 16 from the gangway of the floating dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach. The floating dock is awaiting repairs. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Sometimes you can’t get what you want.

Bradenton Beach city commissioners voted 4-1 May 7 to approve a Florida Department of Environmental Protection application for a submerged land lease to shift a proposed boatlift from the north side of the Historic Bridge Street Pier to the south side, at the west end of the floating dock.

Commissioner Ralph Cole voted “no” due to his concerns with maintenance issues.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said she was pursuing a submerged land lease from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for dock accouterments, including a lift for use by the police department and finger docks to supplement the floating dock.

The city and its community redevelopment agency previously agreed to use space on the north side of the pier for the lift, but needed an agreement with the Jackson Partnership, owner of the Pines Trailer Park, adjacent to the pier, to gain riparian rights to the space.

Perry said the partnership offered the rights if the city paid $10,000 for attorney fees it incurred during negotiations, but she said $10,000 was too high of a cost.

Mayor John Chappie said he was disappointed with the tone in an email asking for $10,000 and suggested the city relocate the lift.

Perry said Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby approved relocating the police boat to the south side of the pier near the west end of the floating dock.

Perry said no part of the police boat would rise higher than the pier railing on the lift, limiting the lift’s visual impact at the pier. She said John Horne, owner of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the pier, consented to the location.

Cole said he was disappointed with the relocation because he wanted the floating dock to link with a dinghy dock at the base of the pier to allow his proposal for a nature walk along the shore.

“If it can’t be done, I’m not going to waste my time doing it,” Cole said. “But we need the police boat out there. It’s long overdue.”

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh moved to relocate the proposed boatlift to the south side of the pier. Commissioner Marilyn Maro seconded the motion.

Meanwhile, the CRA addressed the continuing problems with the floating dock.

Hecker Construction, the contractor that installed the dock, made several repairs to prevent further damage but, apparently, more work is needed to meet the designer’s specifications.

Hecker completed repairs for one section but still must replace bolts and secure connections for the remainder of the dock.

“If it was put together the way it was supposed to be, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now,” Cole said.

Cole said he had scheduled a meeting with Foster Engineering, subcontracted by Hecker for engineering work during installation, to discuss the CRA’s concerns with the dock, including the missing bolts.

The CRA has discussed hiring Foster to complete an as-built final inspection for the dock after repairs.

Turtle watch paces the race

thumb image
Bob and Debbie Haynes, Anna Maria Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers, photograph and collect data on a loggerhead nest spotted April 27 in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW

The sea turtles that nest on Anna Maria Island are taking their time.

“It’s slow, but that’s not surprising,” Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, said May 14. “It’s still early.”

Fox said there have been 14 loggerhead nests spotted on island beaches since a turtle watch volunteer discovered the first nest of the season April 24 — about a week before the official start of the season May 1.

Fox said an influx of nesting occurred May 10-11, then slowed down.

“But the turtles that nested are probably going to come back and nest again in a couple weeks, so we will see another surge,” she added.

Mature female sea turtles can nest 3-6 times — usually about two weeks apart and on the same beach — in a season, according to data from the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

Due to a planned Manatee County beach renourishment project that could overlap with nesting or hatching, turtle watch volunteers must remove and relocate the eggs laid within the project zone to hand-dug nests outside the renourishment zone.

The plans call for pumping sand ashore from 78th Street in Holmes Beach south to Longboat Pass. Nests laid within that stretch of beach are being relocated to beaches north of Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria so as not to be inundated by sand from the project.

To accomplish the relocation, Fox and about 15 volunteers patrol the beach by ATV just after sunrise to spot tracks leading to nests laid overnight. AMITW volunteers photograph the original nest and collect data, including GPS data.

Next comes the delicate process of relocation.

According to AMITW’s permit with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, turtle watch volunteers must relocate eggs into a new nest by 9 a.m. the morning the original nest was found.

Each nest contains about 100 eggs, each roughly the size of a pingpong ball.

“You can’t just pull them out in handfuls and give them a toss,” Fox said. “You have to try to keep them in the same position you pulled them out.”

She said within 12 hours of being deposited into the sand by a mature female sea turtle, the embryo of an egg adheres to the inside of the shell. Jostling the fluid within could drown the embryo.

She said one volunteer pulls the eggs out of the nest, keeping them in the same direction in which they were laid, while another carefully places them in a bucket, also facing the same way.

For loggerheads, volunteers must dig a 24-inch-deep cavity for the new nest. For green sea turtles, a larger species that nests less frequently on the island, the holes must be 36 inches deep. Fox said a replacement nest should match the shape and size of the original nest.

“You’ve got to duplicate the mama turtle,” she said. “If she laid it on an angle, you’ve got to dig it on an angle.”

She said the FWC tracks information provided by turtle watch and, when nests start hatching in 45-70 days, hatch rates will be considered.

“If only two-thirds of the nests we relocated hatch, we will need to work with them and evaluate what happened,” Fox said.

But Fox said she is pleased with how the relocation work thus far has gone.

By the end of last nesting season, Oct. 31, 2019, turtle watch reported a record-breaking 535 loggerhead and nine green sea turtle nests on AMI.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Fox said. “But we’ve got a really strong team to help pull off another great season.”

For more information, visit islandturtlewatch.com.