Tag Archives: News

City pushes pier opening to March

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

Let the celebration begin.

Well, nearly, almost, but not yet.

Not in February, as planned, but soon.

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

But, BYOB — bring your own bait.

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

Schoenfelder’s lease runs through December 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State legislative session peaks, home rule, property rights at risk

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"The Old Capitol,", built in 1845, was threatened with demolition in the late 1970s when the new capitol building was built. Having been restored to its 1902-version in 1982, the Historic Capitol is directly behind the new Capitol tower. Islander File Photo: Bonner Joy

The right for local governments to regulate is on the line in Tallahassee.

“Another week, more movement” was how Florida League of Cities lobbyist Casey Cook begrudgingly began a Feb. 3 summary of vacation rental bills being considered in the legislative session.

The league assists local government bodies with home rule advocacy and Cook participated in its weekly Monday morning conference call.

Two bills — House Bill 1011 filed by Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, and co-sponsored by Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, and Senate Bill 1128 filed by state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah — would preempt the regulation of vacation rentals to the state, prohibiting local laws, ordinances or regulations from allowing or requiring inspections or licensing of vacation rentals.

Regulations adopted before 2011 would be grandfathered. However, many cities, including Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach, adopted vacation rental regulations after 2011.

HB 1011 was approved 8-5 Feb. 4 by the government operations and technology appropriations subcommittee, after being ruled favorable 10-5 Jan. 21 by the workforce development and tourism subcommittee.

SB 1128, the companion to HB 1011, was approved 8-2 by the innovation, industry and technology subcommittee. As of Feb. 6, it was pending consideration by the commerce and tourism subcommittee, which is chaired by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota.

Cook said he anticipated the bill would be up for a vote Feb. 11, after press time for The Islander. He said Florida League of Cities’ legislative action days would be Feb. 11-12 in Tallahassee and he urged people to arrive in time to attend the subcommittee hearing.

Action days provide people an opportunity to speak with legislators.

“We need to have our members in the room talking about some of the issues that you’re having and why we think local solutions are the best option here,” Cook said.

At a Jan. 28 Holmes Beach Commission meeting, Chair Jim Kihm, legislative liaison, said SB 1766, filed by state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, is another concern for island municipalities.

SB 1766 would require any settlement reached on a Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Protection Act claim that involves the issuance of a variance or exception to a regulation be applied across the board to all “similarly situated residential properties.”

The Bert Harris Act allows demands for compensation due to government regulations that diminish the value of private property.

According to a report given Feb. 3 by league lobbyist David Cruz, the bill also would allow for business damages to be incorporated into Bert Harris claims and would prevent local governments from recovering legal fees, even if they prevail.

“We have a whole host of concerns with this,” Cruz said. “This is a priority issue for the league.”

The bill was approved 6-0 Feb. 4 by the judiciary subcommittee.

Bills being considered this session and information to connect with legislative committee members can be tracked online at www.flsenate.gov and myfloridahouse.gov.

The session is scheduled to end March 13.

 

Contact state legislators

Florida legislators can be contacted via phone, email, regular mail or in person.

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, can be reached at 941-741-3401. His Bradenton office is at 1023 Manatee Ave. W. He can be emailed at galvano.bill@flsenate.gov.

Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, can be reached at 941-378-6309. His Sarasota office address is 381 Interstate Blvd. He can be emailed at gruters.joe@flsenate.gov.

State Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, can be reached at 941-708-4968. His office address is 717 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. He can be emailed at william.robinson@myfloridahouse.gov.

 

BB renews lobbyist contract

The Bradenton Beach City Commission voted 5-0 Feb. 6 to renew a contract with the Tallahassee-based Ramba Consulting Group for the services of lobbyists David Ramba and Thomas Hobbs.

The city will pay Ramba $2,500 a month in addition to out-of-pocket expenses through March 31. No monthly invoice can exceed $15,000.

Ramba and Hobbs have lobbied state lawmakers since the firm was hired in 2017. The pair helped earn $3,194,248 in state appropriations for the city last year, including $500,000 for seagrass mitigation and $2,694,248 for a flood prevention program.

— Ryan Paice

13th annual AME Dolphin Dash takes off

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Runners in the AME Dolphin Dash 5K take their marks at the starting line in the school parking lot, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. The course will take then through the streets of Holmes Beach and back to finish line at the school.
Anna Maria Elementary kids take their marks in the 1-mile fun run Feb. 8 at the 13th annual Dolphin Dash, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: Brook Morrison
Danny Fitzwater of Sebring leads the pack on Holmes Boulevard Feb. 8 during the AME Dolphin Dash 5K on the streets in Holmes Beach.
AME first-grader Giuliana Bankert and father Darin Bankert run towards the finish line Feb. 8 at during the 1-mile race at the 13th annual Dolphin Dash.
Sue Hall of London holds her trophy Feb. 8 for overall female winner at the 2020 Dolphin Dash 5K to benefit Anna Maria Elementary.
Carol Westerman takes home the first-place medal for the 80-plus age category Feb. 8 at the AME Dolphin Dash 5K.

Osprey nests atop Bradenton Beach cell tower

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An osprey, a fish-eating bird of prey, sits Feb. 5 in the nest it made atop the cell tower in Bradenton Beach. Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale told The Islander Feb. 3 the osprey nest will remain undisturbed on the structure unless the tower needs repairs. In 2017, an osprey nest was removed from the tower because Hurricane Irma left the tower damaged. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

Bradenton Beach plans growth, additions to living shoreline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mini reefs

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

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

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

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

Chappie moved for no objection to the changes.

Chiles seconded the motion, which passed 7-0.

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

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

Lot clearing halted for nesting herons in Holmes Beach

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A great blue heron watches over at least one fledgling Feb. 4 in a nest in an Australian pine tree in the 500 block of 56th Street in Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Allen
Holmes Beach code compliance officer Robin Evangelisto takes photos and video Feb. 3 of a great blue heron nest atop an Australian pine tree in Holmes Beach. Per federal law, Evangelisto issued the property owners a stop work order until the birds have left the nest.

Protecting the balance between development and wildlife is a priority on Anna Maria Island.

In mid-January, Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth notified code compliance of an active blue heron nest in an Australian pine tree where a home was demolished and the bayfront lot was being cleared in the 500 block of 56th Street in Holmes Beach.

Since then, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was notified and lot cleanup has stopped until the birds leave the nest. A nest is active if it contains eggs or fledglings.

Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, it is illegal to tamper with nests containing eggs or fledglings. Breaking the law can result in a $15,000 federal fine.

Owners Patrick and Daria Grinenko and contractor Moss Builders claimed they did not know the nest existed when construction started.

Code compliance officer Robin Evangelisto issued a temporary notice of violation and stop work order Jan. 14 to the property owner and awaited review by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Evangelisto observed the nest with FWC officer Jason Dalton, who confirmed there was a female heron with fledglings but could not confirm the type of heron.

So she photographed and videotaped the bird and sent it to FWC biologist Nick Jennings, who confirmed the bird is a great blue heron.

“You may continue to clear the lot so long as you do not cause take to the great blue herons,” Jennings wrote in a Jan. 24 email to Evangelisto, the Grinenkos and Moss Builders.

Under the federal act, “take” is “attempting to take, pursuing, hunting, molesting, capturing or killing any wildlife or freshwater fish, or their nests or eggs.”

Jennings wrote that flushing the bird from its nest, forcing the abandonment of the chicks, would qualify as “molesting.”

Evangelisto said Feb. 3 that the city doesn’t want to take chances that continued work on the site could disrupt the nesting birds. So a notice will remain until the fledglings have left the nest, but the property owner will not be cited unless the stop work order is violated.

“We just have to wait and see,” she said. “Once we know the fledglings are gone and we know that mom has moved on, we will give the OK.”

Cortez celebrates ‘steady’ roots with annual fishing festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, Feb. 15:

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

Sunday, Feb. 16:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening day on deck for Holmes Beach skate ramps, bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back in the day

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Maloney sweetheart: The late Don Maloney, a Holmes Beach city commissioner, performs — in drag — at the 2006 Kiwanis Club’s Valentine dance to the song, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” Maloney brought the house down when he made his entrance, wearing loads of lipstick and cherry-smeared cheeks, a blue silk dress and a big red wig, complete with a “wild Irish rose” in his teeth. And he held his “character” of Lily LaTusch through the song, sashaying among the tables and several hundred guests with their sides splitting and tears rolling down their cheeks from laughter. Islander File Photo: Bonner Joy

Fire district, island resort resolve sprinkler dispute

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A Holmes Beach resort has dropped its legal battle with the West Manatee Fire Rescue District.

WMFR officials disclosed Jan. 21 at their board meeting that the suit involving Bali Hai Beach Resort, 6900 Gulf Drive, was resolved out of court Dec. 4, 2019, and had been unanimously ratified.

The agreement requires the installation of a sprinkler and fire alarm systems and one-hour firewalls between rooms at the resort.

WMFR Chief Ben Rigney said he hopes to see the sprinkler system in place this month.

WMFR paid about $13,000 in legal fees for the case.

Bali Hai owner Shawn Kaleta, an island developer, filed the suit in circuit court Nov. 18, 2019, over the fire district’s requirements.

Kaleta also filed an administrative appeal to a district decision on the plan to remodel the motel.

District legal counsel Maggie Mooney said Kaleta had challenged fire marshal Rodney Kwiatkowski’s decision requiring the installation of a sprinkler system at the motel.

Attorney Jason Miller of the Najmy Thompson P.L. law firm of Bradenton filed the suit on Kaleta’s behalf, making the case that Kwiatkowski’s interpretation of the Florida Fire Code delays the remodel of the motel and could cost the builder more than $15,000 in damages.

Kaleta’s motel has 43 rooms and suites and, according to Kwiatkowski, a sprinkler system must be installed throughout.

Mooney said Kaleta was opposed to sprinklers.

Only one- and two-family residential dwellings are exempt from the sprinkler requirement, according to the Life Safety Code, a provision of the Florida Fire Prevention Code.

WMFR’s next meeting will be 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.