Tag Archives: News

Beach washout evident, renourishment planned

thumb image
Bradenton Beach’s southernmost groin, created an escarpment, revealing a rope and bollards — part of a divider that protected the dune from being trampled by people. Islander Photo: Courtesy David Herrmann

The beach will have to endure another hurricane season, but the Gulf of Mexico shoreline on Anna Maria Island will be renourished in 2019.

Hurricane and storm season runs May 1-Nov. 31.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, said in an interview Jan. 8 that two renourishment projects, spanning 5.4 miles of beachfront south from 79th Street in Holmes Beach to Longboat Pass, are in the works for 2019.

Beginning in November 2019, the first project will bring sand to the shoreline from 79th Street to Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pay for 54 percent of the project, with supplemental and emergency funding appropriated from the U.S. Congress to counteract erosion caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, according to Hunsicker.

The state and Manatee County will split the remaining costs of island renourishment at 23 percent each.

Hunsicker said he expects the project to total $16 million.

“As a result of Hurricane Irma, we have a full year-and-a-half to two-year head start on addressing what would have otherwise been the erosion due to this last storm,” Hunsicker said. “If we had a completely healthy beach and observed these erosional losses, and then started the process today, it would take us at least another year-and-a-half to get to where we are right now.”

The cost of the second project will be split between the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Manatee County and the state of Florida, with FEMA covering 75 percent and the state and county sharing the remainder.

The project will span the shore from Fifth Street South to Longboat Pass and cost about $4 million, according to Hunsicker.

“We hope to piggyback on the contractor that the army engineers will be using, so instead of stopping at Bradenton Beach and packing up and leaving, they can stay right with it and keep on going under a separate and independent contract to do the Coquina Beach segment, and thereby save substantially in local and state dollars,” Hunsicker said.

Mobilization costs for large beach renourishment projects can range from $4 million-$6 million before the first shovel is turned, according to Hunsicker.

In total, the projects would replace more than 700,000 cubic yards of sand lost to erosion and cost around $20 million. Hunsicker expects the work to last three-four months.

The sand will be dredged from a sandbar offshore of the northern end of Anna Maria Island and pumped in pipes to the renourishment area.

Hunsicker said a dump truck can load up to 10 cubic yards of sand at once, and to meet the project requirements would require 70,000 truckloads — an effort that would cost significantly more than dredging and pumping the sand.

A couple of recent storms have furthered the erosion caused by Irma.

Bradenton Beach resident David Herrmann said erosion is apparent north of the groins at Cortez Beach and is within 10 feet of a multiuse path that stretches from Cortez Beach to Coquina Beach.

“I’ve seen this beach come and go for 30 years and this is probably about the worst I have ever seen it,” Herrmann said in an interview Jan. 8.

While he isn’t concerned the erosion will impact his property, he is worried for the multiuse path and utility poles west of Gulf Drive.

“If we have another storm like we just had, it’s going to cut back even more, and the path will collapse. There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “It’s a concern that will become a problem if we get two more storms like those that came through a couple weeks ago. If we get a hurricane, it’s gone.”

Hunsicker said beaches on the Gulf lose 10 feet in depth and width every year due to “an aggressive wave climate that actually has the effect of pulling the sand off the beach, like grabbing a bedspread off of your bed and pulling it onto the floor.”

To counteract the erosion, renourishment projects replace the lost sand so that the Gulf doesn’t eat farther into the beach.

“We put that sand out there, fully expecting it to be sacrificed under very heavy storm conditions,” Hunsicker said. “Rather than farther upland.”

Additionally, groins can help preserve and build upon the existing beach, as they trap sand moving down the beach via the drift current by slowing the sand and changing its direction.

“The new groins (in Bradenton Beach) kept the footprint of the sand in place,” Hunsicker said. “We didn’t lose that much sand there around the groin.”

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie agreed, saying that “in effect, with the recent storms, the groins and the dune system did exactly what they were supposed to do: protect infrastructure.”

Suzi Fox, director of the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, told The Islander erosion would have no effect on sea turtles or shorebirds while nesting is in its off-season, but would need to revisited when sea turtles begin nesting in May.

“It’s nothing new,” Fox said Jan. 8.

“Historically, that sand comes and goes. We’re a barrier island. That’s just going to happen.”

Trolley driver recovers girl’s plush pet, missing backpack

thumb image
Addison McGoey hugs Rudolph, her cherished toy buffalo, Jan. 12 on its return to her in New Jersey. Islander Photo: Courtesy Theresa McGoey
Patricia Adams drives an island trolley. Islander Photo: Courtesy MCAT/Keven Sheerin

It’s a tale of a damsel in distress, a hero and a happy ending.

It starts with the McGoey family of New Jersey as they wind up their holiday on Anna Maria Island Jan. 2, piling their belongings into the back of a rental car.

En route to the airport, already in Bradenton near U.S. 41, they noticed the tailgate was open and 12-year-old Addison McGoey’s backpack, containing Rudolph the buffalo, a stuffed animal and her constant companion, was missing.

It was important enough to send the family back to the island on a search.

They circled back, retracing their route to where they began in Anna Maria at Elm Avenue, but they had no luck.

In spite of their efforts, Rudolph and the black backpack were not found.

Enter island trolley driver Patricia Adams. She was driving her route that day when she spotted a black backpack on the side of the street near Ginny’s and Jane E’s Coastal Store and Bakery Cafe.

Adams stopped the trolley and picked up the backpack to put in the lost and found, thinking a rider might claim the item. She also started to do a little investigating.

“I looked up the local Craigslist lost and found and there it was,” she told The Islander. “So, I called the number and made arrangements about sending it back.”

Adams has been driving for Manatee County Area Transit for 12 years, spending the past two years on the trolley loop.

“She is one of our very best drivers,” Kevin Sheerin, MCAT supervisor in the trolley division, said Jan. 10 of Adams.

He said Adams was nominated for state operator of the year in 2018 and would be nominated again.

The McGoey family was thrilled by her extra effort, and the return of the much-loved Rudolph.

Mom Theresa said Addison was facing the probability she would never see Rudolph again. The toy was a gift at age 3, and she towed it everywhere.

“She maintained her composure until we got home to New Jersey. Then I think it hit her she might never get it back. When I got the call from Adams, I sent Addison a text,” McGoey said.

“I’ve never seen so many Os, Ms and Gs,” McGoey said.

“When I picked her up from school, she was all smiles,” she continued.

This was not the first time Rudolph was lost. In 2011, on another vacation, the furry buffalo got lost at the White House during the Easter egg roll on the South Lawn.

“He fell out of my purse,” McGoey said. “We told Addison Rudolph must have had some important business with the president. We found him in the White House lost and found.”

McGoey surmised, maybe he just likes to strike out on adventures of his own.

Rudolph and the backpack arrived by UPS Jan. 12 at the McGoey home in Summit.

“I told my daughter, there are a lot of good people out there,” McGoey said. “This just proves it once again.”

AME PTO — students, community — look forward to Dolphin Dash

thumb image
Gabriella Gilbert of Anna Maria Elementary pushes for the finish line Jan. 14, 2017, at the AME-Parent-Teacher Organization Dolphin Dash. Gabriella was the first-place winner in her 9-and-under female division. This year’s dash will be Jan. 19. Islander File Photo: Karen Riley-Love

Enthusiasm for the 13th annual Dolphin Dash has Gabriella Gilbert running laps.

The 5K race and 1-mile fun run at Anna Maria Elementary School is Saturday, Jan. 19. Gabriella, a fifth-grader at AME, has been training by running laps around the school basketball court during recess and rising early to exercise at home.

Her mom, Lindy Gilbert, president of Lux Carts, at 309 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, said her daughter has participated in the run every year since kindergarten.

“She absolutely loves running and loves the opportunity to give it her best — to give it her all,” Gilbert said in an interview Jan. 10. “It’s really great to see that.”

Competitiveness drives Gabriella to participate, and her zeal drives her mom to run.

“She always wants mommy to run with her, and then she leaves me in the dust,” Gilbert said. “I’m usually bringing up the rear with all my friends.”

Whether finishing first or last, Gilbert said it is impossible not to have a good time at the event.

“I haven’t found another group activity that just makes you feel so good!” she said. “Everybody cheers you on. Everybody comes together. You always seem to perform better than your fears make you think you might. It’s all positive, and I wish everyone on the island could share in the experience because it is wonderful.”

Principal Jackie Featherston said in an interview Jan. 7 that she is excited for the race, and will enjoy it from the sidelines.

“I don’t do the run,” she said. “Mostly I help with the setup and stuff like that. I’ll do whatever needs to be done to keep it running smoothly.”

The event, coordinated by Kelly Gitt and supported by the Bradenton Runners Club, will benefit the AME Parent-Teacher Organization.

Nichole Teich, president of the PTO, said in an interview Jan. 11 the race is the third-biggest annual fundraiser for the organization, behind the fall fest and spring gala.

The race will be Jan. 19, with registration at 7 a.m. in the south parking lot at AME, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

The 5K will begin at 8 a.m. and the 1-Mile Fun Run will start at 9 a.m. After the race, awards will be presented and every participant will receive a race swag bag.

“Just come and be there and go for it,” Gilbert said. “It’s all good. Even if you walk or if you get cramps, everybody is cheering you on and rallying around each other. Honestly, I don’t see how anything negative could come from it. Whatever happens, it’s going to end up being positive and as a really great memory for everyone.”

For more information, visit runsignup.com/race/fl/holmesbeach/dolphindash5kand1milefun.

License-plate reader contracts clarified, approved in Holmes Beach

thumb image
Thomas Thanus, acting city attorney in Holmes Beach, reviews contracts Jan. 8 for a license-plate reader system during a city commission meeting at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

The contracts have been clarified and Holmes Beach is cruising toward a license-plate reader system.

The city commission Jan. 8 authorized Mayor Judy Titsworth to execute an agreement for reader equipment from contractor Vetted Security Solutions of St. Petersburg and a second agreement for software with Vigilant Solutions of Livermore, California.

In November 2018, the commission approved the system, not to exceed $105,240, but questions remained regarding the contracts with the two companies and the cost. So the contracts were reconsidered Jan. 8.

Attorney Thomas Thanus, filling in for city attorney Patricia Petruff, clarified the difference between the Vetted and Vigilant contracts.

He said Vigilant is the software creator and provides support for the system and it works closely with Vetted, which provides hardware and installation.

The city will pay Vetted $105,240 upon completion of the project. There is no payment the first year to Vigilant — it is included in the Vetted fee, according to Thanus.

Upon the second year of operation, the city will pay Vigilant an annual licensing fee of about $2,625 each year, which includes $525 for five cameras.

The attorney said the contract could be terminated at any time and that it is a sole-source contract, piggybacked on the Longboat Key and Manatee County, which operate the same system.

“It’s very important for the police department to be able to communicate and share information with those other law enforcement agencies,” Thanus said.

Commission Chair Jim Kihm realized some attachments were mixed-up in the copy provided to commissioners, so he asked for a clean copy of the updated contracts with clarifications between the responsibilities and costs for both companies.

The mayor and commissioners moved the vote to the end of the meeting to allow time to read the updated contracts.

Thanus said the software fee with Vetted could increase each year, but annually caps at 4 percent.

Commissioner Kim Rash said he’d like Vigilant to provide a five-year spreadsheet detailing what the increases in cost are each year.

“”I’d like to see that so we know what kind of money we are going to be spending,” he said.

Thanus said the annual increase would be about $110 at most and, in a previous conversation, Police Chief Bill Tokajer said he would include the increase in future budget requests.

At the end of the meeting, the updated contract was distributed to the mayor and commissioners, and a vote was taken.

A motion for the mayor to execute the contracts with Vetted and Vigilant passed 4-1, with Rash voting “nay.”

The next city commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, to be followed by a work session.

Eyes on the road – 01-16-2019

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following notices for the week of Jan. 14:

Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach: As part of a pipeline replacement project, crews are performing tie-ins at Ninth Street North and the Cortez Road embankment, as well as sodding the embankment. Paving on Gulf Drive from Cortez Road northward to 10th Street North has been delayed. When it begins this winter, work will be during daytime hours and require traffic maintenance.

Avenue C in Bradenton Beach: As part of a pipeline replacement project, right-of-way restoration work is taking place, including paving operations on 23rd, 24th and 25th streets.

Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach: As part of a pipeline replacement project, Gulf Drive is closed to northbound traffic at 81st Street, with northbound traffic detoured onto 81st Street to access Palm Drive. Trolley stations remain accessible. Pedestrians should avoid any attempts to cross over pipes or other construction materials. A reduced speed limit is in place and motorists may experience temporary, single-lane closures.

For more information about the pipeline replacement projects on the island, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.

BB sunshine lawsuit defendants depose ex-mayor, city clerk

thumb image
Jack Clarke, complainant in a lawsuit and former mayor of Bradenton Beach, awaits his deposition Jan. 7 at Vincent M. Lucente & Associates, a court reporting office in Bradenton.
Tjet Martin, left, a defendant in the Bradenton Beach sunshine lawsuit, is seated Jan. 7 with her partner and former Mayor Bill Shearon, and the five other defendants, Bill Vincent, Reed Mapes, Patty Shay, Rose Vincent and John Metz, prior to a scheduled deposition at the court reporter’s office in Bradenton.
Attorney Thomas Shults, counsel for Bradenton Beach sunshine lawsuit defendant John Metz, prepares Jan. 7 to depose ex-Mayor Jack Clarke, a plaintiff in the suit.
Bradenton Beach city clerk Terri Sanclemente waits with attorney Robert Watrous before her Jan. 9 deposition in the Bradenton Beach versus six citizens lawsuit.

The defendants say the lawsuit is political and was filed in bad faith.

A plaintiff says he sued because the former Bradenton Beach board members broke the law.

A lawsuit filed in August 2017 by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city against six former city board members alleges violations of Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws.

And the case is heating up.

Clarke was deposed Jan. 7 by Jim Dye, attorney for defendant Reed Mapes, and Thomas Shults, defendant John Metz’s attorney.

City clerk Terri Sanclemente was deposed Jan. 9 by Dye and Shults.

The city’s attorney for the suit, Robert Watrous, and paralegal Michael Barfield also attended the depositions, which totaled nearly 10 hours, adding to the city’s legal fees, which now exceed $110,000.

Clarke apparently paid no legal fees and has no financial liability in the lawsuit based on an agreement signed by the city with Watrous.

The suit alleges violations of chapters 119 and 286 of the Florida Statutes by former board members Mapes, Metz, Tjet Martin, Patty Shay, and Bill and wife Rose Vincent, who were then members of the grass-roots group known as Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach.

Bill Vincent founded CNOBB as “an all-volunteer organization that advocates for and enhances the quality of life in Bradenton Beach,” according to the now-defunct group’s mission statement.

But Clarke and the city disagree with CNOBB’s mission, claiming the board members violated Sunshine Laws by discussing city matters at meetings and through emails and text messages, in their efforts to overstep the city and amend the charter through citizen initiatives, bypassing the city’s charter review mechanism.

Clarke’s deposition began with Shults asking Clarke if he understands what it means to act in “bad faith,” to which Clarke responded, “That’s not in my lexicon.”

Clarke, Metz and the city have a history of political and legal disputes, including a lawsuit filed by Metz seeking to have Clarke’s name removed from the ballot for the May 19, 2015, mayoral recall vote.

Metz alleged Clarke failed to comply with the state’s “resign-to-run” law. However, the judge was not prepared to rule on the merits of the lawsuit without further study of the authorities, so Metz voluntarily dismissed the case, according to Metz.

During the Jan. 7 deposition, Shults determined that Clarke had not attended any planning and zoning board meetings in 2017, meetings where he claims parking garages were discussed.

However, Clarke claims the former board members violated Sunshine Laws during a CNOBB meeting when they allegedly discussed proposing a charter amendment that would prevent future multilevel parking structures in the city’s community redevelopment district.

Through discovery, Shults determined that Clarke had extensive communications with a reporter for The Sun newspaper, who followed CNOBB’s actions once the group formed and also had attended P&Z board meetings.

Additionally, one of the exhibits presented by Shults was an Aug. 1, 2017, email from reporter Joe Hendricks to Barfield stating CNOBB had committed a possible Sunshine Law violation.

Barfield is known locally for his involvement in a lawsuit that resulted in a commissioner recall in 2010 in Anna Maria and other Sunshine lawsuits in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

In the email, Hendricks sent a link to an article he wrote regarding the possible violation and a recording of a July 25, 2017, CNOBB meeting when the alleged parking garage discussion took place.

The city voted to join Clarke in the lawsuit a week later, Aug. 7, 2017.

During Sanclemente’s Jan. 9 deposition, Shults inquired about who prepared her affidavit for the lawsuit.

She answered that she did not write or index the affidavit, but she signed the document that was emailed to her. She said she does not remember who wrote it.

As city clerk, Sanclemente is the keeper of the city’s public records.

Shults asked Sanclemente how the city disposes of public records — both hard copies and electronic.

She said hard copies of public records that are more than two years old are reviewed, and the police department takes unimportant documents to Tampa to be burned.

She said that as far as she knows, electronic records never have been purged, but she is working on a “disbursement list” of records for an IT company to remove from the city server.

She said the building department has a similar process, but requires state paperwork detailing the list.

Additionally, Shults asked how text messages to and from city officials are handled as public record. Sanclemente said staff and city officials are instructed not to text on city cellphones but, if they do, they have been told to save the exchange as an email and preserve the record by sending it to her.

Shults asked if she received many emailed text message records from staff and officials, to which Sanclemente replied, “No.”

At the end of the deposition, Shults made a records request to Sanclemente through Watrous, for a copy of the building department’s state form for document destruction and her disbursement list of removed emails.

He also requested a copy of the employee handbook outlining department and employee responsibilities, a document Sanclemente referred to in stating the duties of deputy clerks.

Additionally, Dye requested a copy of a meeting notice, as it would appear on the door of city hall.

A hearing for a motion of partial summary judgment for legal fees is planned for Jan. 31 at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W. Bradenton.

Mediation for the parties with attorney Jack Hawkins is scheduled for Feb. 25 at the law offices of Grimes Goebel Grimes Hawkins Gladfelter & Galvano, 1023 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

At a case management conference Dec. 3, Judge Lon Arend of the Manatee County 12th Judicial Circuit Court ordered a nonjury trial the week of March 18.

Clams for Bradenton Beach living shoreline near delivery

Clams destined for Bradenton Beach’s living shoreline are being bagged for delivery on Pine Island.
City engineer Lynn Burnett told Community Redevelopment Agency members Jan. 9 that Carter Davis of Farm Raised Clams of Southwest Florida in James City on the south end of Pine Island is packaging 200,000 top-neck clams for the city.
She expects the shellfish to be seeded near the Historic Bridge Street Pier in late January or mid-February.
The process includes collecting broken shells, which will be placed with the clams to stave off predators, according to Burnett.

The next step in building the living shoreline will be to transport the clams from James City to Bradenton Beach. Delivery will be on a refrigerated truck provided by CRA member Ed Chiles.

The CRA also determined that local fishers will be hired to place the shellfish in the water at the pier.

CRA commissioners voted in December 2018 to purchase the clams for $32,000, with an additional $8,000 in funds to cover placement and permitting.

Chiles, who attended the meeting by speakerphone, said he is happy with the project.

The city purchased clams too mature to be consumed, but with thick enough shells to prevent predation, and the clams will have the ability to effectively reproduce.

Chiles noted, the James City clams are ideal for a restoration project because of their survivability.

“I can’t wait for those clams to be in the water,” he said.

CRA sets public workshop for Bridge Street improvements

Property owners and tenants will soon get their say on the future of Bridge Street.

Community Redevelopment Agency members Jan. 9 voted 7-0 to hold a public workshop at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, to hear opinions on possible improvements to the street.

Storyboards will be drawn by contractor Emily Anne Smith to show options, including changing the commercial strip to a one-way or closed street.

The CRA district is bordered by Cortez Road, Sarasota Bay, Fifth Street South and the Gulf of Mexico. The area was deemed blighted in 1992, leading to the creation of the CRA and the use of county tax funds to promote restoration, growth and tourism.

The CRA includes the mayor, city commissioners and two appointed members, John Horne and Ed Chiles.

Smith, who was hired by the CRA in August 2018 to provide an aesthetic vision for the historic district, said the workshop should provide the feedback she needs.

At the meeting Jan. 9, she told CRA members she is ready to get to work on her designs.

“I want you to let me do my job,” she said. “I have been pulled, stretched, in different directions for months. Give me something to do.”
Smith said she has a list of questions to present at the workshop.

One question is how best to supplement parking on Bridge Street. Smith said one idea is to shuttle people from Cortez Beach parking using golf carts.

Angela Rodocker, owner and operator of the BridgeWalk Resort, 100 Bridge St., attended the Jan. 9 meeting and told CRA members it is critical to bring the public into the discussion.

She said she would like to see Bridge Street change, but change shouldn’t be rushed.

City Commissioner Ralph Cole, who chairs the CRA, said he would visit businesses on Bridge Street to notify owners and tenants of the workshop.

Mayor John Chappie, a CRA member, said no motions or vote would be taken at the workshop.

The next CRA meeting will be 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Judge sets treehouse case for conference

thumb image
Treehouse owner Richard Hazen watches the Jan. 8 court proceedings as wife Lynn Tran talks to their attorney, David Levin of Icard Merrill of Sarasota at the Manatee County Judicial Center.

“It goes on and on and on.”

That was Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth’s reaction as she stepped out of the Jan. 8 court hearing on the treehouse that ended with another court date set for March 5.

This time the treehouse came before 12th Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas in a case filed by the city to enforce a May 2016 magistrate decision requiring the structure’s removal and $50 daily fines against owners Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran that have accumulated to more than $65,000.

Two motions were heard by Nicholas — Holmes Beach’s motion to default the treehouse owners for failing to initially answer the city petition and the owners’ motion to abate the enforcement case.

Jim Dye of Dye, Harrison, Kirkland, Petruff, Pratt & St. Paul, attorney for the city, recounted the past five years of treehouse litigation for Nicholas, contending most issues have been decided.

Dye asked the judge to “leap over discovery,” enter an order of default and go to a hearing.

But the treehouse owners’ attorney disagreed.

“Quite frankly, we haven’t had our day in court,” attorney David Levin told the judge.

Levin, of Icard Merrill of Sarasota, contended the court hadn’t ruled directly on the constitutionality of a 50-foot setback, the basis for the city’s objection to the structure. He urged Nicholas to postpone the hearing until a separate case seeking a declaratory judgment on the validity of the setback is decided.

The dispute between the owners and city is entering its eighth year.

An anonymous tip alerted the city in 2011 about the construction of the two-story structure in a towering Australian tree on the beach.

Tran and Hazen built the structure without city and state permits at their residence at 103 29th St., where they operate Angelinos, a four-unit short-term rental.

Levin told the judge Jan. 7, “My clients actually went to the city of Holmes Beach building department before they commenced their construction. They mentioned they wanted to build a treehouse in a tree in their backyard.”

As it was on private property, Levin said, the building department advised no permits were required …until the construction was almost complete and the city initiated a code enforcement action.

That argument, as well as challenges to the constitutionality of the setback, were lost by the owners in another treehouse case that was litigated to final appeal.

In 2013, the owners challenged the city code board decision, which was upheld in September 2014 in a 28-page opinion by 12th Circuit Judge Janette Dunnigan.

Dye tendered the Dunnigan opinion and other prior court decisions to Nicholas in the courtroom.

After hearing arguments by Dye and Levin, Nicholas ruled the city’s default motion “moot,” due to a recently filed response from Levin.

The judge denied the owners’ motion to abate “without prejudice,” meaning the decision could be revisited, and set a 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 5, case management conference to consider discovery and to resolve the owners’ 2013 setback case.

In addition to the city enforcement case and the owners’ petition to declare the setback unconstitutional, the owners filed — without an attorney — to stop the city from destroying the treehouse and halt the accumulation of daily fines.

The owners’ filed for a temporary injunction in mid-December 2018, naming the city and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as respondents.

As of Jan. 10, the court had no DEP response.

In 2012, the owners sought an after-the-fact permit for the treehouse construction, but the city refused to sign off on a letter of no objection to the DEP and DEP denied a permit in January 2014.

Other litigation included the owners’ bid to put the fate of the treehouse on a citywide ballot.

After losing that case in circuit court, the owners appealed to Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court, both of which declined to review their petition.

Numerous other appeals have resulted in courts siding with the city.

The March 5 conference will be at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

FISH hopes to grow fishing festival, improve ‘catch’

thumb image
T-shirts at this year’s Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival will feature a design by Rose Lipke, chair of the 37th annual fishing festival in Cortez. The festival will be Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17, between Cortez Road West and the working waterfront on Sarasota Bay. Islander Courtesy Graphic

Commercial fishers battle many odds to bring in a catch.

“Changing Tides” is this year’s theme for the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage Commercial Fishing Festival — the annual fundraiser for the now 229-member group, dedicated to preserving commercial fishing and maritime cultures as well as the coastal environment.

The event is set for Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17.

Since August, Cortez fishers have been battling losses due to red tide while their support group has been preparing for the fest.

FISH vice president Jane von Hahmann and artist Rose Lipke, festival chair since 2015, said this year’s fest won’t be that different from last year’s, although FISH will increase its advertising on social media, with paid-Facebook boosts and other tools.

Festival planners hope to improve their catch — proceeds from the event.

The fest will kick off at 10 a.m. Feb. 16 with a “blessing of the fleet” and feature 60 art vendors, 20 food vendors and other exhibits, as well as the annual favorite, Dock Talks, a feature organized by FISH member John Stevely, a former University of Florida Sea Grant scientist.

Lipke said some vendors will be brought closer to the streets than last year but she and her committee still must iron out the details.

In the past, a nonprofit group of Cortez fishers, Fishing for Freedom, sponsored touch tanks and cast net demonstrations, but their 2019 contribution is uncertain, according to FFF president Mark Coarsey.

“The boys are having to fish farther away,” Lipke said about red tide’s effect on local fishers and their catch — including losses from the stone crab season.

“Although the bait is coming inshore now, the mullet fishers are working down south, Everglade City, and trucking it back,” she added.

Coarsey planned to meet with his members in the next week to decide on the group’s participation in the festival.

Entertainment for Feb. 16 includes the Shanty Singers, Doug Demming, Eric von Band and Koko Ray.

The Feb. 17 lineup includes Soupy Davis and his band, Ted Stevens & the Doo Shots, Jason Haram and the Karen and Jimmy Band, as well as the Eric von Band on the Bratton Store porch.

“We definitely don’t want beautiful beach weather,” von Hahmann said, as last year’s dismal turnout was blamed on sunny skies, poor signage and more festivals competing for seasonal traffic, including the Thunder by the Bay Music & Motorcycle Festival in Sarasota.

In 2018, FISH recorded 13,000 attendees, with $54,000 in profits. In 2017, a first-day rainout saw lower attendance at 17,000 — but slightly better profits at $80,000. In 2016, the celebration drew an estimated 18,000-19,000 visitors and raised $118,000 in net proceeds.

With the online applications, food vendors have been encouraged to identify their source of products. For artists, 70 percent of their work must reflect commercial fishing, historic preservation, the Florida coastal ecosystem or traditional crafts.

Festival profits support habitat restoration on the 100-acre FISH Preserve bordering Sarasota Bay, as well as the group’s historic buildings and educational and environmental pursuits.

For more information about the fest or vendor applications, go to: www.cortez-fish.org/fishing-festival.