HOLMES BEACH — He said it was a “work in progress.”
Now, progress is proceeding.
When Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer recommended the removal of about 1,100 on-street parking spaces in late April, commissioners agreed to the plan on Tokajer’s assurance it would be tweaked.
At a teleconferenced commission meeting June 23, Tokajer presented a draft ordinance for a “parking-by-permit-only zone.” If approved, residents and owners would obtain decals for parking 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in 619 of the 1,100 prohibited parking spots.
After 5 p.m., parking in the zone would open to the public.
“We do not think that our sunset crowd is our concern,” he said. “Plus, if you have a dinner party at your house, chances are that would be after 5 p.m.”
Tokajer’s effort to inventory and remove on-street parking was made at the behest of Mayor Judy Titsworth in the wake of coronavirus closures.
The move was meant to reduce congestion and trash near neighborhood beach accesses.
However, people from on and off the island were divided over the decision, which limited parking near publicly funded beaches and, some said, pushed traffic into Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria.
In letters to officials and on social media, some people complained the decision was made too quickly, with little input, while others commended the city action.
A similar permit parking ordinance was approved 3-2 by the commission in 2016, but was vetoed by then-Mayor Bob Johnson. Mayor Judy Titsworth said June 23 the new proposal was adapted from the 2016 ordinance.
Tokajer said a two-hour parking limit was removed from the original ordinance. Full-time residents with proof of residency would be provided a vehicle decal. Unlicensed golf carts would not require a permit.
Decals would be renewed annually, at a cost probably less than $20, according to Tokajer.
Vacation rental owners would be allowed two decals, not to be shared with renters, and permits would be nontransferable to other vehicles.
“If we see that some congestion is pushed into a different neighborhood and the remedy for that would be to make the area permit parking, it gives us the opportunity to do that as we move forward,” Tokajer said.
Former Commissioner Rick Hurst, who is running for another term in 2020, and has been opposed to the parking reduction, said he is OK with the plan.
He said, “It is moving in the right direction,” but he would like to see renewals every other year.
Commission Chair Jim Kihm said beach access parking in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach is limited, so Holmes Beach, as the largest city, carries “most of the burden.”
“This is a good solution toward mitigating the overall problem,” Kihm said of the plan, adding that as population grows and tourism increases, the island must work with the state and county to find solutions.
“When people bought in 20-30 years ago, these were residential neighborhoods,” he said. “We didn’t have the development. We didn’t have the amount of rental housing and we certainly didn’t have the number of people in the county.”
Commissioners reached consensus to move the permit parking plan to first reading and public hearing.
The next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, or by teleconference, with instructions on the city website at holmesbeachfl.org.
ANNA MARIA ISLAND — It’s almost the time when sea turtle nesting wanes and hatchlings wax on Anna Maria Island beaches.
“Nesting is down a bit from 15 a day,” Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, said June 24. “That gives us a chance to catch our breath.”
As Fox and her league of volunteers take a breath, Manatee County is gearing up a beach renourishment project on Anna Maria Island, working from 78th Street in Holmes Beach to Longboat Pass in Bradenton Beach.
As of June 25, turtle watch volunteers had spotted and relocated 209 nests from the shoreline in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach to areas north of the Manatee County beach renourishment project zone, so eggs were not destroyed by equipment or covered by sand pumped in to restore the eroded beaches.
Fox said she has worked closely with the county biologist and project contractor to ensure nesting turtles and hatchlings will not be in harm’s way during the work.
The county planned to begin beach renourishment July 2, weather permitting, and will continue through Oct. 31 — coinciding with the end of sea turtle nesting season.
Since the season began May 1, nests laid on beaches slated for renourishment have been relocated to human-made nests on beaches in Anna Maria, outside the project area.
However, Fox said nests laid in newly renourished sections, after equipment has passed through, will not be relocated.
“It won’t be as many, since things are slowing down, but people could see some nests marked in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach,” Fox said.
For each nest in the relocation zone, volunteers collect the eggs, retain them until after sunrise and deposit them in a hole dug in the sand to mimic the shape of a sea turtle nest cavity, following Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations.
Nests laid outside the relocation zone in Anna Maria are not marked or reported, but turtle watch tracks the dates laid and location.
As of June 25, AMITW logged 67 nests laid in Anna Maria.
Fox said, any day now, hatchlings from the first nests of the season will start emerging from the nests and heading to the Gulf of Mexico.
Each nest contains about 100 eggs, which all will hatch at once, after about 45-70 days of incubation.
After that, males never leave the water and females only come ashore to nest.
Turtle watch volunteers excavate nests 72 hours after hatching to count hatched, unhatched and partially developed eggs and collect other data, which is shared with federal, state and county agencies.
Previously, AMITW invited the public to attend excavations. This year, with concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, volunteers will work without a gallery.
“We want to do what is safest for everyone,” Fox said. “We can protect the turtles while protecting ourselves.”
For more information about turtle watch, people can visit the AMITW website at islandturtlewatch.com or contact Fox at 941-778-5638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about beach renourishment, including anticipated scheduling, visit mymanatee.org.
Report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or birds to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone or text email@example.com.
An estimated 2.5 million people lived in a newly independent nation July 4, 1776.
That’s according to the “facts-for-features” stats from the U.S. Census Bureau, which is conducting the decennial census, counting the 2020 population.
For the July 4 holiday, the bureau encourages people to “reflect on how our Founding Fathers enshrined in our Constitution the importance of statistics as a vital tool for measuring our people, places and economy” and respond to their census invitations.
The decennial census is used to determine legislative representation, allocate $675 billion in federal funding every year, guide decisions about schools, housing, transportation, health care and assistance and chart changes in a community.
A local push is focused on boosting participation from Anna Maria Island, where response rates thus far are below the county, state and nation.
The national self-response to the census was 61.7% as of June 26 and the state response rate was 58.8%. Manatee County’s response rate was 55.7%, but Anna Maria’s rate was 23.4%, Bradenton Beach’s 22.8% and Holmes Beach’s 33%.
Community advocates, including the Patterson Foundation, plan to encourage participation using social media networks, especially NextDoor, as well as outreach at libraries, city halls and through home associations and nonprofits.
Meanwhile, census takers will go door to door through Oct. 31 and the census bureau will mail reminders — about 1.3 million postcards were to be sent this week in communities required to use P.O. boxes, including Anna Maria.
Key to the local outreach is educating owners of vacation properties — either second homes or rental properties, according to Neal Dollar of the Census Bureau.
Owners of multiple homes might have responded to census invitations at their permanent address in another state but disregarded an invite sent to a second home.
But the invitation to the second home needs a response to the first question, which asks, “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020?”
Respondents would answer zero if the property is a second home or vacation rental, and their replies improve the community response rate, inform the Census Bureau about the property and also ensure each person appears in the decennial count only once.
“It’s critical, the census,” said Hannah Saeger Karnei of the Patterson Foundation, but also easy to complete.
In less than 10 minutes, respondents can impact their community for the next 10 years.
To participate in the census, go online to my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020.
Did you know?
The Census Act of 1790 established the concept of “usual residence,” which is the place where a person lives and sleeps most of the time.
Every census since has been based on the concept.
A “usual residence” is not always the same as a legal residence, voting residence or even the location where a person prefers to be counted.
In this instance, safety does not lie in numbers.
Manatee County confirmed a new record 270 positive cases in one day June 26.
The previous daily county record of 166 positive cases was June 25, according to the Florida Department of Health.
From June 19-25, 12% of those tested in Manatee County tested positive.
As of June 25, 2,002 had tested positive of 34,662 people tested in the county, while Sarasota County reported 1,139 positive cases of 32,277 tested.
Of people who tested positive in Manatee, 1,103 were recovered, according to DOH-Manatee.
A total of 253 people had been hospitalized and 128 people have died due to the virus in Manatee.
As of June 28, eight people in Bradenton Beach, seven people in Holmes Beach and one person in Anna Maria tested positive compared with May 29, when one person in Bradenton Beach and one in Holmes Beach tested positive — out of 1,000 positive residents countywide.
Additionally, 17 nonresidents visiting the county tested positive as of June 28 compared with seven nonresidents at the end of May.
Nonresidents in the health statistics are people who test positive in Florida but reside in another state.
At a June 23 teleconferenced county commission meeting, county public safety director Jake Saur reported on COVID-19.
He said the recent increase in positive cases was not within long-term care facilities, as previously was the case.
As of June 25, 7.2% of positive cases were residents and employees of LTCF’s, compared with 26.5% of cases May 10.
He also said the increase was not due to increased testing, as testing has remained at about the same rate since June 1.
“This further suggests community spread is occurring and is the primary driver in the increase in positive cases,” Saur said.
He said wearing a mask remains one of the best ways to stop the spread, by inhibiting the transfer of droplets containing the virus.
The DOH-Manatee has distributed 300,000 masks, with 15 million more available to people that need them, Saur said.
The Manatee County Chamber of Commerce also is providing cloth face covers to businesses for employees at no charge until the supply of 30,000 is exhausted. Businesses do not need to be members to receive masks from the chamber.
The county considered implementing a face-covering mandate at a June 23 meeting, with the matter continued to June 24, but instead opted to support the Florida Surgeon General’s advisory, which states, “All individuals in Florida should wear face coverings in any setting where social distancing is not possible.”
On the island, the cities of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach approved orders June 25 mandating face coverings when social distancing cannot be maintained, with some exceptions.
Bradenton Beach had not implemented a mask plan as of press time for The Islander.
Know the virus, stop the spread
There is no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 — COVID-19.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is spread:
- Mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another — within about 6 feet.
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or may be inhaled.
- The virus may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
Public health officials recommend people:
- Wear a cloth face cover when in public, except children under the age of 2 and those who have breathing difficulties.
- Wash hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even at home.
- Put distance between yourself and other people outside the home.
- Discard used tissues in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Be alert for symptoms.
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
ANNA MARIA ISLAND — The coronavirus arrived last week at the Center of Anna Maria Island.
The center closed indefinitely June 25 after staff displayed “symptoms associated with coronavirus,” according to a June 24 news release from the nonprofit community center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.
Those who displayed symptoms were tested for the virus and remained quarantined at home. As of June 27, one staff member had a positive test result.
Another staff member received negative test results, and others remain undetermined.
The pandemic initially shut down the nonprofit in March. The center reopened in May with after-school camps for youth, then resumed group fitness classes and started summer camps in June. Adult sports — flag football and soccer — also resumed.
The release stated that the center “will continue to monitor the situation” and wants to reopen “once we have more answers.”
Plans call for a professional cleaning and disinfecting at the facility during the closure.
“We love our community and we want to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy,” the release stated.
— Ryan Paice
ANNA MARIA ISLAND — Law enforcement will stand vigilant, but this year’s Fourth of July celebration on Anna Maria Island may not have the boom of years past.
West Manatee Fire Rescue fire marshal Rodney Kwiatkowski said June 24 that no individuals or businesses had applied to launch fireworks for the holiday, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As of today, there will be no public firework displays come July 4,” Kwiatkowski said.
Traditionally, the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria launches fireworks to celebrate the holiday and, in the past, the Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach sponsored displays on July 3.
Last year, Swordfish Grill in Cortez was ordered to remove fireworks from a garage at a home in the village to safe storage, and eventually applied for a county and WMFR permit, but the fireworks, were shot off from a barge without a U.S. Coast Guard permit.
Kwiatkowski said, “We, the Fire Prevention Bureau, began reaching out to Swordfish management a couple months ago regarding their July 4th intentions. We reminded them then, and at least one more time since, that a permit from USCG Sector St. Petersburg, along with our standard permitting, would be required.”
Kwiatkowski said the district’s firework displays attract tens of thousands of people. During a global pandemic, however, such mass gatherings pose a risk to public safety.
From a consumer perspective, Florida allows the use of fireworks on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Independence Day. However, Manatee County prohibits the use of projectile and/or explosive fireworks outside of licensed, permitted displays.
“A sparkler is really the extent of what’s legal as a consumer-grade firework,” Kwiatkowski said.
However, he added that WMFR doesn’t have a plan for enforcing the use of illegal fireworks unless it results in a fire or injury.
Cracking down on the use of illegal fireworks, such as firecrackers or cherry bombs, will fall primarily to local law enforcement.
Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said June 24 the police didn’t have a specific plan for enforcing the rules and instead would handle reports of illegal fireworks on a case-by-case basis.
Speciale said if police find fireworks “are big enough to be a safety concern,” they will be confiscated and potentially destroyed. However, he said officers would issue verbal warnings in most cases.
The BBPD will have to handle the holiday weekend an officer down after Jason Cohen resigned June 2 to take a job in his hometown.
The BBPD has singled out a potential candidate to fill the position, according to Speciale.
However, city commissioners agreed to delay the hire until the county responds to its offer for a new interlocal agreement.
The county pays the city around $90,000 a year for BBPD patrols at Coquina and Cortez beaches, which the county owns and maintains.
However, the city hasn’t received an increase for the services for years.
In an attempt to secure a pay raise, the city proposed a new interlocal agreement earlier this year in which the county would pay around $120,000 for BBPD patrols at the public beaches.
Lacking a response, commissioners chose to hold off hiring a new officer until a deal is struck or abandoned.
Speciale said he is confident the BBPD could uphold the law over the holiday weekend regardless of Cohen’s absence.
Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said June 24 his department would enforce the county’s firework regulations on a case-by-case basis. He said illegal fireworks would be confiscated and those using them may be subject to criminal charges, “depending on what they have in their possession.”
“We also will do the best we can to make sure everyone social distances,” Tokajer said. “We will have people monitoring and enforcing the laws on the beach, including zero tolerance for alcohol on the beach.”
The Holmes Beach Police Department’s efforts will be supported by a small force of county code enforcement officers, according to Tokajer.
“I’m confident going into the holiday weekend,” Tokajer said. “And we hope that everyone that comes up is respectful and responsible.”
Neither Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy nor Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Joe Westerman responded to The Islander.
ANNA MARIA — “It’s just breathtaking,” Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy told commissioners June 25 about the new Anna Maria City Pier.
Following nearly two years of construction, the city opened the pier June 19 to sightseers and anglers.
The city also reached a settlement with the former restaurant and bait shop tenant.
The new pier was built to replace the old pier, which opened in 1911 but was removed by the city after it was deemed destroyed by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
At their June 25 meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a motion banning smoking on the pier, including the covered entrance and T-end.
Murphy said “no smoking” signs would be posted on the pier. He also said signage would be placed at the pier entrance stating dogs, excluding service animals, and bicycles are not allowed, per city ordinance.
He suggested, with help from the Anna Maria Historical Society, the city could place pictures of the old pier on the bulletin board at the entrance and photos of historic island scenes in restrooms.
Additionally, he said the city is considering placing a shade sail at the T-end.
Previously, Murphy said the city hopes to have the restaurant and bait shop open in late 2020 or early 2021, with the new tenant or the city taking on the build-out of the operations.
Pier lease discussed
The city commission voted in May to approve the bid from the Ugly Grouper restaurant, 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, and the mayor has been negotiating the terms with the owners.
In the meantime, city attorney Becky Vose worked out a settlement with the former tenant, Mario Schoenfelder, whose lease was set to expire Dec. 15.
Schoenfelder’s lease and payments have been abated since the September 2017 closure.
Vose reported June 25 that a settlement was reached and the city will pay Schoenfelder $20,000 to end the lease.
“Once it is approved, the city will have full use of the pier and the lease will be over,” Vose said.
Commissioners unanimously approved a motion to accept the settlement.
Murphy did not provide an update June 25 on negotiations with the Ugly Grouper, but previously said fact-finding with restaurant co-owner Mike Ross was underway, and he anticipated Ross would present a proposal to commissioners at the end of June or July.
At the start of the June 25 meeting, Murphy said he was upset by allegations of a possible Government-in-the-Sunshine Law violation in The Islander’s June 24 editorial, following the June 19 pier opening, when the mayor and Commissioners Carol Carter and Amy Tripp met at the T-end of the pier prior to the public being admitted for more than 15 minutes.
A notice that two or more officials might be gathered on the pier over opening weekend was posted on the bulletin board a city hall, but was not distributed to the media or the city website.
The notice does not give officials carte blanche to hold a discussion without allowing the public to be present or without a recording of the meeting.
Murphy said video cameras captured activities on the pier prior to the event, including the mayor, his wife and a Manatee County sheriff’s deputy arriving at 7:45:30 a.m. and Carter at 7:47:28 a.m. Tripp arrived at 8:03 a.m.
Murphy said he chatted with Tripp, before the rest of the people at the opening made their way to the T-end.
“There was no sunshine violation here, as alleged in this article,” Murphy said, referring to an opinion piece in the newspaper. “This article is totally false, it’s mean-spirited, it’s bullying and it’s libelous.”
He did not offer the recording or a transcript of the meeting to The Islander.
The alleged violation was detailed in the opinion column by Bonner Joy, publisher of The Islander.
The next commission meeting will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 16, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive. Information on participating by phone is provided with the agenda on the city website at cityofannamaria.com.
MANATEE COUNTY — The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County issued a “no swim” advisory June 25 for Bayfront Park North in Anna Maria.
The advisory indicates water contact may pose an increased risk of infectious diseases to humans and was issued based on water samples June 22 and June 24 that showed an elevated level of enterococci bacteria.
The advisory will be in effect until the water meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety guidelines.
Water samples in the area are analyzed for enteric bacteria — enterococci — which may cause human disease, infections or rashes.
For more information, call the health department at 941-714-7593 or go online to www.floridahealth.gov.