Tag Archives: 12-1-2010

Roser Thanksgiving community dinner a belt-bursting success

Roser Thanksgiving community dinner a belt-bursting success
It was many weeks in the making, all the peeling and prepping and baking, but dinner for friends and parishioners at Roser Memorial Community Church was easy as pie. The guests flooded in to find tables set with punch glasses and gravy ready to pour from pitchers. The buffet lines served some 200-plus people turkey and all the trimmings with seemingly professional polish, and the desserts awaited on a long and tempting table for the finishing touch to a fine meal and — even better —good fellowship.

Roser volunteers were kept busy by a crowd of 200-plus anxious diners.

Island defies bay-area real estate trend

Home sales in the Tampa Bay area dropped 13.6 percent in October 2010 compared with the same month last year, but sales on Anna Maria Island continued to buck the trend.

The area multiple listing service for the Island reported 19 single-family and condominium sales in October 2010, the same figure recorded in October 2009. However, when properties sold by the owner are added, the sales number jumps to 43 for October 2010, a 53.5 percent rise from the 28 total sales reported in October 2009.

For the entire Tampa Bay area, however, it was the second straight month of declining home sales as compared to 2009 figures, according to the Mid-Florida Multiple Listing Service. The lone bright — spot condo sales that rose 9 percent, according to the Mid-Florida data.

A few weeks ago, as interest in mainland real estate waned, several Island real estate sellers said buyers were popping up during the Island’s typical slow time of year.

Jesse Brisson of Gulf-Bay Realty said buyers were calling and e-mailing agents, looking at properties and buying in October and November.

He and other sellers predicted then that sales would be good this winter season, and the October sales figures appear to confirm that view.

“We’ve been incredibly busy since mid-October. The Island is in demand,” Brisson said.

Real estate interest picked up once reporting of the April 2010 oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans disappeared from the nightly news, Brisson observed. He expected a renewed interest in real estate after that, and he wasn’t disappointed.

Neither was Karin Stephan of Signature Sotheby’s.

“I started getting a lot of phone calls in October and a lot of people looking, especially for Gulffront. I had some very good sales,” she said.

“It was busier than I expected in October and November. And these are educated buyers. They’ve browsed the Internet. They know Anna Maria is different than the mainland, that we’re in a buyers market, but the bottom has just been passed. They know value.”

Smart buyers know that the Island has only one high-rise condominium, a couple fast-food franchises, no motel chains and beach parking lots are covered with sand and crushed shell, not asphalt, she said. “You can’t find that anywhere else in Florida.”

Stephan said she’s seen an upswing in cash buyers the past two months and sellers have lowered their prices accordingly.

Not all the best deals are cash, however.

One smart buyer got a Holmes Beach canalfront home for about $450,000, she said. That same house would have sold for $650,000 to $700,000 during 2005-06.

“That was a real bargain, a real value purchase,” Stephan said.

In addition to water and canalfront properties, many condominiums offer great value to the buyer, she said.

While there are still a few condo short sales on the Island under $200,000, many condominiums are priced from $200,000 to $300,000. That’s still a bargain, Stephan observed.

And properties are not being under-appraised prior to a closure, she said, a good sign for prospective buyers.

“I think it’s absolutely going to be a wonderful season starting this month. This place grows on people. When you live here, you feel good about living on an island.”

One person who feels good about the Island and the future of its real estate market is Nicole Skaggs.

She recently opened Big Fish Real Estate in Holmes Beach after more than 11 years on Anna Maria Island as a broker-sales agent for other offices.

Now, she’s a six-week owner-broker and has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of telephone calls received since she opened.

Like other agents, cash is making a splash, she said.

“I’m seeing a lot more buyers paying cash than before and negotiating good deals. Financing was tough last year, and it’s still hard for some condo short sales, but it’s loosened up recently,” Skaggs said.

An investment buyer with a 30 percent down payment should have no problem financing a short sale, she said. “These short sales are getting easier and easier, and we’ve still got a few of them left on the Island.”

Like other agents, she’s talked with a number of Europeans who fell in love with the Island during an October-November visit.

“They tell me this is the most unpretentious place they’ve ever visited and the most ‘old Florida’ island of any Florida island. We know. That’s why we live and work here,” Skaggs said.
Marianne Correll of Island Real Estate in Holmes Beach agreed.

“People come in and say, this is the ‘old Florida’ they’ve been searching for, and our prices are value-priced when they compare them to other resort islands,” she said.

Correll predicted Island sales this season would be better than last season, especially if a buyer can finance a short sale.

Prices are about what they were for Island property eight years ago, she said. That might not be the case next year, when most of the short sales likely will be gone, she said.

“It’s going to be a fabulous winter season for real estate,” Correll said.

Cortezians say coyotes stalking pets

Cortezians say coyotes are stalking domestic pets in the old fishing village. By some accounts the death toll is more than 50 animals, most of them cats.

Several residents have reported the loss of multiple pets, according to the Manatee County Agriculture and Resource Conservation Department, which will hold a meeting in Cortez to discuss coyotes and their habits.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9., at the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W., Cortez.

Participants will include representatives from Manatee County’s agriculture and public safety departments, the extension office, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Agriculture department representative Lisa Hickey will lead the meeting, providing facts and information on “the good, the bad and the ugly of coyote behavior in Manatee County.”

Hickey, a certified Florida master naturalist instructor, said she’ll talk about why coyotes can be found in Manatee County, what coyotes eat and prey upon and other general information about the animal’s behavior and habitat.

A coyote, generally salt-and-pepper gray or brown with a bushy tail, is a medium-sized canid in the same family as dogs, wolves and foxes.

The FWC has reported that coyotes live in all 67 Florida counties and sightings are common. The coyote’s range and population has increased as that of its predators’ — wolves and panthers — has decreased to near extinction.

The FWC, in a guide on dealing with coyotes, recommends, “Exercising common sense around coyotes is the best protection against encounters. Pet owners should keep their pets on a leash, especially when in wooded areas. Humans should never feed wild animals. Coyotes in particular look for easy sources of food and will become comfortable in urban settings if they are provided with food.”

FWC biologists also say that coyotes can help control populations of small predators, such as raccoons, as well as crop-eating wildlife.

Local officials dealt with complaints about coyotes preying on domestic pets in the Palma Sola area about 18 months ago, and occasionally get calls about coyotes on ranches and farms in the eastern part of the county.

Cortez resident Linda Molto will moderate the Dec. 9 meeting, which will include discussion with Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, county public safety director Bill Hutchison, MCSO Lt. Bill Evers and Deputy Keith Noordzy along with Hickey.

A press release announcing the meeting described the coyotes as a “menace” and roaming in “packs” that pose a danger to humans as well as pets. A resident of the Sunny Shores community off Cortez road reported seeing 20 coyotes outside a cottage.

Gail Straight of Wildlife Inc., the animal rehabilitation clinic in Bradenton Beach, however, has urged a reasoned approach to the situation.

Straight emphasized that free-roaming cats and other domestic animals help to create such situations. Free-roaming domestic animals can be prey for coyotes, as well as predators of smaller animals and birds.

Unmade bed prompts complaint

Island law enforcement officers are looking into Goldilocks-type of break-ins at two local accommodations.

A woman was questioned in the incidents reported last week by the Holmes Beach Police Department, but she was not arrested.

The HBPD reported that on Nov. 19 a woman was seen leaving the pool area of a rental property in the 100 block of 39th Street.

Soon after, staff at the vacation property discovered two units that had been locked from the inside with security chains, but were unoccupied. In other unoccupied units, staff discovered an unmade bed and signs that the kitchens and bathrooms had been used, as well as a wet bathing suit.

“All of the units showed signs that an unauthorized person had been in them,” an HBPD report stated.

A similar situation was reported at another vacation property in Bradenton Beach, where the police department was making inquiries.

An HBPD officer questioned a woman said to match a witness’ description of the person seen leaving the pool area at the 39th Street property, but he did not make an arrest.

The officer, however, confiscated for crime-lab testing a number of keys from various Sarasota area motels and hotels.

The woman said she was homeless and when HBPD checked computer records, the officer learned that she had been reported missing from Santa Cruz, Calif.

HBPD sent a message back to relatives in California.

The woman, however, “did not want her family to know where she was,” the report stated.

Man pleads not guilty on child neglect charge

A Bradenton Beach man arrested on charges of child neglect has pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial in the 12th Circuit Court.

Lance Aaron Blaylock, 24, and Phaedra Christina Brace, 30, of Second Street North, were arrested late Nov. 6 after a neighbor called the Bradenton Beach Police Department to report a crying child wandering in the street.

Both Blaylock and Brace face charges of child neglect without great bodily harm, a third-degree felony.

Brace is scheduled for arraignment later this month.

A police report indicates that a neighbor alerted police to a situation — a child crying outside and a smoke alarm sounding at a nearby home.

When BBPD officers arrived to a residence in the 300 block of Second Street North, they said they found the child walking in circles around Blaylock, who was lying unconscious in the backyard beside a puddle of vomit.

The report also stated that food burning on the stovetop was the cause of the triggered smoke alarm.

Brace, according to the report, told police she went for a walk after arguing with Blaylock. A probable cause report filed with Manatee County Circuit Court quoted Brace as saying she thought Blaylock “was OK to watch the child and not that drunk.”

Reward offered in vandalism case

Vandals struck in Holmes Beach during the Save The Gulf three-day concert held on the city hall field.

According to police, sometime at night Nov. 19, a rock was taken from a ditch outside the bathrooms adjacent to the Holmes Beach Skate Park, 5801 Marina Drive, and thrown into a toilet bowl. The toilet in a men’s bathroom stall was destroyed and will cost $500 to replace.

While the bathroom area is under surveillance, Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine would like to remind the community of the city reward program, which offers up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

Romine said tips should be called in to HBPD Detective Mike Leonard at 941-708-5804.

Save The Gulf still giving

Aside from three days of great music, food and fun at the Save The Gulf music festival in Holmes Beach Nov. 19-21 there were prizes.

And among the most coveted of prizes were three guitars donated to the cause of raising money for the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage by the Sarasota Guitar Co. The store donated a Jay Turser shark-shaped electric guitar, a Luna electric guitar and a Dean Daytona acoustic guitar that Save The Gulf musicians autographed.

Wayne King was first to show up at The Islander office, where the STG prizes were distributed. He was the winner of a “shark” guitar — a cool-looking electric guitar with a shark shape and design.

He was ecstatic. He frequents Anna Maria Island and his home at Paradise Bay RV Park on Cortez Road for long weekends and holidays. He owns a business in Greenville, Mich., a town of about 9,000 people, where, King said he frequents karaoke contests, and frequently wins. “Now I’m going to learn to play guitar,” he said.

The signed acoustic was the prize for Troy Seim, manager of the Anna Maria Motel in Anna Maria. He, too, was thrilled to be a winner. Seim said he had pawned and lost a few guitars in the past year, and he was pleased to have music back in his hands. He immediately opened the case, sat down at the office and began to strum the guitar.

The last guitar to head home — the Luna Sol Aquarius — was won by Mark Brewer, whose son Tab played tenor saxophone at the STG event with Jimi G’s All Stars Rockin’ Jazz Band.

Tab was pretty laid back about the prize, but dad was enthusiastic. Tab is a student at Suncoast Polytechnical High School in Sarasota and now plans to take up guitar. Both father and son had praise for the event, and for Tab’s music coach, Jimi G, who previously taught music at a now-defunct Island middle school.

It was a good ending for a great first effort on the music festival, and all of the 30 or so winners who claimed prizes at The Islander echoed this sentiment: “Do it again.”

2010 storm season ends

It’s doubtful many Islanders — other than those with the names — will remember Lisa or Karl or Paula.

The 2010 hurricane season ending this week was active for the Atlantic region with 19 named storms, but it was not an active season for the Florida Gulf Coast.

A record 12 hurricanes formed in the 2010 season causing devastation and death in the Caribbean and South and Central Americas, but none made landfall in the United States.

“I paid more attention to the weather up north, like the ‘chicane’ in the Midwest, than here,” said Anna Maria resident Carl Harvey. “It hasn’t been a memorable storm year.”

As the final month of the season began, four storm names remained unused — Shary, Tomas, Virginie and Walter — from the list of 21 official names.

November — and the season — ended with hurricanes Shary and Tomas which didn’t impact Florida.

The first storm of the 2010 season, Alex formed June 25 and made landfall as a category 2 hurricane June 30 along the northeast Mexico coast.

Tropical Storm Bonnie formed in late July, followed by Collin, Danielle, Earl and Fiona in August.

Eight tropical storms formed in September. Three — Igor, Julia and Karl — became major hurricanes, and Lisa achieved hurricane status. The number of storms for the month was 78 percent above average, putting overall tropical cyclone activity for the year at 53 percent above average.

Hurricanes Otto, Paula and Richard followed in October.

For the season, the National Hurricane Center predicted 20 named storms, including 12 hurricanes, six of them major hurricanes.

AID celebrates

All Island Denominations celebrated on Thanksgiving eve with a service at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach. Pictured are, front, from left, the Rev. Dee Ann de Montmollin of Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, the Rev. Jean Woady Louis of St. Bernard Catholic Church, the Rev. Rosemary Backer of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, the Rev. Michael Mullen of St. Bernard, music director Emily Roff of St. Bernard, music director David Stasney of Gloria Dei. Back row, from left, the Rev. Stephen King of Harvey Memorial Community Church, the Rev. Gary Batey of Roser Memorial Community Church, the Rev. Ed Moss of CrossPointe Fellowship, music director Carol Cornman of the  Episcopal Church of the Annunciation and music director Jim Johnston of Roser. Photo: Nancy Ambrose

Island tree canopy near national standard

Manatee County is just percentage points from meeting a national standard for forest coverage, according to a study released by the county.

The county worked with Keep Manatee Beautiful, ESciences and several other government agencies on its first study of its urban tree canopy.

The five-year analysis, funded with a $10,000 grant from the Florida Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program and another $10,000 grant from KMB, used software modeling and aerial photographs to evaluate the tree canopy in unincorporated Manatee and the six municipalities in the county.

KMB executive director Ingrid McClellan said the study provides local governments and organizations with “a precise percentage of benefits provided by every tree in Manatee County.”

American Forests, the nation’s oldest conservation group, set the standard for urban forest coverage at 40 percent of an area.

For Manatee County, the urban forestry canopy is 37 percent, just below American Forests’ standard but significantly higher than in other counties in Florida, according to the study.

The analysis found countywide an 11 percent increase in the tree canopy since 2004.

On Anna Maria Island, the analysis found an increase of 5 percent in the canopy in Holmes Beach, but a decrease of 4 percent or 14 acres in Bradenton Beach and a decrease of 2 percent or 8 acres in Anna Maria.

“Decreases in canopy may be the result of mature urban trees being lost to storms or bad maintenance practices, loss of trees to new development or the loss of mangrove forest to storms or development,” the study stated.

Longboat Key showed a 9 percent increase and the highest percentage of tree canopy among local municipalities — 46 percent of the town is wooded.

Palmetto had the lowest percentage — 25 percent — while the Island cities were in the middle. Anna Maria had 30 percent coverage, Bradenton Beach had 27 percent coverage and Holmes Beach had 35 percent coverage.

The percentages were used to determine the benefits of trees in different communities in terms of carbon storage and sequestration and air quality, according to KMB.

Trees take in carbon dioxide through their leaves. The carbon from the carbon dioxide is incorporated into the biomass of the tree and stored as wood. Thus, the preservation of mature trees is critical to the continued removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The county’s study estimated that Anna Maria’s “forest” stores about 6,042 tons of carbon, which is a decrease of 329 tons from 2004. Bradenton Beach’s forest stores about 3,666 tons of carbon, a decrease of 577 tons. Holmes Beach’s trees store about 15,096 tons of carbon, an increase of 2,140 tons since 2004.

Trees remove pollutants from the atmosphere — the larger the canopy the more pollutants removed. The analysts measured pollutants in pounds and determined that, in 2009, trees removed 17,920 pounds of pollutants in Anna Maria, 10,861 pounds in Bradenton Beach and 44,720 pounds in Holmes Beach.

“Often, developers remove mature trees because they can create more lots or larger homes without them,” the report stated. “However, mature trees provide more environmental benefit than new trees. Because they have more leaves and more woody mass, mature trees sequester and store more carbon, filter more air pollutants and reduce more peak stormwater flow than new, smaller trees. Additionally, larger, mature trees provide shade for pedestrian walkways and for buildings, encouraging less usage of cars and reducing building costs.”