Tag Archives: 11-06-2019

Schaefer elected, Hurst out in Holmes Beach

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Holmes Beach Commission candidate Terry Schaefer shakes hands Nov. 5 with supporter Doug Goerlitz outside the polling location at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive. Schaefer, the only political newcomer in the election, won a seat with 606 votes.
Election signs fill the lawn adjacent to the Holmes Beach polling location at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Voters in Holmes Beach have cast their ballots and political newbie Terry Schaefer was elected to a seat on the dais. Commissioners Jim Kihm and Carol Soustek were re-elected as commissioners.

For the three open seats on the city commission, 658 voted for Kihm, 606 voted to elect incumbent Schaefer and 546 voted for Soustek, while 471 voted for Rick Hurst.

Additionally, voters approved eight amendments to the city charter.

Electors voted “yes” for all eight charter amendments placed on the ballot by the city’s charter review commission.

The vote was 767 “yes” and 90 “no” to charter amendment 1, which will consolidate and revise the legal description of to the city to include the Kingfish Boat Ramp and Grassy Point Preserve — land annexed by the city but not yet included in the city’s boundaries in the charter.

The vote was 704 “yes” and 152 “no” for charter amendment 2, which will require a supermajority vote of the city commission and a referendum in the next general election, approved by a majority of voters, in order for the city to sell, vacate, convey, transfer or abandon real property or rights of way.

The third charter amendment, which will allow budget transfers up to $100,000 to be approved through a resolution, rather than an ordinance, passed with 638 “yes” and 218 “no” votes.

Charter amendment 4, requiring a vote of the commission to terminate a department head, passed with 616 “yes” and 224 “no” votes.

Charter amendment 5, which clarifies language in the charter to state the city treasurer presents the annual audit, but doesn’t prepare it, received 730 “yes” and 119 “no” votes.

Charter amendment 6, removing the “building and public works department,” including the building official and public works director positions, from the charter, passed with 493 “yes” and 345 “no” votes.

Charter amendment 7, which will remove the human resources department from the charter, passed with 557 “yes” and 282 “no” votes.

The vote was 627 “yes” and 228 “no” for charter amendment 8, which transfers election candidacy filing responsibilities from the city clerk to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, as is the case in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

Of 2,692 registered voters in Holmes Beach,

490 cast ballots Nov. 5 at precinct No. 305, St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, and 402 voted by mail.

The swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected officials will be at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Voters decide commission race, charter amendments

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Holmes Beach City Commission candidates Carol Soustek and Terry Schaefer and supporters wave Nov. 5 to passersby to garner votes outside of the polling location at St. Bernard Catholic Church. The polls closed at 7 p.m.
Holmes Beach Commission candidates Terry Schaefer, left, and Jim Kihm pose Nov. 5 outside the polling location at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive. Voters can cast ballots until 7 p.m. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Holmes Beach voters Nov. 5 elected three commissioners — incumbents Jim Kihm and Carol Soustek and newcomer Terry Schaefer.

Rick Hurst placed fourth, with 471 votes, and did not win reelection.

Kihm received 658 votes, according to https://enr.electionsfl.org/MAN/Summary/2532/ unofficial results in the nonpartisan race.

Schaefer received 606 votes.

Soustek received 546 votes.

Holmes Beach voters also approved eight charter amendments.

In Anna Maria, voters approved three charter amendments. Less than 300 people cast ballots.

Read the Nov. 13 issue of The Islander for full coverage.

Anna Maria voters approve charter amendments

The Anna Maria electorate overwhelmingly voted Nov. 5 to approve three changes to the city charter.

The mayor appoints a charter review commission of five people every five years to review the charter and propose changes. This year, all three of the review commission’s proposals were approved.

The first amendment, which requires elected officials to resign if the Florida Commission on Ethics finds them to have violated the state’s code of ethics, was approved by 91.32% with 242 votes.

Voters approved the second amendment, requiring the city commission to confirm mayoral appointments to the city treasurer position, by 86.36% with 228 votes.

They also voted 89.02% for the third amendment, making grammatical and typographical corrections, as well as clarifying language to improve readability. The third amendment drew 235 total votes.

While the election lacked a competition between elected officials, a commission chair remains up for grabs.

Commission Chair Carol Carter automatically retained her seat for another two-year term when the qualifying window closed in August, while Jonathan Crane, former chair of the city’s planning and zoning board, qualified for a commission seat without opposition.

Commissioner Dale Woodland also ran for reelection, but failed to qualify because he paid his qualification fees with the Manatee Supervisor of Elections Office with a personal account. Despite his mistake, nobody qualified to fill his seat, so the commission will appoint a new member later this month.

Woodland has previously told The Islander that he plans to apply for reappointment. If he is appointed by his current peers, it will mark his eighth two-year term as commissioner.

Tagged sea turtle finishes 5th

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Sea turtle nesting season ends, Bortie Too finishes fifth With a tracking device affixed to its carapace, a female loggerhead sea turtle — named Bortie Too by sponsor Bortell’s Lounge — makes her way June 21 to the Gulf of Mexico. She traveled 906 miles to finish fifth in the annual Tour de Turtles race. For more about Bortie Too and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, go to page 26. Islander File Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
A screenshot from conserveturtles.org Oct. 31 shows the path in the Gulf of Mexico taken by Bortie, a loggerhead wearing a satellite tracking device since she nested June 20 on Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach.

Anna Maria Island’s contestant might not have won the race, but she’s still going strong.

During the peak of loggerhead nesting season, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring partnered with the Sea Turtle Conservancy to satellite tag a sea turtle in its Tour de Turtles, a program to tag and release nesting female loggerhead, hawksbill and green sea turtles for migration data.

The tagged loggerhead — named Bortie Too for Bortell’s Lounge in Anna Maria, AMITW’s sponsor — was held overnight and tagged with a satellite tracker on June 20. She was released June 21 after nesting on Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach.

The tracking device showed the Sea Turtle Conservancy and AMITW that Bortie Too nested a second time on the beach in Holmes Beach and traveled south, to the seagrass beds north of Cuba, to land fifth place in the tour, which tracks distance covered through Nov. 1 by 13 tagged sea turtles.

The tracking device continued transmitting data from the tagged turtles after the race ended and will do so until it falls off or becomes damaged.

Bortie Too was AMITW’s fourth contestant in the tour.

In 2015, AMITW’s tagged turtle Amie lost her transmitter shortly after the start of the marathon.

In 2017, AMITW won the tour with loggerhead Eliza Ann, which traveled 1,693 miles from its release through Nov. 1, 2017.

Bortie Too’s predecessor, Bortie, finished in 10th place out of 14 in 2018, but won the online peoples’ choice award on the STC Facebook page.

Bortie Too can be tracked at conserveturtles.org/sea-turtle-tracking-active-sea-turtles/.

Cortez Bridge replacement divides county commission 

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The Cortez Bridge opens on demand from boaters 15 and 45 minutes after the hour during the day. The proposed bridge would be a high fixed-span. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice

Transportation discussions among Manatee County commissioners often lead to the Cortez Bridge. Just ask Nathan Kautz.

Kautz, an engineer with the Florida Department of Transportation, on Oct. 22 presented the county board with the latest findings from the two-year-long Barrier Island Transportation Study. But at the conclusion of his 5-minute presentation, the discussion soon veered to the bridge. Even if ever so subtly, at first.

“In order to keep the character of whatever’s left of the islands, why people come from all over the world and know us, we have to be careful on some of the decisions we make up here,” Commissioner Carol Whitmore said at the meeting.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh answered that change is inevitable.

“I don’t want to see the charm of Manatee change,” she said, “but at the same time I also know that you have to adjust to the future in some way.”

Then the comments turned more pointed.

Whitmore indicated other commissioners weren’t taking seriously her concerns and those of many Anna Maria Island and Cortez residents.

At issue is the DOT plan to replace the 62-year old Cortez drawbridge, which has a clearance of about 20 feet, with a 65-foot clearance fixed span. Many Cortez residents say the megabridge will destroy the character of the historic fishing village.

“I take this personally, and I don’t appreciate it being brushed off,” Whitmore said.

Countered Commissioner Betsy Benac: “Quite frankly, it’s irresponsible to say that that would be anyone’s intent on the board to in any way destroy what is happening in Cortez. … We are dealing with so many issues. It isn’t simplistic. We can’t just say that we don’t need a higher bridge.”

Whitmore agrees the bridge must be replaced, but she favors another drawbridge, albeit higher than the current one.

Whitmore noted that she and other Cortez Bridge advocates are not opposed to a 65-foot-clearance span replacing the Anna Maria Island Bridge on Manatee Avenue, as the DOT is planning to do. There will be no right-of-way acquisition needed for that bridge, she said.

“What we’re not supportive of is the eminent domain taking away the character of Cortez,” she said. “You can’t say I’m against change. I’m against where this bridge is located and the properties you are going to affect.”

The DOT says it is planning to spend $8 million on right-of-way acquisition for the Cortez Bridge.

Whitmore, a 51-year Anna Maria Island resident who served as Holmes Beach mayor 1998-2006, is the sole commissioner on the seven-member board to oppose the high bridge.

All the three Anna Maria Island cities also have gone on record opposing the 65-foot version.

One common observation by megabridge opponents is that it wouldn’t alleviate traffic congestion much because a two-lane bridge would be replaced by another two-lane bridge.

Kautz addressed the issue in his presentation.

“It would be a lot more effective with a flexible third lane on the bridge, which we suggest,” he said.

Some commissioners were happy to hear that.

“This board asked for that, and we were told by DOT that that was not a possibility,” Benac said. “So now I hear DOT say that makes some sense. So we are making progress.”

The DOT launched BITS early in 2017 at the request of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization. The MPO includes a 17-member board of elected officials and a professional planning staff.

The DOT unveiled a list of recommendations Sept. 27 in the third and final phase of the study and has been presenting it to local governments since then. The agency will formally present the plan Nov. 18 to the MPO.

Phase 1 of the $675,000 study examined prior studies, and Phase 2 listed potential improvements and recommendations.

Kautz summarized the intent of BITS: “How many people does a solution affect? How much time does that save them? And can we cut down on the amount they have to drive around or get around the island to do what they need to do to enjoy the community.”

Whitmore pointed out the difficulties because AMI cities don’t want to widen roads or have paid parking.

It may just have to boil down to attitude, she said.

“When you’re coming out there to have the island experience, you have to take a chill pill,” she said.

Charter amendments on Anna Maria ballot

No officials are up for election this year in Anna Maria, but several charter amendments made the ballot.

The three items set for the Tuesday, Nov. 5, ballot would amend the city charter — the constitution of the city of Anna Maria — and were produced by the charter review commission earlier this year.

The charter amendments include:
• Requiring elected officials to resign if the Florida Commission on Ethics finds them to have violated the state’s code of ethics for public officials and employees;
• Requiring the city commission to confirm mayoral appointments to the city treasurer position;
• Make grammatical and typographical corrections, as well as clarify language to improve readability.

Anna Maria voters will cast their ballots 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave.

Island mayors unite to ‘Feed the Hungry’

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Mayors Feed the Hungry Program participants gather Nov. 1 at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive, for the kickoff of the 32nd annual Thanksgiving Food Drive. Non-perishable food donations will be collected at city hall and other locations — including The Islander — throughout Manatee and Sarasota counties, through Nov. 22. Supports of the campaign include: Barbara Hempel, far left, and husband Herman, president of the Ellenton Parrish Lions Club; Shirley Pearson, event organizer; Angel Colonneso, Manatee County clerk of court; Joel Swallow, program chairman; Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells; Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth; and Holmes Beach Police Sgt. Brian Hall. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Modifications required to Anna Maria City Pier’s T-end

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Mason Martin Builders employees work Oct. 29 to construct the shells of the restaurant and bait shop at the T-end of the new Anna Maria City Pier. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Some modifications are in store for the new Anna Maria City Pier.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy told The Islander in a Nov. 1 interview that he met Oct. 31 with members of Ayres Engineering, the Schimberg Group, Frank Agnelli from Mason Martin Builders and building official Luke Curtis to discuss a design conflict between the architecture and engineering.

Murphy said the pier was angled so stormwater drains from the T-end, but the architects from the Schimberg Group designed the restaurant and bait shop for a level surface.

He said the experts met to identify and discuss possible solutions, including leveling out areas of the pier by pouring additional concrete, drilling holes in the concrete platform under the ipe decking and adjusting doorway headers for the buildings.

“It’s not a big deal, but it takes some time to solve it,” Murphy said. “I don’t want this thing to have to be redone, so for me, it’s a big deal because I want to make sure we get everything we paid for.”

Murphy said the building official would review any proposed changes to ensure they meet city code.

One meeting wasn’t enough, however, and the sides planned to meet again the week of Nov. 4 to establish costs for the modifications.

Murphy said Mason Martin would handle the modifications, but the engineer and/or architect will pay the costs since the conflict was between the two.

The mayor added that the opening of the pier — expected to be in late-January or early-February 2020 — may be pushed back due, but he wouldn’t know for sure until the second meeting.

Meanwhile, construction on the shells of the T-end buildings progressed the week of Oct. 28, even though modifications will be required.

“It’s moving right along,” Murphy said. “It’s not like all of a sudden everyone is gone and work stops.”

Treehouse owners march back to court

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The treehouse at 29th Street and the beach access remains Oct. 30 despite years of conflict between the owners and the city of Holmes Beach and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen confer at a courtroom table March 4, during a hearing about the structure they built in an Australian pine tree at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell

Court hearings are looming in two of four pending Gulffront treehouse cases — beginning with a 2013 constitutional case against the city of Holmes Beach.

At 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15, 12th Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas is expected to hear arguments on a second amended complaint for a declaratory judgment from the city and David Levin, attorney for treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen.

The 2013 case seeks to declare city ordinances unconstitutional, claiming the municipal measures created a 50-foot setback that took the treehouse owners’ property without proper notice and just compensation.

Another hearing date, new on the docket, is set in the 2018 case filed by the owners, which alleges 11 causes of action against the city and seven actions against the DEP for alleged violations of the owners’ private property and constitutional rights.

An hourlong hearing beginning at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, is set on several motions, including motions to dismiss from Holmes Beach and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, before Judge Charles Sniffin.

The other 2018 case — city-initiated litigation to enforce a magistrate’s decision ordering the treehouse removal and a $50 daily fine, now at more than $78,050 — awaits the outcome of the 2013 case. Judge Edward Nicholas decided in April to defer the 2018 case hearings until the 2013 case is decided.

A fourth treehouse case is in federal court — now the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The owners appealed their loss on due process, takings and civil rights grounds in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida. The city’s response to the owner-filed appeal expected sometime in November.

Except for the federal case, proceedings will be heard in the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.


What’s up with the treehouse fuss?

The year was 2011.

In April or May, Richard Hazen, a resident and owner of Angelinos Sea Lodge at 103 29th St., went to the building department counter in Holmes Beach City Hall.

There, he asked Bob Shaffer, the city inspector, if permits were required for a treehouse he wanted to build on their property. Shaffer, in turn, consulted with Joe Duennes, the then-building official, and then advised Hazen the city had no regulations.

Hazen’s inquiry did not specify the size, location and features of the treehouse and, at the time. Hazen didn’t know exactly what he wanted to build. The city officials did not ask for specifics.

He came back to his wife, Lynn Tran, with the news that permits were not required and she became its primary designer. They hired two carpenters who built the structure in an Australian pine.

Other pertinent facts:

Where’s the treehouse?
• The two-deck, 400 square-foot structure, with solar panels, removal windows, is 30 feet from the erosion-control line — a line that separates the renourished public beach from private property.

What’s the problem?
• The treehouse was built without city and state permits required for construction in a 50-foot city setback.
• Tran and Hazen challenged a 2013 code board decision that found the treehouse violated the city land-development code and ordered its removal, with petitions and lawsuits. Despite many court losses, they continue filing lawsuits and appeals.

How much has it cost?

To build, the treehouse cost the owners $28,000.

Engineering, survey, city and other fees incurred trying to secure an after-the-fact permit have raised the owners’ treehouse costs to $30,000-$50,000.

The city’s legal fees are up to $179,359.17 as of Sept. 30.

Waterline owners mull changes

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Guests depart Nov. 2 from the Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Are changes underway for Anna Maria Island’s only corporate hotel?

The owners at Mainsail Lodging and Development of Tampa are downplaying a rumor that its Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club, which opened at 5325 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, in 2017, will restructure from a full-service hotel to privately-owned rental condominiums.

“It’s something to consider,” Joe Collier, president and CEO of Mainsail, told The Islander Nov. 1.

“But we have no plans to move forward with such a thing at this time. We are studying it. Right now, the analysts and lawyers are mulling it over.”

Collier said no documents for restructuring had been filed, “as far as I know,” and even if the restructure does occur at a future time, the public would feel little to no change at all at the property.

Currently, Waterline is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection of hotel properties and reservations are made through the Marriott booking site.

Collier started the Mainsail Lodging and Development business in 1998, after 15 years with Marriott International in sales, marketing and development.

He said Waterline clients often ask about sales of the hotels two bedroom-two bath units.

“Waterline is a great property we love,” Collier said. “We like the vacation rental business. We have the Mainsail Vacation Rental division in-house at Waterline. If we operate it like a vacation rental, people may stay with us longer — say five nights instead of just two-three.”

Restructuring the Waterline to condo rentals would require filings with the state and city of Holmes Beach, Collier said, and licensing would have to follow municipal rules.

Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth said she had not been notified about restructuring Waterline, but she is aware of the possibility.

Titsworth said Waterline operates a marina, and the rentals are considered transient lodging.

According to the city code for marinas, lodging is an acceptable use in which occupancy of a unit would be limited to less than 180 consecutive days and units cannot be leased, subleased or rented for more than 180 consecutive days.

Andrew Houghton is a general manager at Mainsail Vacation Rentals and a managing partner with Mainsail Lodging. He previously worked 33 years for Marriott.

Of the possible restructuring, he told The Islander Oct. 31, “We’ve made no decisions.”

“Our customers ask about buying the rooms often,” Houghton said. “We want to elevate the experience at Waterline and maintain the environment.”

He also said, “You have to look at starting levels and adjust as business changes. You have to look at business volume and priorities within the business.”

Collier told The Islander, “It’s expensive to operate a hotel. If changes do happen, the Waterline would feel very much the same no matter what we do.”