Tag Archives: Feature

Money rolls in to build concrete wave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Holmes Beach loves our kids.”

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

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

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

City pier engineer, designer face costly kink for T-end flaw

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A blustery wind greets the birds at the Anna Maria City Pier Nov. 10. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

A solution is up in the air for a design conflict at the Anna Maria City Pier.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy told The Islander in a Nov. 8 email that he met Nov. 6 with representatives of Ayres Engineering and the Schimberg Group, along with Frank Agnelli of Mason Martin Builders and building official Luke Curtis to mull solutions for a design conflict on the pier — with work underway.

An architect might have a plan.

But the cost? $100,000.

The problem involves the differing angles of the pier and the T-end buildings. The pier was planned to allow stormwater to drain from the T-end, but architects from the Schimberg Group designed the restaurant and bait shop buildings for a level surface.

Murphy said the proposed solutions — raising door headers, leveling floors on the T-end by pouring additional concrete, expanding drain holes in the base and adding a curb around the structure — would not be born by the city. Instead, the engineering and architectural firms responsible for the conflict will pay.

Barron Schimberg, however, requested time to draw up alternative solutions at no cost to the city.

Murphy said he couldn’t detail Schimberg’s plan, but “it may provide more timely and detailed solutions in the long run.”

“We can’t be sure (what the plans consist of) ’til we see what he presents,” Murphy wrote. “If it’s a time-saver and doesn’t sacrifice quality if it’s according to building code and doesn’t negatively impact the city’s financials, we are interested.”

Murphy said he expected Schimberg to complete his plan the week of Nov. 11. Then the city would decide which solutions to pursue.

The kink in the plan is causing a delay for the city and the public.

Murphy added that he now expects to open the pier in February 2020.

The city began construction of a new pier Jan. 23, following the demolition of the old pier, which was determined a loss from damages by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

Kihm, Soustek keep seats, newcomer Schaefer eases in

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Holmes Beach Commissioners Jim Kihm, left, and Terry Schaefer, along with Kihm’s son Greg, Commissioner Carol Soustek, Kihm’s daughter Gretchen Strub and Holmes Beach resident David Cheshire, take a break Nov. 5 from campaigning outside of the city polling station at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: Chris Ann Silver Esformes
Ed Upshaw, who chaired the Holmes Beach Charter Review Commission, left, and newly elected Holmes Beach Commissioner Terry Schaefer shake hands Nov. 5 at Vinny’s Italian Kitchen in Holmes Beach, during Schaefer’s celebration following the city election. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
Manatee County Commissioner and Holmes Beach resident Carol Whitmore, left, poses Nov. 5 with Holmes Beach Commissioner Carol Soustek outside the polling location, St. Bernard Catholic Church.
Newly elected Holmes Beach Commissioner Terry Schaefer and his wife, Vicky, pose following the Nov. 5 vote at a victory celebration at Vinny’s Italian Kitchen, 5337 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Four people were vying Nov. 5 for three seats on the Holmes Beach dais.

And, when all was said and done on Election Day, Commissioners Jim Kihm and Carol Soustek and political newcomer Terry Schaefer were the top vote-getters.

Rick Hurst lost his bid for re-election.

For the three seats on the commission, 658 voted to re-elect Kihm, 606 voted for Schaefer and 546 voted for Soustek, while 471 voted for Hurst.

“I’m thrilled,” Schaefer said of his win in the nonpartisan race. “The campaign was really all-encompassing and I learned about issues I’d never considered from the variety of people I spoke with.”

Schaefer, a retired senior bank manager, said many people asked him about the city budget during his campaign.

“One of my campaign objectives was to be a steward of the budget and provide financial oversight based on my background,” he said.

Schaefer served as an elected school board member for 16 years in Illinois and also 12 years as a governor’s appointee to the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority.

“From my experience on other boards, I am familiar with the process and realize we all benefit from finding solutions together, instead of finding ways to oppose others’ views.”

Kihm, who received the most votes, said he was “extremely pleased” with the election outcome.

“The vote certainly marked that people recognize I am doing a good job for them and am planning to continue this through my next term,” Kihm said.

After being elected in 2017, Kihm served as commission chair in 2018-19.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said. “But these last two years have been very busy — we passed a lot of ordinances after good debate and discussion. Hopefully, this will continue for the next two years.”

Soustek also said she is excited to continue her work for the city. She was appointed to the commission for a partial term in 2014, then elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2017.

“I’m very happy that they voted me back in,” Soustek said. “I like what I do and we have so much still going on.”

Hurst, who was elected to his first term in 2017, said he’d hoped to retain his seat but is satisfied with the results.

“As a candidate, I am disappointed that I entered into this election knowing that other ventures I have recently taken on made it impossible to focus on the election, run an effective campaign, and would have possibly hindered my effectiveness if I had been elected,” he wrote in a Nov. 6 statement to The Islander.

Hurst is part owner of the Freckled Fin Irish Pub, 5337 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

He said he considered not running, but wanted an election because campaigning encourages interested candidates to engage with the community.

“In the end, I think it turned out for the best,” he wrote. “I hope future commissions will be as effective as we have been for the last two years.”
Of 2,692 registered voters in Holmes Beach,

490 cast ballots on Election Day, Nov. 5, at precinct No. 305, St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, and 402 voted by mail.

The turnout percentage was 33.14%.

The swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected officials will be at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Judge grants Bradenton Beach fees for Sunshine lawsuit

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Lawyers and clients gather Nov. 7 in Judge Edward Nicholas’ courtroom at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, for a hearing on fees in the Sunshine lawsuit that was won by Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Chris-Ann Silver Esformes

“The city has prevailed on leg two of our journey,” Bradenton Beach city attorney Ricinda Perry said Nov. 7 during a city commission meeting. “We are now entitled under our statute to recover our attorneys’ fees.”

At a hearing earlier that day, 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas granted the city’s motion for the defendants to pay attorney’s fees in the case of the city of Bradenton Beach and ex-Mayor Jack Clarke versus six former volunteer city board members for violating Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.

Nicholas ruled in July in favor of the city. He determined Nov. 7 that, since the defendants violated Sunshine Law, they must face sanctions.

“If there was no consequence for a violation of Sunshine Law, if the statute had no teeth, if you will, agencies or government bodies could continue to meet in the dark in violation of Sunshine Law and say, “Too bad, what are you going to do?’” Nicholas said.

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

Clarke and the city, represented by attorney Robert Watrous, argued the board members violated Florida’s Sunshine Law by discussing city matters at CNOBB meetings and through emails, texts and phone calls.

Clarke was absolved of fees by the city.

All but Metz have represented themselves as pro se defendants.

Perry said Nov. 7 the city’s costs for the suit have reached nearly $500,000.

Arguments on fees

Watrous argued the court should consider who caused the lawsuit when awarding attorneys’ fees.

“Who caused the situation that necessitated the city of Bradenton Beach and Jack Clarke to take action? That was the actions of the defendants,” Watrous said. “Was this a situation where it was an ‘oops,’ where they accidentally stepped over the line? From the clear reading of your honor’s findings, the answer is emphatically ‘No.’

Watrous said the defendants received Sunshine Law training and were warned about conduct at CNOBB meetings. Additionally, the defendants were directed by the Florida Commission on Ethics and the Attorney General’s Office to seek advice from the city or county attorney, but instead, they chose to continue meeting outside of the Sunshine.

Metz’s attorney, Thomas Shults, argued that according to the Sunshine Law, the city is an indispensable party and would first have to sue and obtain an award against itself or one of its agencies before seeking an award of fees from the defendants since they were members of a city board.

Shults said the city has argued that as sub-agencies of the municipality, the boards served by the defendants could neither sue nor be sued.

“Under (the Sunshine Law), can the city get an award of fees against itself as a predicate to an award against the individuals, yes or no?” Shults rhetorically asked. “I think the only box to check in response to that question is ‘no’ and, once that box is checked, the inquiry ends. The motion is denied.”

Watrous rebutted Shults’ argument by stating the board members were sued in their individual capacity and as city board members.

Shults also reminded Nicholas that the defendants are retirees who were acting in support of the community, not for personal gain.

“There was no corrupt intent,” Shults said. “They were motivated by love for the community.”

The judgment

Nicholas repeated portions of his July ruling, which stated the people involved had good intentions but did not follow state statute regarding open meetings and public records.

“They had some concerns about whether the Sunshine Law applied to the CNOBB activities, and they just ignored those concerns,” he said.

He said owing to the unusual circumstances of the city suing its own board members, the application of the statute regarding fees is unclear, but the intent is apparent.

Nicolas said the purpose of the attorney’s fees provision in the Sunshine Law is to discourage violations.

If the defendants had ceased CNOBB meetings, he said, “we would not be where we are today.”

The judge said since the meetings continued after two warnings, the city had to act, to avoid being sued by outside interests, and he granted the city’s motion for an award of attorneys’ fees from the defendants.

The next step will be an evidentiary hearing on the amount of fees to be awarded.

Response

None of the defendants provided comments following the hearing.

At a city commission meeting following the hearing, Perry briefed the commission on the results.

She said the city’s legal team will compile evidence and testify for a reasonable award of fees.

Mayor John Chappie said people have asked him why the city sued six of its board members.

“This case is about protecting and preserving the right of the people to know that their government is functioning in the open, in the sunshine and is transparent,” he said. “We have strived for that so our residents in our community fully understand and have that confidence in us to make decisions in a public forum.”

Schaefer elected, Hurst out in Holmes Beach

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Holmes Beach Commission candidate Terry Schaefer shakes hands Nov. 5 with supporter Doug Goerlitz outside the polling location at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive. Schaefer, the only political newcomer in the election, won a seat with 606 votes.
Election signs fill the lawn adjacent to the Holmes Beach polling location at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Voters in Holmes Beach have cast their ballots and political newbie Terry Schaefer was elected to a seat on the dais. Commissioners Jim Kihm and Carol Soustek were re-elected as commissioners.

For the three open seats on the city commission, 658 voted for Kihm, 606 voted to elect incumbent Schaefer and 546 voted for Soustek, while 471 voted for Rick Hurst.

Additionally, voters approved eight amendments to the city charter.

Electors voted “yes” for all eight charter amendments placed on the ballot by the city’s charter review commission.

The vote was 767 “yes” and 90 “no” to charter amendment 1, which will consolidate and revise the legal description of to the city to include the Kingfish Boat Ramp and Grassy Point Preserve — land annexed by the city but not yet included in the city’s boundaries in the charter.

The vote was 704 “yes” and 152 “no” for charter amendment 2, which will require a supermajority vote of the city commission and a referendum in the next general election, approved by a majority of voters, in order for the city to sell, vacate, convey, transfer or abandon real property or rights of way.

The third charter amendment, which will allow budget transfers up to $100,000 to be approved through a resolution, rather than an ordinance, passed with 638 “yes” and 218 “no” votes.

Charter amendment 4, requiring a vote of the commission to terminate a department head, passed with 616 “yes” and 224 “no” votes.

Charter amendment 5, which clarifies language in the charter to state the city treasurer presents the annual audit, but doesn’t prepare it, received 730 “yes” and 119 “no” votes.

Charter amendment 6, removing the “building and public works department,” including the building official and public works director positions, from the charter, passed with 493 “yes” and 345 “no” votes.

Charter amendment 7, which will remove the human resources department from the charter, passed with 557 “yes” and 282 “no” votes.

The vote was 627 “yes” and 228 “no” for charter amendment 8, which transfers election candidacy filing responsibilities from the city clerk to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, as is the case in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

Of 2,692 registered voters in Holmes Beach,

490 cast ballots Nov. 5 at precinct No. 305, St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, and 402 voted by mail.

The swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected officials will be at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Voters decide commission race, charter amendments

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Holmes Beach City Commission candidates Carol Soustek and Terry Schaefer and supporters wave Nov. 5 to passersby to garner votes outside of the polling location at St. Bernard Catholic Church. The polls closed at 7 p.m.
Holmes Beach Commission candidates Terry Schaefer, left, and Jim Kihm pose Nov. 5 outside the polling location at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive. Voters can cast ballots until 7 p.m. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Holmes Beach voters Nov. 5 elected three commissioners — incumbents Jim Kihm and Carol Soustek and newcomer Terry Schaefer.

Rick Hurst placed fourth, with 471 votes, and did not win reelection.

Kihm received 658 votes, according to https://enr.electionsfl.org/MAN/Summary/2532/ unofficial results in the nonpartisan race.

Schaefer received 606 votes.

Soustek received 546 votes.

Holmes Beach voters also approved eight charter amendments.

In Anna Maria, voters approved three charter amendments. Less than 300 people cast ballots.

Read the Nov. 13 issue of The Islander for full coverage.

Tagged sea turtle finishes 5th

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Sea turtle nesting season ends, Bortie Too finishes fifth With a tracking device affixed to its carapace, a female loggerhead sea turtle — named Bortie Too by sponsor Bortell’s Lounge — makes her way June 21 to the Gulf of Mexico. She traveled 906 miles to finish fifth in the annual Tour de Turtles race. For more about Bortie Too and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, go to page 26. Islander File Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
A screenshot from conserveturtles.org Oct. 31 shows the path in the Gulf of Mexico taken by Bortie, a loggerhead wearing a satellite tracking device since she nested June 20 on Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach.

Anna Maria Island’s contestant might not have won the race, but she’s still going strong.

During the peak of loggerhead nesting season, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring partnered with the Sea Turtle Conservancy to satellite tag a sea turtle in its Tour de Turtles, a program to tag and release nesting female loggerhead, hawksbill and green sea turtles for migration data.

The tagged loggerhead — named Bortie Too for Bortell’s Lounge in Anna Maria, AMITW’s sponsor — was held overnight and tagged with a satellite tracker on June 20. She was released June 21 after nesting on Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach.

The tracking device showed the Sea Turtle Conservancy and AMITW that Bortie Too nested a second time on the beach in Holmes Beach and traveled south, to the seagrass beds north of Cuba, to land fifth place in the tour, which tracks distance covered through Nov. 1 by 13 tagged sea turtles.

The tracking device continued transmitting data from the tagged turtles after the race ended and will do so until it falls off or becomes damaged.

Bortie Too was AMITW’s fourth contestant in the tour.

In 2015, AMITW’s tagged turtle Amie lost her transmitter shortly after the start of the marathon.

In 2017, AMITW won the tour with loggerhead Eliza Ann, which traveled 1,693 miles from its release through Nov. 1, 2017.

Bortie Too’s predecessor, Bortie, finished in 10th place out of 14 in 2018, but won the online peoples’ choice award on the STC Facebook page.

Bortie Too can be tracked at conserveturtles.org/sea-turtle-tracking-active-sea-turtles/.

Modifications required to Anna Maria City Pier’s T-end

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Mason Martin Builders employees work Oct. 29 to construct the shells of the restaurant and bait shop at the T-end of the new Anna Maria City Pier. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Some modifications are in store for the new Anna Maria City Pier.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy told The Islander in a Nov. 1 interview that he met Oct. 31 with members of Ayres Engineering, the Schimberg Group, Frank Agnelli from Mason Martin Builders and building official Luke Curtis to discuss a design conflict between the architecture and engineering.

Murphy said the pier was angled so stormwater drains from the T-end, but the architects from the Schimberg Group designed the restaurant and bait shop for a level surface.

He said the experts met to identify and discuss possible solutions, including leveling out areas of the pier by pouring additional concrete, drilling holes in the concrete platform under the ipe decking and adjusting doorway headers for the buildings.

“It’s not a big deal, but it takes some time to solve it,” Murphy said. “I don’t want this thing to have to be redone, so for me, it’s a big deal because I want to make sure we get everything we paid for.”

Murphy said the building official would review any proposed changes to ensure they meet city code.

One meeting wasn’t enough, however, and the sides planned to meet again the week of Nov. 4 to establish costs for the modifications.

Murphy said Mason Martin would handle the modifications, but the engineer and/or architect will pay the costs since the conflict was between the two.

The mayor added that the opening of the pier — expected to be in late-January or early-February 2020 — may be pushed back due, but he wouldn’t know for sure until the second meeting.

Meanwhile, construction on the shells of the T-end buildings progressed the week of Oct. 28, even though modifications will be required.

“It’s moving right along,” Murphy said. “It’s not like all of a sudden everyone is gone and work stops.”

Waterline owners mull changes

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Guests depart Nov. 2 from the Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Are changes underway for Anna Maria Island’s only corporate hotel?

The owners at Mainsail Lodging and Development of Tampa are downplaying a rumor that its Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club, which opened at 5325 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, in 2017, will restructure from a full-service hotel to privately-owned rental condominiums.

“It’s something to consider,” Joe Collier, president and CEO of Mainsail, told The Islander Nov. 1.

“But we have no plans to move forward with such a thing at this time. We are studying it. Right now, the analysts and lawyers are mulling it over.”

Collier said no documents for restructuring had been filed, “as far as I know,” and even if the restructure does occur at a future time, the public would feel little to no change at all at the property.

Currently, Waterline is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection of hotel properties and reservations are made through the Marriott booking site.

Collier started the Mainsail Lodging and Development business in 1998, after 15 years with Marriott International in sales, marketing and development.

He said Waterline clients often ask about sales of the hotels two bedroom-two bath units.

“Waterline is a great property we love,” Collier said. “We like the vacation rental business. We have the Mainsail Vacation Rental division in-house at Waterline. If we operate it like a vacation rental, people may stay with us longer — say five nights instead of just two-three.”

Restructuring the Waterline to condo rentals would require filings with the state and city of Holmes Beach, Collier said, and licensing would have to follow municipal rules.

Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth said she had not been notified about restructuring Waterline, but she is aware of the possibility.

Titsworth said Waterline operates a marina, and the rentals are considered transient lodging.

According to the city code for marinas, lodging is an acceptable use in which occupancy of a unit would be limited to less than 180 consecutive days and units cannot be leased, subleased or rented for more than 180 consecutive days.

Andrew Houghton is a general manager at Mainsail Vacation Rentals and a managing partner with Mainsail Lodging. He previously worked 33 years for Marriott.

Of the possible restructuring, he told The Islander Oct. 31, “We’ve made no decisions.”

“Our customers ask about buying the rooms often,” Houghton said. “We want to elevate the experience at Waterline and maintain the environment.”

He also said, “You have to look at starting levels and adjust as business changes. You have to look at business volume and priorities within the business.”

Collier told The Islander, “It’s expensive to operate a hotel. If changes do happen, the Waterline would feel very much the same no matter what we do.”

Treehouse owners march back to court

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The treehouse at 29th Street and the beach access remains Oct. 30 despite years of conflict between the owners and the city of Holmes Beach and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen confer at a courtroom table March 4, during a hearing about the structure they built in an Australian pine tree at 103 29th St., Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell

Court hearings are looming in two of four pending Gulffront treehouse cases — beginning with a 2013 constitutional case against the city of Holmes Beach.

At 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15, 12th Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas is expected to hear arguments on a second amended complaint for a declaratory judgment from the city and David Levin, attorney for treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen.

The 2013 case seeks to declare city ordinances unconstitutional, claiming the municipal measures created a 50-foot setback that took the treehouse owners’ property without proper notice and just compensation.

Another hearing date, new on the docket, is set in the 2018 case filed by the owners, which alleges 11 causes of action against the city and seven actions against the DEP for alleged violations of the owners’ private property and constitutional rights.

An hourlong hearing beginning at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, is set on several motions, including motions to dismiss from Holmes Beach and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, before Judge Charles Sniffin.

The other 2018 case — city-initiated litigation to enforce a magistrate’s decision ordering the treehouse removal and a $50 daily fine, now at more than $78,050 — awaits the outcome of the 2013 case. Judge Edward Nicholas decided in April to defer the 2018 case hearings until the 2013 case is decided.

A fourth treehouse case is in federal court — now the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The owners appealed their loss on due process, takings and civil rights grounds in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida. The city’s response to the owner-filed appeal expected sometime in November.

Except for the federal case, proceedings will be heard in the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

 

What’s up with the treehouse fuss?

The year was 2011.

In April or May, Richard Hazen, a resident and owner of Angelinos Sea Lodge at 103 29th St., went to the building department counter in Holmes Beach City Hall.

There, he asked Bob Shaffer, the city inspector, if permits were required for a treehouse he wanted to build on their property. Shaffer, in turn, consulted with Joe Duennes, the then-building official, and then advised Hazen the city had no regulations.

Hazen’s inquiry did not specify the size, location and features of the treehouse and, at the time. Hazen didn’t know exactly what he wanted to build. The city officials did not ask for specifics.

He came back to his wife, Lynn Tran, with the news that permits were not required and she became its primary designer. They hired two carpenters who built the structure in an Australian pine.

Other pertinent facts:

Where’s the treehouse?
• The two-deck, 400 square-foot structure, with solar panels, removal windows, is 30 feet from the erosion-control line — a line that separates the renourished public beach from private property.

What’s the problem?
• The treehouse was built without city and state permits required for construction in a 50-foot city setback.
• Tran and Hazen challenged a 2013 code board decision that found the treehouse violated the city land-development code and ordered its removal, with petitions and lawsuits. Despite many court losses, they continue filing lawsuits and appeals.

How much has it cost?

To build, the treehouse cost the owners $28,000.

Engineering, survey, city and other fees incurred trying to secure an after-the-fact permit have raised the owners’ treehouse costs to $30,000-$50,000.

The city’s legal fees are up to $179,359.17 as of Sept. 30.