Tag Archives: Feature

City pushes pier opening to March

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Workers on the Anna Maria City Pier prepare Feb. 4 for an early-March opening. Islander Photo: Phil Colpas

Let the celebration begin.

Well, nearly, almost, but not yet.

Not in February, as planned, but soon.

The Anna Maria City Pier, closed since it was damaged by Hurricane Irma in September 2017 and demolished in 2018, will open March 10 for strolling and fishing.

But, BYOB — bring your own bait.

Due to a gridlock in negotiations between the mayor, commissioners and Mario Schoenfelder, the pier tenant since 2000 and operator or the restaurant, the buildings at the T-end of the pier, save the restrooms, will be vacant for the coming months.

Schoenfelder’s lease runs through December 2020.

The city launched a request for proposals for a tenant Jan. 22 date.

“The RFP is posted and no responses as of yet,” Mayor Dan Murphy wrote in a Feb. 8 email to The Islander.

The final date to submit written questions on the RFP is Feb. 19, with a pre-meeting for Q&A set for 10:30 a.m. Feb. 26 at city hall.

Meanwhile, Murphy announced the pier will open to the public — minus a bait shop  — at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 10. He said details were “to follow.”

In other city news, Murphy filled The Islander in on his trip to the state capital to defend municipal rule.

“I went there to discuss pending vacation rental legislation,” the mayor said. He said he met with state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, to ask for his “support.” His stance remains in question, Murphy said.

Murphy also met with Sen. President Bill Galvano and Rep. Will Robinson, both R-Bradenton, and said they “both support Anna Maria’s position and pledged to support us.”

The city commission will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Bradenton Beach plans growth, additions to living shoreline

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Carter Henne of Ruskin-based Sea & Shoreline speaks Feb. 5 to Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency members about how his company can help promote seagrass growth in nearshore city waters. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency has its sights set on building upon the living shoreline projects it began last year.

CRA members voted 7-0 Feb. 5 to allocate $5,000 to hire Ruskin-based Sea & Shoreline, a contractor that helps preserve ecosystems by planting seagrasses in Florida waterways and in the shoreline adjacent to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Carter Henne, president of S&S, said seagrass is vital to a healthy marine ecosystem. It feeds almost 90% of commercial seafood caught across the world, he said, and it pulls carbon from the water, which helps counter ocean acidification.

Henne said S&S grows seagrass on a farm on the Little Manatee River in Hillsborough County. The contractor proposed to transplant grasses to the shoreline. In the process, a cage is placed over the area so marine life, such as manatees, is deterred from eating the seagrass until it is anchored and grows enough to sustain damage caused by hungry marine life.

Henne said the cage is shallow so it has no impact on boats, but is sufficient to cover a section of new seagrass.

The seagrass is yet another component to add to the living shoreline, which the CRA began last year when it seeded district waters with almost 100,000 brood stock clams, which are nearly predator-proof and filter seawater more efficiently than younger clams.

The CRA will pay Gulf Shellfish Institute, which CRA member Ed Chiles serves as a board member of, $5,000 to monitor the seeded clams this spring and test their impact.

Henne said clams and seagrass have a symbiotic relationship: Clams oxygenate and fertilize the seabed, promoting seagrass growth, while seagrass provides clams shelter from predators. So, planting seagrass where the clams were seeded benefits both species.

Commissioner Jake Spooner, also a CRA member, moved to direct city attorney Ricinda Perry to facilitate the seagrass project by coordinating with city staff and the contractor.

Mayor John Chappie, also a CRA member, seconded the motion, which CRA members unanimously approved.

Perry, expressing support for the project, offered to halve her $190 hourly rate while working as a project facilitator.

 

Mini reefs

A handful of mini reefs, structures placed underwater to cultivate sea life and promote clean water, are set to find their way to city waters.

In January, the CRA agreed to purchase 28 mini reefs for $10,000 from Ocean Habitats through a Center of Anna Maria Island program, allowing purchases of $350, with $150 of each reef sale benefitting the nonprofit.

However, Perry said Ocean Habitats owner David Wolff visited the pier and recommended 14 mini reef structures roughly twice the size and cost of a regular mini reef to filter more water and shelter more sea life at the pier. Perry recommended the CRA follow Wolff’s proposal.

She proposed a modification to the CRA’s original plan and members needed to approve a motion of no objection to implementing the changes.

Chappie moved for no objection to the changes.

Chiles seconded the motion, which passed 7-0.

Chiles added he is trying to schedule a meeting with Gov. Ron DeSantis, R, to discuss giving state seagrass mitigation credits to municipalities using the practice of seeding clams since clams promote seagrass growth by oxidizing the seabed and removing toxins from the water. He said DeSantis could administratively certify the practice.

“I think we have an opportunity this year to bring about the biggest change in bivalve aquaculture ever,” Chiles said.

Cortez celebrates ‘steady’ roots with annual fishing festival

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For the 2020 poster and T-shirt, organizers looked back to 2010 and found: “Cortez is Still White Boot Ready.” Islander Courtesy Photo

Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.

And many lifetimes have been spent fishing in Cortez. The commercial fishing industry will be celebrated Feb. 15-16 during the 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in the village.

Jane van Hahmann, vice-president of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and a key organizer for the event, told The Islander Jan. 29 the group expects more than 15,000 visitors to the two-day festival on the waterfront in the 4000 block of 119th Street West between the Florida Maritime Museum and the bayfront. Hours will run 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Admission to the fishing festival is $5, with proceeds to FISH and its mission to preserve the fishing way of life.

With a skeleton crew of planners and help from Florida Sea Grant and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, van Hahmann said 54 artists will display their wares, food and drink vendors will be present and two full days of music is slated to entertain festivalgoers.

More than 20 food vendors will offer shrimp tacos, soft shell crabs, lobster rolls, grouper, fish chowder, mullet, gumbo and other seafood, as well as offerings for carnivores and vegetarians.

Ice cream, fudge and funnel cakes will be available for the sweet tooth.

Beer, rum concoctions and other libations will be available as well.

The festival released the following line-up for the mainstage:

Saturday, Feb. 15:

  • 10-11 a.m. Shanty Singers.
  • 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Doug Demming.
  • 1-1:30 awards and introductions.
  • 2-4 p.m. Eric Von Band.
  • 4:30-6 p.m. Jason Haram.

Sunday, Feb. 16:

  • 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Soupy Davis and his Band.
  • 12:30-2 p.m. Koko Ray Show.
  • 2:30-4 p.m. Karen and Jimmy Band.
  • 4:30-6 p.m. Ted Stevens & the Doo Shots.

Also, on Feb. 16, Eric Von will perform on the porch at the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W., Cortez.

Local Boy Scouts will guide festival parking for a $5 donation at the FISH Preserve along Cortez Road.

A remote park-and-ride offered by Manatee County Area Transit will be available from G.T. Bray Park, 5502 33rd Ave. Drive W., Bradenton, and from Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. The cost is $3.

On Feb. 15 only, a free park-and-ride will operate at the Cortez Baptist Church, 4411 100th St. W., Cortez.

For more information, visit the website at cortez-fish.org.

Opening day on deck for Holmes Beach skate ramps, bowl

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Luke Dellenger, far left, 11, brother Eli, 7, father Rob and Sam, 5, all of Holmes Beach, practice tricks and maneuvers Feb. 3 at the new skate park in the 5800 block of Marina Drive in Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Allen

“We are thrilled to be able to skate here again,” Holmes Beach resident Rob Dellenger said Feb. 3, referring to the new skate park in Holmes Beach.

​The park’s grand opening will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. The new park, including the bowl, is in the Holmes Beach Community Park in the 5800 block of Marina Drive.

​The celebration will involve professional skating demonstrations, vendors, refreshments provided by the Ugly Grouper restaurant, and grilled hot dogs, compliments of Waste Pro.

​Dellenger, father of three skateboarders, had been taking his sons to ride the park in downtown Bradenton since the closure of the old Holmes Beach park in 2017. “But it’s not the same as having this just up the street,” he said.

​The original skate park was built in 2003 and was partially funded by Holmes Beach philanthropists Rex and Helen Hagen, who have since passed. It was closed in 2017 for repairs.

​The “street skate” portion of the new park, designed to mimic an urban environment, cost $150,000, and includes rails, steps, pyramids and pipes. It has been open since January, but the bowl portion of the park remained closed Feb. 4.

​The bowl — similar to a swimming pool, about 4 feet deep, reinforced with steel and covered with sprayed concrete — was built for an additional $100,000, with funds and in-kind donations from the Holmes Beach community.

​Tom Sanger, owner of Sanger Pool and Spa, donated services to build the bowl. He said Feb. 3 that he volunteered to construct a concrete path connecting the street park to the bowl.

​“When the mayor suggested the addition, I asked if I could do it,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed helping with this great addition to our community.”

​JT Thomas, Holmes Beach code compliance supervisor, said Feb. 3 there had been no problems at the park since its unofficial opening.

​“It runs itself,” he said, adding that the city is considering an initiative to give helmets to skaters.

​Thomas said he talked with people of all ages using the park. Many said they enjoy skating as a way to relax after work or school.

​ “We’re not just retirees and tourists,” he said. “There’s a community that’s been hiding and we never even knew it.”

Murderer speaks from jail

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William Cumber speaks to Spectrum Bay News 9 reporter Cait McVey at the Marion County Correctional Institution in Ocala during a segment that aired Feb. 2. It was the first interview Cumber had granted since he was convicted of the Nov. 4, 2008, murder of Sabine Musil-Buehler of Anna Maria. Islander Courtesy Photo

Anna Maria Islanders and friends of Sabine Musil-Buehler waited a long time for William Cumber to speak publicly.

Even more than seven years, which was how long family, friends and investigators searched for the woman who went missing on Election Night, Nov. 4, 2008, before she was unearthed in 2015.

Cumber worked as a handyman at Haley’s Motel, owned by Musil-Buehler and her estranged husband Tom Buehler.

When she vanished, Cumber and Musil-Buehler were involved in a relationship and they shared an apartment in Anna Maria.

It was there that Musil-Buehler lost her life.

 Cumber was charged with Musil-Buehler’s murder in 2012 and, three years later, he agreed to a no-contest plea deal that resulted in a 20-year sentence and finally led investigators to Musil-Buehler’s remains in Holmes Beach.

Cait McVey of Spectrum Bay News 9 interviewed Cumber after he responded to her request for comment on a Bay News 9 story about the killing.

“I’m sorry. That sounds vulgar in a way,” Cumber told McVey.

“I’m sorry. If I could give her back I would. But I can’t,” he said.

Cumber told McVey in a letter before he agreed to the interview that the murder bothered him “every single day of my rotten life.”

About the murder, he was succinct.

“I tried to explain to you that what happened, happened,” he told McVey. “It just happened.”

“I do not condone one iota of what I did. I suffer every day for it,” he continued.

Cumber said if he hadn’t done “the right thing” and led investigators to Musil-Buehler’s body, “I would still be out there.”

“Seven years she wasn’t found,” he told McVey.

“It can be said she may have never been found if you didn’t lead investigators to her body,” McVey said.

But, she continued, “The right thing would’ve been not to kill her.”

Cumber repeated, “Not to kill her.”

He seemed satisfied with the 20-year sentence he received.

The deal, which prosecutors said had the support of her family, sets Cumber’s release in June 2031.

“I got a sweet deal. Which I shouldn’t have got. I think there should’ve been maybe 10 more years added on or something like that,” Cumber said.

When asked if he would return to Anna Maria Island after he is released, Cumber answered, “Yes.”

Asked if he thought he would be welcome on the island, Cumber replied, “Yes and no.”

“If I’m shunned, yes, I’ll leave. But I have to be somewhere,” he said.

Bridge Street paver, utility projects on temporary hold

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Bradenton Beach police officers regulate traffic on Bridge Street Jan. 23 as Classic Brick Construction workers sweep dirt from pervious brick pavers at parking spaces and crosswalks. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
An aerial view of pervious brick pavers installed on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach Jan. 23 at parking spaces and crosswalks between the post office and the Bridge Street Bazaar.

Work on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach is settling down.

But only for a short while.

City attorney Ricinda Perry told The Islander Jan. 29 that Classic Brick Construction was about 75% done with the installation of pervious brick pavers in parking spaces and crosswalks.

However, burying utility lines along the roadway still has a ways to go before completion.

The city’s community redevelopment agency tasked Perry with overseeing the two projects. Both the pavers and underground utilities were undertaken to improve the street’s aesthetic, while the pavers are expected to assist in stormwater drainage.

 

Paver installation

Perry said pavers could not be placed in four areas — at parking spots for compact vehicles at the base of the Historic Bridge Street Pier, as well as parking spots in front of the Island Time Bar and Grill, Island Creperie and Island Time Inn — until Spectrum finished boring at the sites to underground utilities.

“Pavers are way ahead of schedule,” she said. “But they are on hold for two weeks, tentatively, because I don’t know how long it will take (for Spectrum) to finish boring.”

After Spectrum finishes, CBC will set the final pavers, which will be hosed and sealed so they don’t get stained.

The CRA appropriated up to $25,000 to patch and clean Bridge Street, then seal the pavers.

 

Undergrounding utilities

Work on the underground utility project is expected to continue long after paver placement.

Wilco Electrical, the contractor hired to bury utility lines, completed boring for Bay Drive South, Church Avenue and much of Bridge Street, leaving only one section to bore near the Island Time Bar and Grill at the corner of Bridge Street and Gulf Drive.

Boring is the process of drilling and enlarging a hole, in this case to be used as a pathway for high-voltage electrical lines and fiber-optic cables.

Wilco needs a permit from the Florida Department of Transportation to operate its machinery in the right of way at Gulf Drive — also State Road 789 — to complete the work at Island Time. Perry said she couldn’t provide a time frame for the permit’s acquisition.

Meanwhile, Spectrum began its work the week of Jan. 27, boring pathways Jan. 29 for fiber-optic cables that must be separate from the pathways Wilco created for high-voltage electrical lines.

Spectrum damaged a water line on Church Avenue while boring Jan. 29, so work was halted for several hours while Manatee County repaired the pipeline.

The Drift In and the Pines Trailer Park were impacted by the damaged water line.

“Today there were just repairs,” Perry said. “There was absolutely no progress made on the actual bore itself. No conduit has been laid.”

Perry said Spectrum originally estimated it would complete boring work by Jan. 31, but because of the slow start, the contractor’s work may be completed the week of Feb. 3.

Once the boring is completed, Florida Power & Light must approve as-built permits — retroactive permits for completed work — for the finished bores. Approval could take four-eight weeks.

In the meantime, Wilco will remove its equipment.

The final steps in the underground utilities project involve Wilco completing another bore along Bridge Street to power new LED streetlights. Wilco also would remove old solar-powered fixtures and posts, including some owned by FPL, and install new streetlamps.

Perry is seeking an estimate from Wilco for the streetlight work, as well as FPL’s authorization to remove its streetlights.

“If I were to bet on when you’ll see all of this complete, including all the poles removed and installation of new streetlights, I’d say you’re looking at probably the end of May,” Perry said. “But everything changes on me every day.”

Anna Maria advertises for new pier tenant

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Work continues on the Anna Maria City Pier in January. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

Anna Maria officials cast a request for proposals, hoping to net a tenant for the restaurant and bait shop on the new city pier by spring.

The city issued the RFP Jan. 22.

The deadline for written questions is noon Feb. 19.

The commission will hold a non-mandatory, pre-bid meeting at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 26 while the opening of the bids will be at 1 p.m. March 10.

A date for the city commission to approve a contract for a 10-year lease with a 10-year, or two five-year, extension options has yet to be determined.

The commission decided Jan. 10 to reject a lease offer from Mario Schoenfelder, Anna Maria City Pier tenant since 2000, and instead seek bids for the buildout and operation of the pier amenities.

“It is premature to speculate as to who may submit a response or when,” Murphy wrote in a Jan. 29 email to The Islander. “To submit a response requires a great deal of market data analysis, business case analysis and resource procurement/alignment. It’s not something that can be done in a few days. In general, RFP responses are usually submitted very close to the date on which they will be opened.”

The RFP lists criteria in order of importance, with a preference for a drug-free workplace, including:

  • Annual base rent revenue.
  • Optional alternative formula for percent rent.
  • Local presence.
  • Corporate experience.
  • Past performance.
  • Financial ability to perform.

“Local presence is very important to the city and is ranked third,” Murphy wrote. “We feel it is critical that potential tenants be an active part of their community in which they do business and to be, or plan to be, an active participant and supporter of our island community through organizations and activities such as: AMI Chamber of Commerce membership, youth sports sponsorships, community center programs, Kiwanis, Rotary, Privateers, etc., and other similar activities.”

The RFP requires bidders to submit documentation reflecting any required insurance coverage.

Additional details in the document:

  • The tenant is expected to enter into an agreement with a contractor approved by the city to complete additional buildout required for occupancy.
  • The tenant is expected to have 120 days to complete the buildout of the restaurant and bait shop interiors and open for business.
  • The common areas of the pier must be open to the general public seven days a week.
  • The expected hours of operation for the restaurant and bait shop are 7 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week. Alternative hours of operation will be considered.
  • The city will provide marked parking spaces as required per the ordinance, based upon the final number of seats agreed upon by the tenant and city.
  • The city will provide for all maintenance of the premises’ exterior, including the interior of the bathrooms through a third party, and the tenant will reimburse the city on a monthly basis in the form of additional rent for the provision of this service to the leased premises.
  • In addition to base rent, the tenant may be required to pay a portion of the common area maintenance for the pier, its approaches and parking area.

The historic pier was originally built in 1911 and closed after damages incurred by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The old pier was demolished and the city began building the new pier in 2018.

Of the total construction cost of $2.6 million, $1.2 million has been paid, with $1.5 million outstanding.

The 23-page RFP and one-page addendum are available for viewing online at cityofannamaria.com and below.

The next meeting of the city commission will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Click Here for AMCP RFP

State DEP to request removal of net camp

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Junior Guthrie’s house on stilts sits over the water a short distance from the A.P. Bell Fish Co. and Star Fish Market and Restaurant docks. Islander File Photos
Raymond “Junior” Guthrie sits with Karen Bell in a court hearing in February 2019.

After nearly three years of legal wrangling, the failure of a last-ditch attempt to save a stilt house illegally built on the water has opened the door to its demolition.

The legal battles began in 2017 when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection demanded Raymond Guthrie Jr. remove the 1,200-square-foot house he built on pilings in Sarasota Bay near the Cortez-based A.P. Bell Fish Co. and pay fines for ignoring the order.

Guthrie built the structure — a metal roof, air conditioning and other amenities — including installing the pilings — between February 2017 and May 2017 without state permits.

In June 2017, the DEP determined the state owns the submerged land where the structure stands.

On Feb. 6, 2018, the DEP sued Guthrie and petitioned the court for enforcement and compliance. On that date, there also was a notice for violation orders for corrective action.

On May 4, 2018, A.P. Bell Fish Co. filed a motion to intervene, claiming the company owns the submerged land where Guthrie’s stilt house stands.

At a court hearing on Feb. 5, 2019, attorney Joe Beasley, representing Guthrie and A.P. Bell, told the court Guthrie “rebuilt” the structure within the footprint of historic net camps of the past.

Guthrie told the court last February: “I was born and raised in Cortez. My father had camps out there and his father had camps. This is the third time I’ve rebuilt this camp. Since I was a kid, anyone who wanted to build a camp, just did.”

Commercial fishers used net camps to store gear and dry and mend cotton nets in the late 1800s-1920s, after which they fell into disrepair. With the advent of monofilament nets in 1938, they were no longer needed. Most were destroyed by storms in the 1960s.

Judge Edward Nicholas of the 12th Circuit entered a summary judgment Feb. 25, 2019, in favor of the DEP, but stayed the execution of the order pending the outcome of Bell’s motion. The stay meant the DEP was not able to enforce the court order.

But last month, with a bench trial pending, Bell and the DEP agreed to take the case off the docket and engage in settlement discussions.

On Jan. 27, AP Bell and the DEP and board of trustees filed a motion to enter a final judgment, although it had not yet been adopted Jan. 29.

“Upon the court’s adoption and issuance of the consent final judgment, the department will notify the judge and request that the court enforce the terms of the department’s final order, including removal of the unauthorized structure,” DEP public information manager Shannon Herbon wrote in a Jan. 29 email to The Islander.

Cold snap can’t cool AMI’s sizzling season

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Owner Rob Riley stands outdoors at Groom’s Motors and Automotive, 5608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, where he said more business translates to better services and equipment.
Diners enjoy lunch outdoors Jan. 23 at the Feast restaurant in the Island Shopping Center, 5406 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, where co-owner Joey Dale says business has been up since the start of the new year. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Allen

People may have caroused Anna Maria Island in parkas lately, but a few days of chill did not put the brakes on an active January for most local businesses.

“Up” was the word business owners and managers repeated to The Islander when asked about January sales as the “season” shifted into full swing.

From cupcakes to car repair this month’s sales were eclipsing last January’s and business owners were subtly smiling.

Rob Riley bought Groom’s Motors and Automotive, 5608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, six years ago. The company does major repairs in addition to maintenance work such as oil changes and tire rotations.

“Every year, we have had more and more traffic at Grooms,” Riley told The Islander. “We always get an influx of customers in January, when the snowbirds come back.” He said they need to get their Florida cars serviced after sitting for months.

“This year, we have had even more — a lot of repeat customers, but also a lot of new customers it seems. As sad as it is, I’m afraid a lot of the year-round folks are moving off the island to the mainland. But they are telling more people about us and they come over,” Riley said.

He said customers are booking service two weeks in advance. Increased business has meant Riley can buy more diagnostic equipment, which, in turn, leads to better service. He sees it as a win-win.

Nearby, the Feast restaurant, 5406 Marina Drive in the Island Shopping Center, Holmes Beach, also enjoyed a boom in January business.

Like several other business owners, Joey Dale said early December was a bit slow, but late December and January proved the slowdown an outlier.

“As long as you are up, you are up,” Dale told The Islander.

The Feast is featuring all-you-can-eat meals to lure locals in along with seasonal visitors. The Dale brothers recently bought a new computer system to track sales, headcounts, ticket averages and other information needed to bring even more customers to the eatery.

“It’s so far so good with us for this season,” Dale said. “We’ve really kicked in.”

At the Midtown Shopping Plaza on East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach, Judy Owens of Cupcake Delights is busy baking.

“We have seen a 15%-20% increase in sales over last January,” Owens said Jan. 23. “We are going into our third full year and we have a lot of visitors from last year coming back in now.”

Owens said for the first time ever, she chose to keep the shop open for the new year’s stretch.

“It was awesome,” Owens said. “I was in here baking at midnight just to keep up.”

The push continued into January with seasonal cupcake lovers, tourists and regulars driving sales numbers up.

 

And what about those seasonal rentals?

All the visitors who drive the season on the island need somewhere to stay.

Barbara Baker, general manager of Anna Maria Island Resorts — Tradewinds and Tortuga Inn resorts in Bradenton Beach — said bookings were good, if unpredictable. “What I found this January was we had sporadic busy weeks in with a quiet one here and there,” Baker said.

“Overall, the season this year looks good for us. A lot of our customers are returning in February and March with stays of two weeks or a month. We are looking forward to 2020 being a really good year for us.”

Larry Chatt owns and operates one of the island’s busiest real estate sales organizations, Island Real Estate, 6101 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

In January 2018, he sold his large portfolio of rentals to Vacasa, a worldwide vacation rental service.

But with IRE’s two-year non-compete agreement expired, he is head-on into the process of re-establishing his rental division.

Two weeks into the process, he said re-establishing a rental department came as the result of urging from past customers.

Chatt said he has a good read on the island rental market, but said the true measure of the season is three-six months from now, when the stats are known.

Real estate sales have definitely shifted from years past, he said.

“Most buyers and renters want new. Brand new. No remodels, no modifications that need to be made. That’s why we are seeing so many knock-downs, I think. But we are selling homes,” he said.

And that’s good news for Chatt’s associates.

On the water

Mike Bazzy of the Bradenton Beach Marina said this January topped the marina numbers from 2019.

Bazzy rents boats, offers tours and operates large group cruises on an authentic paddlewheel boat.

“We are seeing stronger than normal boat rentals, and numbers of people on the Anna Maria Explorer taking dolphin and sunset trips,” Bazzy said. “And we are way above last year’s guest count on the Anna Maria Island Princess comedy and music cruises.”

Meanwhile, business continues to heat up on Anna Maria Island. And business owners are basking in the news.

Bradenton police stats show rise in Perico-Manatee Avenue crashes

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A Bradenton Police Department cruiser sits facing eastbound Jan. 10 alongside One Particular Harbour on Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 at the Compass hotel construction site, as a car travels west. The BPD is responsible for patrolling the road and assists the Florida Highway Patrol with response to traffic incidents on the Anna Maria Island Bridge.
Traffic crawls on Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 on Perico Island mid-afternoon Jan. 2. Islander Photos: Sandy Ambrogi

Statistics show crashes increased along with traffic on at least one route to Anna Maria Island.

Drivers on the Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 between the mainland and AMI seem to either be crawling or zooming. The crash numbers say drivers should use more caution.

Bradenton police patrols much of Manatee Avenue, including between 75th Street West in the city and the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

The BPD numbers tell a story.

Crashes responded to by a Bradenton police officer between 75th and the bridge went from three in 2018 to 25 in 2019, according to statistics furnished Jan. 7 by Jeremy Giddens of the department’s records division.

In 2017, there were four crashes, 10 in 2016 and four in 2015.

In the four past years combined, there were fewer crashes than in 2019.

The good news?

“No fatal crashes were identified during the listed time periods,” Giddens wrote Jan. 7 in an email to the newspaper.

The Islander requested the statistics as work continues on the new 123-room Compass Hotel and the 250-275 seat Floridays restaurant at One Particular Harbour on Perico Island. The development is east of the Anna Maria Island Bridge on State Road 64.

The Florida Department of Transportation last did a traffic study related to the growth at Harbour Isle — the initial development at the location — in 2011. That was before plans changed to include the OPH hotel and restaurant.

For now, the DOT says, changes at the Compass intersection are not needed.

 

On the road

Those who drive the route have varying opinions on the state of traffic and how the new development may impact their travel.

Debbie Wilcox has lived for four years at Harbour Isle, the Minto Communities development that shares an entryway with One Particular Harbour. Harbour Isle has 411 residences and is approved for a total of 686.

“Right now, coming out and turning left or right is really not a problem,” she told The Islander Jan. 9. “But I can’t say what it will be like in the future.”

Marcus Alford lives on the south side of Manatee Avenue at Perico Bay Club, where he is on the board of directors for the 695-unit residential development. He’s been a full-time resident there for almost two years and a visitor to AMI for 20 years.

Alford moved from Atlanta, known for massive amounts of traffic. “We’re concerned,” he told The Islander Jan. 8. “Those of us who know what’s happening are very concerned.”

Alford said he and his wife are daily commuters. He said the problem is not new business — which includes a gas station/convenience store at 75th and Manatee Avenue in addition to the Perico hotel-restaurant project — but rather the lack of infrastructure to deal with increased traffic.

“There’s only so much room on that road for third turn lanes,” he said of Manatee Avenue.

And here’s the take from Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer: “It’s dangerous right now already, coming off the bridge.”

About the opening of the new development, the chief said, “How much traffic will be generated? I don’t know.”

Still, he said, “I’d like to see a roundabout or a light at the intersection with the hotel for safety reasons.”

The city of Bradenton annexed the area that became Harbour Isle and One Particular Harbour in the early 2000s and the BPD patrols Manatee Avenue from 75th Street west to the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

On the bridge, the Florida Highway Patrol has jurisdiction and, west of the bridge, HBPD patrols — though responders nearest an incident answer the initial call.

Tokajer said Holmes Beach officers often work incidents on the bridge “just to clear the traffic congestion in a timely manner.” “Traffic often backs up into town under normal circumstances,” the chief said. “A crash can really back it up.”

“We just don’t know yet how much of an impact there will be and we won’t know until the hotel is up and running.”