Anglers may be able to enjoy fishing off the Anna Maria City Pier by late February.
The mayor says there are hurdles, but maintains the pier contractor is on track.
Still, the buildings that were to house a restaurant and bait shop at the T-end of the pier will remain empty.
The historic pier was originally built in 1911 and closed after being damaged by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The pier remained closed and was demolished by the city in 2018.
New construction began in January 2019.
“The pier is coming along nicely,” Murphy said at a Jan. 9 city commission meeting.
Most of the issues that arose in construction have been corrected, including a 3-inch gap on the platform at the T-end that was “fixed weeks ago,” Murphy said.
“Framing, siding, windows and most doors are up and hung,” he added.
As far as the bathrooms, power, sewer, water and fire suppression line, the mayor said “there are some hurdles with each one of these issues. But we’re still on track for an end-of-February opening.”
Some issues remained with getting power hooked up to the pier from the shoreside, but Murphy said he is working closely with Florida Power & Light remains confident the problems will be resolved in a timely fashion.
Pier tenant sought
The city commission Jan. 10 voted unanimously to decline the final lease offer from Mario Schoenfelder — pier operator since 2000 — and will instead seek requests for proposals from prospective tenants.
Although Mayor Dan Murphy said he and Schoenfelder had come to an agreement on many details, there remained two outstanding issues: insurance and rent payments.
In part, because Schoenfelder said he would be willing to spend $800,000 in pier improvements, Murphy recommended to the commission that the city pick up the tab for casualty, fire and wind insurance at an estimated annual cost of $50,000.
Schoenfelder was presented with two payment options: $18,900 or $21,600 per month, both with either a 3% annual increase after the first year or an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.
But the option to make lower monthly payments called for an additional $250,000 from Schoenfelder on signing.
Schoenfelder countered with his own offer: $8,000 per month with payments abated for six months until the restaurant is opened and CPI-based adjustments kick in after three years.
There were other specifics to both offers. But in the end, there was too wide a gap between what the city was asking and what Schoenfelder was offering.
As to the prospects for a pier restaurant-bait shop operation, Murphy wrote a Jan. 18 text to The Islander: “It’s too soon to tell who is seriously interested but we have had quite a few calls about the RFP.”
Murphy said Jan. 10 that he wanted to issue the RFP by Jan. 15, but Jan. 18, he texted that the RFP “won’t go out until next week.”
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.
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.