Tag Archives: Community

DOT rejects legal challenge to Cortez megabridge

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The Cortez Bridge opens in September for boat traffic on the Intracoastal Waterway with the Seafood Shack restaurant and marina in the distance. Islander Photo: Arthur Brice

Round one goes to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The DOT has dismissed a legal challenge to the agency’s plan to replace the Cortez Bridge with a 65-foot-clearance fixed span.

“It was expected,” said former County Commissioner Joe McClash, who filed the challenge.

McClash’s request in October for a formal administrative hearing contained 25 instances in which he says the DOT acted wrongly.

In an “order of dismissal without prejudice” issued Nov. 13, the DOT said the matter is under federal jurisdiction, not state.

McClash said in a Nov. 19 email to The Islander that he plans to file an amended motion within the allotted 10-day period.

The DOT announced Oct. 10 it had approved a yearslong project development and environment study and was going ahead with design work for the 65-foot-clearance fixed bridge.

The transportation agency made a brief statement when McClash filed his legal petition last month.

“The department is highly confident that we followed all applicable state and federal guidelines related to this PD&E study; however, since this is now a legal matter, we cannot provide comment,” DOT spokesman Brian R. Rick wrote in an Oct. 24 email to The Islander.

The DOT appears to be trying to shore up support in Cortez for the megabridge, which some residents strongly oppose.

District 1 Secretary LK Nandam, based in Bartow, held a private meeting with Cortez businessman John Banyas at his Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar Nov. 15. An Islander reporter was told he could not attend.

Nandam declined to comment on the meeting when asked in person Nov. 18, but Banyas said in a Nov. 20 telephone interview the bridge was discussed.

“I could go either way, but I think the taller bridge makes sense,” he said.

Cortez businesswoman Karen Bell, a leader in the local seafood industry, has publicly expressed her support for a high bridge.

McClash, who served on the county commission from 1990 to 2012, is joined in his quest for the administrative hearing by three organizations and three Cortez residents, including another former county commissioner.

“This is a signal to the DOT to do the right thing,” McClash said last month. “It is intended to give them a taste of what’s coming.”

In addition to the megabridge, the DOT also considered in the study making repairs to the 62-year-old drawbridge or replacing it with a 35-foot-clearance drawbridge.

The current drawbridge, with a clearance height of about 17 feet, had major repairs done in 1996, 2010 and 2015 and the DOT says it has outlived its lifespan.

Opponents of the high bridge say it would change the character of the fishing village of Cortez, designated a historic district in 1995. Many residents have been fighting the megabridge since the DOT revealed a plan for it in 1989.

“The DOT had a number of bridges they were trying to drop down everyone’s throats in the 1980s and ’90s,” McClash said last month.

McClash and many others don’t oppose replacing the bridge, they just don’t want a megabridge.

“It will have a major impact to the village of Cortez,” McClash told The Islander Oct. 25. “It will not be able to survive placing this megastructure within the village.”

Joe Kane, one of the petitioners in the legal challenge, has lived in Cortez for more than two decades.

“The more I researched the proposal, the more monstrous it became,” Kane told The Islander Oct. 25. “It’s a death sentence for Cortez, as well as Bradenton Beach.”

The bridge, located on Cortez Road, crosses the Intracoastal Waterway from Cortez and the mainland to Anna Maria Island, where it empties onto Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach.

Linda Molto, another petitioner, has lived in Cortez 34 years.

“It’s the wrong bridge for the wrong place,” she said in an Oct. 24 interview with The Islander.

The Anna Maria Island Bridge on Manatee Avenue, a second drawbridge connecting the island to the mainland built the same year, also is slated to be replaced by a 65-foot-clearance fixed span. Its design schedule is further along than the Cortez Bridge because the DOT approved it first.

Jane von Hahmann, a 43-year Cortez resident who served on the county commission 2001-08, also is a petitioner in McClash’s legal challenge.

Others are the environmental group ManaSota-88 and two other nonprofits, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and Cortez Village Historical Society.

The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization is not part of the challenge, which executive director David Hutchinson called “a procedural matter.”

“The MPO has no support for any particular design, but we’ve consistently supported expeditious replacement of the bridge,” Hutchinson said Oct. 25.

Judge rules for city on treehouse ECL

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12th Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas hears arguments Nov. 15 in his Manatee County courtroom, where Richard Hazen watches from the gallery. Randy Mora, seated left, is the attorney for the city of Holmes Beach, and treehouse owner Lynn Tran is seated with attorney David Levin. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
A privately owned treehouse built in 2011 stands in an Australian pine tree in the city setback on the Gulf of Mexico beachfront at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

The judge again ruled for the city.

One of four counts in the ongoing 2013 treehouse case has been decided for the city of Holmes Beach.

The decision on count three of the complaint from Twelfth Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas applies to the city ordinance that established a 50-foot setback from the state erosion control line on the beach, dismissing the owners’ claim that the city’s setback amounts to a taking without compensation.

Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen built the two-story structure in 2011 attached to an Australian pine tree within the setback on the beach, fronting their property at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach, where they reside and operate four short-term rental units.

The treehouse was built without city or state permits — launching years of litigation between the city and the owners that began in 2013.

The city rule prohibits structures within 50 feet of the erosion control line, the separation of public and private ownership. In Holmes Beach, the ECL was permanently set by a 1992 beach renourishment project.

In 2013 and 2016, a code board and magistrate required the removal of the treehouse.

On Nov. 15, in granting the city’s motion, Nicholas dismissed count three of the complaint with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.

Additionally, Nicholas found count three “res judicata,” meaning a competent court already made a final decision in the matter.

Nicholas cited three cases holding a government taking requires a substantial elimination of a property’s productive or beneficial use.

“The plaintiff has not been denied an economically viable use of the property,” he concluded, calling it “a fatal flaw” in their case.

Nicholas also said Judge Janette Dunnigan resolved the taking argument with her Sept. 16, 2014, opinion in Tran and Hazen’s 2013 code board appeal.

Prior to constructing the treehouse in 2011, Hazen claimed he spoke to a city building inspector, and says he was told the owner the city had no regulations for a treehouse. He did not, however, show the inspector plans or describe the scope of the planned treehouse.

Months later, an anonymous complaint brought the treehouse to the attention of the city code officer — marking the start of eight years of conflict between the city, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the owners.

Tran and Hazen were in court Nov. 15 with their attorney, David Levin.

Walking out of the courtroom, Tran and Levin said they were hopeful on the three other counts of their 2013 case.

The other counts aim to block the treehouse removal and fines with allegations that the city laws were unconstitutional based on a single-subject rule, unfair procedures and conflicting state law.

The Nov. 15 hearing addressed one of several cases filed by the treehouse owners that year.

The owners appealed the code board decision leading to Dunnigan’s decision and another case appealed the city’s refusal to put an initiative on the ballot after the couple circulated petitions in the community, which, after several attempted appeals, ended with the U.S. Supreme Court, where the owners were denied a hearing.

The treehouse owners have lost at every turn.

Currently pending are two 2018 cases brought by the owners without an attorney, one in federal court and another in state court alleging multiple equitable and constitutional claims against the city and the DEP.

In the state proceeding, city and DEP motions to dismiss the owners’ complaint are set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

In the federal proceeding — now in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals following a lost appeal to the 2nd District Court of Appeal — the city is expected to file a response in November.

Also in state court, the city filed a 2018 case to enforce its magistrate’s decision to remove the structure and pay $50 daily fines, which have accumulated to almost $80,000.

Paddlers from Paradise compete

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AMI Paddlers from Paradise practice Nov. 12 in Holmes Beach. Islander Courtesy Photos
AMI Paddlers from Paradise gather Nov. 9 after competing in the Lake Hernando Dragon Boat Festival in Hernando.

The AMI Paddlers from Paradise, the dragon boat team based on Anna Maria Island, competed Nov. 9 at the Lake Hernando Dragon Boat Festival in Hernando.

The festival is the largest dragon boat race in the Southeastern United States.

The island group’s senior women’s team finished second and won a silver medal.

The island group’s senior mixed team made the final bracket and finished fifth overall.

The AMI Paddlers for Paradise includes Evelyn Silverthorn, Denise Gardner, Mileah Hudgins, Judy Gidus, Brenda Rose, Bonnie Jo Hakala, Sandy Bouwer, Gail Trombley, Lori Stuckey, Diane Goolsby, Gail McCall, Andre Essington, John Stuckey, Marty Hurbi, Tom Cornell, Marion May, Stacey Hiles-Janik and Jill St. John. Melinda Bradway is the head coach and Rick Granite is their steerperson.

AMI Paddlers from Paradise will be hosting a competition next spring, as the Anna Maria Island Dragon Boat Festival takes place March 7, 2020.

The festival will benefit the Food Bank of Manatee by having participants bring two nonperishable items or money to donate at the festival.

Organizers also want to stage a zero-net plastic event, where paddlers bring reusable containers and no disposable plastic bottles or containers.

Community groups or businesses interested in sponsorships can contact Melinda Bradway at 941-462-2626.

Builders take on Anna Maria City Pier ‘pitch’ problem

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Construction materials for the Anna Maria City Pier project are staged Nov. 15 at the landside pier entrance. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

The design conflict at the new Anna Maria City Pier may not be an issue much longer.

Mayor Dan Murphy told The Islander Nov. 15 that Mason Martin, the contractor hired to build the T-end restaurant, restrooms and bait shop, was to begin resolving the issue Nov. 18.

The resolution involves adjusting the buildings for the pitch of the concrete base. Stormwater will drain through the wood decking of the walkway, but the T-end is a solid concrete platform that is designed with a pitch — a slant, slope or slight angle.

Ayres Engineering designed the concrete platform at an angle to allow stormwater to drain to the side.

However, architects from the Schimberg Group designed the buildings that will house the restaurant and bait shop for a level surface.

A solution involves raising door headers, leveling floors with additional concrete, expanding drain holes in the platform and adding a curb around the base.

Murphy said Barron Schimberg of the Schimberg Group also added small touches to the plan, such as drilling utility line holes in the base.

Work solving the design mismatch should extend the project by three weeks, as the mayor expects to stretch the plan to open the pier in January 2020 to February 2020.

“We’re on track, and I feel real good about it,” Murphy said. “This is yesterday’s news at this point.”

The added work to resolve the conflict will cost around $100,000, with Ayres absorbing the cost, according to Murphy.

Murphy said Mason Martin began Nov. 14 to prepare to lay the ipe decking on the T-end and work was expected to continue the week of Nov. 18.

While work on the pier is progressing, negotiations with the current tenant, Mario Schoenfelder, were on hold the week of Nov. 11 as the city awaited an offer from the leaseholder.

Schoenfelder’s lease expires in December 2020.

He recently told Murphy he may not be able to meet the mayor’s Dec. 13 deadline to submit a final offer for base rent payments.

“We are not dragging our feet. Mario is asking for more time,” said the mayor, who asked commissioners if they want to extend the deadline.

Commissioner Amy Tripp said she would like Murphy to ask Schoenfelder for the reasons why he can’t make the deadline. Other commissioners agreed.

Murphy next asked if the city should prepare a request for proposals or hire a real estate broker to lease the pier if Schoenfelder fails to make an offer. The mayor suggested preparing a request for proposals for transparency and control.

Commissioner Mark Short, who was appointed Sept. 26 to fill the seat vacated by Brian Seymour’s resignation from the commission, moved to authorize Murphy to draft an RFP if Schoenfelder doesn’t submit a final offer, or the city finds his offer unsuitable.

Commissioner Dale Woodland seconded and the commission unanimously voted for the motion.


… as commissioners sip on new liquor policy for city pier

By Ryan Paice

Islander Reporter

When the new Anna Maria City Pier opens in 2020, fishers will likely bring bait or a bite to eat, especially when night fishing, but it looks as if coolers of beer will be prohibited.

Anna Maria city commissioners, meeting Nov. 14, reached consensus on the first round of talks to change the ordinance regulating the use of the city pier, including the policies on alcohol.

The changes involve:

  • Removing from the current ordinance a reference to the lessee as the manager of the pier.
  • Removing the lessee’s jurisdiction over boats docking at the pier.
  • Allowing guide dogs and service animals on the pier.
  • Prohibiting the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the pier, unless purchased from the restaurant or bait shop for consumption on the pier.

There also was a proposal to prohibit piergoers from carrying alcoholic drinks purchased at the T-end to the walkway, which would prevent anglers from moving along the entirety of the pier with an alcoholic beverage, Commissioner Doug Copeland noted.

City attorney Becky Vose replied that she could update the draft ordinance to allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages — still only sold by the T-end businesses — on the entire pier.

Vose also suggested allowing alcohol consumption at the pier for city-approved special events and removing a restriction limiting the sale of alcohol to beer and wine to allow the sale of liquor and spirits.

Allowing the businesses to sell a wider variety of alcoholic beverages could make the T-end buildings more appealing — and more lucrative —for the tenant.

The proposed ordinance would eliminate the provision that allows the consumption of beer on the pier but restricts the consumption of wine to within the leased premises.

Commissioners reached consensus to approve the suggestions that were discussed, but they still must go through amending the ordinance for the final reading, public hearing and vote.

The final hearing and vote on the ordinance was not scheduled.

County trots out ban on horseback surfing

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A tour on horseback takes riders through the waters on the north side of the Palma Sola Causeway. Islander File Photo: Kathy Prucnell

“We don’t have a problem with regulation, but, of course, we don’t want the horses banned.”

Carmen Hanson, who owns Cponies, a horseback-riding business that operates tours in Palma Sola Bay on the north side of Manatee Avenue, said blaming the bay’s environmental problems on horses is misguided.

Manatee County commissioners voted unanimously Nov. 7 to direct their attorney and staff to research and report about options to regulate horseback riding in sensitive waters.

In supporting the directive, commissioners pointed to seagrass loss and recent no-swim advisories in the bay.

In business for eight years, Hanson disputes that horses are responsible for the fecal matter in the water or that their presence leads to the advisories.

She said the horses aren’t treading on the seagrass beds, where it’s “soft and mucky.”

In addition, she and her 10 employees collect and remove any feces, place it in a muck bucket and dispose of it at their Myakka City farm.

Cponies offers horseback tours, allowing guests to ride on Gypsy horses in the water.

“I’ve done research for the past five years and every time there’s been a no-swim advisory, there’s been sewage-line breaks and spills from sewers,” Hanson said, adding she’s in the process of compiling the data and a graph for public review.

With regulation, Manatee County would follow Pinellas County, which, in October, approved a measure prohibiting horseback riding, walking and training in Tampa Bay, as well as seagrass damages in the county’s preserves.

“They can do it, why can’t we do it?” asked Commissioner Betsy Benac during the Nov. 7 meeting.

Benac suggested county staff reach out to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh agreed: “I think it’s very important to do this because grasses are being trampled on.”

Seagrass helps with the health of the bay and water clarity and feeds the manatees, Baugh said.

Baugh blamed the horseback riding for the seagrass being “almost gone.”

The Florida Department of Health issued no-swim advisories for exceeding EPA guidelines for fecal matter in the bay in July, August and October. The advisories were lifted about a week after testing showed a return to safe swimming standards.

Baugh said, “It’s just a mess,” but acknowledged the DOH’s testing can’t tease out whether it’s due to human or animal waste.

Commissioner Priscilla Trace said there is no proof the problems are caused by the horses.

Fecal matter can spill into the bay through sewer-line breaks, leaching septic systems, lift station failures and stormwater runoff.

The most recent reported sewage spill at Palma Sola Bay was Aug. 19, when 180,000 gallons of treated wastewater spilled into a storm drain on 59th Street West that flows south to Palma Sola Bay, according to Manatee County Utilities spokeswoman Amy Pilson. An unknown portion of the spill eventually made its way to the bay.

Other reported spills occurred December 2017-February 2018, when contractors hit sewer lines and more than 6 million gallons of raw sewage spewed through the adjacent lands, some that emptied in the bay.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore agreed the health of Palma Sola Bay and the beach closings are problems, but noted that people historically have brought horses to recreate in the bay. People also are allowed to bring dogs to the causeway.

Whitmore brought the Palma Sola Bay health issue to the Manatee County Council of Governments in July, where Bradenton Councilman Gene Gallo said the city looked into the possible regulation of horses, but the Florida Department of Transportation nixed the idea with a 2012 letter stating horses are permissible in DOT rights of way as a mode of transportation.

At the Nov. 7 meeting, county attorney Mitchell Palmer dismissed the DOT’s opinion, saying, “There’s little doubt in my mind” the county can regulate for water quality.

Bradenton Beach allocates $73K to fix dock

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A drawing of Delta Engineering’s design to repair the floating dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach. Delta provided the drawing Nov. 12 to public works director Tom Woodard. Islander Courtesy Image: Delta Engineering

A fix is in for the floating dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.

But the fix isn’t free.

City commissioners voted 4-0 Nov. 13 to hire Duncan Seawall for $73,317 to repair the gangway — the walkway connecting the dock to the pier.

Commissioner Randy White was absent with excuse.

The commissioners’ allocation includes $3,600 for Duncan Seawall to install 18 new rollers, the mechanisms connecting the dock platforms to support piles while allowing tidal movement. The city will furnish the parts through Ronautica Marinas, the Spanish manufacturer subcontracted by Technomarine to produce parts of the dock.

City officials opened the dock Aug. 2, after more than two years of turbulence due to failures by the company originally contracted to build and install the amenity. The dock, which cost $191,524, replaced one damaged by storms and removed in 2017.

Bu the new dock was closed within two weeks because the gangway pulled away from the pier and was at risk of collapsing.

The city hired Delta Engineering in October for $2,000 to design the gangway’s repair, which the firm provided Nov. 12.

Duncan Seawall, following Delta’s specifications, will begin the repair work with the removal of the gangway to drive four timber piles for support.

Two pilings will be driven to stand on each side of the gangway when it is returned. Two vertical piles will be driven 20 feet into the seabed on both sides of the gangway, with one pile driven 5 feet from the pier and another pile 10 feet from the pier.

After driving the piles, Duncan will cross-brace the vertical pilings and install a support beam between the two closest to the pier to cradle the gangway.

The gangway will be shifted 5 feet from the pier to connect to the support beam instead of the pier. The pier’s joists and decking will be extended to bridge the gap.

Steve Porter, from Duncan Seawall, wrote in a Nov. 13 email to public works director Tom Woodard that the contractor planned to mobilize Nov. 15 and begin work Nov. 18.

“It’s quite a little bit of work to be done,” Woodard said. “There is a perception that it’s just an easy, simple little fix. Just a couple of two-by-fours and we were good. That’s not the case.”

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the city was able to hire Duncan Seawall without accepting other bids because the floating dock is in jeopardy and the city can skirt its procurement procedure to repair a downed city function.

Installation of the dock was a community redevelopment agency project, but the city paid for the repair because the dock relates to safety and welfare, according to Perry. She said the CRA could reimburse the city.

Perry recommended hiring and paying Duncan, but also pursuing damages from Hecker Construction, the company hired to install the dock, and Foster Consulting, the engineering firm Hecker retained to design the gangway and rollers.

Hecker failed to follow standards and specifications set for the dock by Technomarine Construction, the contractor hired to design and manufacture the dock, Perry said.

Foster produced faulty designs that led to the gangway issues, she added.

Commissioners agreed to include demand letters for damages to Hecker and Foster in their motion to hire Duncan.


Repairing the rollers

The CRA also is searching for 18 replacement rollers for the dock.

On Nov. 6, CRA members directed Perry and Woodard to contact Ronautica for a quote for 18 replacement rollers, as specified in the original engineering for the dock.

Yessica Martinez, from Ronautica, emailed the pair Nov. 13 with a $1,048.54 quote to manufacture and deliver the parts.

According to the quote, manufacturing the rollers would cost $403.74 and delivery would cost $644.80.

Perry mentioned the quote to city commissioners at the Nov. 13 meeting, but Mayor John Chappie said they could consider purchasing the rollers at a future meeting.

The rollers came into question when waves from Tropical Storm Nestor, as well as a dinghy tied up to the dock during the storm, damaged the dock despite Technomarine designing it to withstand Category 3 hurricanes.

On later inspection of the dock, Woodard identified 18 rollers Hecker had manufactured for the dock when it added more pilings to the plan as the reason why the dock couldn’t sustain the waves from the storm.

Marauders fans make early plans

Bradenton Marauders fans can book early for the 2020 season.

Season tickets are on sale now for the Florida State League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The minor league team will play a 70-game home schedule at LECOM Park, 1611 Ninth St. W.

Group tickets also are on sale.

Meanwhile, the Pirates began selling season tickets Nov. 11 for the team’s 2020 Grapefruit League games.

Season tickets will cost $437-$245 and six-game weekend packages will sell for $174-$108.

Single-game tickets will go on sale in January, with early-bird pricing at $34-$23 and game day pricing at $29-$18.

The Pirates will play 33 games, including 16 at home at LECOM Park, the home field for the Pirates at 1611 Ninth St. W., Bradenton.

Opening day will be Saturday, Feb. 22, when the team will host the Minnesota Twins at LECOM Park.

For more information, including Marauders ticket prices, call the box office at 941-747-3031.

MPO accepts DOT’s traffic study, but project priorities must wait

The Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study has reached its destination.

The Florida Department of Transportation formally presented results of the nearly three-year study Nov. 18 to the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization. The MPO then unanimously accepted the $675,000 study.

“One of the main goals was to address and reduce congestion on the islands,” DOT traffic safety engineer Nathan Kautz told the MPO during a meeting at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.

The study focused on what Kautz called the “person model.”

“When people get here, how do we keep them off the roads?” he said. “Cars were considered, but we also looked at how do we move more people?”

The DOT embarked on BITS in early 2017 and unveiled its final list of 76 recommendations two months ago.

Since then, Kautz has been presenting the plan to local government agencies, including the Manatee County Board of Commissioners and the Island Transportation Planning Organization.

The ITPO, which represents the three Anna Maria Island cities, prioritized six projects Nov. 4 for possible DOT funding.

The final steps for BITS will come when the MPO publicly reviews the project priorities Jan. 27, 2020, and submits a final list to the DOT March 15.

That doesn’t guarantee that the DOT will fund all of the suggested ITPO projects.

But the top two projects on the ITPO list are also top priorities for the DOT: Replacement of the 62-year-old Anna Maria Island and Cortez bridges. The transportation agency plans to build 65-foot-clearance fixed spans to replace the two drawbridges.

Both bridge replacements are listed on the agency’s tentative five-year work program for fiscal years 2021-25.

A $6.2 million design plan on the AMI Bridge is well underway but will not be completed until fiscal year 2022-23, DOT spokesman Brian R. Rick told The Islander in August.

The DOT announced Oct. 10 its plan to build a megabridge to replace the Cortez span and said it was starting design work on the structure. That is expected to take at least four-five years to complete.

The agency plans to spend about $8 million by fiscal 2025 for right-of-way acquisition for the new Cortez Bridge.

The DOT decision to construct a 65-foot-clearance bridge through Cortez has drawn strong opposition from many residents in the fishing village, which has been named a U.S. historic district.

Also, the AMI cities and ITPO have passed resolutions opposing the megabridge.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, who is the ITPO’s current chairman, stipulated at the organization’s Nov. 8 meeting that the replacement bridge must be midsized and not the high-clearance span the DOT plans to build.

In addition to the replacement bridges, other projects on the ITPO list are:

  • Drainage improvements in Bradenton Beach on Gulf Drive from Ninth Street North to the Avenue C intersection with Gulf Drive.
  • Complete street improvements in Bradenton Beach from the Longboat Pass Bridge to the northern city limits.
  • A right turn lane extension from East Bay Drive to Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach.
  • Establishing multimodal capacity from 27th Street North to the Palm Drive/Gulf Drive intersection in Holmes Beach.

Money rolls in to build concrete wave

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Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth, second from left, and Police Chief Bill Tokajer, raise skateboards high in a cheer for reaching the skate bowl goal with code compliance supervisor JT Thomas and former Commissioner David Zaccagnino Nov. 8 at the site of the future skate park on city field, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

“Holmes Beach reached its goal to fund the bowl!” Mayor Judy Titsworth said Nov. 8, regarding a last-minute push for donors to build a skate bowl.

The skate bowl and a new skate park are in the works for the city field recreation area adjacent to city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

The commission approved the skate park in February, at a cost not to exceed $150,000 and with an option to include the skate bowl if $100,000 could be raised from grants or donations.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer and others with the city kicked off a fundraiser as the Nov. 8 deadline approached to raise $100,000 for the bowl.

With about 40 donations, ranging from cash to construction materials to giveaways for donors, the community met the goal to fund the bowl just in time.

“It was an amazing response from the community — as soon as we put it out there that we were looking for funds, people started calling and wanting to donate,” Tokajer said.

The city had been seeking funds for the bowl for about eight months, but the big push came the week of Nov. 4.

“It makes me happy that the community is coming together for such an instrumental park for the kids,” the chief said.

Former Commissioner David Zaccagnino — parent to potential young skaters — said Nov. 8 that the bowl is integral to the skate park.

“A good way to understand it is that it would be like having a playground without a slide,” he said. “You need to have that bowl component.”

The Y-shaped skate bowl — called a concrete wave in the surfing culture — will resemble a custom-built swimming pool, about 4 feet deep, but, at 800 square feet, bigger than the average family pool.

Tokajer said people have remarked that they miss the skate park since it closed to make way for park construction in 2017, but the new park will exceed the amenities of the old one.

The old skate park, named for the late Holmes Beach Police Officer Pete Lannon, was built in 2003.

“We get people all the time that say they brought their kids here on vacation because they heard about the skate park and miss the old one,” the chief said. “Our old skate park was nothing compared with this new, state-of-the-art park.”

Titsworth said she was “stoked” to see the enthusiasm of the community to support the skate bowl.

“We all need to give ourselves a pat on the back,” she said, adding that she hasn’t seen the community so excited in a long time.

“Holmes Beach loves our kids.”

Funding and pledges for the skate bowl as of Nov. 8:
A&K Enterprises
Agnelli Pools and Construction
Anna Maria Island Vacation Association
AMI Locals/Bali Hai condominiums
AMI Vacation/Joe Varner
AMI Accommodations
Beach Bums
Blue Marlin restaurant
Bowes Imaging
Hayes Bystrom
Mary Catherine
Rick Cloutier
George DeSear
D.Coy Ducks Bar & Grill
Eat Here
FP Growth Partners
Dan Hardy
HBPD Chief Bill Tokajer
Holmes-Holiday Family
Rick Hurst
Island Animal Clinic
Island Beach Cafe
Island Real Estate
Jessie’s Island Store
Bonner Joy
Greg Kerchner
Lizzie Lu’s Island Retreat
Logan Bystrom Fishing
Mason Martin Homes
Mike Norman Realty
New Concepts Sleep
Jeff Podobnik
Ross Built Custom Homes
Kim Rash
John Rutherford
Sato Real Estate
Mary and Patrick Sheridan
Sherwin Williams
Shoreline Builders
Waste Pro
West Coast Surf Shop

Donations of materials and services were pledged by:
Eat Here
Freckled Fin Irish Pub
Tyler Lancaster
Tom Sanger/ Sanger Pools

Total cash pledges and donations: $104,052.90.
Total in-kind donations: $43,094.