Tag Archives: Community

Anna Maria pier rammed by barge

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I+iconSOUTHEAST workers were installing planks on the Anna Maria City Pier the morning of Sept. 10 before the contractor’s barge, shown here at the T-end, rammed the pier and pushed a row of pilings and about 15-20 feet of walkway out of kilter. Islander Photos: Jack Elka
Before … I+iconSOUTH-EAST workers install planks on the Anna Maria City Pier the morning of Sept. 10 — before the contractor’s barge rammed the walkway. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
… and after crash A diver waves from the water Sept. 14 on the north side of the Anna Maria City Pier, where he surveys underwater damage to the pier after the contractor’s barge crashed Sept. 10 and pushed pilings and about 20 feet of walkway framing out of alignment. At the T-end, rafters and other materials for the restaurant, bait shop and restrooms are piled up, awaiting the start of construction. Islander Photo: Courtesy Anna Maria
i+iconSoutHeaSt worker michael Butz, right, and a co-worker prepare Sept. 11 to deliver a load of building materials from the Kingfish Boat ramp in Holmes Beach to the anna maria city Pier on the barge that rammed the pier a day earlier. the materials are for the t-end buildings on the pier. islander Photo: ryan Paice

Hurricane Irma damaged the Anna Maria City Pier beyond repair in 2017, but the impact when the contractor’s barge crashed into the partially completed walkway Sept. 10 is only a minor setback for the ongoing project.

Work on the Anna Maria City Pier is proceeding — including an assessment by divers of the submerged pilings — despite the damage to a 15- to 20-foot section of the walkway.

The planking and T-end restaurant, bait shop and bathroom work will continue, according to Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy.

“The barge came in too fast,” he said of the crash into the pier.

The barge slammed into the 800-foot-long walkway about two thirds of the way out to the T-end of the pier.

Michael Butz, was operating the barge and lost control as he was attempting to dock for the night, Murphy said.

Butz, who works for I+iconSOUTHEAST, told The Islander Sept. 12, as he was preparing to move materials on the barge from Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach to the pier, “Tell the people, I’m really sorry.”

The city contracted with I+icon in November 2018 to construct the 800-foot pier structure, walkway and T-end.

Work on the T-end buildings by Mason Martin construction is set to begin the week of Sept. 16, as previously scheduled.

“It’s still a go,” Murphy said Sept. 12.

The Coast Guard investigation

Chief Zachary Gray of the U.S. Coast Guard-Station Cortez said a crew from Cortez was on scene after the crash Sept. 10 to ensure no one was hurt.

There were no reports of injuries.

He added the Coast Guard’s investigations’ division, headed by Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Jensen of Sector St. Petersburg, is in charge of the crash investigation.

St. Petersburg Sector Petty Officer First Class Ayla Kelley said Sept. 12 there have been no charges as a result of the incident and that one investigator visited the scene.

She also said the division was looking to determine why the collision occurred, interviewing the captain and any other witnesses, but had no further comment on the pending investigation.

What’s next for the damaged pier?

“I+icon needs to develop a plan to fix it. The engineer has to sign off,” Murphy said.

“And I will review any plan before the work starts,” he added.

The crash destroyed two pilings, beams, stringers and utility conduits, he said.

Murphy didn’t have an estimate of the repair costs, but said I+icon is responsible for the damages caused by the barge, “whatever it is.”

Before the crash, Murphy hoped for a January reopening of the pier, but the bathrooms and restaurant are not expected to open at that time.

After the crash, the mayor said he didn’t know if that timeline would be affected.

The 1911 pier is being rebuilt due to damages sustained during Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

Anna Maria commissioner fails to qualify for re-election

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Commissioner Dale Woodland

You know what they say about assumptions.

Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett called Commissioner Dale Woodland Sept. 4 to inform the commissioner he failed to qualify for re-election in November because he paid the $48 qualifying fee with a personal check.

Candidates are required to pay fees with a check drawn from a designated campaign account.

Woodland, who has served seven two-year terms as commissioner, said in a Sept. 12 interview with The Islander that he didn’t create a campaign account for his re-election because of the fee he would incur at his bank, Wells Fargo.

He added that he submitted the payment to the SOE on Aug. 19, the first day qualifying opened, and assumed he would hear from the SOE before qualification closed Aug. 30 if the payment was not acceptable.

“I’m mainly frustrated with myself for allowing this to happen,” Woodland said. “I mean, I can’t blame anybody but myself. I made a mistake.”

Woodland said he plans to apply for reappointment when his term expires in November.

“I feel pretty confident (I will be reappointed),” he said. “I’ve been working with these commissioners for a long time, and they’re the ones that will make the ultimate decision.

“I’m confident. We’ll just see how it all plays out,” he added.

With Woodland disqualified, incumbent Commissioner Carol Carter and planning and zoning board Chair Jonathan Crane — the only two candidates to qualify for three commission seats in the Nov. 5 election — are automatically elected.

The appointment of Woodland’s seat in November will be the second appointment by city commissioners since the election qualifying closed.

Commission Chair Brian Seymour resigned in a letter to Mayor Dan Murphy effective the date of qualifying in August, leaving his seat to be appointed by the commission, prior to Woodland’s disqualification.

The city put out a call for applications for Seymour’s seat and the commission — including Commissioner Doug Copeland, who opted not to seek another term on the November ballot — is expected to select from those applicants Thursday, Sept. 26.

Seymour’s resignation letter to Murphy did not provide a reason for his departure, but it was tendered a day after city commissioners voted against an amendment that would have allowed him to open a liquor store at a storefront near the Anna Maria General Store, which he owns.

The chosen applicant will serve the remainder of Seymour’s two-year term, through November 2020.

Applicants for Seymour’s seat must be Anna Maria residents for at least two years and be qualified to vote in the city. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24. City employees, as well as anyone holding another municipal office, cannot apply.

An application can be found on the city’s website at cityofannamaria.com or at city hall at 10005 Gulf Drive.

Completed applications will be provided to commissioners as they are received and applicants will have a chance to make a presentation to the commission at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at city hall.

Commissioners Carol Carter, Copeland, and Amy Tripp will cast ballots to fill Seymour’s seat.

The ballots will be revealed at the meeting after the votes are counted and the new commissioner is announced.

There has not yet been a call for applicants to fill Woodland’s seat, but the same process will be used to fill his seat in November, after Crane is sworn into office.

Commissioners are paid $4,800 a year.

Anna Maria had 1,076 active voters as of Aug. 30, according to the SOE.

Holmes Beach considers tax, licenses for monthly rentals

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Commissioners Pat Morton and Carol Soustek take part in the commission discussion on rental fees Sept. 10 in chambers, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Holmes Beach already taxes short-term rentals in its vacation rental program.

At a Sept. 10 meeting, the mayor and city commissioners reached consensus to draft an ordinance regulating long-term — monthly and seasonal — rentals, including a tax on the property owners.

If enacted, the ordinance stipulates that monthly rentals are subject to the same regulations and fees as weekly rentals, which means long-term rental owners would go from no fee to licensing and a payment of $545 every three years, while weekly vacation rental owners would pay $545 every two years.

“This basically just turns our monthly into the same thing we require for weekly,” Mayor Judy Titsworth said Sept. 10.

She said that administering monthly rentals requires the same amount of work for city staff as weekly rentals. So she determined both types of rental units should be charged the same fee.

“We are doing the exact same thing for monthly as we are for weekly,” she said. “How can we charge differently for one than the other when we are using the same exact program and inspections.”

Titsworth said she directed city treasurer Lori Hill to come up with a total “break even cost” for the vacation rental certificate program. Hill determined, each unit owner would pay $545 biennially for the city to break even, based on the current number of rental units in the city — 1,378.

At the Sept. 10 meeting, commissioners approved the first reading of an amended VRC ordinance, which increased the biennial fee for weekly rentals from $150 to $695.

At the work session following the meeting, Titsworth said, if commissioners approve the monthly rental ordinance, the fee for weekly rentals could be lowered to $545 on final reading.

Commission Chair Jim Kihm agreed with Titsworth.

“It’s not so much what category you’re in, but what work is required by our code compliance people to do the inspections,” he said.

Commissioner Carol Soustek, who owns a long-term rental, said she is concerned the increased fee could lead to fewer monthly rentals in a city where long-term rentals are diminishing.

“My worry is that we have so very few monthlies,” she said. “We have more people wanting to rent the monthlies than we have a supply. And most of the monthlies are residents who rent (their) places to offset cost factors that have hit them over the years.”

Soustek also said many monthly or seasonal renters are a part of the community, and don’t create the same noise, trash and parking problems associated with short-term renters.

Commissioner Pat Morton agreed with Soustek. “I’m worried we’re driving them out,” he said of long-term rental owners.

Titsworth suggested the city charge the $545 fee every four years for long-term rentals, instead of two.

But, Kihm said it could become a safety concern.

He preferred to have “more eyes on it and make sure everything is being operated properly,” adding the costs are estimates, so the fee could change.

Soustek asked the commission to compromise on three-year fees and inspections for monthly rentals.

The commission reached consensus to amend the draft ordinance to include a three-year $545 fee for monthly rentals and two years for weekly rentals, and move it to a first reading and public hearing.

The next city commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, with a work session to follow.

… and takes steps to amend vacation rental regulations

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Attorney Stephen Dye, sitting in Sept. 10 for Holmes Beach city attorney Patricia Petruff, both partners in the Dye Harrison law firm, offers his view during the commission meeting. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Holmes Beach is tackling changes to the 2016 vacation rental certificate program.

At their Sept. 10 meeting, commissioners approved 4-0 the first reading of an amended vacation rental ordinance, with some changes.

Commissioner Rick Hurst was absent with excuse.

Previously, Commissioner Kim Rash asked that the ordinance be amended to state that “excessive and boisterous noise” is not allowed at any time, not just during the quiet hours of 10 p.m.-7 a.m.

The commission agreed to expand the language about noise in a residential area, including a stipulation that only “quiet conversation” can occur 10 p.m.-7 a.m., in a pamphlet to be placed in rental units and advertising.

Additionally, attorney Stephen Dye, sitting in for vacationing city attorney Patricia Petruff, both principles in the Dye Harrison law firm, noticed some repetitive phrasing in the section of the ordinance dealing with advertising for vacation rentals.

The commission agreed the language should be amended before the final reading and public hearing.

At a previous meeting, commissioners agreed to a recommendation from staff to raise the fee from $150 to $695 for initial application and biennial renewals to cover program costs.

The commission also is considering adding monthly vacation rentals to the certificate program, and lowering the application fee for weekly rentals to $545.

The new fee for re-inspection would be $50. A second re-inspection now incurs a $75 fee for owners.

Additionally, the change of authorized agent fee increased from $35 to $50.

Based on commission consensus, violations with a $150 fee for a first offense would include:
• Advertising that violates city codes or ordinances;
• Failing to list the amount of parking spaces at a rental property;
• Neglecting to register new rental agents within 15 business days;
• Failing to schedule an inspection within 30 days of application;
• And, failing to schedule a re-inspection within 30 days of an inspection failure.

The city would give the property owner 48 hours to come into compliance before issuance of a second citation.

Additional violations within 12 months of the first violation would result in a $500 fine unless, after a hearing, the special magistrate chooses to reduce or increase the fine.

Improper placement of a short-term rental sign on a property also would trigger a $150 fine, but the city would allow 24 hours to comply before issuing a second violation.

A $250 first violation would be issued for exceeding maximum occupancy limits, advertising without a valid certificate and advertising that does not state a seven-day minimum stay.

Renting a property without a valid vacation rental certificate would incur a $500 fine.

The maximum fine for all violations would be an irreversible fine of $5,000.

The second reading, final public hearing and a vote on the vacation rental ordinance will be set for a future meeting.

The next city commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Bradenton Beach commission approves Bridge Street developer’s residential plan

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Hynds Group owner/agent Michael Hynds, right, and members of the public get sworn in to speak Sept. 5 during a quasi-judicial hearing regarding a planned major development at Hynds’ property at 119 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Third time’s a charm for the Hynds Group’s planned major development for property at 119 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach.

Bradenton Beach city commissioners voted 3-0 Sept. 5 to approve the addition of three residential units on the third floor of the property after two continuations of the quasi-judicial hearing. Hynds Group owner Michael Hynds has said the residential units would be used as vacation rentals.

Vice Mayor Jake Spooner recused himself from the vote because he owns several businesses adjacent to the property.

Commissioner Randy White was absent with excuse.

Plans for the development originally included the addition of four multifamily dwellings to the building, which already contains eight retail units, but the property couldn’t accommodate the required parking spaces.

To meet the code for parking, Hynds reduced the number of residential units to three and the number of retail units to six. He said he already had begun combining previously separated retail spaces into larger units.

“We looked at different alternative ways to alleviate parking with shuttles and stuff, but none of it was working,” Hynds told commissioners.

Multifamily residencies require two parking spaces per unit, as well as a 10% addition, so Hynds’ three planned units required seven parking spaces.

City planner Alan Garrett said the property, counting a parking spot for each of the six retail units, has 13 parking spaces, which complies with the city’s land development code.

Hynds’ latest plans also extend three parallel parking spaces to the required 23-foot-length and adds a sprinkler system above the dumpster area under the building. Plans also include a draft for construction staging, but Hynds said he would need to continue working with the city to establish a final staging plan.

“Hopefully this shows our commitment to make this work with the city,” he said.

Hynds also provided plans for a sidewalk with planters on the Third Street side of the property, but city attorney Ricinda Perry said the planter maintenance needs to be more detailed.

The motion to approve Hynds’ development, made by Commissioner Ralph Cole and seconded by Commissioner Marilyn Maro, includes stipulations that the Hynds Group maintain the planters and the building cannot be taller than the 29-foot-height limit established in the land development code.

Bradenton Beach resident Mary Bell told commissioners during public comment that she supports the development now because of the reduction in units. She spoke in opposition during previous meetings.

“It really is heartening to see this proposal,” Bell said. “I think it really respects the city’s requirements.”

Bell’s husband David, an appointed member of the city’s community redevelopment agency, also said he supported the development after previously opposing it.

“It’s a good solution,” added Barbara Baker, president of the nearby Old Bridge Village Condominium Association. “Thank you very much.”

Payoffs for conservation, outreach

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People observe Sept. 12 as turtle watch volunteer Alice Schubert counts eggs from a nest laid by the tracked loggerhead, Bortie Too, as Skip Coyne digs into the nest. The nest hatched Sept. 9 on the beach near 66th Street in Holmes Beach and contained 12 unhatched and 62 hatched eggs.
Steve Rose, owner of Bortell’s Lounge in Anna Maria, who donated a satellite tag for Bortie Too, a loggerhead that nested twice on Anna Maria Island this season, and his mother Millie, pose Sept. 12 with Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, and the plaque dedicated to the late Jack Rose.
Peggy Veeder, conservation chair for the Osceola Branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution, displays the plaque from the loggerhead nest adopted by her organization.
A hatchling found Sept. 10 during the excavation of a loggerhead nest on the beach in Bradenton Beach, crawls to the Gulf of Mexico. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

The official end of loggerhead nesting season on Anna Maria Island is Oct. 31.

For now, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers are collecting data as nests continue to hatch on island beaches.

As of Sept. 13, 84 nests remained to hatch on the island out of 539 laid since May 1, and about 23,841 hatchlings had made their way to the Gulf of Mexico — another record-breaking season for the sea turtles on Anna Maria Island.

Suzi Fox, AMITW executive director, attributes the rise in nesting and hatchlings to increased public awareness.

Through informational “Turtle Talks” and regulations for turtle-friendly beachfront lighting, AMITW and the island municipalities are reaching out to the public to help save sea turtles and their habitat, according to Fox.

“Once people know what they should be doing, usually they are quick to comply and curious to learn more,” she said.

Additionally, for 15 years, AMITW has had an “adopt-a-nest” program that involves more and more people in the conservation movement.

For a tax-deductible donation of $100, adopters have their names on a plaque at the nesting site and receive a letter of appreciation, a certificate and data from their nest after it hatches.

Funds raised from the program go to turtle-friendly lighting and public outreach.

As season draws to a close, turtle watch volunteers collect data from excavated nests, including those that were adopted by people and organizations.

AMITW digs into a sea turtle nest to determine how many eggs hatched. If there are live hatchlings, they are released to the Gulf and any dead hatchlings or unhatched eggs are accounted for in the reports to the state.

The reports are vital to obtaining beach renouishment dollars.

The week of Sept. 9, turtle watch excavated a nest adopted by the Osceola Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, as well as a nest laid by Bortie Too, the AMITW entry in the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s ongoing Tour de Turtles.

Peggy Veeder, the conservation chair for the Osceola DAR said she was excited to attend the Sept. 10 nest excavation.

“We love being a part of this,” Veeder said. “We are so lucky to have this here, where we live.”

Additionally, one of two nests laid on the island by Bortie Too, adopted by Steve Rose and his mother Millie, in honor of their father and husband, the late Jack Rose, was excavated Sept. 12.

“We really enjoy doing this part of island-life,” Steve Rose said. “I’ve never been able to be so close to any of this research and it’s really interesting.”

Anna Maria dismisses planner, seeks engineer

Anna Maria is looking for replacements.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy told commissioners Sept. 12 he recently gave city planner Robin Meyer a 90-day cancellation notice on his contract.

Meyer, who will remain in the position until December, was contracted to serve the city through Feb. 23, 2022.

Murphy did not give a reason for Meyer’s dismissal, but said he would like to hire a full-time employee to build continuity. He said city clerk Leanne Addy is placing ads for the position on multiple websites, including Indeed.com.

Meyer is paid $1,800 per week for 36 hours, in addition to another $50 for each hour exceeding 36 hours a week.

Meyer did not respond to a voice message left Sept. 13.

The commission voted 4-0 Sept. 12 to authorize Mayor Dan Murphy to issue a request for qualifications for engineering services for the city.

Murphy said the city has traditionally relied on a single engineer but, since no engineer can be a jack of all trades, is seeking multiple people with a range of expertise for a variety of projects.

City attorney Becky Vose said most of the cities her firm represents use the strategy of hiring multiple engineers to address specialized issues.

The city will accept applicants until noon Monday, Oct. 7.

Murphy plans to conduct interviews Oct. 8-9 and make a recommendation Oct. 10 to the commission.

Commissioners also voted 4-0 to approve a contract for interim services from Ayres Associates, the current engineer, while the city does its search.

Murphy said Ayres will continue its work on the new Anna Maria City Pier, including the restaurant and bait shop.

He added that the contract with Ayres includes an escape clause, allowing cancellation when the pier is completed.

Anna Maria mayor dogs pier lease agreement

Negotiations on a new lease for the Anna Maria City Pier restaurant and bait shop are slowly moving forward.

Mayor Dan Murphy updated city commissioners Sept. 12 on his progress for a new pier lease with the current tenant, Mario Schoenfelder. He said they agreed upon the commission’s previously designated premises and maintenance responsibilities, and would now begin to discuss payments, the length of the lease, parking and insurance.

Schoenfelder, who splits his time between Holmes Beach and Germany, began leasing the pier in August 2000. He signed on for 10 years with two five-year options and a $5,000 monthly lease payment subject to periodic increases of $500.

The current lease covers the pier structure, parking area, restaurant and bait shop with payments of $11,900 per month. The tenant is responsible for paying property tax, utilities, maintenance and liability insurance, and the city is responsible for fire, casualty, wind and flood insurance.

Murphy said he planned to email Schoenfelder Sept. 13 on the terms for parking. He said the lease could include parking spaces, which he estimated at no more than 40, in order for the restaurant to comply with the code for restaurant parking.

Murphy recommended 24 parking spaces in the lot on the north side of the pier, where i+icon is stationed for the duration of the pier construction.

Another 12 parking spaces could be included near City Pier Park, at 101 North Bay Blvd., according to Murphy, along with the first four spaces on the south side of the pier, including two handicap parking spaces.

The parking spaces designated for restaurant parking would be marked with appropriate signage, as it was before Hurricane Irma damaged the pier in September 2017.

As for insurance, Murphy said Schoenfelder should cover the restaurant and bait shop, while the city should insure the pier.

Murphy proposed using the current lease term — 10 years with two five-year options — and added that commissioners will need to discuss a formula for rent at a future meeting.

WMFR approves assessments, $9.6 million spending plan

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Battalion Chief Ben Rigney. Islander Photo: Courtesy WMFR

West Manatee Fire Rescue district commissioners voted unanimously and with little fanfare to approve its annual tax assessments and a $9.6 million budget at their final public hearing Sept. 9.

“We deliberated enough,” said Commissioner Larry Jennis after the first hearing to certify the tax rolls for the Manatee County Property Appraiser.

Commission Chair David Bishop said, “I would agree.”

Property tax notices will be mailed to owners Nov. 1.

At the second public hearing the same day, commissioners approved the district’s 2019-20 budget of $9,646,234. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Battalion Chief Ben Rigney — soon to be chief — said there had been no changes since the budget presentation in August.

In an Aug. 20 budget report, Rigney said the district continues to experience “slow growth in regard to residential development” and projected a less than 1 percent increase in revenue.

No public comment was made at either hearing.

The 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Randy Cooper absent, finalized the district’s 2019-20 assessment hike, approved in May for parcels in the district — 1.65% for residential and 5% for commercial properties.

The assessments will be spread among 18,027 residential and 581 commercial parcels, including homes and businesses on Anna Maria Island and in unincorporated west Manatee County, including Cortez. Unusable vacant tracts, churches, parsonages, recreational areas, public institutions, military installations, railroads, rivers, lakes, submerged lands and certain properties for people with special needs are exempt from WMFR assessments.

The 2019-20 budget shows $7.32 million in revenue from assessments, $9,500 from grants, $65,000 from interest and $223,067 from reimbursements.

In comparison, the current budget includes $7.12 million from tax assessments, $10,500 from grants and inspection fees, $110,000 in interest and $2.1 million in reimbursements, including the $1.6 million sale of the former administration building.

New in the district’s 2019-20 spending plans include the $650,000 purchase of an engine to replace a 15-year-old truck, $1.1 million to build a new administration building and a $200,000 remodel of the 862-square-foot bunk room at Station 3, 6001 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

A new line item was established to fund cancer coverage mandated by the state in light of the occupational hazard tied to firefighting.

At a Sept. 9 workshop, the commissioners spoke to Tampa attorney Laura Donaldson of Manson Bolves Donaldson Varn about a draft policy for the mandated cancer coverage.

A state law effective July 1 requires fire districts to provide firefighters the option of a $25,000 lump sum payout in lieu of workers’ compensation if they are diagnosed with one of 21 types of cancer. The law mandates the coverage for 10 years after retirement or termination, in addition to reimbursements for medical expenses.

With the exception of Commissioner George Harris, the commissioners in attendance said they’d prefer to purchase insurance to cover cancer claims at about $3,000 a year, rather than self-insuring the risk. Harris said he was “an advocate of self-insurance.”

“In my 43 years, I know of three I think would qualify,” Chief Tom Sousa told the board.

The commissioners discussed expanding the coverage to four retired firefighters currently on the district insurance plan and all WMFR employees. Donaldson said the district could chose a broader policy than required by state law.

Rigney said he would provide Donaldson a new draft of the district policy on cancer coverage.

The district employs about 35 full-time firefighters, three inspectors, six paramedics and four administrative personnel, including Rigney, who will replace the retiring Sousa in October. About 20 volunteer firefighters serve in the district reserves.

Holmes Beach-Bert Harris lawsuits in limbo

Another decision is left to another day.

Judge Edward Nicholas postponed ruling Sept. 9 on pretrial motions in Bert Harris cases against the city of Holmes Beach — as did another 12th circuit judge in July.

In court Sept. 9, three property owners were up on motions, asking the city be held liable for their losses due to 2015-16 ordinances that limit short-term rental occupancy to a maximum of two persons per bedroom.

The owners, properties and their claims are:
• Coral Escape of Holmes Beach, 132 50th St., $240,000.
• Robert and Michelle Carl, 4805 Second Ave., $275,000.
• Mojito Splash, 304 65th St., $275,000.

For the owners, attorney Aaron Thomas, of the Najmy Thompson Bradenton law firm, argued July 30 and Sept. 9 the city should be liable as of May 1, 2016 for the occupancy and regulatory ordinances that established enforcement for the new laws.

Attorney Jay Daigneault, of the Trask, Daigneault, lawfirm in Clearwater, assigned to represent the city by its insurer, challenged the owners’ right to bring the cases without first being denied a variance, relying on a 2018 decision by Judge Lon Arend in the Holmes Beach-Bob and Ellen McCaffrey case.

Thomas argued that it was futile for his clients to challenge the occupancy restrictions and that the McCaffreys — who sought permission to expand their home beyond newly established regulations — were not in the same situation as his clients, who were unrestricted as to the number of occupants before the city’s occupancy regulation went into effect.

Although the judge postponed his ruling, Thomas said Nicholas’ statements in court Sept. 9 were favorable to his arguments.

Nicholas followed the lead of Judge Charles Sniffin, who, at a July 30 hearing on three similar cases, deferred his decision for 90 days, asking attorneys for both sides to exchange information, documents and inspections.

Thomas also said Nicholas told the attorneys Sept. 9 he was considering mediation for the parties.