Tag Archives: Feature

Plaintiff pleas for continuance fail, BB Sunshine trial begins

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Defendants, left, and plaintiffs, right, are seated July 15 for a civil trial in a lawsuit filed in August 2017 by Bradenton Beach ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and the city, alleging Sunshine Law violations by former board members John Metz, Reed Mapes, Patty Shay, Bill Vincent, Tjet Martin and Rose Vincent. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
Defendants, left, and plaintiffs, right, are seated July 15 for a civil trial in a lawsuit filed in August 2017 by Bradenton Beach ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and the city, alleging Sunshine Law violations by former board members John Metz, Reed Mapes, Patty Shay, Bill Vincent, Tjet Martin and Rose Vincent. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Bradenton Beach was rejected on its request for more “sunshine.”

The trial began the morning of July 15.

An emergency hearing and deposition took place July 11, days before the nonjury trial began for Bradenton Beach and ex-Mayor Jack Clarke versus six former board members who they allege violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.

A judge denied the city’s motion to file a second amended complaint and continue the trial date, made by Robert Watrous, attorney for the city and Clarke, in an emergency pretrial hearing.

However, the judge allowed the plaintiffs time to again depose defendant John Metz July 12.

The hearing

The lawsuit, filed in August 2017 by Clarke and joined by the city, alleges Sunshine Law violations by former P&Z board members Metz, Reed Mapes, Patty Shay, and Bill Vincent, and Scenic Waves Partnership Committee members Tjet Martin and Rose Vincent, all of whom were members of the now-defunct grass-roots group Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach.

Clarke and the city allege the six defendants violated Sunshine Law by discussing city matters at CNOBB meetings and through emails, texts and phone calls.

Clarke was absolved by the city of paying any legal fees for the case.

As of July 12, the defendants and 10 witnesses had been deposed in the civil suit.

A motion to amend the initial complaint to include further evidence obtained July 3 by the city and for a 45-day continuance before beginning the trial was denied by 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas.

During the July 11 hearing for the plaintiffs’ motion, Watrous argued that he and paralegal Michael Barfield had heard and read references to a July 14, 2017, CNOBB steering committee meeting during discovery, but had not been provided with a recording of the meeting.

Watrous said attorney Jim Dye, who was representing Mapes, Martin, Shay and the Vincents before they went pro se earlier this year, said July 11 he’d mailed Watrous and Metz’s attorney Thomas Shults CDs Dec. 22, 2018, with recordings of the July 14, 2017, meeting. Watrous claimed July 11 he did not receive the recording until July 3 — the day after Metz’s deposition — when Shults provided it as part of the exhibits for trial.

According to Watrous, upon listening to the July 14, 2017, meeting, he heard Mapes discussing a pending matter before the P&Z Board regarding the Bridge Tender Inn and Dockside Bar in Bradenton Beach.

Shults argued against the motions.

Shults said Watrous was sent the materials from Dye at the same time he received the CD. So Watrous also should have received the recording.

Additionally, he said Watrous likely would have continued to contact him to obtain the recording had he not received it.

Watrous argued that if he’d had the recording, he would not have had to twice ask for it from Shults, who Watrous said replied, “None,” in an email, both times he inquired.

“If I’d had this tape, it would’ve been a huge, additional lynchpin of my case,” Watrous said. “On my proposed amended complaint, in bold letters, I would’ve been saying, ‘Based upon the July 14 meeting, Mr. Mapes violated the Sunshine Law and made reference to the Bridge Tender Inn, when that had been at the prior P&Z hearing.’ I would’ve had a smoking gun.”

Nicholas denied the motion for a continuance and the motion to amend, but allowed the plaintiffs to again depose Metz the next day.

He said the scope of the deposition must be “limited to the tape and the meeting surrounding July 14, 2017.”

Another Metz deposition

Three days before trial, Metz again was deposed, this time by city attorney Ricinda Perry.

At the onset, there was a dispute about the scope of Perry’s questions for Metz, which resulted in a stalemate — the judge could not be reached for clarification — and a limited deposition.

Perry asked Metz, who did not attend the July 14, 2017, meeting, but had recently listened to the recording, if he heard Mapes refer to a land swap that occurred in 2001 between the city and the Bridge Tender Inn.

Metz said that he did recall Mapes mentioned the land swap and a “P&Z thing.”

During the deposition, Barfield played portions of recordings from the CNOBB meeting, in which Mapes could be heard discussing the land swap, but the discussion was terminated.

At the time of the CNOBB meeting, the P&Z had continued a June 21, 2017, public hearing for expansion of the Bridge Tender Inn.

The quasi-judicial hearing was continued until the applicant could provide more information about the proposed development.

In such hearings, the board sits as the judge, and can only hear evidence presented as part of the hearing, either testimony or as exhibits.

On July 21, Metz filed a records request with the city for information about the restaurant, including the land swap.

Perry closed the deposition, reserving the right to reopen the deposition if the judge agreed to widen the scope of questioning.

MCSO arrests woman for Anna Maria gold theft

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Amanda Miller, 39

A Manatee County sheriff’s deputy arrested a former Anna Maria woman for dealing in gold and silver coins allegedly stolen from her landlord.

Amanda Miller, 39, was arrested July 12 on a warrant for two counts of dealing in stolen property.

The felony counts are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $10,000.

Laurie Higgins reported a theft June 7 of gold coins valued at more than $100,000 from her home on Magnolia Avenue. She said she noticed the coins were missing April 22 but was gathering documents before filing a report.

According to Higgins’ post, Miller, who also is known as Amanda Culpepper, rented an apartment at her home and failed to pay rent, telling Higgins she was broke and widowed.

Higgins told her Facebook followers that she waited for months while investigators built a case against Miller, a former tenant. Higgins said Miller filed restraining orders against her, attempting to keep her from her home.

Higgins also reported a theft and intruders at her home in January, saying she saw six males run out her back door and down the stairs as she was returning home with Miller.

Higgins reported $50 stolen, adding Jan. 10 that she was still taking inventory.

Anna Maria prototype for plank fencing approved

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Approved July 11 by Anna Maria commissioners, the prototype fence, including engraved planks salvaged from the demolished city pier, will be built at City Pier Park at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard. Islander Photo: Cory Cole

Old engraved pier planks will soon border Anna Maria’s City Pier Park.

Anna Maria commissioners met July 11 for a special meeting to consider a prototype fence built using the engraved planks removed from the city pier after it was deemed destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

The engraved planks were sold and installed as part of the City Pier Centennial in 2010-11 in a partnership by the City Pier Restaurant and The Islander newspaper.

Commissioner Doug Copeland made the motion to approve construction of the fence at City Pier Park across from the city pier at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, and Commissioner Dale Woodland seconded the motion.

The vote to approve was 4-0, with Commissioner Carol Carter absent with excuse.

“I’d like to get these planks out and back in the public eye as soon as possible,” Commission Chair Brian Seymour said.

Anna Maria’s public works department built the prototype the week of July 1 and now will continue the construction around the perimeter of the park.

Mayor Dan Murphy estimated the cost at $2,000, excluding labor.

Trees downed at Coquina despite protest

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Piles of 97 Australian pine trees Manatee County felled to make way for a parking lot improvement project at Coquina Beach remain alongside an access road July 11. The tree stumps have yet to be removed. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency looked for the silver lining in the removal of 103 Australian pine trees from Coquina Beach.

Following Manatee County’s decision to remove more than a tenth of the beach’s 991 Australian pine trees to make way for the first phase of a Coquina parking lot drainage improvement project, CRA members said they hoped the time and budgeting is right to ask the county to join a multimodal transportation partnership with the city.

County contractors removed 97 Australian pine trees from the south parking area and along the Coquina Beach access road July 10. Six other Australian pine trees along the access road were previously removed.

The county plans to replace the Australian pine trees with 83 green buttonwood trees, 10 gumbo limbo trees and 10 shady lady black olive trees in the grass near the playground.

Bradenton Beach commissioners opposed the tree removal, which county officials said became a necessity after the city issued a construction permit for the project.

Building official Steve Gilbert said the city could not revoke the permit and stop work since the project met the city’s land development code.

While city officials failed to stop the tree removals, CRA members were excited with the prospect of getting the county on board with plans to partner on multimodal transportation improvements, namely a jitney trail for shuttling people between the parking at Coquina Beach — the biggest island parking lot — and Bridge Street.

“We can use this controversy to help move this project along,” local restaurateur Ed Chiles, an appointed member of the CRA, said at the July 10 meeting.

He added that he feels strongly against Australian pine trees, which are non-native, but the public’s outcry in opposition to their removal might help convince the county to further improve the multimodal transportation aspects of the area.

“The county wants to make sure the island is happy,” Chiles said.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the situation may be the city’s best opportunity to realize the jitney trail project, which has been on a backburner for years.

CRA Chair Ralph Cole, a city commissioner, said the trail would lighten parking — which he said is the CRA district’s biggest issue — on Bridge Street.

Chiles motioned to direct Perry and city engineer Lynn Burnett to coordinate with county officials on plans for the project, and city commissioner Jake Spooner, a CRA member, seconded the motion. CRA members voted 6-0 to approve Chiles’ motion.

Commissioner Randy White, a CRA member, was absent with excuse.

Depositions conclude in Bradenton Beach Sunshine suit

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Attorney Tom Shults, left, and client John Metz, former Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board member and defendant in a lawsuit filed by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and the city against six former board members, prepare for a July 2 deposition at Vincent M. Lucentes & Associates Court Reporters in Bradenton. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

The discovery has ended.

John Metz, former Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board member, was deposed July 2 in a lawsuit filed in August 2017 by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city against six former city board members alleging violations of Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.

Metz, the only defendant with an attorney, was the last of nearly 20 depositions taken since the suit’s inception.

The lawsuit alleges violations of state statutes governing open meetings and public records laws by former board members Metz, Reed Mapes, Tjet Martin, Patty Shay, and Bill and wife Rose Vincent, who were then members of the now-defunct grass-roots group Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach.

When the lawsuit was initiated, city attorney Ricinda Perry claimed recordings of CNOBB meetings indicated the defendants discussed matters that could come before them as board members.

Discussions allegedly were held July 25, 2017, at a CNOBB steering committee meeting, about a citizen-initiated referendum to prohibit parking garages in the city charter.

The city claims parking garages were a reasonably foreseeable topic of discussion for the P&Z board and, at a June 20 pretrial hearing, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs’ summary judgment on the matter.

However, Metz claimed July 2 that the Sunshine Law is a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.

The Sunshine Law states that members of the same government agency cannot discuss matters that might come before them outside of public meetings. This includes emails, text messages and phone calls.

When asked by the city’s attorney, Robert Watrous, if he believes the Sunshine Law is unconstitutional, Metz responded, “Yes.”

Watrous expanded his question to ask if Metz deemed the law “uniquely unconstitutional to you in this setting,” or, generally unconstitutional.

“To me, it’s based on the situation I’m in, given that the allegations that I understand in this lawsuit charge me with a civil penalty for petitioning the government, which is one of my fundamental rights to do, through the initiative process we were using.”

Metz was referring to the defendants’ claim that mention of the parking garage only was made about a possible charter amendment to prohibit parking garages by CNOBB, but removed from the organization’s list of proposed amendments.

CNOBB used the state referendum process to put three initiatives on the ballot in 2017 — and the electorate approved the charter amendments.

Metz said July 2 that the statute does not require review of petitions by the P&Z board. Therefore, he says, the CNOBB/P&Z members did not violate the law at their July 25 meeting.

“I think it’s extremely vague. It gives you no guidance into what you are supposed to do,” Metz said July 2 of the Sunshine Law. “I think we find ourselves in this quagmire because of that. There is no clear guidance where reasonable people can try to figure out what they can and can’t do. And I believe that it certainly chills free speech and a right to assemble and petition.”

Watrous asked Metz if he is aware that certain constitutional rights can be waived by voluntary agreement, including the oath Metz signed upon joining the P&Z board in 2014, which stipulates he would “support, protect and defend the Constitution and government of the United States and the state of Florida.”

Metz responded, “I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States and I think that’s part of this case.”

Watrous then asked, “And the state of Florida, too, correct?” to which Metz responded, “Yes.”

“I believe in the Florida Constitution there is a right to petition your government,” Metz said. “Certainly, in the First Amendment there is a right to free association and there is a right to free speech. And I think all of those, under the facts of this particular case, are being infringed.”

Discovery ended July 5.

A trial is planned for the week of July 15.

Coquina Beach tree removal on temporary hold, outcry rises

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Manatee County’s landscape plan for the replacement of 103 Australian pine trees at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach shows locations for replacement trees as dotted circles. The county plans to replace Australian pine trees with 83 green buttonwood trees, 10 gumbo limbo trees and 10 shady lady black olive trees in the grassy area near the playground. Islander Photo: Courtesy Bradenton Beach/Steve Gilbert

Time is running out to save 97 Australian pine trees marked for removal at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

Manatee County commissioners voted 4-2 June 19 to remove and replace the trees at Coquina, a public beach the county manages and maintains, to make way for the first phase of a parking lot improvement project at the south end and on an access road.

With six trees chopped down already, the county is set to remove 103 Australian pine trees in total — more than 10% of the 991 Australian pines at Coquina — for phase one. Another 129 trees are planned for removal in phase two.

For now, the 97 marked trees remain standing while the county works to provide the city of Bradenton Beach with its finalized landscape plans for replacement trees.

City commissioners had directed building official Steve Gilbert to request a tree replacement plan from the county and issue a stop-work order on the project if the county failed to comply. City commissioners also ordered Gilbert to investigate whether the city could revise or revoke the construction permit for the project.

Gilbert wrote in a July 3 email to The Islander that the county provided the city with a draft landscape plan June 28 showing the replacement of 103 Australian pines with 83 green buttonwood trees, 10 gumbo limbo trees and 10 shady lady black olive trees. The county plans to plant the trees in the grassy area near the playground and between the access road and parking.

Bradenton Beach’s land development code requires the replacement trees, which can be any species but palms, have a minimum diameter of one-and-a-half-inch caliper and a 10-foot height when planted.

Gilbert said the removal of the Australian pine trees remains on hold until the county provides final plans for replacement, as of July 3.

However, he also said the city cannot revoke the construction permit for the project if the county adheres to the city’s LDC.

“If any applicant is working on an approved permit, where they are in compliance with the land development code, the city has no right to revoke the permit,” Gilbert wrote in an email to The Islander.

Public response to removals

Public opposition to the project has rung loud since the county’s plan surfaced in May, culminating in a petition with 1,010 signatures opposing the project. Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie delivered the petition to county commissioners before the vote in June.

People also shared their frustrations on social media.

Of the 277 comments on Facebook July 3 regarding The Islander’s story about the Coquina plan, only four comments supported taking out Australian pine trees.

Many people commented “Save the trees!” while others referenced Joni Mitchell’s hit song “Big Yellow Taxi,” which begins with the lyrics, “They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot.”

More people aired their opinions on The Islander’s June 26 Facebook post about the tree removals.

“Desecrating one of the most beautiful, natural beaches in Florida is a tragedy. For decades people have been quite content to park and use this natural wonder. Such a shame!” Linda MacKay wrote June 25 on The Islander’s Facebook page.

“Manatee County is ruining Manatee County!” Lori Giudice Farnsworth, of Bradenton, wrote.

“The county’s few voted for this! Not the voice of the residents!” Cynthia Raines Langston, of Holmes Beach, posted on Facebook.

Anna Maria displays prototype of engraved pier plank fencing

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On Pine Avenue at City Pier Park, at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, stands a prototype fence made from the old, inscribed pier planks. Islander Photos: Cory Cole
The Anna Maria City Pier is free of workers July 3, one day away from July 4 and the long holiday weekend.

Anna Maria City Pier stood bare the week of July 4, through work is still moving forward.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said work on the pier is ahead of schedule and he did not think the holiday observance would cause a delay.

At this time, i+iconSOUTHEAST is working on another project, though Murphy said he expected the contractor back just after July 15 to continue work on the decking.

Also, Miller Electric is expected to wire the electrical lines in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Frank Agnelli, of Mason Martin LLC, has been working with i+icon to transport construction materials for the restaurant and bait shop at the pier’s T-end.

Murphy said a contract with Agnelli is being finalized.

“It’s a matter of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” Murphy said July 3 in an interview with The Islander.

In a related project, public works employees built a prototype fence at City Pier Park, at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, in response to people wanting to see something done with the engraved planks from the old pier structure destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Murphy said a proposal would be presented July 11 to the city commission. At that time, the commission may consider going forward with the fence or making changes.

City pier funding at a glance

The city has taken in about $4.1 million for the pier project. The Manatee County Tourist Development Council budgeted $1.5 million. About $11,000 was raised on

GoFundMe by the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust. The city allocated $304,000 in its fiscal 2018-19 budget. Manatee County committed $333,000. The city also received $750,000 in state historical grants and another $945,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Most recently, the city received approval for an additional $285,000 from the state.

Funding to come

The TDC recommended an added $435,000 for the pier, but the county commission has not yet approved the money. The added funds are expected to go before the board in early August.

Murphy said $408,000 in city funding would be part of the 2019-20 fiscal budget if approved.

Also, Murphy said July 3 that additional funding is expected to come from the current pier leaseholder.

However, there is no dollar amount, as details of a future restaurant-bait shop lease and the leaseholders contribution to the build-out are being worked out.

Funding wrap up

With all the expected money awarded, the funding will total $4.97 million.

The current cost is $4.9 million. Demolition cost $732,000, and the construction cost is at about $4.2 million.

Construction of the restaurant and bait shop will be funded from the current and the 2019-20 fiscal budgets, provided Mason Martin starts work before Oct. 1, Murphy said.

Mason Martin bid $1,041,101 to build the restaurant and bait shop at on the T-end of the pier. This expense will bring the total cost of construction to about $5.9 million.

Hepatitis A case confirmed in Holmes Beach

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The Manatee County Health Department bus was stationed July 5 at Anna Maria Elementary School, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, offering free hepatitis A vaccinations after testing determined a worker at a Holmes Beach restaurant had the illness. Islander Photo: Chris-Ann Silver Esformes
Phil Balducci, of Anna Maria, fills out paperwork July 5 for a hepatitis A vaccine, offered by the Manatee County Health Department at Anna Maria Elementary School, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Better safe than sorry.

The Manatee County Health Department confirmed a case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at the Ugly Grouper restaurant, 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, according to a July 3 news release.

Hepatitis A is a form of hepatitis caused by an RNA virus, usually transmitted by contaminated food and water, with a shorter incubation and milder symptoms than infectious hepatitis B.

The health department advised anyone who ate at the restaurant June 8-22 to consider getting a hep A vaccination.

The release also stated that those who previously received the hep A vaccine did not need to take additional action.

A statement July 5 from Thad Treadwell, Ugly Grouper general manager, said the restaurant employee had been treated and was in recovery.

Treadwell wrote that the restaurant conducted a 12-hour deep-cleaning July 2. The release also stated “The health department confirmed our current practices meet all cleanliness and operational compliance standards,” and the entire restaurant staff was vaccinated.

“The restaurant has been great,” Thomas Iovino, communications director for the health department, said July 5. “They’ve been really receptive and willing to work with us.”

The health department set up a bus July 5 at Anna Maria Elementary School, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, offering free hep A vaccinations.

“While this has been a concern for the restaurant and the community, we believe this vaccination event, ultimately, is for the betterment of the entire island,” Iovino said.

More information regarding hep A can be found online at floridahealth.gov.

Algae blooms plague waterways, inch toward AMI

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Boaters on Daddy’s Time Out head out June 27 from One Particular Harbour Marina on Perico Island, where brown gumbo algae is visible in the water. The algae also produced a foul odor at the marina. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
The algae Lyngbya wollei — known as brown “gumbo” — forms a carpet on the surface of the water in Robinson Preserve June 27. Islander Photo: Courtesy Manatee County
A floating turbidity barrier is stationed where the waters of Robinson Preserve lead out toTampa Bay, preventing further Lyngbya algae from the county park. The barrier was placed June 27. Islander Photo: Courtesy Manatee County

The mats of Lyngbya wollei, also known as brown “gumbo” algae, were so thick in the waters in Robinson Preserve June 27 that wading birds stood on them.

That’s the report Michael Elswick, manager of the natural resources division of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, forwarded his boss, Charlie Hunsicker.

Mats as thick as 12 inches and as large as two-tenths of an acre clogged the waterways at the preserve, preventing kayakers from passing through and “stopping a jon boat cold,” Elswick wrote in the email.

Lyngbya “gumbo” algae is a type of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae common in the spring-summer months around Anna Maria Island. It forms thick mats that resemble clumps of grass and sewage at the water surface, mostly in backwaters and bays.

Land management rangers and supervisors from the county natural resources department moved the brown algae, dragging large clumps to the mouth of the Manatee River and into its current.

“They corralled the algae, moved it into the tidal channel and constructed a floating turbidity barrier to keep it from coming back in,” Hunsicker told The Islander June 27.

The preserve clearing operation took about four hours.

Elswick wrote in his email to Hunsicker that people were still enjoying the preserve, despite the odor associated with brown algae, which lingered in the mangrove roots.

He also stated a caution: “I would speculate the decomposition of large volumes of algae outside Robinson waterways may act to lower dissolved oxygen further. We’re bracing for a fish kill and will act quickly to remove those as necessary.”

Some dead fish were reported June 22-24, when blue-green algae appeared in the Manatee and Braden rivers.

Blue-green troubles in local waters

Ryan McClash was standing on his dock June 23 in the Riverdale subdivision of Bradenton, talking with Suncoast Waterkeeper’s Andy Mele of Bradenton.

Blue-green algae appeared in his canal in the 4200 block of Second Avenue Northeast a week earlier. By June 23, the water was bright green.

McClash told Mele the river looked like it was dyed green.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was taking water samples from the Manatee River to determine the types of algae present, as well as toxicities.

Tests June 18 and June 20 confirmed the presence of a cyanobacteria, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, in the river, including the canal in McClash’s neighborhood. But no toxins were detected. The same algae were found at all but one of the tested river locations.

A sample taken June 19 near Ellenton was dominated by Cuspidothrix.sp, a freshwater algae that can produce toxins — but none were found in the DEP sampling.

The latest DEP samples were pulled June 27, as reports persisted and another algae, the brown“gumbo,” was clogging up the waters near the mouth of the river, as well as in the backwater, bays and sounds.

Boaters using the marina at One Particular Harbour June 26 found heavy mats of “gumbo” algae, but it had diminished the following day.

Dee Ann Miller, of the DEP press office, said the agency would continue to respond to alerts about algae and that persistent blooms would be monitored and retested.

Boat captains, scientists weigh in

“I’ve been here my whole life. I’ve never seen this,” Capt. Scott Moore said of the bright-green hue in the Manatee River, where he often leads charter fishing trips.

“It’s up the river from the Green Bridge on. Down at the mouth, no,” he said.

Moore blamed the blooms on fertilizer and nutrient runoff, as well as over-development and under-management of water issues.

“We’ve got to pass some laws. All this new development, all these septic tanks, all this fertilizing. We have to get control of this,” he said.

Cynthia Heil, director of the new Red Tide Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory, told The Islander June 27 that alga, especially freshwater types, “like the heat, love the sun and like the nutrients.”

With less rain than usual and higher than normal summer temps, conditions are ripe for blooms.

“They like a lot of sunlight and runoff. Lyngbya likes iron. Some are toxic, others not,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hunsicker is holding his breath.

“What we are seeing is a magnificent joining of sunlight, temperatures and nutrients, and some of the hottest days on record conspiring together to make a big algae bloom,” he said.

“The Saharan dust we are getting in our atmosphere has iron. All the dead fish from last year’s event went to the bottom and are still decaying. They didn’t just disappear. Mother Nature is responding,” he added.

“On the other hand, it’s not red tide. Yet.”

About algae

• Aphanizomenon flos-aquae is a species of cyanobacteria found in brackish and fresh waters around the world. It is known to produce endotoxins, the toxic chemicals released as cells die. However, not all forms of this algae are toxic.
• Cuspidothrix.sp is a species of cyanobacteria similar to A. flos-aquae. It grows in fresh and brackish waters, but is not as common or widespread and more prone to hot climates.
• Lyngba wollei is a filamentous cyanobacterium that forms thick mats on the water’s surface. It is common throughout North America, but large blooms can degrade water quality, cause skin irritation and impair natural habitats.
• Karenia brevis is the scientific name for red tide. In high concentrations, it emits toxins that can cause respiratory issues in humans and marine mammals, and can kill fish, shellfish, birds and mammals.

BB backs down on stop work order at Coquina Beach

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An aerial view looking north from Longboat Pass at the south end of Bradenton Beach shows the vast coverage of Australian pine trees at Coquina Beach. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

A paved parking lot? Or save the trees?

Will the county sacrifice Australian pine trees and the ambiance of one of Anna Maria Island’s most iconic beaches?

Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources manages and maintains Coquina Beach, a public beach in Bradenton Beach.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and the city commission directed city building official Steve Gilbert to investigate whether the city could revise or revoke the county construction permit after a 4-2 decision by Manatee County commissioners June 19 to the remove and replace at least 97 Australian pine trees.

Subsequently, Gilbert sent a letter dated June 20 to Michael Sturm, project manager for Manatee County Public Works, advising the possibility of the city issuing a stop-work order for the paving project in view of the decision to remove some trees.

On July 1, Gilbert wrote in an email to The Islander that no stop-work order would be issued.

“At this time, they are cooperating in meeting the requirements of the land development code, so no stop-work order at this point,” Gilbert wrote.

The removal of the trees was planned for the first phase of the storm drainage project that involves installing underground pipes and laying pervious concrete in the south parking lot and on access roads.

The second phase of parking lot improvements calls for the removal of more of the 1,486 trees that shade the shoreline and the recreation and parking areas at the beach.

Gilbert addressed the replacement of the removed trees in the letter, saying the city LDC provides for a two-to-one replacement of removed trees. However, since the trees in question are Australian pines, a prohibited tree, replacement would be one-for-one.

Replacement trees must be any immature tree other than palm trees, have a minimum diameter of one-and-a-half-inch caliper and a 10-foot height when installed, according to Gilbert’s letter.

The letter placed Manatee County on notice to come into compliance with Bradenton Beach rules and to prepare and submit a plan showing all trees to be removed, the location of replacement trees and the species proposed.

A landscaping plan also must be presented, according to Gilbert, which would be added to the amended plans.

Gilbert told Sturm that after re-examining the permit documents and submittals to Bradenton Beach from the county, he found “no mention of tree removal, replanting, relocating, etc.”

Chappie said earlier he did not recall seeing any mention of tree removal in the original site plans for the parking lot improvements at Coquina, which were said to come about due to frequent standing water in the parking areas after storms.

While the letter reminded county officials the LDC authorizes Bradenton Beach to issue a stop-work order on the project because the county is out of compliance, Gilbert asked for collaboration on a solution rather than a halt to the work.

He also asked that no trees be removed until the issues are resolved.

Gilbert, like Chappie, maintains no tree removal was mentioned in the county permit application.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who lives on Anna Maria Island and holds an at-large seat, replied June 28 to a request for updates from The Islander.

“No updates on what is going on in Bradenton Beach, sorry,” she wrote.

Whitmore and Commissioner Betsy Benac, also serving at-large, voted against removing the trees at the beach.

Calls for comment to Chappie and Bradenton Beach Commissioner Randy White were not returned before The Islander press time.