Tag Archives: Feature

Dead dolphin recovered from Anna Maria beach

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Gretchen Lovewell, center, program manager for the stranding investigations team at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium on City Island in Sarasota, arrived to oversee the removal of a male dolphin that washed up on the Gulf shore near the Palmetto Avenue beach access in Anna Maria. Mote will determine cause of death with a necropsy, but no trauma was evident, Lovewell told people gathered on the beach. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Nack had issues.

Gretchen Lovewell, program manager for the stranding investigations team at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium on City Island in Sarasota, wrote The Islander an email Jan. 10, explaining that the dolphin that stranded and died on the Gulf shore near the Palmetto Avenue beach access in Anna Maria had “several issues.”

Her post-necropsy update stated that most of the male dolphin’s organs were abnormal and it had recently eaten four “decent-sized catfish.”

Lovewell said there was “no smoking gun,” but it was a “very sick animal.”

Lovewell told people gathered on the beach there was no evident trauma and age may have been a factor. The stranding team was familiar with the dolphin named Nack. It had been tracked for years by members of the Sarasota Bay Dolphin Project.

Anna Maria ditches veteran commissioner for new appointee

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Joe Muscatello is sworn into the office of commissioner Jan. 9 by Anna Maria city clerk LeAnne Addy.
Former Anna Maria Commissioner Dale Woodland addresses the mayor and commission members Jan. 9. Islander Photos: Phil Colpas

It took a couple months, but it’s official: The fifth Anna Maria City Commission seat is no longer vacant.

The chair was filled Jan. 9 by a unanimous vote by commissioners for the appointment of Joe Muscatello.

The seat was previously held by Dale Woodland, who served 16 years, eight back-to-back two-year terms, as commissioner. Woodland failed to qualify for re-election in November 2019 because he paid the $48 qualifying fee with a personal check instead of a designated campaign account.

The commission agreed to accept applications for the vacant seat through close of business Jan. 8.

Mayor Dan Murphy said Jan. 9 the applicants were Muscatello and Woodland.

Each applicant was given up to five minutes to address the commission during the regular meeting Jan. 9.

Muscatello moved to the island 10 years ago to help care for his ailing father. He’s been vacationing with his family on the island since 1978. He moved from Holmes Beach to Anna Maria two years ago.

He has 45 years of experience working in various capacities at the local government level, including serving as mayor of his hometown in “the coalfields of West Virginia.”

He is a proponent of home rule.

“You have to fight the state always trying to take the power away from local governments,” he said.

Muscatello didn’t file his application until Jan. 8.

He ultimately decided to run at the last minute, after reading a newspaper article about what the city commissioners and mayor were most proud of accomplishing in 2019.

“It’s the intrinsic value of this,” Muscatello said. “When you see something you’ve done that you’ve contributed to the community. That’s where the reward is in this job.

“You’ve got to love your community. It’s like that old Tina Turner song, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ That’s what it is. It’s love. My motto is, ‘Let’s have some fun and get the job done!’”

Woodland said he began his local political career with code enforcement and then the planning and zoning board prior to his long tenure on the city commission.

“I lost the first two times,” Woodland said about his initial run for the city commission. “The third time, I finally got elected. That was the beginning of 16 years. I’m proud of the service I’ve had and I’d appreciate serving more.”

In a Jan. 5 email to The Islander, Woodland wrote: “I am a public servant, always have been and always will be. I have no agenda but to serve. Our residents and visitors alike are welcome and a benefit to our city. I work in our city and am blessed to have people talk to me every day; their input drives me. When we are not always on the same page, our differences are respected and I have to make a decision. That’s my job.”

City commissioners voted via ballot 4-0 in favor of Muscatello.

Murphy congratulated Muscatello on his win and then thanked Woodland for his years of service.

“I hope that you continue to serve the city in other capacities,” Murphy said to Woodland. “I’m hoping we’ll see you here again.”

Muscatello was then sworn in by city clerk LeAnne Addy.

In other city commission news:

  • Commissioner Carol Carter was nominated and accepted the position of city commission chair, which had temporarily been held by Murphy.

Commissioner Mark Short was nominated and accepted the position of city commission vice chair.

  • Murphy appointed Muscatello as liaison to the Island Players, which performs at the theater adjacent to city hall.

The mayor has not yet named the Anna Maria City Pier liaison, a position previously held by Woodland.

  • The commission unanimously passed an ordinance to allow alternative methods of stormwater design to ease the process and reduce the expense for single-family residential lots.
  • An ordinance is being explored to place a 180-day moratorium on electric scooters to allow the city to develop regulations for such uses on rights of way.
  • Consider an ordinance to give law enforcement teeth on regulated water activities in designated areas. Murphy said this mostly concerns personal watercraft at Bayfront Park.
  • Announced that citizen-of-the-year nomination forms must be submitted by noon Wednesday, Jan. 15.

The city will honor the citizen of the year Thursday, Jan. 23, at 5:30 p.m., before the commission meeting at 6 p.m. at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Anna Maria ousts 20-year tenant

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Workers put finishing touches Jan. 9 on the roof of the buildings at the T-end of the Anna Maria City Pier, 100 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria. The buildings will house a restaurant, bait shop and restrooms. Islander Photos: Phil Colpas
Construction supplies are stacked Jan. 9 near the Anna Maria City Pier, which is tentatively closed, pending and opening to fishers in late-February.

The Anna Maria City Pier is still on track for a late-February opening for anglers, but the fate of the pier’s restaurant and bait shop remains unknown.

However, Mario Schoenfelder, city pier tenant since 2000, likely won’t play a role in the pier’s future.

The city commission Jan. 10 voted unanimously to decline Schoenfelder’s final lease offer and will seek requests for proposals from new prospective tenants.

Present at the meeting were Mayor Dan Murphy, Commission Chair Carol Carter, Deputy Chair Mark Short, Commissioner Amy Tripp and the newly appointed commissioner, Joe Muscatello, sworn into office Jan. 9 to fill the vacant seat previously occupied by longtime Commissioner Dale Woodland.

Commissioner Jonathan Crane and Schoenfelder attended the meeting remotely, via phone.

Schoenfelder, who owns the Rod & Reel Pier, 875 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria, delivered his final pier lease proposal prior to the deadline of Dec. 31, 2019.

The city pier was closed by the city and Schoenfelder’s rent was abated after the September 2017 damage from Hurricane Irma. In 2018, the pier was demolished by the city to make way for a new pier.

Although Murphy said he and Schoenfelder had come to an agreement on many details, there remained two outstanding issues: insurance and rent payments.

According to Schoenfelder’s final proposal, his understanding was that the tenant would be responsible for liability and contents insurance and that the city was responsible for casualty insurance.

“I am asking the city to explain how sufficient insurance coverage would be provided and how a sufficient degree of financial safety for the tenant would be established,” Schoenfelder wrote.

Murphy said at the Jan. 10 meeting, “Mr. Schoenfelder is willing to put up $800,000 for improvements on the pier. My recommendation is that we provide insurance.”

A rough cost estimate for casualty, fire and wind insurance is $50,000 per year, according to Murphy, and about half that amount would go toward insuring improvements with the city insuring any improvements that Schoenfelder couldn’t take with him at the termination of the lease.

That eliminated one point of contention for the mayor, leaving the monthly payment.

Murphy had emailed Schoenfelder Sept. 30, 2019, and presented him with two base-payment options for a new lease.

The first option included a monthly base payment of $21,600, along with either a 3% annual increase to begin after the first year or an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

The second option included a monthly base payment of $18,900, along with either a 3% annual increase to begin after the first year or an annual adjustment based on the CPI — $250,000 upon signing the lease.

Schoenfelder countered with monthly payments of $8,000 with the first six months rent-free, to begin when the restaurant opens, CPI-based adjustments kicking in after three years and a 10-year lease with two five-year options.

Carter, who asked Schoenfelder how he came to a payment of $8,000 per month on a new facility when he previously paid nearly $12,000 per month, learned his $12,000 payment offer was based on an investment of $500,000, while the offer to pay $8,000 monthly is based on an initial investment of close to $1 million, the cost for the build-out, fixtures and equipment needed to operate.

The proposed lease was for a 20-year commitment: 10 years plus two five-year options, with a potential percentage increase based on the CPI after the third year of the lease.

The city would be responsible for maintenance, including annual engineer inspections of the pier structure and pilings, according to the proposed terms, and the cost, yet to be determined, would be prorated annually and added to the lease.

Based on the terms of Schoenfelder’s final offer, it would take the city 20 years to pay back its investment of $2.6 million to build the new pier, Murphy said. When the cost of insurance is factored in it is 27 years.

“The pier was a revenue generator to the general fund over the years,” Murphy said. “It will be a long time before the pier will be a revenue generator again.”

Of the total pier cost of $2.6 million, $1.2 million has been paid, while $1.5 million remains outstanding.

“We’ve got the money earmarked for the rest of the pier,” Murphy said. “We’ve got to spend it. But we’ve got it.”

That money will come out of the city’s general revenue fund and “is not the money we get from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the (Manatee County) Tourist Development Council,” Murphy said. “There remains $500,000 between the state of Florida and Manatee County we have yet to collect, but that will not offset the total cost of $2.6 million.”

Former Commissioner Doug Copeland told the commission he opposed Schoenfelder’s offer and supported pursuing the RFP.

From the dais, Tripp said, “I would like to see more options for the city and move forward with the RFP process.”

The commissioners unanimously agreed to decline Schoenfelder’s offer and Short motioned to begin the RFP process. The vote was unanimous.

Murphy said he wanted to issue the RFP by Jan. 15, advertise and allow 30 days for evaluation.

“There have been quite a few people interested in this space,” he said.

The mayor said the RFP wasn’t issued previously because there was still an existing tenant and a lease.

“I believe it’s in the city’s and citizens’ best interest to move forward and look at other options for the pier,” Crane said, adding that open bidding would put a value on the lease and payments.

Crane expressed an interest in Schoenfelder participating in the RFP process.

Schoenfelder said if he did participate, he wouldn’t change his proposal and that he thought it unlikely other restaurateurs would agree to larger payments.

Although Schoenfelder is permitted to reapply during the RFP process, it appeared doubtful.

“I’m not sure how long the RFP process would take, and I’m reluctant to take part in another delay,” Schoenfelder said. “It’s an endless story. And I want this story to be ended.”

Holmes Beach continues trudge down treehouse path

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Treehouse owner Lynn Tran pleads her case Jan. 7 before 12th Circuit Judge Charles Sniffen at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Allen
A treehouse, built in 2011 in an Australian pine tree by the residents of the beachfront home, still stands on the beach at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. Islander File Photo

One treehouse built in Holmes Beach in 2011 without a permit has led to four pending lawsuits spanning seven years.

At a hearing Jan. 7 on a lawsuit filed in December 2018, 12th Circuit Judge Charles Sniffen heard the city of Holmes Beach’s motion to dismiss a second amended 11-count complaint by the plaintiffs, treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen.

At the beginning of the proceedings, Sniffen granted the city’s motion for judicial notice to include evidence already proven in cases pertaining to the structure.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, also a defendant in the case, filed a motion similar to the city’s, asking for a more defined complaint and motion to dismiss.

An order posted to the Manatee County public records website stated the court took the motion to dismiss under advisement and continued a Jan. 7 motion to impose sanctions.

At the hearing, attorney Randy Mora of Trask Daigneault, the Clearwater law firm assigned to the case by the city’s insurer, said Holmes Beach moved to dismiss the case on several bases, including “res judicata,” meaning a competent court already made a final decision in the matter.

“This is all about fairness. The plaintiffs don’t agree with what the law says,” Mora said. “And until this court tells them they can’t proceed any further, they will keep trying to get the answer they want.”

The city repeatedly has prevailed over appeals, including in a November 2019 hearing on a case that started in 2013. At that hearing, 12th Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas refuted the plaintiffs’ claim that a city ordinance, including a 50-foot setback from the state’s erosion control line on the beach, amounted to property taking without compensation.

Tran and Hazen built the two-story, uninhabitable structure in 2011 attached to an Australian pine tree on the beach fronting their home and four rental units they operate at 103 29th St., leading to litigation between the city, the DEP and the owners.

The city has argued that the treehouse was built in violation of the city building code and inside the beachfront setback.

The setback rule prohibits structures within 50 feet of the ECL, which separates the public area of the beach from private ownership. The 1992 island beach renourishment project permanently established the ECL.

The owners claim that state law, which allows a more flexible setback, supersedes local law and that then-city inspector Bob Shaffer said no permit was required.

According to the plaintiffs’ amended complaint, Shaffer said, “Just build it safe.”

At the Jan. 7 hearing, Tran said she and Hazen were given approval by the building official, but then were met with resistance from the city and DEP.

“No one told us what to do, so here we go,” she said, in reference to her and Hazen’s first declaratory judgment complaint.

Since 2013, three of four lawsuits are pending in circuit court, while the Jan. 7 case is in state court.

Circuit courts have general trial jurisdiction over matters not assigned by statute to the county courts and also hear appeals from county court cases, while state courts have broad jurisdiction.

Sarasota attorney David Levin is the plaintiffs’ attorney for the circuit court cases.

The plaintiffs are representing themselves in the state case.

A federal suit, added by the treehouse owners, was thrown out in August 2019.

As of press time for The Islander, a date was not set for the continued hearing.

What treehouse? Where?

Some might wonder what people are referring to when “the treehouse” turns up in conversations.

Located in Holmes Beach at 103 29th St. on the beachfront at a residence that includes four short-term rental units, is an elevated two-story, 400-square-foot open-air structure with solar power that was built around a large pine tree.

The owners have been in litigation with the city and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection since 2013 regarding the treehouse, which the city and state claim was built too close to a renourished beach — within the setback for the state’s erosion control line, and without permits.

Hundreds take 2020 Gulf plunge

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People — some in costume — rush Jan. 1, New Year’s Day, into the Gulf of Mexico for Clancy’s 12th annual fundraising event, the Shamrock Shiver New Year’s Day Charity Plunge at Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach. More, page 2. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice
Bradenton residents Paul Halvorsen, left, and Bill Capobianco are outfitted Jan. 1 as Pacific Islanders for the Shamrock Shiver best costume contest. The pair finished as runners up to the “Pac Man family.”
Bradenton resident Dana Rothgery, right, organizes her family, costumed in a Pac Man-theme, for the Shamrock Shiver best costume contest held Jan. 1. The “Pac Man family” won the award for best costumes, having earned the loudest and most applause. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice
Bradenton resident Paul Devine, costumed as a sea turtle, dangles a smaller sea turtle from a string in his hand Jan. 1, during the Shamrock Shiver best costume contest in Bradenton Beach.
Sarasota resident Mike Gustow is dressed as a fisherman with a mermaid, wife Bonnie, as his catch at the Shamrock Shiver costume contest, Jan. 1 in Bradenton Beach.

What better way to start 2020 than to plunge into the Gulf of Mexico?

The air was a crisp 64 degrees when hundreds of people rushed Jan. 1 into the Gulf of Mexico for Clancy’s 12th annual Shamrock Shiver New Year’s Day Charity Plunge at Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach.

About 500 people attended the event, according to Clancy’s Irish Sports Pub employee Daniel Cassidy. Nearly half of the attendees took the plunge.

Before the run to the Gulf, the crowd judged a costume contest.

Participants included Paul Devine, who dressed as a sea turtle. Bill Capobianco and Paul Halvorsen were costumed as Pacific Islanders. Steve Theroux was dressed as Spock from “Star Trek.” And a group arrived costumed in a Pac Man-theme.

The “Pac Man family,” led by Bradenton resident Dana Rothgery, won the top prize.

At the parking lot, volunteers collected donations and sold event T-shirts.

After the plunge at noon, people went to Clancy’s, 6218 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, for an after-party with raffles, live music, food, beverages and awards.

Proceeds benefit Caring for Children Charities, the fundraising arm of the Sarasota-based nonprofit organization, Florida Winefest and Auction.

Clancy’s has helped raised $246,876 since beginning its annual plunge in 2009.

The 2019 plunge raised about $27,000.

The 2020 plunge raised $25,537 as of Jan. 5, according to Rayma Stowe of Clancy’s.

To pledge or donate to the campaign, contact Jan Crudele of Florida Winefest at 941-952-1109.

For more information, call Stowe at 941-720-4072.

County readies for beach renourishment in 2020

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A bulldozer moves sand in on Anna Maria Island in April 2011, near the end of a beach renourishment effort. Islander File Photo: Lisa Neff

Anna Maria Island’s beaches wouldn’t be so impressive without a little bit of help.

The sandy shores people know and love in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach are the product of a noisy necessity: beach renourishment.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, said nothing can be done to abate the noise caused by equipment — which he described as akin to the sound of a waterfall — but the benefits outweigh the costs.

“If we forego our beach renourishment programming because it’s too noisy, we’d end up with no beach at all,” he said in an interview Jan. 2 with The Islander.

Beach renourishment is the practice of replacing sand lost through erosion, often by jetting a slushie of oceanwater and sand from an offshore seabed to the beach via a pipeline.

Renourishment restores beaches and prevents erosion from damaging coastal infrastructure.

Renourishment is intended to save property and property values from damage caused by erosion.

Hunsicker said the island shoreline suffers from 10-12 feet of erosion every year, which must be countered with renourishment.

Three projects are planned this year to rebuild the beaches from 79th Street in Holmes Beach southward to Longboat Pass.

Hunsicker said the Army Corps of Engineers is taking bids for the first stage of their project, which involves putting a small amount of sand at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, to be funded by the county and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Work could begin as early as March, but the timeline is dependent on the Army Corps, according to Hunsicker.

The second project — funded by the county, state and Army Corps — will replenish sand from 79th Street in Holmes Beach to Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach.

Work will then progress south until reaching Longboat Pass for the third project, which will be funded by the county and state.

More than 700,000 cubic yards of sand for the latter two projects will be excavated and pipelined to the beach from 4,000 feet offshore near Passage Key in the Gulf of Mexico.

The same contractor will be used for both projects to minimize mobilization costs.

Hunsicker said noise from the projects will be the waterfall-like sounds caused by constantly jetting a slushie of oceanwater and sand ashore, as well as mechanical sounds — heavy equipment and operators who move bulldozers to spread sand.

While work is set to stretch across island beaches day and night for months, Hunsicker said any given location along the beach will be within earshot of the projects for only three days — one day as work approaches, another as it reaches the location, and on the third day as it moves south.

“It’s like a slow-moving river of work in front of a property,” Hunsicker said. “It’s a 24/7 operation because it’s near impossible to operate only during the day because the sand has to keep flowing through the pipeline.”

When the projects begin, the county will post a page on its website, mymanatee.org, so people can track where renourishment work is occurring.

While renourishment noise may prove to be an inconvenience for some, local restaurateur Ed Chiles — owner of the Beach House Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach — is excited for work to begin.

“It’s music to my ears,” Chiles told The Islander in a Jan. 2 interview. “You’ve got to be willing to take a little bit of inconvenience to have these gorgeous beaches. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I’d say it’s a pretty great bargain.”

Chiles said he has experienced multiple renourishment projects as the work passes by his island restaurants — including the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria — and they have only negligibly impacted the businesses. He credited Hunsicker for his involvement in leading the county renourishment programs.

“I’ll never forget the first time they rolled by,” Chiles said. “You know the old adage about land and how they aren’t making any more of it? Well, this is where you actually see them making land.”

“It’s like the greatest sandbox you’ve ever seen,” he continued. “And you see people become frozen all the time while watching it because it’s just so interesting to see.”

Renourishment funding

Minor repair to Coquina
Total cost: $6,400,000
County funding: $3,750,000
FEMA funding: $2,650,000
Central Beach Project
(79th Street in Holmes Beach to Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach)
Total cost: $20,500,000
Army Corps of Engineers funding: $11,600,000
County funding: $4,450,000
State funding: $4,450,000
Coquina Beach Project
(Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach to Longboat Pass)
Total cost: $6,200,000
County funding: $3,100,000
State funding: $3,100,000

Anna Maria to take up city pier lease terms, tenant offer

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Workers on the T-end of the Anna Maria City Pier Jan. 2 address exterior finishes. Islander Photo: Phil Colpas

Two key puzzle pieces may be coming together as Anna Maria takes steps to open a new city pier.

First up, Mario Schoenfelder, pier tenant since 2000, met the city’s deadline extension of Dec. 31, 2019, with his final pier lease proposal.

A special city meeting to discuss Schoenfelder’s offer is slated for 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Second, the vacant position of pier liaison may soon be filled. The responsibility previously fell to Dale Woodland, who served seven two-year terms as a city commissioner but failed to qualify for re-election in November 2019. Woodland erroneously paid the $48 qualifying fee with a personal check instead of the required campaign account.

The commission agreed to accept applications for Woodland’s vacant seat through Jan. 8.

Woodland told The Islander in a Jan. 5 email that he hopes to be appointed to serve another two years.

He wrote: “I am a public servant, always have been and always will be, I have no agenda but to serve. Our residents and visitors alike are welcome and a benefit to our city.”

He also wrote, “I work in our city and am blessed to have people talk to me every day; their input drives me. When we are not always on the same page, our differences are respected and I have to make a decision, that’s my job.”

He thanked everyone who has supported him in his effort to regain his seat on the dais.

Filling the empty commission chair will be discussed by the commission at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9.

Lease negotiations

Schoenfelder began his final lease proposal to the city commission with this statement: “Before presenting my offer, I would like to address a matter that in my view is critical to every future tenant who is willing to invest considerable funds for the buildout and equipment of the new city pier restaurant and bait shop and is willing to lease the premises. That matter is insurance.”

Schoenfelder said he understands the tenant is responsible for liability and contents insurance, and the city plans to assume casualty coverage.

“I am asking the city to explain how sufficient insurance coverage would be provided and how a sufficient degree of financial safety for the tenant would be established,” Schoenfelder wrote.

According to the terms of the current lease agreement, expiring December 2020, the tenant is responsible for maintaining general liability and property insurance, protecting against personal injury, death or property damage at the leased premises.

The agreement also requires the landlord — the city — to maintain fire and casualty insurance equal to the full insurable value of the improvements to the leased premises.

Rent is abated from the date of a casualty until the premises are substantially restored and the leased property is returned to the tenant.

Schoenfelder’s monthly lease payments, which over time increased to $11,500, were discontinued when the historic pier, originally built in 1911, was closed after damages by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The pier was demolished in 2018 and the city hired I+iconSOUTHEAST to construct the new pier.

The other major sticking point of the negotiations concerns rent and a down payment, first reported in the Jan. 1 issue of The Islander.

Mayor Dan Murphy had emailed Schoenfelder Sept. 30, 2019, and presented him with two base-payment options for a new lease.

The first option offered by Murphy included a monthly base payment of $21,600, along with either a 3% annual increase after the first year, or an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

The second option included a monthly base payment of $18,900, along with either a 3% annual increase to begin after the first year, or an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

The second option would require Schoenfelder pay a $250,000 lump sum upon signing the lease.

Schoenfelder countered: A 10-year lease with two five-year options, monthly payments of $8,000 with the first six months rent-free, and CPI-based adjustments kicking in after three years.

If negotiations with Schoenfelder fall through, the city commission has a plan in place to issue a request for proposals seeking a new tenant.

Construction progress

Murphy provided an update on pier construction in a Jan. 2 email to The Islander:

“Siding is being placed on the building. The fireline is complete and pending final inspection,” Murphy wrote. “The final platform inspection is scheduled for Jan. 9.”

While the new pier remains on track for a February opening for fishing, the dates for the opening of the restaurant and bait shop are not yet set.

The commission in December delayed voting on a city pier ordinance that would clarify the rights and jurisdiction of the pier lessee.

Meet 2019’s Islanders of the year, but the real winner is wildlife

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Devon Straight, with a rescued eagle. Islander File Photos
Ed Straight, left, holds a sick gull. Islander File Photos
Gail Straight feeds a juvenile raccoon. Islander File Photos

Ask just about anyone who has lived on Anna Maria Island more than a few months, a student at Anna Maria Elementary School, a cop, the volunteers who take calls at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. Ask an animal-, bird-, wildlife-lover, and the answer comes readily.

Who you gonna call with a wildlife emergency? Wildlife Inc.

When you call the Wildlife rescue number, you likely reach either Gail or Ed Straight, founders and directors of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, based in their home in Bradenton Beach since 1987.

Ed Straight, president and former Bradenton Beach city commissioner and law enforcement officer, started rescuing and rehabbing animals in need as a hobby after finding a duckling alone in a lake, rejected by its mother.

They now manage thousands of rescued birds and animals yearly, from laughing gulls and owls to Key deer and otters and many more, caring for their injuries or nursing them when they’re abandoned, and returning them to the wild when possible.

They also raised their grandson, Devon, who continues to help while serving in law enforcement in Bradenton Beach.

They had a slow start, but the number of animals the nonprofit cared for grew as development encroached on habitat, according to Ed Straight. He told The Islander that Wildlife Inc. cared for around 2,500 injured or abandoned animals in 2018 and received many more rescue calls.

Ed Straight and Wildlife Inc. volunteers take screech owl Odie and other animals to local schools and island events to teach people about wildlife.

It is the only wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center in Manatee County.

They answer calls at all hours and they don’t ask for much, just help feeding the thousands of critters in their care.

It’s a big feed bill.

They are Islanders of the Year.

And they deserve our help.

Call Wildlife Inc. at 941-778-6324.

And thank them for all they do.

Celebrity holiday

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Alex Michel of Washington, D.C., carries son Leo on his shoulders Dec. 26 at the 50th Street beach. Michel was the first bachelor on season 1 of the reality TV series, “The Bachelor,” in 2002. His family celebrated Christmas in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy Carly Michel
Lila Michel, 4, of Washington, D.C., visits Holmes Beach Dec. 26 with her family. “It’s the best beach I’ve ever been to and I like that the waves aren’t too big,” Lila said. Islander Photos: Courtesy Carly Michel

Osprey takes up residence on new Lake LaVista nesting pole

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Laura Schulman of Alpharetta, Georgia, captured this photo Dec. 26 of an osprey using the new artificial nest while visiting family for the holidays in Anna Maria’s Lake LaVista neighborhood. Islander Courtesy Photo
Workers install the nesting pole, donated by FPL. At 50 feet in height, the pole and nest dwarf the surrounding trees. Islander Photos: Phil Colpas
An employee of Volt Power, a subcontractor for Florida Power & Light, secures the Lake LaVista nesting platform to the top of the pole.

It’s like the bird knew the nest site was a gift.

When a Norfolk Island pine tree containing an osprey nest was felled in November, residents of Anna Maria’s Lake LaVista neighborhood worried about the fate of the homeless bird.

After the tree was cut down, an osprey stayed in the area and could sometimes be seen perched in another Norfolk Island pine tree. But that tree was on a piece of property slated for construction.

Neighbors couldn’t bear to see the osprey lose its home twice, so they decided to take action.

Lake LaVista resident Kay Johnson proposed installing an artificial nesting platform near where the tree stood that was removed.

The Lake LaVista Homeowners’ Association gave permission to place a pole on the property at the end of Lake LaVista, near the 200 block of Lakeview Drive. The HOA also purchased the nesting platform from Bradenton-based All Steel Fabrication Inc.

Dean Jones, who manages Anna Maria’s public works department, offered to dig a hole for the pole and coordinated with Florida Power & Light, which donated a 50-foot pole for the nesting platform.

As they erected the pole Dec. 19, workers saw the osprey hovering above.

In less than a week, neighbors spotted the osprey in its new artificial home.

“It’s so great to see,” said Lake LaVista HOA member Anna DeAugustine. “What a great way to start the new year.”