The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 51 - September 16, 2009


'Monsoon' scours Island
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A car and truck inch along North Shore Drive, a lake forms on

One of the most intense series of rainstorms in recent memory flooded many areas on the Anna Maria Island over the weekend, forcing many residents into mop-up mode.

While the official rainfall at the Sarasota-Manatee Airport only showed 3.03 inches of rain on Saturday, which is a new one-day record, areas west got much more water on Friday and Saturday.

“Radar estimates on the Island were closer to nine inches,” said Rick Davis, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Ruskin. “In northwest Bradenton, where I live, my rain gauge measured 8.6 inches.”

Each of the three cities experienced flooding, although it could have been worse.

“We got flooding in spots that normally flood and then some,” said Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine. “City crews got signs out to warn of the deep water as it got worse. I came out Sunday and most of those areas were dry.”

Romine said, however, that it was much worse out east where the rains caused rivers to flood.

Public works crews were out Monday morning cleaning debris from formerly flooded streets and public areas in the city.

Anna Maria Public Works Director George McKay said he measured seven inches of rain at his home rain gauge Friday and Saturday. He was busy Saturday closing residential streets.

“It was basically a lake east of Gulf Drive from Magnolia to Willow,” he said. ‘Other areas were north of Gulf Drive and North Shore, at Cypress and Newton, north of North Bay and North Shore and at South Bay.”

McKay said flood damage to homes in the north end of the city was made worse by sightseers.

“We put up signs and barricades and they moved them and drove through,” he said. “They either don’t know or don’t care about what their wake does to the flooded homes.”

Bradenton Beach Public Works Director Char Patterson said that the two men who worked Saturday collecting trash also cleaned drains in the area of Avenue B between 22nd and 23rd Streets in the north part of the city. She said public works received no reports from homeowners about flooded homes.

Davis said that the rain was not the result of any tropical activity

“It was a very old frontal boundary that was, for the most part, southwest of us,” he said. “It moved north Friday, stalled out over Tampa Bay Saturday and acted as a focusing area for rain. The heaviest part of that rain was southwest of the front, from Egmont Key south to Anna Maria Island.”

Neighbors hear upscale development plans
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Banyon Tree Estates will be built on the Walker estate at
the end of Park Avenue in Anna Maria and will contain
nine buildable lots. PHOTO/TROY MORGAN

ANNA MARIA — Representatives of the Walker estate hosted a neighborhood get together last week to explain a development project slated for the beach end of Park Avenue.

The land formerly held 11 buildable lots, which will be turned into 9 larger lots, all conforming to code, David Teitelbaum told the neighboring property owners.

Teitelbaum is coordinating everything between the Walkers - who own the land - and the contractors, architects and real estate people.

“Ultimately, there will be three direct Gulffront lots, two lots facing Park, two facing Beach, as well as two in the interior,” according to Al Galletto, of Island Real Estate. Galletto and Island Real Estate’s Frank Davis are the real estate consultants for the property.

“The lots will probably range in price from $2.9 million for the lots facing the Gulf to about $550,000 to $700,000 for the interior lots,” Galletto said.

Many of the lots are covered with old growth banyon trees and some neighbors initially were concerned about the fate of the trees.

Betty Yanger is one of those neighbors.

“I love those trees, and they’ve been here as long as I have,” she said. “I was worried that they’d be taken down for the houses they’re putting there.”

Yanger contacted Teitelbaum, who is consulting on the initial phases of the project. He reassured her that the old growth trees absolutely would be saved.

“We want to preserve the banyon trees, for the most part,” Teitelbaum told the residents at last week’s meeting. “After all, we’re calling this Banyon Tree Estates.”

Brent Whitehead, of Whitehead Construction, also is consulting on the project.

“The trees will be protected by deed restriction,” Whitehead said. “The owners of the properties will also have to conform to design standards as part of their deed restrictions. People buying some lots will have to get creative and build around the banyon trees.”

It’s believed that this will be the only deed-restricted area on the Island.

Ricinda Perry, a land use attorney, is handling the legal and permitting work.

“All the lots will be conforming,” she said. “All the building envelopes will be conforming. We already have DEP permits to build.”

There is one challenge to the DEP ruling that the lots are buildable. That comes from a property owner whose house sits on the north side of Park. As proposed, one Gulf front lot will be located seaward of his house.

“That will be handled in an administrative hearing later this year,” Perry said.

After the meeting, Yanger said she felt better knowing that the banyons would stay.

“I feel much more comfortable about what’s going on,” she said. “It’s always better to know exactly what’s going on. I hated to think those beautiful trees would be gone.”

Yanger said she also was glad to learn that there would be certain rules for the people who buy the lots.

Neighbor Melanie Parrish said the meeting was informative.

“We knew that something would be built there,” she said. “It was inevitable, and this is a relatively good situation for this property.”

Banyon trees are members of the ficus family. Older banyan trees are characterized by their aerial prop roots, which grow into thick woody trunks, which are indistinguishable from the main trunk. The trees often spread out over a wide area.

Governor approves Port Dolphin

ANNA MARIA – With the Sept. 11 approval of Gov. Charlie Crist, Port Dolphin is one step away from final approval of its liquefied natural gas port, proposed 28 miles off Anna Maria Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

Crist approved the port subject to 13 conditions required by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. An executed agreement between Port Dolphin and the two agencies is required by Friday, Sept. 18, to document the conditions.

The U.S. Maritime Administration is scheduled to make a final decision on the port’s permit application by Oct. 26.

The port would be connected by an underwater pipeline to land-based distribution points at Port Manatee, whose officials have been among the project’s most vocal supporters, citing new, high-paying jobs and clean energy. Port Dolphin has estimated a $150 million direct economic impact to Manatee County and Port Manatee over the next 20 years.

Critics, including the town of Longboat Key, have expressed concern about the project’s potential environmental impacts on beach renourishment sand resources, wetlands, navigation, fisheries, marine mammals and sea turtles.

Sand pact

Under the conditions, Port Dolphin will be required to pay up to $5 million each to Manatee County and the town of Longboat Key to reimburse them for the removal of beach renourishment sand from the pipeline path, and $500,000 each for permitting fees.

The Manatee County Commission endorsed the plan earlier this month before the dollar amount was announced, noting that it would accelerate the next Coquina Beach renourishment project.

If the municipalities do not remove the sand before June 2012, barring a hurricane or other disaster, Port Dolphin can extend the deadline or make reimbursements for the lost sand. Under the plan, Port Dolphin would begin construction after the sand is removed.

“We are reasonably certain this can be accomplished,” Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said.

But even after seeing the draft agreement on Friday, town officials still were not completely satisfied with the plan, and filed 36 pages of comments with the Maritime Administration challenging the U.S. Coast Guard’s Environmental Impact Statement on Port Dolphin as insufficient.

The comments charge that the report’s conclusions that environmental impacts are minor are patently wrong, that the report fails to consider the cumulative impacts on sand resources of the pipeline with the existing Gulfstream Natural Gas pipeline, and that Longboat Key’s proposed alternative pipeline route was ignored.

Other conditions

In his decision, Crist considered “Florida’s energy needs, the need for alternate natural gas supplies, the potential for adverse environmental effects and economic impacts of the proposed port and safety considerations of port operations,” he wrote to the Maritime Administration.

Port Dolphin must comply with environmental conditions including mitigation and monitoring plans and compensatory mitigation resulting from “unavoidable impacts to benthic and upland resources,” and to hard and live bottom habitats in the Gulf.

The Norwegian-based shipping company must reduce air emissions by modifying diesel engines and using low nitrogen oxide burners, catalytic reduction systems and oxidizers on each ship.

It also must limit seawater intake and discharge in the process of converting liquid natural gas to its gaseous form by installing a $9 million closed-loop regasification system and ballast and cooling water management system on each of its ships. The company also will be required to conduct a study assessing the impacts of its water intake on marine fisheries.

Port Dolphin will have to pay $3 million to the Florida Energy Systems Consortium or an alternate entity to fund renewable energy research and development.

It also must reimburse the state for any costs for accidents at the port and must provide training for mariners and jobs for the Maritime Administration’s cadets in its fleet.

A $500,000 contribution to local cultural, recreational and marine educational facilities also is required.

Budget draws protests

HOLMES BEACH – Several residents sounded off last week after City Treasurer Rick Ashley proposed a 1.7549 millage rate at the first public hearing on the $7.8 million 2009-10 budget.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger pointed out that the millage rate was the rollback rate and would not generate any more revenue than the current budget.

“Many Island residents are losing their homes, have lost their jobs and pensions, can’t pay utility bills and this trend is predicted to increase, yet our city employees are getting raises,” Beverly Moore protested.

“This budget must reflect a sobering reality and it does not. How can you justify a wage increase in these economic times? Do not lose sight of your role as stewards in the public interest.”

She said the city should cut health insurance, energy and training costs and added, “These proposed budget cuts are only suggestions. They only mirror the belt tightening that the citizens are making in their daily lives and they should expect the same from their government.”

Andy Sheridan, a candidate for the November commission election, agreed with Moore and said the city should cut its fleet costs.

“I don’t think we’re doing all we can to trim this budget,” Sheridan said. “These are concerns I’m hearing.”

John Molyneux said the Island cities should consider consolidation to save money and asked, “Have you discussed recently opportunities to share in the overheads of running this Island as proposed to just running your community?”

Officials respond

Ashley said the raises total $25,000, or $9.62 per employee per week, and without them the millage would be 1.7349.

“We did not do COLA and we put a freeze on the step raises,” he explained. “The step plan would have cost $27,000 to $28,000.”

He said the city is self-insured and bids its insurance every year, has had energy studies done and training costs are primarily for police officers and the public works director to keep their certifications.

Public works vehicles are handed down from the police department, it has been three or four years since the city purchased a new public works vehicle and police officers do not take their vehicles home, he added.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino agreed with the residents and stressed, “We have almost 13 percent unemployment in Manatee County and people are losing their jobs left and right. It’s unbelievable that we are projecting this to our citizens.”

He said a local magazine lists average government salaries as $46,796, but the city’s average is $75,681, and according to the association of police chiefs, a city the size of Holmes Beach should have 11 officers and it has 14 officers plus seven clerical positions.

“I don’t feel comfortable asking our citizens to add the extra money without us doing our due diligence,’ he concluded.

“The majority of people I speak to think we have done our due diligence,” Commissioner John Monetti responded. “They want what we are providing. People are not upset about a $45 increase in their taxes if they are getting the level of service they get in Holmes Beach.”

Ashley said there are only two or three employees that make $75,000 or more and the rest make considerably less.

Commissioner Pat Morton pointed out that figures on the numbers of police officers for the city’s size are not necessarily applicable to Homes Beach because the population of the city swells on weekends, holidays and in season.

Commissioner Pat Geyer and Chair Sandy Haas Martens agreed with the others. The millage rate and budget were approved with Zaccagnino dissenting.

Board chair reports on the ‘State of the Center’

HOLMES BEACH – Tom Breiter, chairman of the board of directors of the Island Community Center, gave city commissioners an update on the “State of the Center” last week.

“A lot has changed at the Center in the past couple of years,” Breiter said. “It’s a tough environment for non-profits. With the state of the economy and people drawing back on their donations, we have seen revenues go down.

"We’ve had to pare back our budget to the level of four years ago. We’ve done this through a reduction of expenses and staff.”

He said the Center owes $650,000 on the new building in the form of a loan from Northern Trust Bank. The Center’s operating revenue comes from several sources including United Way, grants and donations, 20 percent; fundraising events, 28 percent; memberships and program fees, 27 percent; endowment income, 4 percent; county funding, 15 percent and funding from the three Island cities, 6 percent.

In addition to Executive Director Pierrette Kelly and Assistant Executive Director Scott Dell, the Center has five employees. The board of directors has 11 volunteer members, most of whom are Holmes Beach residents.

“The board was focused on capital, capital, capital to build our new building and we were successful, but we found ourselves needing some strategic planning to look to the future. We went through a strategic planning process to help us prepare for the next few years.”

Community survey

He said the process included a survey of community leaders, residents, program participants and elected officials, as well as those who had stopped using the Center.

“In general we found a high level of satisfaction, 90 percent and above, among our program participants,” he said. “They appreciated the quality and content of the programs offered, the staff and the instructors.

He said community leaders saw the Center’s mission as critical considering the rising economic stress, the pressures of drugs and gangs on youths and the changing community demographics.

“Donors and other prominent residents appreciate what we do, but were a little critical,” he said. “They observed that the Center is not quite the gathering place it used to be. We’re still trying to figure this out.

“They also observed that the facility could be better used in cooperation with more outside organizations. A third observation is they felt the programs did not keep pace with the demographic change. We disagree with this.”

He said some goals include creating more effective communication with participants, donors and elected officials and establishing a more effective partnership with the three Island cities.

Perico cell tower preserve site likely
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A controversial cell phone tower, B, is planned in the
corner of Perico Preserve , A, next to a Perico
neighborhood along Manatee Avenue, C.

PERICO ISLAND – A cell phone tower needed to improve police and fire communications likely will be built in the Perico Preserve, over the objection of neighboring residents.

The site on Manatee Avenue is preferred for several reasons, Manatee County officials told residents at a meeting at the Island Branch library last week.

A tower at the site would provide better satellite signal coverage in areas where law enforcement officers and emergency workers have continual problems using their radios, cell phones and laptop computers, said Mike McLaughlin of the Manatee County Information Services Department.

During hurricane evacuations in 2004, police and city officials on the Island could not communicate due to poor satellite service, Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore added.

In bad weather, the three law enforcement agencies on the Island have had such trouble communicating with each other that they have had to use hand signals, said Chief Deputy Chuck Hagaman of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

In one extreme case, an officer had to shoot a combative suspect because he could not call for backup due to an unreliable satellite signal, he said.

“The coverage on Anna Maria Island is spotty at best,” he told about a dozen residents opposed to the tower, which would also improve coverage for private cell phone users. “This is not a frill. This is an absolute necessity for us.”

Perico resident Ed Siemaszko said the cell phone tower is a second betrayal by local officials, the first being the city of Bradenton’s approval of multistory condominiums on the Arvida property west of the Perico Preserve, which separates the proposed development from existing Perico homes.

Manatee County dropped its protest against the development’s density in exchange for a purchase agreement on the preserve at half its appraised value, Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said, which kept the condos farther away from Perico residents.

Like the condos, the tower will be “a significant eyesore and devalue our property,” Siemaszko said, suggesting it be placed on the Neal Preserve across Manatee Avenue or on Anna Maria Island.

Neal Preserve is not a possibility because it was purchased with grants from the Florida Communities Trust, which prohibits any construction on the property, Hunsicker said.

An Island location would not provide enough coverage, Hagaman said.

Another suggestion to move the tower to the west where the preserve borders the Arvida property would not be possible because it is a wetland, Hunsicker said.

The county’s preferred site also will reduce the chances of vandalism and eliminate the need for building maintenance access roads in the preserve, he said.

The Manatee County Commission is expected to vote on the tower site on Sept. 22, with construction beginning about two months later, if approved.

Three seats, five candidates in city commission race

ANNA MARIA – At least five candidates will vie for three seats on the city commission in the Nov. 3 election.

Qualifying for the election officially ends at noon Tuesday, September 15, so the books for candidates have not yet officially closed.

However, all three incumbents - John Quam, Chris Tollette and Dale Woodland - have said they will seek reelection. As of Monday, Sept. 14, Quam and Woodland had officially qualified. Tollette has said she’ll run and is expected to turn in her paperwork before the deadline.

Two political newcomers have entered the picture, and both have qualified.

David Gryboski said he’s lived in Anna Maria for four-and-a-half years.

“I recently decided that I want to spend my life here, so I want to have as much say as I can to make sure this community stays the way we all love it,” he said.

Gryboski leases commercial property through Gryboski and Howe, a firm with offices in Holmes Beach and outside Atlanta.

The other candidate is Harry Stoltzfus, who has been a permanent resident for six years. He’s owned property in the city for about 10 years, but he’s been coming to the Island for 12 years.

“Like everyone else here, I love Anna Maria, and I’d like to give something back to the community,” Stoltzfus said. “Everyone was bemoaning the fact that no one was willing to step forward to run for a commission seat, and I decided this would be a good way to give back.”

Stoltzfus owns Harcon Corporation, which provides access to bridges for consultants, workers, painters and others. The company works out how to get people in place wherever they need to be on, under or beside a bridge, then provides the equipment to get them there.

Mark Alonso, an unsuccessful candidate in last year’s election, has picked up the paperwork, but hasn’t yet turned it in. He said he’s still deciding whether or not he’ll run again.

Residents have until October 5 to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election.

Festival organizers to change some plans

BRADENTON BEACH – The Real Florida Festival planned for next April got some real tips from the police chief last week on how to make it more enjoyable.

After hearing about plans to block off Bay Drive, Bridge Street and the Bridge Street Pier parking lot, Police Chief Sam Speciale asked for a meeting with the organizers to go over their plans.

The Real Florida Festival is being held Sunday, April 16 through 18, in all three cities to raise money to keep the Island trolleys free and for local charities. Orgainzers also want to pay back the three cities that donated $8,000 each to keep the trolleys free.

The three-day event features a Founders Day celebration in Holmes Beach on Friday, April 16, the finals of a karaoke contest Friday night and a Jimmy Buffet music festival Saturday in the field next to Holmes Beach City Hall put on jointly by the Island Chamber and Island Community Center.

Nancy Ambrose, organizer of the Bridge Street Market, said that Sunday would be Bradenton Beach’s day featuring a market along Bridge Street, a kayak and Earth Day celebration along Bay Drive and a walking scavenger hunt.

“We’re excited about this because it’s going to bring all kinds of people to Bridge Street,” Ambrose said, “It’s probably going to become an annual event.”

One problem Speciale had with blocking off Bay Drive is that it would rob the Bridge Tender Inn of several parking spaces along the east side of the street between Bridge Street and Third Street South. The organizers said that the owners of the Bridge Tender had decided not to participate in the festival. He was also uncomfortable about the spectacle of people launching kayaks from the bayfront parking spaces.

Real Florida Festival organizer David Teitelbaum said they could launch kayaks from the bayfront property at Old Bridge Village, which he developed. He said they could block traffic along Bay Drive from Third Street South to Fourth Street South to accommodate the kayakers, and that they would also make sure Third Street South is clear to allow Bridge Tender Inn customers access to those parking spaces.

Kayak festival organizer Joe Pickett, who organized the outdoor festival during the summer for three years, said they thought about holding this event at Coquina Park Bayfront, but they wanted to hold it inside the city.

“We might hold a kayak race from the pier north under the (Cortez) bridge and back,” he said.

Speciale said he was worried they were going to attract what might be thousands of people and did not request police patrols. He said he would assign two reserve officers to patrol at no charge to the city or the festival.

Public Works Director Tom Woodard volunteered to have a crew come in Sunday evening to pick up trash that volunteers would collect.

Ambrose reminded everyone at the meeting to suggest people attending the events either take the Island trolleys or park at Coquina Beach and either walk or take a trolley to Bridge Street.

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