Tag Archives: 07-17-2013

Long Bar developer caught in shark’s jaws in Cortez

Almost 200 people packed into the Cortez Fishermen’s Hall July 11 to question Long Bar Pointe developer Carlos Beruff in an environment expected to be hostile for the developer given the negative impact to Sarasota Bay anticipated by residents of the village of Cortez and Anna Maria Island.

Some folks claimed meeting organizer Joe Kane deliberately turned on the heat, as the former wood church had little air-conditioned comfort to offer.

Others attending had placed bets as to whether Beruff would enter the shark’s jaw in Cortez — at best an angry crowd of villagers — while Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino, who moderated the event, told the audience that Beruff should be credited for attending.

“Give him credit for coming,” said Zaccagnino. “This is not a protest. This is informational. We might learn something from Carlos and he might learn something from us. That’s what this is all about.”

If Beruff was somehow unaware of the growing opposition to his massive bayfront development plan, he learned it July 11, as the voices of those speaking expressed strong opposition.

Beruff recently bought into the bayfront property on the mainland between Cortez and the IMG Academy with developer Larry Lieberman, who retained certain entitlements from the plan that was approved in 2008 by the Manatee County Board of Commissioners.

That approved plan called for a subdivision with thousands of single- and multi-family homes in three- to five-story buildings and 150,000 square feet of commercial development.

Beruff’s revised plan calls for more than a 1,000 single-family homes, more than 1,600 low-rise multi-family homes, 844 high-rise multi-family homes, a 300-room hotel, boat basin, 84,000-square-foot conference center and 120,000 square feet of retail space.

At issue are changes to the county’s comprehensive plan, text amendment changes required for Beruff’s revised plan to move forward that allow future development with environmental impacts on waterfront lands.

Beruff said some media reports have been inaccurate in reporting the amount of mangroves and seagrass that would be impacted by the project. He said 225 linear feet of mangroves would need to be removed to clear an entry and exit point to the proposed “boat basin,” but that the majority of mangroves — 15,000 linear feet — would remain.

Beruff backed away from the term “marina,” saying the boat basin would be constructed on uplands and have no impact to existing wetlands, although a 2,100-foot-long canal also would need to be dredged for boat access to the basin and some canal homes.

Beruff said stormwater drainage from the development into the bay would be improved beyond what currently exists.

“Right now, you have stormwater drainage from farmland and Manatee Fruit Company,” he said. “Once developed, there will be no stormwater drainage without it first being treated.”

Beruff said under the terms of his current entitlements, he has the right to build a subdivision of more than 1,650 units.

“But I said if we do just another subdivision, it’s just another subdivision,” he said. “The only people who will get to see the bayfront are the people who live behind the gates.”

He said his vision for the property was to allow access to the public, which is why he intends to attract a five-star hotel, build a shopping center and civic center and include a promenade on the waterfront.

In addressing the text amendment change, which the Manatee County Planning and Zoning Board cites as a reason to recommend denial, Beruff said it was never his intention to change the comprehensive plan for any project but his.

“Unfortunately, the way the comp plan exists, it precludes us from doing what we want to do, but it doesn’t preclude us from doing a bunch of things we don’t want to do,” he said. “The law says I can do this and build a bunch of docks, but can’t build a channel into the water. That is where the problem lies. One of the unique things about Long Bar is that we own the submerged lands.”

Beruff claimed he could build more than 150 docks at the bay under the current criteria, and if his plan doesn’t go forward, that would be the new plan.

He said that doesn’t necessarily mean he has the right to dredge, “but there is a difference between having a survey that says you own it and actually having the deed to those submerged lands. The bottom line is that those docks are allowed. That came with the property when we bought it, but I’m trying to create something that is completely different.”

Beruff said he has the right to build a variety of things, “but I said it’s not the right thing to do.”

He said he also plans to preserve about 140 acres of the property.

Holly Clouse, a Harlee Middle School teacher, pointed out Beruff owns many corporations and asked, “When Sarasota Bay dies, which company do we sue?”

Beruff responded by saying nothing will ever be developed without permitting from six county, state and federal agencies. It will be legal, he said.

“Scientists in those agencies make it incredibly difficult to permit a project,” he said. “The only way to get a permit is if you can show a net positive quality result for the bay. The whole concept that we are going out and killing the bay isn’t reality.”

Former County Commissioner Joe McClash said Beruff does not have approval for a development plan and said to get that approval will require many steps not yet taken.

He said some of the entitlements Beruff said he has do not exist, such as docks. He said the 2008 approval was specific as to eliminating docks on the bay. McClash also said he didn’t have an issue with the concept.

“While it’s not a bad project, it’s not a good project here,” said McClash.

Beruff disagreed with McClash’s assessment of the dock entitlements.

The opposition of the project varied, but many accused Beruff of destroying a culture surrounding the few remaining areas of “old Florida.”

Capt. Kathe Fannon, a Cortez-based tour boat captain, said she’s had people from all over the world come for 20-plus years on tours with her with the specific goal of seeing old Florida.

“Not once have I heard someone ask to see a big marina or five-star hotel,” she said. “Once you take old Florida from this area, it’s gone. You can’t take it back.”

Fannon asked if Beruff could relocate the project, but he said there wasn’t another 523 acres on Sarasota Bay in Manatee County. Fannon suggested maybe he find a location in Spain, which Beruff said was his inspiration for the development design. She also suggested moving the project to Sarasota or St. Petersburg.

The crowd applauded Fannon, but when Cortez’s historical spokesperson Mary Fulford Green took the microphone, telling Beruff, “You can take this project and shove it somewhere else,” she brought the house down.

Green went on to suggest Beruff’s intention to build a town across the bay would “destroy our town. If you destroy our kitchen, you destroy Cortez.”

Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti said thousands of people at Beruff’s development are going to want to go the beach and, “They will come to our beaches and add to an existing problem of congestion. Tourists are the only ones that have rights anymore and that’s wrong. We need to do more to deter tourism for the sake of our citizens.”

Karen Bell, Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant owner and co-owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co., both on the Cortez waterfront, said she is pro-business and supports property rights, “but I know dredging through seagrass and cutting mangroves is not the right thing to do.”

Former Manatee Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, a resident of Cortez, asked Beruff to consider following the path of Bill Robinson, who donated land in northwest Bradenton for a preserve. Others at the meeting echoed her suggestion.

An attendee from Longboat Key suggested Beruff build a bridge from his development to the key to alleviate traffic congestion and she further suggested naming it Beruff Bridge.

Zaccagnino closed the meeting with an offer to arrange another community meeting to hear Beruff’s presentation at Holmes Beach City Hall “with better air conditioning.”

The Manatee County Board of Commissioners will take up the matter at a special land-use meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6.

The July 11 town hall meeting in Cortez was organized by Kane and a newly formed development opposition group, Save Our Bay.

Anna Maria commissioner calls for police consolidation talks

Resurrecting an idea that has been discussed many times over the years by various officials, Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry called for a discussion on consolidating law enforcement services with Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.

Aubry made his suggestion after learning the proposed Manatee County Sheriff’s Office contract for 2013-14 is $615,000.

But Mayor SueLynn said this is about $85,000 less than she expected. She said the decrease is due to younger officers serving in Anna Maria with lower pay and benefits than the deputies previously assigned to Anna Maria.

Aubry, however, remained concerned about spending money.

“We sit here next to Holmes Beach with police boats, cars and an enormous police force. Why can’t this city be covered by a consolidated police force?” he asked.

He said this is a new age in Anna Maria and it’s time to consider ways to save money.

“Everyone resists consolidation, but I propose talking about it,” Aubry said.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb and Commissioner Doug Copeland agreed and asked Mayor SueLynn to talk with Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti.

SueLynn said she spoke with Monti several months ago about the issue. At that time, she said, Monti wanted to wait and see how the new Holmes Beach police chief was handling the job.

“He did not want to move forward at that time,” she said, although she offered to again contact Monti and try to renew the discussion.

The mayor added that from private conversations with commissioners in both cities, she knows there would be opposition to a merger.

Former Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger opposed a police merger, maintaining there was no benefit to Holmes Beach taxpayers.

SueLynn said she would prefer consolidating services such as road maintenance and dredging. She added Monti appeared reluctant because each city has a different set of codes to enforce.

“But it’s up to the commission,” she said.

“It’s nuts to spend this much money,” Aubry said.

But SueLynn said $615,000 for law enforcement is considerably less than what Holmes Beach pays for police service, and also less than Bradenton Beach pays. Bradenton Beach has about 400 fewer people than Anna Maria, she said, and spends about $1 million annually — slightly more than $950,000 — for its police department.

The Holmes Beach police budget includes the department’s 24-hour dispatch service, which the sheriff’s office provides for Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

Webb said past efforts to consolidate police services found no cost savings for Anna Maria, but he agreed the mayor should at least discuss the issue with others.

“Explore this and find out about cost savings,” Webb said to the mayor.

Commissioner Nancy Yetter was not opposed to SueLynn discussing the issue with Monti, but said it’s nice to have the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies in Anna Maria.

She praised Sgt. Paul Davis and other deputies for handling the July 4 holiday crowds.

“For me, I realize money is important. We can look into this, but look at the service we get,” Yetter said. She questioned if a consolidated police force would provide better service than MCSO deputies.

SueLynn, however, agreed to call Monti and report any progress at the July 25 commission meeting.

Commissioners will vote on the new MCSO contract July 25.

Another season on threshhold: Election season

Former Bradenton Beach city commissioner and planning and zoning board member William “Bill” Shearon has filed preliminary papers with the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office to run for mayor.

According to the documents, Shearon filed May 23 and named longtime business partner at the Linger Longer Resort, Tjet Martin as his campaign manager.

Shearon and Martin also are two-thirds of a plaintiff group suing the city over a development agreement between Bradenton Beach and the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N.

Shearon was a P&Z member during a land development application process for the BeachHouse to construct a dune and parking lot on the south side of the restaurant. In exchange for the agreement and for BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles to pay the lion’s share of the construction costs, the restaurant was to receive a parking area on the open beach adjacent to the restaurant.

P&Z recommended denial, but city commissioners voted to approve the project at a contentious city meeting more than a year ago, that led to Shearon’s resignation and three others, as well as the eventual lawsuit that remains unresolved.

Shearon is the first island candidate to announce for the Nov. 5 election that has the terms of Mayor John Shaughnessy and Commissioners Ric Gatehouse and Gay Breuler coming up for contest.

Shaughnessy said July 3 that he has not made a decision on whether he will seek another term. Breuler, just married and moving off-island, already announced she will not run for another term, while Gatehouse said he inquired about election packet availability, but it was too soon to make a decision. He added that packets were not available at the time of his inquiry.

Shearon, who served more than two terms on the dais before giving up his seat for an unsuccessful mayoral bid, said there are three main reasons he is running for mayor again.

“The primary reason has to do with the financial process of the city,” said Shearon. “There has been no accountability and personal responsibility from this administration. The city is over-spending and the commissioners have no idea what they are spending money on.”

He criticized the budget process and said the administration relies too heavily on city staff, “when it is the mayor’s and commissioners’ jobs to make those decisions.”

Secondly, Shearon said better policies and procedures need to be put in place. The former commissioner said the pier lease debacle with Rotten Ralph’s restaurant was a prime example.

“How do you have a tenant that isn’t paying $9,000 a month in rent and you don’t know about it for a year?” he asked.

Shearon said the city has not been focused when it comes to completing projects and said an updated list of objectives and goals, both long-term and short-term, should be prepared and acted upon as needed.

He also wants more involvement from the public and feels the current administration is responsible for a lack of that involvement.

“You have a P&Z board that struggles to keep quorum and a Scenic Waves Partnership Committee that has no involvement,” said Shearon. “That’s because you have an administration that discourages public involvement and, when people do want to be involved, they are criticized.”

Shearon hopes to see more involvement in this year’s elections for mayor and commission.

“I want people to get involved and for voters to have choices,” he said. “That’s when the system works best. For too long, Bradenton Beach has had officials without experience get elected because there has been no opposition. That’s not good for anybody.”

Commission seats up for re-election in Anna Maria are those held by Gene Aubry, Doug Copeland and Dale Woodland.

Copeland, appointed to the commission in June to fill a vacancy created by John Quam’s resignation, said he had not made a decision on running.

On the other hand, Woodland was definitive. He will seek re-election to his sixth term in office. Aubry, who was appointed to the commission in 2012 after SueLynn filled the mayor’s post, also will run to keep his seat.

Carol Carter, who said in June she would seek a seat on the commission in November after withdrawing her application to be appointed to replace Quam, also plans to run.

Anna Maria commissioners are elected to a two-year term and are paid $400 per month.

In the city of Holmes Beach, Commission Chair Jean Peelen and longtime Commissioners Pat Morton and David Zaccagnino have terms expiring in November.

Zaccagnino, a seated commissioner for the past eight years, said July 5 that he intends to seek another term on the dais.

“It’s early in the process, so I haven’t given it a lot of thought, but I’m definite that I will run again,” he said.

Morton, a commissioner for 10 years, said, “God willing, I am planning on running again.”

Peelen, voted into office two years ago and elected commission chair after the 2012 election, also will run for re-election.

“I started a job and it’s not finished yet,” she said. “I absolutely want to finish what I started.”


The process

According to the Manatee County SOE’s website, candidacy may be announced at any time, but the SOE office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Suite 108, Bradenton, said candidate qualifying packets will not be delivered to the island cities until August.

A prospective candidate must first file a form to appoint a campaign treasurer and designate a campaign depository — a bank account — with the SOE before contributions can be accepted or funds are spent.

The candidate then must file a statement of candidate form within 10 days of filing the treasurer and bank designation forms.

Candidates can file early by obtaining a qualifying packet at the SOE office.

Candidate qualifying in the three island cities begins with Anna Maria on Aug. 19. Qualifying for Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach begins Aug. 26. All three cities wrap up at noon Aug. 30. The city elections are non-partisan.

In Anna Maria, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a registered voter in Manatee County and a resident of the city for two years prior to qualifying. The candidate must file a loyalty oath, oath of candidate, a statement of financial interests and a residency affidavit for both the candidate and his/her treasurer.

The candidate must pay a qualifying fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary for the office sought — $96 for mayor, $48 for commission seat — and obtain 10 petition signatures of voters residing in the city.

Qualifying packets are expected to be available at each city hall at the time qualifying begins.

In Bradenton Beach, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a registered voter in Manatee County in the ward for which he/she qualifies and a resident of the city for nine months prior to qualifying. The candidate must file a loyalty oath, oath of candidate, a statement of financial interests and a residency affidavit, as well as 10 resident affidavits attesting to the candidate’s residency.

The candidate must pay qualifying fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary for the office sought — $96 for mayor, $48 for commission seat — and obtain 10 petition signatures of voters residing in the city.

In Holmes Beach, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a registered voter in Manatee County and a resident of the city for two years prior to qualifying. The candidate must file a loyalty oath, oath of candidate, a statement of financial interests and a residency affidavit.

The candidate must pay a qualifying fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary for the office sought —$60 for a commission seat and $120 for mayor, although the mayor’s seat does not expire until 2014 — and obtain 15 petition signatures of voters residing in the city.

Candidates in all three cites can opt to file an undue burden oath, which eliminates the election assessment fee if all other requirements are met.

Anna Maria restaurants inch toward serving spirits

Anna Maria city commissioners at their July 11 meeting approved the first reading of an amendment to the city’s alcoholic beverage law that would allow restaurants to apply for a full spirits license if they meet certain criteria.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb, however, said the amendment should include a clause that allows the city to revoke the license if the establishment receives three or more code violations within a six-month period.

But Commissioner Doug Copeland said he wanted to ensure a neighbor to a restaurant could not halt alcohol sales by merely making several complaints to the city.

No, responded Webb. The restaurant would have to go before the special magistrate before alcohol sales could be halted.

The proposed amendment would allow restaurants that have sold beer and wine for more than five years to apply for a special spirits license. Once approved, the restaurant would apply to the state for a liquor license.

Under the proposed amendment, a restaurant must maintain a minimum of 60 percent of its sales from food, and would stop serving alcoholic beverages at 10 p.m.

Dye said it appeared to him that a restaurant serving only beer and wine could continue selling beverages until 2:30 a.m., while a restaurant with a spirits license under the proposed amendment had to stop all sales, including beer and wine, at 10 p.m.

Attorney Scott Rudacille, representing the Waterfront Restaurant and owner Jason Suzor, said that was the intent of the amendment.

The spirit sales initiative was spearheaded by Suzor.

Commissioners agreed and asked Dye to ensure the amendment eliminates confusion when they hold a final reading of the ordinance July 25.

The amendment would not apply to restaurants grandfathered for alcohol sales, which includes the Sandbar Restaurant.

Commissioners also approved a beer and wine license for Ginny’s and Jane E’s at the old IGA on Gulf Drive, noting the establishment presently closes at 5 p.m.

Paul Foster of the restaurant told commissioners he would like to offer beer and wine package sales.

Webb said that if Ginny’s and Jane E’s holds a special function in the evening, such as a wedding reception, it must offer a meal in order to serve beer or wine.

City planner Alan Garrett explained to commissioners that a liquor license, be it beer and wine or full service, is issued by the state after the city “signs off on the application.”

Dye said once the state issues a license to a restaurant, the city could only regulate hours of operation and land-use issues.

“They can’t serve alcohol until they have both approvals, city and state,” he said.

In other business, commissioners continued the second reading of the historic preservation ordinance to Aug. 22 in order for Garrett to clarify some issues.

What he does not want, Garrett said, is to have a house designated historic, the owner make improvements beyond the 50 percent of value rule, then opt out of the historical designation.

The commission also approved changes to the city’s charter as presented by the charter review committee.

The changes are primarily how a mayor is elected if no one runs for the office — as happened in November 2012 — and how the commission elects a commissioner to fill a vacancy on the commission.

The proposed charter changes will be on the November ballot for the electorate to approve or reject.

After commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance, Mayor SueLynn thanked former Commissioner Tom Aposporos for his work advising the committee. Aposporos has been involved with three charter review committees in the city since 2002.

Building official Bob Welch presented a resolution for sidewalk standards proposing the city have an option to use materials other than concrete and pavers for sidewalks that will be taken up at a future meeting.

Anna Maria beach accesses have warnings, no security

In the wake of the July 6 death in Anna Maria of a 14-year-old boy caught in a rip current while on vacation from Winter Haven, some island officials have called for lifeguards to be posted at key points on the city’s Gulf of Mexico shoreline.

Mayor SueLynn said funding a lifeguard program would be up to the city commission. Warning signs about strong currents and the risk of swimming are posted at each of the city’s 37 beach access locations, but are not the same as lifeguards.

“It’s a terrible tragedy, and I’m so sorry for the family,” the mayor said.

She recalled a previous incident in 2010, which resulted in death that occurred near Sycamore Avenue a few blocks north of the Sandbar Restaurant.

In the July 6 tragedy, authorities said the 14-year-old was caught in a strong current in knee-deep water off Willow Avenue and was unable to get back to shore. His 12-year-old brother was with him and alerted the family and rescue officials.

The mayor said many people may not read the posted warning signs and that accidents probably will continue.

There must have been 70 people, probably more, at Willow Avenue when this tragedy took place, the mayor added.

SueLynn said she had public works supervisor George McKay go out last week to make sure signs were posted at all city beach access locations.

A random survey of about 15 people at Gulffront Park on Gulf Boulevard south of the Sandbar Restaurant July 9 found no one who had read the warning signs posted in three locations at the park.

The mayor said the answer to avoid a further tragedy might be hiring lifeguards. That, however, is up to the city commission.

The mayor said she could not guess how many lifeguards Anna Maria would need to cover its beaches, which extend from Beach Avenue northward and around Bean Point to just north of the Rod & Reel Pier, a distance of about 1.4 miles. Additionally, the city pier now has a sandy shore that is attracting beachgoers.

Commissioner Gene Aubry suggested the three island cities might form a lifeguard department for those beaches not covered by county lifeguards.

Manatee County has lifeguards at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach. Lifeguard salaries with Manatee County Marine Rescue start at around $31,000 per year plus benefits.

Capt. Joe Westerman, head of the county marine rescue unit, said there are 10 full-time and one part-time lifeguards that staff county beaches on the island.

On average, he said, there are 75 rip current interventions annually and 14,000 preventive actions by lifeguards at Manatee County beaches. A preventive action was defined as “any time staff interacts with the public to alter situations that may be hazardous,” according to information from the marine rescue unit.

BB pier remains partly closed for repair

With Bradenton Beach Commissioners Ric Gatehouse and Gay Breuler absent from a July 11 city meeting, the remaining three members on the dais unanimously voted down a request to repair a broken piling that would reopen part of the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The pier’s eastern half was closed following Tropical Storm Andrea. Two boats, improperly secured in Sarasota Bay south of the pier, struck the pier causing some minor damage to rails, broke a support piling and loosened the center copula.

Staff suggested tearing down the copula since it is scheduled to be removed during the upcoming renovation project and to repair the broken piling, which is scheduled to be replaced during reconstruction in order to reopen the pier.

Public works director Tom Woodard presented a low bid of $3,200 to repair the piling by installing two wood pilings to brace the cracked concrete piling.

Woodard said the cost of the repair would be included in the company’s bid for renovations, but that if another company won that bid, it would not be guaranteed.

The question for commissioners was whether to spend the money to reopen a section of the pier that is due to be closed in the coming weeks.

“My opinion is we already did one of the pilings already with Tropical Storm Debby and now it’s happened again,” said Mayor John Shaughnessy. “With design plans already submitted for the reconstruction, it’s probably going to start in the next two months. Personally, I can’t see putting $3,200 into something we are going to tear down.”

Shaughnessy said the $3,200 would have to be taken from the reconstruction fund, an amount yet to be discussed, and he would rather see the repair money remain in the renovation fund.

“We are offseason now, although it doesn’t seem like it,” he said. “Half of the pier is still open for fishing. The floating dock is open. The restaurant is closed. I can’t see spending $3,200 on a temporary repair.”

Vice Mayor Ed Straight moved to deny the proposal. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Jan Vosburgh and passed 3-0.

In other matters, Woodard said landscaping at city hall would move forward if commissioners didn’t have recommendations or changes to his design plan.

Woodward plans to use only native vegetation, as well as sand, stone and shell.

Shaughnessy said he received complaints about the landscaping that already was removed to make room for the new design.

“We tore out a lot of that because most of it was dead,” said Shaughnessy.

Woodard said it had reached a state where it “Didn’t reflect a professional appearance for city hall.”

Commissioners approved the landscape design.


Got gas?

        The city hopes not.

According to city planner Alan Garrett, the cell tower project cannot move forward because the city failed to notify the land-lease holder for the proposed public works cell tower site that gas tanks used to fill city vehicles previously existed there.

An environmental study costing $30,000 is required to conduct drilling tests to check for any leaks that would create an environmental hazard.

Several city officials were asked when the tanks were removed, but no one had a clear idea, saying only it was sometime in the 1970s or 1980s when environmental regulations were more lax than today’s standards.

There is a chance the tanks were removed without the stringent cleanup requirements in place today.

If the environmental study finds evidence of leaks, the costs to remove and haul away contaminated soil could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The company holding the lease has agreed to pay the $30,000 cost for the study, but would consider it a credit toward a pledged $350,000 payment to the city when providers eventually sign a contract to use the cell tower.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said it was the first she was hearing about the proposal and asked commissioners to table the discussion until she could see something in writing regarding the funding.

“Bells are going off when I hear we did not disclose something we should have disclosed,” said Perry. “A lot of issues need to be resolved before commission takes this up.”

More information sought for Mainsail direction

Some Holmes Beach commissioners expressed disappointment that representatives of the Mainsail development team did not present an updated site plan at a July 9 meeting, as promised.

After making headway at a June 21 mediation session, Mainsail made several concessions to lower density and reduce lodging units to eliminate a disputed off-site parking lease. During mediation, Mainsail pledged to present an updated site plan for the meeting, but did not.

The mediation began with Mainsail attorney Robert Lincoln’s filing of a petition for relief with the city following a March 3-2 commission vote to revoke the site plan that calls for a restaurant, marina and lodging at what is considered to be the city’s center near Gulf and Marina drives.

City attorney Patricia Petruff updated commissioners July 9, saying the initial round of mediation went well and that major issues relating to the site plan revocation were addressed.

“The Mainsail representatives agree to make some design changes, such as agreeing to decrease units, lower heights of the buildings, especially on the spit and perhaps lose a building on the spit,” said Petruff. “What needs to happen is to have an open discussion on what you will find acceptable to settle this matter.”

One sticking point of negotiations is the use of Sunrise Lane, a private access road owned jointly by the residents of Sunrise Lane and Mainsail, although ownership is disputed by two of the residents.

At least one Sunrise Lane resident has vowed to fight the use of the road, but Petruff said the Sunrise Lane emergency access situation does not involve the city.

While Mainsail did not present an updated plans, Petruff said she received an email prior to the city meeting from Lincoln that expressed hope the city would explore a meaningful compromise.

Petruff said Mainsail is working on a plan to eliminate Building A, which would have been built on the spit, as well as substantially reducing the size of Building D, which sits on the Sunrise Lane side of the development site.

Petruff said Mainsail architect Brian Check cannot present those changes without speaking to building official Tom O’Brien and the fire marshal, both of whom were on vacation.

“We hope the commission will see Mainsail is working at the core of what was presented at mediation,” Lincoln wrote.

Petruff said direction was needed from commissioners for herself and the two city representatives at mediation, Mayor Carmel Monti and Commissioner Judy Titsworth.

While Sunrise Lane access is not included in the mediation between the city and Mainsail, Titsworth cited the $3,000 already spent on mediation as a reason to delay the process until the matter is first resolved with the residents.

Titsworth also is a resident of Sunrise Lane, but has not contested the developer’s request to use it for emergency vehicle access.

She also expressed disappointment in Mainsail for not making a presentation, but said she did personally ask for one, and received it prior to the meeting.

“It’s unfortunate all of you have not had a chance to see it,” she said. “The changes are substantial.”

Monti said a site plan presentation without the input of the building official and fire marshal would be pointless and a lack of presentation should not be a point of contention for the July 9 meeting.

“There are substantial changes in the plan and it shows they are really heading in the right direction to accommodate our concerns,” said Monti. “We need to continue to work with them to come to an agreement without further litigation. I suggest we schedule another meeting before mediation continues when everybody is back and can have some input.”

Commissioner Marvin Grossman, who has questioned the validity of the off-site parking lease, said he resented the fact that Mainsail has never presented a valid lease agreement.

While the issue may no longer be a contention due to the reduced number of units reducing parking needs within the proposed development, Grossman said he felt bullied and “threatened” over his right to ask questions about the parking lease.

“I sort of resented them implying that asking for a lease and not receiving or showing it for several months, there is something wrong with that,” he said.

Commission Chair Jean Peelen defended Mainsail, saying, “They were very unhappy with essentially being called liars.”

“I resent being pushed and threatened when they don’t have what they originally thought they have,” said Grossman. “They believe they have entitlements when they don’t.”

Grossman, Titsworth and Commissioner Pat Morton voted to revoke the site plan in March. Morton, as well, expressed disappointment not having an updated site plan.

“I can’t make a decision without that,” he said. “That discourages me. They said they would work diligently to have it for this meeting. They should have had it come in.”

Monti reiterated that an updated plan exists, but without staff input, whether it was submitted on time or not is irrelevant.

“They did do what they said they would do,” said Monti. “We need to know what is acceptable when we go back into the next session. To say we have to change this more is not enough. We need something definitive and I’m very adamant about that. What is enough? Give us some direction so we can do a good job for the city.”

Commissioners did not schedule another meeting, but were expected to do so once staff has reviewed the updated site plan. Commissioners will be able to first review the site plan and staff recommendations and then provide the appointed mediators with direction before the scheduled July 24-25 special magistrate proceedings renew.

The mediation is an attempt to avoid litigation, but will only be successful if both sides agree to either a settlement or the special magistrate’s recommendation.

However, even if the city is successful in avoiding litigation with Mainsail, citizens are threatening lawsuits if the Mainsail development plan continues.

The city was previously sued by neighbors to the development property, Lance Spotts and Dan Howe.

Spotts said July 9 that if the city backs away from its site plan revocation, “I’ll sue the city and I’ll win.”

Holmes Beach commission discusses noise, mosquitoes

Holmes Beach commissioners at their July 11 work session addressed a number of issues, including the proposed noise ordinance based on decibel levels that would boost the fine for a noise violation from $75 to $150.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino agreed to no commercial lawn care and construction on Sundays, but city attorney Patricia Petruff cautioned commissioners to “really think it through” before halting lawn care on Sunday, or limiting homeoner lawn mowing that day to noon-5 p.m.

Police Chief Bill Tokajer said a 5 p.m. quitting time for lawn work on weekends might be appropriate.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth was concerned about the noise from backup power generators, which she said she measured once at more than 80 decibels.

Tojaker suggested the city building code be revised to require generators to have a noise buffer.

Zaccagnino also was concerned about noise carrying across canals in the city, but Tojaker said the department hasn’t had a complaint about excess noise in weeks.

Tokajer presented examples of decibel limits in a number of other cities and offered a proposed schedule of limits for residential and commercial areas of Holmes Beach, including:

• Residential noise, 65 decibels 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; 55 decibels 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

• Public space and commercial noise: 75 decibels 24 hours a day.

• Outdoor dining noise: 75 decibels.

• After 10 p.m., no discernible noise.

Tokajer also proposed raising fines, including what he called “more teeth,” from $75 to $150 for the first offense if unchallenged. If challenged, the proposed penalty would be $300. Civil penalties for the second offense would be raised from $175 to $250 if unchallenged and, if challenged, the penalty would increase to $500.

He also recommended measuring decibel levels from the property line of the complainant.

The chief and commission received a compliment from Nicole Heslop, owner of the Island Flea Barefoot Tiki Bar and Cafe, 5704 Gulf Drive, located across from city hall.

The bar offers live music on most nights and Heslop said she and the chief worked to develop an acceptable decibel limit to ensure the music did not disturb neighbors and was kept within the proposed standards.

“We are part of the community and want to keep it that way,” Heslop said. Rather than issuing citations, Tojaker met with Heslop several times to solve the issue.

“A community works well when it works together,” Heslop said.

In other business, commissioners agreed to write a letter of support on behalf of R.J. Kortweg and Denise Schultz for a beach volleyball camp for children. Schultz said she would use the letter to solicit sponsors for the camp, but fees to use the courts at the Manatee Public Beach were prohibitive.

Petruff noted the new Riverwalk park in downtown Bradenton includes two sand courts for volleyball, and said it would be possible to build a beach volleyball court at the field adjacent to city hall if the commission wanted.

Titsworth was excited by the idea and hopes to gain permission from her family to use recreationally zoned land it owns at 75th Street on the beach for the camp if beach volleyball interest grows.

Commission Chair Jean Peelen reported she and Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn attended the recent ManaSota League of Cities meeting and the league has made it a priority to get Florida House of Representatives Bill 883 rescinded.

Part of the bill allows any homeowner in Florida to rent his or her residence for any length of time, and only rental regulations already on the books in municipalities affect such rentals.

In other business, commissioners learned from Chris Lesser of the Manatee County Mosquito Control District that Malathion, an organophosphate insecticide, is sprayed for eradication. Extensive tests have shown the chemical to be safe for humans, he said.

While commissioners wanted to give residents more advance notice of spraying, Lesser said he could only notify the city by 3 p.m. of an aerial spraying that evening.

“It’s an hour-by-hour exact science taking into account rainfall amounts, reports from entomologists based on mosquito traps that have been set and other data,” Lesser said.

He also said “West Nile was extremely active in Florida last year, but Manatee County’s extensive mosquito control effort kept it at bay.”

Mayor Carmel Monti said he’d like to see more revenue stream from tourists since residents “take the brunt” of everything through taxes.

He suggested that to relieve traffic congestion, the county beach parking area should be used by visitors to park their cars. Monti also described automatic tollgates at the beach parking lot where visitors could pay at the end of the day.

Commissioners were receptive to a suggestion from Tokajer that parking fines be increased from $20 to $50, with a late fee of $15.

The next commission meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. July 23.

Longboat Pass dredge, groin construction meets opposition

Former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash — a Bradenton resident and Anna Maria Island property owner — has petitioned the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for an administrative hearing on the department’s proposed dredging and groin construction in Longboat Pass.

The project generates from the town of Longboat Key and calls for a joint coastal permit and authorization to use sovereign submerged lands by the town.

McClash claims the installation of the proposed man-made structures has been done without proper public notice and will harm the recreation lands he uses and thousands of others, who also have not had the benefit of knowing about this permit action.

And McClash disputes the DEP claim that “coastal construction authorized by the department shall have a net positive benefit to the coastal system,” and that the public would continue to enjoy its traditional uses of the pass and adjoining and submerged lands.

McClash said a proposed seawall along the south shore of the pass would erode the popular Beer Can Island, also known as Greer Island, at the northern tip of Longboat Key where boaters often anchor during the day.

“The facts are evident natural islands change over the years. Beer Can Island is larger today than at the time it was conveyed to Manatee County. Placing any man-made structure will be in violation of the conditions or the spirit of what was envisioned and required,” McClash said in the petition.

The DEP, however, claims the beach there is “critically eroded,” and construction of a concrete seawall will “maintain essentially natural conditions.”

Although the project is proposed by Longboat Key and not Manatee County, it concerns land owned by the county. If an administrative hearing is ordered, Manatee County would be represented at the hearing.

Administrative hearings are held before an administrative law judge, who makes a determination based upon the facts presented.

No date for the hearing has been established, and McClash said he has not had a reply from the DEP.

When McClash was a county commissioner, he expressed opposition to the project, he said.

McClash added he also will send an objection to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is involved in the project and must issue a permit before construction begins.

10-year-old takes journey to pet owner responsibility

Many parents will eventually hear “I want a dog” escape the mouth of their child. Many also will discuss the responsibility of pet ownership, but few will ask the child to prove they are ready for that responsibility.

For Ella Bisio, 10, the desire to own a dog started typically enough when she would see other people walking and playing with their pets.

But Ella’s approach to asking for a dog was far from typical.

“I got a lot of facts about dogs and created a portfolio about all different types,” said Bisio. “I got a lot of information off the Internet and put it all together with pictures.”

Ella’s mom, Anne-Lise Bisio, said she knew something was up when her daughter began writing essays about dogs, “and the benefits of having a dog or leave pictures of dogs with that puppy dog face.”

Ella eventually asked the question and her mother insisted that she talk to their neighbor, Constanza Bryant, who fosters poodles for Florida Poodle Rescue.

“I never had a dog growing up,” said Anne-Lise. “I knew Constanza fostered dogs and that fostering might be a good way to get to know a dog before committing to adopting it. It’s a little like dating before marriage. You get to know each other. It’s the perfect situation.”

Anne-Lise said Ella needed to know more about dogs before owning one and fostering was perfect — in case “it doesn’t work out. Not every dog is the perfect fit for someone and fostering is a good first step before jumping and going out and buying a dog and not knowing if it will work.”

Fostering a dog requires a high level of commitment and, as desperate as rescue organizations are for foster homes, animal advocates aren’t willing to put a rescue animal into an unsafe environment.

Screenings, contracts and even home environment checks are sometimes required. Just showing up at Bryant’s door saying she wanted to foster a dog wasn’t going to earn Ella a foster position.

“I thought it was remarkable that such a young girl was interested in fostering a dog,” said Bryant. “She had to go through the same screening process as everyone else, and had to fill out a detailed application.”

That was just the first step.

“I also thought it was remarkable that she wanted to see if she was responsible enough to have a dog,” said Bryant. “It’s something that everyone should do.”

Ella spent her two-week spring vacation with Bryant helping with rescued poodles. From bathing to feeding to grooming to learning how to approach a dog in a non-threatening manner, Ella spent each morning and evening of her vacation committed to the process.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do all that stuff at first, but I thought about it and if I really wanted a dog, then I realized I have to do this,” Ella said. “I learned all about how fostering gives the dogs a second chance, and I realized that’s what I really wanted to do.”

Ella received her first foster dog May 23, a 7-year-old poodle named Nina. It’s been an experience for both Ella and her mother.

“Nina is very friendly and very easy to have as a first dog,” said Anne-Lise. “She’s been a really good match for the family and nice to have in the house.”

Ella has been devoted to Florida Poodle Rescue and spearheaded the effort for the organization to be in the annual Fourth of July Parade.

Ella helped decorate the float and personally printed and taped 700 small photos of poodles to 700 lollipops to be given away during the parade.

“She showed a lot of leadership and was the force behind the parade effort,” said Bryant. “She helped bring everybody together to make that happen.”

Bryant said Ella also comes up with fundraising ideas and is preparing to launch a “Pennies for Poodles” campaign by asking local merchants to place a change jar in their stores.

“Ella has been very proactive about learning about dogs,” said Bryant. “She really got involved in the process. That is ideally what we want fosters to do.”

Ella said the experience with Nina was not as hard as she thought it would be, mainly because she took the time to do her homework before welcoming a dog into the home. It is a process she would recommend to her friends when making a decision about dog ownership.

“It depends on the friend what I would say,” said Ella. “I can tell if they are responsible or not. I have a friend that wanted a dog and I think she would be OK. Not the best dog owner, but not bad either. It just has to be something you really want to do.”

Ella recommends to foster first, but when asked if it was all worth it, her smile said much more than her wording of, “I like having a dog.”

For more information on Florida Poodle Rescue, visit www.floridapoodlerescue.org or email info@floridapoodlerescue.org.