Tag Archives: Feature

Cortez megabridge challengers offer settlement to DOT

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Bridge Battle
A settlement offer proposing the DOT build a 35-foot-clearance drawbridge in place of a fixed-span bridge spanning the Intracoastal Waterway on Cortez Road includes the image of a new and old bridge at Tierra Verde in Pinellas County. Islander Courtesy Photo
Looking west from Cortez at the Cortez Bridge. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Opponents of the planned megabridge on Cortez Road extended a 35-foot olive branch to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The DOT has not grasped the offer from the concerned citizens, who have legal challenges to the DOT plans pending in state and federal courts. The citizens’ proposal, in the form of a settlement offer, would swap the DOT’s 65-foot-clearance fixed span for a 35-foot-clearance drawbridge.

Joe McClash, at the forefront of the challenge to the megabridge between Cortez and Bradenton Beach, said the offer was presented July 21 to a DOT attorney as part of a filing in the U.S. District Court in Tampa.

The challengers also have a filing pending before the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal prompted by the DOT’s October 2019 release of a project development and environment study.

The study recommended a 65-foot fixed bridge to replace the 17-foot-clearance drawbridge built six decades ago. A DOT announcement Oct. 10 said, “Design is now underway and right of way is funded in fiscal years 2021, 2024 and 2025.”

The DOT, which also sought to build — and withdrew — a high bridge in the 1980s, maintains the current bridge is obsolete.

By the end of 2019, McClash, a former Manatee County commissioner, along with Cortezians Joe Kane, Linda Molto and former county commissioner Jane von Hahmann had petitioned the DOT for an administrative hearing, listing 25 objections to the DOT recommendation.

Their objections include arguments the high span will negatively impact business, harm the environment and destroy the character of the Cortez fishing village, a federal historic district since 1995.

The DOT rejected the petition for a hearing, saying it lacks jurisdiction as the state agency is acting for the federal government on the bridge project.

The rejection nudged the challengers to file with the state appeals court in February and also in federal court in March.

“The four challengers refused to accept the decision they believe is inconsistent with Florida statutes and federal rules that govern the process,” read a statement released to The Islander Sept. 10 by Kane, McClash, Molto and von Hahmann.

They cited a state law providing citizens an opportunity to challenge government actions.

The challengers now are offering a settlement that states in part: “The 35-foot bascule (draw) bridge would provide the relief plaintiffs seek” and thus they “would no longer object to the replacement bridge or bring subsequent challenge to any of the permits required for construction.”

The offer, presented to the DOT in late July, included photographs of the DOT bridge in Tierra Verde in Pinellas County to show “the validity of the complaint, the impacts to Cortez” of a high bridge.

A new and taller drawbridge, meanwhile, “would maintain the historical ambiance of the village of Cortez,” fit the location, provide access when closed to 78% of boat traffic and access to all boats with the bascule open, according to the challengers.

“Another advantage of the 35-foot bridge — it is not as steep, allowing better use by pedestrians and bikers,” the challengers stated.

McClash told The Islander Sept. 10 that he’s “waiting for administrative record, for which FDOT indicated would be the time to discuss the case and possible settlement.”

Construction of the DOT-proposed new bridge would cost an estimated $70 million and wouldn’t be completed for at least 10 years.

The DOT did not respond to questions from The Islander as of press time Sept. 14.

To read more about the Cortez Bridge, visit islander.org and search Cortez Bridge. To review the DOT project, go online to www.cortezbridge.com.


Meanwhile, DOT seeks Cortez Bridge design committee members

The Florida Department of Transportation is recruiting for a committee to help design a proposed megabridge between Cortez and Bradenton Beach.

The proposed 65-foot-clearance fixed-span bridge, recommended last October by the DOT, would replace the drawbridge on Cortez Road/State Road 684.

Spokesman Brian Rick told The Islander the DOT seeks to establish a 10-12 member committee. The design process is expected to cost $6.2 million.

“We have reached out to several people in the community,” Rick said, including Cortez businesspeople Karen Bell and Joe Rogers, Bradenton Beach businessman Mike Bazzy, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Bradenton Beach resident Connie Morrow.

“We are still at an early stage in this process,” Rick said of the committee formation.

He said the DOT would recruit members in an email blast, calling out to local businesspeople and with announcements at transportation meetings.

The Island Transportation Planning Organization was set to meet in Bradenton Beach Sept. 14, as The Islander went to press.

The Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 21 at the convention center in Palmetto.

The Cortez drawbridge underwent major repairs in 1996, 2010 and 2015 and has outlived its lifespan, according to the DOT.

But the proposed replacement faces opposition in Cortez village and legal challenges brought by community and environmental advocates.

The DOT also is studying options for the Longboat Pass Bridge connecting Longboat Key and Bradenton Beach and is pursuing a planned replacement — already approved and still in the design phase — for the Anna Maria Island Bridge with a 65-foot-clearance fixed-span structure.

— Lisa Neff

Island ‘Super Market’ allegedly skirts face mask mandate

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People approach Publix Super Market, 3900 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach, where enforcement of the city face mask mandate has come into question. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice
Publix Super Market, 3900 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach, has signage posted in the store indicating masks are required but, store management apparently has recieved instructions to the contrary from its corporate office.

Holmes Beach’s Publix may not be doing its part to uphold the city face mask mandate.

According to two Publix Super Market employees who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution from their employer, corporate policy prohibits staff from removing or reporting individuals who refuse to wear face masks.

“We can’t kick anyone out,” one employee said. “We can offer a mask, but that’s it.”

The other employee said workers were told not to report people who refuse to wear masks unless they cause a disturbance for other shoppers.

The Islander publisher, Bonner Joy, pointed out two unmasked shoppers at the Beachway Publix, 7310 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

“The manager had just provided a mask to another customer when we spoke and I was told the policy is to advise customers of the rules and offer a mask, but no enforcement of the county mask mandate would be carried out at the store — according to corporate directions,” Joy said. “I found it ironic for a clerk at the entrance to clean carts while people pass through the doors into the store with no mask, putting everyone in the store at risk of possible exposure to COVID-19.”

“I wrote to customer service the same day but, as of Sept. 11, I have no reply,” Joy continued. “I won’t be going back to Publix.”

To slow the spread of the coronavirus, the county and Holmes Beach mandates require people wear masks within businesses — with few exceptions — and places the onus on the businesses.

Establishments that fail to enforce the mandate in Holmes Beach can receive a verbal warning for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and $500 fines for any subsequent offenses.

To date, the city has not issued any businesses citations for offenses or collected any fines.

Publix media relations contact Maria Brous did not confirm nor deny the allegations about corporate directives in a Sept. 8 email to The Islander.

“If a customer does not have a mask with them, we will gladly offer them one to wear while shopping in our stores,” Brous wrote. “Our management teams are handling situations as they arise, so I cannot give you a more in-depth perspective.”

“We recognize that there will be exceptions to our mask policy due to age and medical restrictions, and we will handle these on a case-by-case basis,” Brous added in a Sept. 11 email.

Brous did not respond to The Islander’s question asking if an individual not exempt from the mandate but refusing to wear a mask would be removed from a store or reported to local authorities.

Holmes Beach manager Chris Smith declined to comment Sept. 11.

Also, Smith and Brous both denied permission to The Islander to take photographs on Publix property.

“Unfortunately, since the start of the pandemic, to be fair and consistent with all our media partners, we have not allowed videography/photography in our stores,” Brous wrote.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said the HBPD wouldn’t act on the allegations until it received a complaint from an individual about mask enforcement.

“If Publix has their own rules that violate the city’s rules, we would handle that on a case-by-case basis should we find that’s the truth,” Tokajer said. “But that’s not something we’d go and discuss with Publix unless this is a problem brought to our attention.”

“My officers can’t be at every business at once,” the chief said. “There are a lot of things going on in the city that require police attention.”

He suggested the police department has had a good relationship with the store’s management team, which he said may handle things differently from the corporate directive.

“We’ve never had a problem that we have discussed with our Publix local management team that they have not addressed immediately,” Tokajer said. “Their corporate rules and local rules are between Publix and the local management team.”

Mask orders meet some resistance, bad attitudes to blame

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A sign reminding customers to wear face masks is posted Sept. 4 at the stairwell leading up to the Daiquiri Deck, 107 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. A guest was recently trespassed from the restaurant for refusing to wear a mask. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Face mask mandates to slow the spread of Covid-19 may remain on Anna Maria Island for a while longer.

But how well are people following the mandates intended to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus?

So far, one case of noncompliance requiring police intervention has occurred in each of the three island cities.

A Bradenton Beach police officer trespassed a man Aug. 29 from the Daiquiri Deck, 107 Bridge St., for refusing to wear a face mask despite the Manatee County mandate, according to a Bradenton Beach Police Department report.

The county mandate requires people to wear face masks inside business establishments unless they are exempted or can socially distance.

The mandate also requires restaurant customers to wear face coverings from the entrance to their table, as well as when moving within the establishment.

The mandate remained in effect as of Sept. 7.

Holmes Beach and Anna Maria enacted mask orders prior to the county action. Bradenton Beach did not, but commissioners agreed to come under the county’s coverage.

The BBPD report states a man swore and displayed “a very nasty attitude” toward the restaurant staff, who had asked him to don a face covering.

Shaun Gileno, a manager at the restaurant, told The Islander Sept. 4 the incident was not isolated.

“It has been repeated,” he said. “A lot of people are coming in and they’re actually being a little rude about it.”

Gileno estimated one in five restaurant guests enter without face masks but said most comply after employees approach to offer a face covering or advise them that they must wear their own to comply with the county mandate.

“We try to be very reasonable with everybody,” Gileno said. “But a lot of people aren’t reasonable with us, and that’s what hurts.”

Lt. John Cosby said Sept. 4 businesses in the city have reported numerous cases of individuals that enter an establishment without a mask but most comply after being approached by staff.

However, he said the call to the Daiquiri Deck was the first time a police officer got involved due to the refusal to comply with the mask mandate.

“We haven’t really had any problems at all. That was our first,” Cosby said. “Everybody seems to be complying. I haven’t heard any other complaints from business owners in the city.”

“As life starts to return a little bit more to normal, I think people are honestly just forgetting,” he said.

Under the county mask mandate, only individuals who refuse to wear masks are penalized. Businesses are not responsible for gaining compliance from customers under the county rules.

Violators cited for a first offense receive written warnings. A violator would be fined $50 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense and $250 for subsequent offenses.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said HBPD recently trespassed someone for refusing to wear a mask in a Holmes Beach convenience store.

“He was asked to leave, and he did,” he said. “That was the only call we’ve received.”

Tokajer said the mandate enacted in late June puts the onus for enforcing its requirements on business owners.

Businesses that fail to enforce the city mandate would receive a verbal warning for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and $500 fines for any subsequent offenses.

“Instead of us having to worry about 10,000 people a day, we have to monitor 50-60 businesses that are handling their own establishments,” he said. “It’s working fine.”

Holmes Beach code compliance supervisor JT Thomas said Sept. 4 that he had received numerous anonymous complaints about noncompliance with the city mandate, with many coming from customers at Publix, 3900 E. Bay Drive.

He said that, in an effort to increase compliance, code enforcement officers visited the store to educate staff about the mandate.

“Everybody goes there, so it could just be a population thing,” Thomas said. “But we gave them our ordinance. So it’s their responsibility to engage people about wearing masks… .I hope they’re good partners, like all of the others.”

Thomas said several businesses were slow to comply with the city mandate when it was issued. However, he said businesses have since come around.

“In the very beginning, it was kind of hard trying to get everyone to understand that they need to wear masks,” Thomas said. “I can honestly say that all of our businesses are on board with protecting their customers. I haven’t had one business tell me it’s a problem.”

No fines had been issued for violating the mask mandate in Holmes Beach as of Sept. 4.

In Anna Maria, a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy was dispatched to Two Scoops, 101 N. Bay Blvd., in late July in response to calls regarding a customer who refused to comply with the city mandate.

The city regulation makes individuals — not businesses — responsible for wearing face coverings in any indoor locations other than within a residence.

The mandate includes a $50 fine for violating the policy.

The order went into effect June 27 and has been renewed each week since by Mayor Dan Murphy.

Murphy wrote in a Sept. 4 email to The Islander that the city has had “no issues” with enforcing compliance with the mandate.

He added that the city hasn’t issued any fines for violations of the policy.

Tiny hatchlings make tracks in Anna Maria sands

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Barbara Riskay, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteer, counts remains Aug. 29 from a hatched sea turtle nest in the nursery near Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria, where hatching occurs daily. Volunteers wait 72 hours after a hatch and dig into the nest to determine how many eggs hatched, didn’t hatch or if dead or live hatchlings remain. The live hatchlings are released to the Gulf of Mexico and the data is shared with the state and Manatee County. For more, see pages 20, 22. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW
Tiny tracks in the sand Aug. 29 indicate a sea turtle nest hatched the night before. As of Sept. 2, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch had reported 349 hatched nests, with about 15,179 hatchlings had made their way to the Gulf of Mexico. Nesting season runs May-October.
A depression in the sand Aug. 29 over a sea turtle nest marked by a red flag indicates a recent hatch. Nests often contain about 100 hatchlings, which emerge in unison and scamper across the sand to the Gulf of Mexico, usually at night. Females return to the beach to nest upon reaching maturity in about 35 years. Males do not venture from the water.
AMITW volunteers Linda Oneal, left, Barbara Riskay and Oneal’s sister, Carla Boehme, take a break Aug. 29 from their work with the sea turtle nests in the nursery near Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria. The team is collecting data and tabulating hatch rates from the nests as they perform excavations. Islander Photos: Courtesy AMITW

Pine Avenue triad selected for new Anna Maria pier ops

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Anna Maria Commissioner Mark Short bumps fists Sept. 4, congratulating former Commissioner Brian Seymour, owner of the Pine Avenue General Store, following a meeting at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive. Seymour, along with Dips Ice Cream owner Victor Mattay and Pine Avenue Bait and Tackle owner Nick Graham, won approval for the grill and bait shop on the pier. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Allen
Former Commissioner Brian Seymour, left, of the Pine Avenue General Store, Victor Mattay of Dips Ice Cream owner, and Nick Graham of Pine Avenue Bait and Tackle won approval to negotiate a pier lease.
The new Anna Maria City Pier hosts guests at the June 19 opening after being closed since September 2017. The pier is open for visitors and fishing 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. The new lease for a bait shop and grill is for the building on the north side of the pier. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

The city got a bite on the bait. All that remains is to reel in the lease.

A coalition of three Pine Avenue businesses Sept. 4 won approval from four Anna Maria commissioners to negotiate a lease to operate a grill and bait shop on the new city pier, 101 Bay Blvd., Anna Maria.

Commissioners unanimously voted to accept a joint bid from former Commissioner Brian Seymour, owner of the Pine Avenue General Store, Victor Mattay, owner of Dips Ice Cream and Nicholas Graham of Pine Avenue Bait and Tackle, all located in the Historic Green Village on Pine Avenue.

“We are very excited,” Seymour told The Islander Sept. 4, following his group’s bid approval. “I think we were the obvious choice when you compare our two proposals side by side. We stand behind our proposal and we look forward to partnering with the city to get this pier back to the No. 1 tourist destination in Manatee County.”

The runners-up, Micheal, Patrick and Casey Coleman of FP Growth Partners of Anna Maria, could be called on if the city’s negotiations fall through with the Green Village group.

Mayor Dan Murphy evaluated four bids Aug. 21.

Other bidders were Tevatan LLC, with Sarah Baldwin, daughter of Sherman Baldwin, owner of Paradise Boat Tours in Bradenton Beach, listed as manager, and Harry’s Continental Kitchens of Longboat Key.

The city’s criteria for proposals included:

  • Proposed annual rent;
  • Estimated cost of build-out and equipment;
  • Food and beverage menu with prices, as well as bait items;
  • Experience;
  • Time frame to become operational;
  • References, financials.

The RFP also stipulated that the city would provide drywall, flooring, a 4-foot hood, grease trap, fire suppression and electrical and plumbing rough-ins.

The tenant is responsible for fixtures, equipment, painting and finish work, as well as design, construction and layout of the food service areas and is expected to have 45 days from approval of negotiations to open for business.

At a Sept. 1 meeting, Murphy said Tevatan and Harry’s presented percentage-based rent instead of a flat rate, which was specified in the RFP, so they should not be considered.

Commissioners agreed and unanimously approved a motion to move forward with FP Growth and Green Village group presentations Sept. 4.

After the Sept. 4 decision, Micheal Coleman said, “We congratulate Brian and his team on their excellent presentation. While we sincerely believe we offered the best short- and long-term proposal for the city and it’s taxpayers, the commissioners, in their prerogative, selected Brian and his group, whom we respect and have supported for years. We wish them the best.”


Seymour-Mattay-Graham bid

The winning proposal included $72,000 annual rent for the first year, with a 2.5% increase each subsequent year.

The group agreed to the city’s proposed 5-year lease with a 5-year renewal option and estimated the build-out at about $41,350.

The menu includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and “sweet treats.”

The proposed list of bait and tackle was extensive, including live bait.

Proposed hours of operation are 7 a.m.-10 p.m., 365 days a year — the same as the pier hours once a tenant is in place.

The mayor has said the pier would not open overnight for fishers.

During the Sept. 4 presentation, Seymour said that since the three businesses have brick-and-mortar locations near the pier, storage should not be an issue.

“Keeping dry goods, freezer goods within a block of the pier, ensures we are not going to run out of product,” he said.

Seymour also said the group developed the menu to include offerings from other local businesses and incorporated the commission’s desires for “family-friendly” fare.

“We promise to be good stewards of the pier and will work tirelessly with the city for anything they would like to do,” he said.


FP Growth Partners bid

FP Growth Partners’ bid included $66,000 annual rent or 6% of sales, whichever is greater.

The proposal stated the plans and restaurant equipment, including a walk-in cooler, were estimated at $47,500 plus about $20,000 to finish the build-out.

An alternative proposal in the bid stated FP Growth Partners was “prepared to take the building as-is, including the grease trap,” which could save the city $35,000-$50,000 in costs for a hood, fire suppression system, flooring, sheetrock, electrical and plumbing.

Proposed hours of operation were 8 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week based on a 5-year lease with possible 5-year extension.

The menu, with breakfast, lunch and dinner items, included antibiotic/hormone-free meats, fresh produce, high-fructose corn syrup-free beverages and environmentally friendly utensils and packaging.

“What we want to do is a few things really right,” Micheal Coleman said of the menu.

He also said FP Growth Partners’ restaurant, Poppo’s Taqueria, which opened on Pine Avenue in 2013 and has expanded to eight locations, has been testing an app for easy ordering.

Coleman mentioned his involvement in several projects in the city, including the Pine Avenue Restoration project, the retail, residential and office development that started in 2007 that “fit with the existing scale and culture” of the district.

“Going back to Pine Avenue, the idea was not to build something for the tourists, the idea was to build something for us,” he said. “The tourists tend to like what we like. It’s the same thing out there at the pier.”


Commission discussion

The commission agreed both bidders are experienced in food service and offered similar benefits to the city.

Commissioner Jonathan Crane, liaison for the pier tenant, said, since both offered similar revenue for the city, he was leaning toward FP Growth Partners due to the quality of their food.

“Everyone I have talked to about Poppo’s in particular think it’s excellent,” he said.

Commissioner Joe Muscatello said he was torn.

“We have a tough situation, but we have a great situation,” he said. “We can’t lose with either one right now.”

Commission Chair Carol Carter agreed, but said she appreciates the Green Village group’s plans for partnership with other local businesses.

Commissioner Mark Short said that due to experience, hours of operation and menu items, he also preferred the bid from the Green Village.

Short motioned for the city to accept the Sherman-Mattay-Graham bid. Carter seconded.

The commission unanimously approved the motion and the mayor said he would begin negotiations to ink the deal.

Murphy said FP Growth Partners would maintain a fallback position.

He said Crane would help with contract negotiations and the contract could be presented at the commission meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, at city hall, unless an emergency meeting is called on the matter prior to that date.

The pier is open for visitors and fishing 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

What’s on the menu at the new city pier?

It’s time for some pier food.

According to the proposal from a trio of Pine Avenue business owners, the menu will include:

  • Breakfast, 7-11 a.m., breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy, yogurt with granola and fresh fruit, oatmeal, hash brown patties and muffins.
  • Lunch and beyond, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs — including vegetarian options — fish, wings, chicken tenders, clam strips, fried shrimp, soups and salads.
  • Desserts, soft serve and regular ice cream, gelato, shakes, floats, key lime pie, cookies and brownies.
  • Beverages, including roasted coffee, juice, iced tea, soda, beer and wine.

The new pier venture is expected to open in November.

— ChrisAnn Allen

Electioneering intensifies ahead of vote

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A sign promoting the Trump-Pence campaign is posted Sept. 2 near the intersection of East Bay Drive and Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach. At least six Trump-Pence signs were at the commercial location that morning, 18 days before such signs are allowed in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
Holmes Beach Commission candidate Jayne Christenson stands next to her vehicle and a magnetic sign for her campaign. The sign is allowed, according to Holmes Beach election and sign regulations. Islander Courtesy Photo: Jayne Christenson

By Ryan Paice and ChrisAnn Allen

Islander Reporter

The grass and shell yards on Anna Maria Island soon may be adorned with Nov. 3 election signage.

People in Holmes Beach can post signs supporting political candidates and causes beginning Sept. 19, as the city allows signs 45 days before an election. The general election is Nov. 3 and includes federal, state and local races.

If political signs are placed before the 45-day point, Holmes Beach code compliance notifies the property owner and requests removal of the sign.

If a noncompliant sign remains, code removes and stores it, and allows retrieval at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Political flags are not considered signs in any of the island cities. Neither are vehicle decals and decorations, according to city officials.

Holmes Beach Commission candidate Jayne Christenson decorated her golf cart, bike and car with campaign signs. And the signage is permitted by every city on the island.

“There isn’t anything in the code stipulating she can’t have it on her vehicle,” Police Chief Bill Tokajer said Sept. 2.

General election signs, some new and others leftover from the August primary, were under review by Holmes Beach code compliance Sept. 2.

The week beginning Aug. 31, eight campaign signs for Donald Trump were posted at the southeast corner of East Bay Drive and Manatee Avenue and remained at the location for at least five days.

“We are looking at all the signs to make sure they are compliant,” Tokajer said. “We’ll be doing a sweep of signs as soon as we make sure we are on the right track.”

Residents and businesses do not need a permit for election signage. However, signs in Holmes Beach can be no more than 5 square feet in residential districts or 16 square feet at commercial locations.

Election signage in the city must be removed within 48 hours after the election.


Anna Maria regs

In Anna Maria, property owners can post at least one 2-square-foot sign per property at any time and that sign can be election-related, regardless of proximity to an election date, according to city regulations.

However, residents can post an “unlimited” number of “temporary signs for predictable events,” such as an election, without a permit during a 30-day window, which would open Oct. 4.

Signs placed on residential properties in Anna Maria cannot exceed 4 square feet, cannot be double-sided, must be placed parallel to the roadway and located “no closer” than 10 feet from the intersection of the private property line and right of way.

The signage cannot stand more than 3 feet tall, unless attached to a building façade.

Most election signs in Anna Maria must be removed within two days after the election. However, property owners are permitted to keep one 2-square-foot sign posted at any time, including political signage.

“Election sign violations have not been a large problem for the city in the past and on average we’ve handled one or two a year, at most,” code enforcement manager Debbie Haynes wrote in a Sept. 2 email to The Islander. “None to my knowledge have resulted in a citation as compliance is generally achieved through removal of the sign.”


Bradenton Beach rules

In Bradenton Beach, political signs can be erected Oct. 4, according to city code.

A property can hold one ground-based political sign at each road frontage. The signs can stand up to 10 feet tall but cannot exceed 6 square feet in residential districts or 32 square feet in other districts.

Political signs on residential properties must be set back at least 12 feet from the front lot line and 10 feet from the side and rear lot lines.

Political signage in Bradenton Beach’s nonresidential districts must adhere to 5-foot setbacks from property lines or a 25-foot setback from an abutting residential district.

Signage posted before the 30-day window opens on an election may be removed by code enforcement officers. People can retrieve confiscated signage from city hall for a $35 fee.

The city’s land development code requires property owners to remove political signs within 7 days after the election.


AMI and beyond

Additionally, state law prohibits the placement of political signs on rights of way along state roads, including Gulf Drive/State Road 789, Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 and Cortez Road/State Road 684.


Did you know?

Removing a campaign sign from private property constitutes theft in all three island cities.

AM commission puts kibosh on chamber’s Bayfest fundraiser

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AMI chamber vice president Cathy Pizzo, right, and board chair Bev Kilpatrick address Anna Maria commissioners at their Aug. 27 city meeting about the chamber’s Bayfest plans. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

The coronavirus has claimed another annual Anna Maria Island celebration.

Anna Maria commissioners voted 5-0 Aug. 27 to retract approval of a special event permit for the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce to host its 20th annual Bayfest celebration on Pine Avenue in October.

Commissioners in June approved the permit to hold the event Oct. 16-17, hoping the pandemic would resolve by mid-fall. However, commissioners aren’t comfortable permitting the event in the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the end, the health and safety of all is of the utmost importance to us, so we definitely support the decision of the Anna Maria City Commission 100%,” chamber vice president Cathy Pizzo told The Islander.

The commission decision makes Bayfest another in a long list of island celebrations canceled or postponed due to the pandemic. Most of the traditional highlights in the spring and summer calendar were victims, including the Anna Maria farmer’s market, the St. Patrick’s Day and July 4 parades, Independence Day fireworks, a school gala and the annual tour of homes.

Pizzo and board chair Bev Kilpatrick attended the commission meeting hoping to retain the event.

Kilpatrick presented chamber plans intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus at Bayfest, including taking volunteers’ temperatures, sanitizing port-a-potties, placing hand-sanitizer stations along Pine Avenue and requiring face masks for everyone at the event, including vendors.

She said event coordinators and volunteers would enforce the face mask rule.

Also, the chamber planned to mark Pine Avenue with tape and post signs to promote social distancing and other safe practices.

“We’re taking every precaution,” Kilpatrick said.

Pizzo said vendors — about 40 already showed interest in participating — would be responsible for maintaining social distance between customers and limiting the number of people in their space.

The chamber estimated 4,000 people attended its single-day of Bayfest in 2018, but 2019 saw a reduced number due to inclement weather.

At the commission meeting, Pizzo said about 1,500 people were on Pine Avenue in 2019.

No state order exists that would prohibit Bayfest in October. The state initially limited the number of people allowed to congregate but only “encourages” people to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people, according to a person at the Florida Department of Health who declined to be identified.

However, a DOH public health advisory issued July 20 and in effect as of Aug. 27 advises people to “refrain from gatherings of more than 10 people.”

At the city meeting, Commissioner Jonathan Crane said he’s uncomfortable bringing crowds to Anna Maria during a pandemic.

The coronavirus is spread mainly person-to-person, through respiratory droplets when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and the CDC says the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus,

“I’m worried signs and blue tape won’t stop someone from breathing down the back of my neck,” Crane said.

Commissioner Joe Muscatello said canceling the event likely wouldn’t result in any hardship for the chamber. He said the commission canceled the city’s annual Memorial Day Parade in May due to concerns about crowds.

“We’ve been conservative about this situation so far, and I think we should continue to be,” Muscatello said.

Commission Chair Carol Carter said she also is concerned about bringing crowds to a city so heavily populated with older people.

Muscatello moved to retract approval of the permit and Crane seconded the motion.

There was no public comment.

Pizzo told The Islander that Bayfest generates about 30% of the chamber’s event revenue.

She said the chamber does not have an alternative plan.

“We haven’t really sat down and talked about moving forward yet,” Pizzo said. “We’d definitely like to have it when it’s possible, but there’s still a lot of unknowns.”

Islanders can contribute to beach renourishment

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Renourishment resumes after storm delay The view north from 26th Street North in Bradenton Beach shows pipes on the sand Aug. 27 as beach renourishment remobilizes following a break due to swells in the Gulf of Mexico caused as Hurricane Laura passed to the west of Anna Maria Island.
Equipment, including bulldozers, sand separators and long runs of pipes, line the beach near 26th Street North, facing south in Bradenton Beach. The construction is part of a $17 million renourishment project that brings sand from offshore to replenish beaches and prevent further erosion. Beach renourishment is expected to run through October and will end at Longboat Pass.
People watch as a bulldozer smooths sand Aug. 27 along the beach near 26th Street North in Bradenton Beach. The sand was pumped from a barge over a seabed about a quarter-mile offshore to restore the beach.
The Savannah, a barge used to pump sand for a beach renourishment project, is back in the waters near Anna Maria Island Aug. 27 after it was sent to Port Manatee in Palmetto to avoid swells in the Gulf of Mexico caused by Hurricane Laura Aug. 25-26. The second barge can be seen as a “dot” on the horizon to the left of the Savannah. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Allen
Two workers pound in a barrier Aug. 27 between the renourishment project and a pedestrian area. The project took a brief hiatus during Hurricane Laura’s passage through the Gulf of Mexico Aug. 25-26.

An architect of the beach renourishment project is looking for public feedback.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, is considering minor design enhancements to increase resiliency for it’s beach renourishment project, which began in July at 76th Street in Holmes Beach and will run through October and end at Longboat Pass.

A “supplemental environmental assessment” will consider public comment on a variety of design modifications, including dune construction, vegetation, sand fencing and pedestrian and vehicle access, adding to the renourishment project, according to an Aug. 24 release from the Corps.

Public comment is sought either by email at SAJ-Dune-Comments@usace.army.mil or by traditional mail to: Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, Attn: Ms. Angie Dunn, 701 San Marco Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32207.

People can visit www.saj.usace.army.mil/ManateeShoreProtection to review the SEA. Comments must be received by Sept. 23.

For more information about Corps projects, visit www.saj.usace.army.mil.

— ChrisAnn Allen

Island landscaper dies of COVID-19

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Angel Cruz, left, with his son Angel Jr., 17. Known on Anna Maria Island for his landscaping business, the father died Aug. 23 from complications associated with COVID-19. Islander Courtesy Photo: Cynthia Lacy
Angel Cruz, right, and an employee, work on removing a tree at a residence in Holmes Beach. Cruz, who died Aug. 23 from COVID-19, provided landscaping services to customers on Anna Maria Island. Islander Courtesy Photo: Cynthia Lacy

Most who knew him say he was an angel.

Angel Cruz, 42, of Bradenton, owned Cruz Landscape. He was hospitalized Aug. 8 and died Aug. 23 from complications associated with COVID-19.

He is one of 254 people in Manatee County to die from COVID-19 as of Aug. 28.

“Angel Cruz was one of the finest men I’ve known,” Ann Grit, Holmes Beach resident and Cruz client, told The Islander Aug. 27.

“He was honest, hard-working, dependable, humble and kind, and I will miss him dearly. My heart goes out to his family and anyone else who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

Jim Eatrides of Sarasota knew Cruz when Eatrides lived on Longboat Key and Cruz worked for another company. Eatrides encouraged Cruz to start his own business nearly 15 years ago.

“He was one of the most diligent, honest and thoughtful people I have ever met,” Eatrides said Aug. 27. “The more I saw him and got to know him, the more I saw that potential. He was the American Dream.”

Cynthia Lacy, a Holmes Beach resident and Cruz client, shared a post to social media when she learned the landscaper died. The response was overwhelming — more than 600 people liked the post and many shared comments on how Cruz affected their lives.

“He was able to do anything we needed, and did it with a smile on his face,” Lacy said. “He was just a wonderful person, loaded with integrity. And so strong and healthy, which is part of the shock.”

According to Cruz’s wife Maria, he had no known health issues prior to contracting the virus, but heart problems arose with the virus and claimed his life.

She said her husband’s employees were tested and none were positive, but he returned home from work one day and complained of a headache and fever.

She told him to rest and, when his symptoms worsened, encouraged him to get tested for the virus.

Angel Cruz tested positive at the state-run testing site at University Town Center in Sarasota.

He isolated, seeking to prevent the spread of the virus to his wife and their children, Angel Jr., 17, and Diana, 12. But eventually Maria and Angel Jr. contracted the virus.

During his illness, Angel Cruz reached a point where it was difficult to breathe, so his wife called 911 and he was taken to the hospital.

She said her husband could barely stand.

“I feel like he didn’t want me to worry, he didn’t want me to be scared,” Maria said. “I thought he would go to the hospital, they would give him oxygen and we would pick him up in the morning.”

Maria said her final communication from her husband was a text that he was about to be placed in a medically induced coma.

She was hospitalized shortly thereafter, as was their son, Angel Jr.

When it appeared Angel Cruz was getting worse and he was not baptized, his family requested the rite. Maria was admitted to his room, in full personal protective equipment and the ceremony was conducted over the phone with a priest.

“They said I could be in the room with him, since he was dying and I was positive,” she said. “They made me wear gloves, but I took them off, so I could feel him one last time.”

He died within hours of the baptism and Maria was released from the hospital several days later.

On Aug. 27, she was isolating and had not seen her daughter — who remained negative for the virus.

Maria said the encouragement and support from friends, family and customers has been overwhelming.

“I cannot say how much I appreciate peoples’ kind words,” she said. “I wish I could tell everyone ‘thank you, he loved you all so much.’”

Eatrides said he is in shock over the loss of his friend.

“He was a very healthy, active man,” Eatrides said. “What’s difficult about this disease is it hits people in different ways. It is indiscriminate.”