The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 11 - January 8, 2014


Tiki Bar mobile kitchen shut down
Carol Whitmore

pat copeland | sun

This seating is in the main area of the Tiki Bar with the
bar. In the right rear of the photo is the bar added by the owners.


HOLMES BEACH – When Nicole Heslop left the city commission work session on Dec. 12, she felt confident that things were working out for her business, Barefoot Tiki Bar and Café at 5704 Marina Drive.

Previously, Police Chief Bill Tokajer had questioned whether a mobile kitchen she had on the site was legal. However, that evening, commissioners told Heslop to file a site plan for the kitchen after the city attorney gave two options in the code under which it could be allowed.

“I took the site plan in to city hall after the meeting, like they told me to,” Heslop explained. “They said Tom (Building Official Tom O’Brien) could not meet with me. I tried to make an appointment, but they said he couldn’t meet with me until he completed his review.”

Then on Dec. 17, Heslop received a notice of non-compliance from Tokajer that ordered her to shut down the mobile kitchen and told her she must comply with a number of requirements for food preparation and outdoor dining.

In addition, on Dec. 19, O’Brien sent a memo to other city officials stating, “Our preliminary review of the issue involved with this case indicates that extensive research into the permit history and expanding uses will be required. Such an investigation will take several weeks at the minimum.

“It will also require specific review and approval with stipulations by the city commission because the uses differ greatly for those permitted by the land development code.”

Assembly occupancy

O’Brien said because Heslop’s site plan includes more than 100 seats, the business would be classified as an “assembly occupancy with an entirely different set of requirements.” He said Heslop would have to provide “very detailed drawings addressing each area of required code compliance.”

In O’Brien’s absence due to illness last week, Plans Examiner David Greene said, “Assembly occupancy is much more strict, and all restaurants over 50 seats must comply. Most of them hire a design professional to tell them what they need.”

Unfortunately, Heslop was never sent O’Brien’s memo and when this was pointed out to Greene, he explained, “The city has been extremely busy through the close of the year. We will respond to her in writing when we have time to research all legally permitted activities on the premises with consideration for the owners’ actual use.”

Meanwhile Heslop’s partner, Jon Westergard, said, “We’re still a garden center. We still have pottery and plants, and we’ll be bringing back seasonal produce in a week or two.”

The pair opened the business as a garden center in 1995 and then in 2009, when the recession set in, they added a flea market with tiki huts.

“The only changes we made were to add a bar and the food trailer,” Heslop added. “We got a permit for the bar and Tom came and inspected it and approved it.

“The seating has always been there, and we had limited food and a coffee bar with the flea market. If they say we have too many seats, we’ll pull some out.”

“If people who live here want us to stay, they should tell their commissioners; if they don’t, they should tell them. We’re at the mercy of the city. We can’t afford an attorney or a design professional.”

Greene said the couple must define the uses and submit a site plan and a life safety plan.

Making noise

In addition, Heslop and Westergard have been working with the city regarding the proposed noise ordinance. The couple has made its bands playing in the Tiki Bar lower their volumes, spent $10,000 on an acoustic block and consistently check decibel levels.

“Our city commission has been very open and done a good job with the noise ordinance,” Heslop said. “Mary (Human Resources Specialist Mary Buonagura) and the police chief have done a great job researching local ordinances and what they allow and don’t allow.

“They’ve done nothing but work with us. What is acceptable for the community is a good noise ordinance, but if people want amplified outdoor music, they need to give the commissioners their opinion.”

Heslop said she visited several Flotilla Drive neighbors who signed a petition stating, “Our concern here is not to address general noise that arises in the city, but specifically the outdoor, amplified music played at the Tiki Hut.”

Heslop pointed out, “They said they were not bothered by our music but they are done with the music in the park (the city field adjacent to city hall that hosts numerous festivals with rock music).

“I told one woman to call me if it bothers her and she did and I turned down the music. We learned something from this – if there’s a problem, lets fix it.”

City officials continue to test decibel levels in the city to determine what is acceptable for the city’s new noise ordinance.


Pier work not quite done

ANNA MARIA – One question on everybody’s mind is when will the Rod and Reel Pier restaurant reopen. Nobody seems to know, including restaurant manager Dave Cochran.

“We’re working on it, but I’m not sure when it will happen,” he said Monday morning as a storm blew into the area. “It won’t be next week, but maybe the week after.”

A fire damaged the restaurant on Sept. 30 that was started by heat transferring from the stove to wood panels. There were customers in the restaurant at the time smoke started billowing from under the walls and Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Sellitto got everybody out.

When workers started to clear out the damaged walls of the 64-year-old restaurant, they found the structure needed more than just new walls. Crews have been working to replace what needs replacing ever since.

The employees of the restaurant found themselves out of work, but the community came together to help them. Roser Church helped with expenses and the Island Food Bank helped them get through the holidays. J&J Graphics owner Joan Carter printed witty T-shirts with menu items related to smoke and fire. The proceeds went to the food bank and the relief efforts, and Carter donated more than $7,000 to the cause from those sales. She only took money to pay for more T-shirts and donated her time and expenses for silk screening the shirts.

Weather postpones renourishment; beach pipes draw complaints

HOLMES BEACH – The roar of the sanding coming onto the beach was silenced last weekend as the dredge was shut down in anticipation of rough seas.

Coastal Planning and Engineering spokesperson Michelle Pfeiffer wrote Saturday that they would shut down the dredging and towed the dredge to safety.

Monday morning, the earthmovers were busy smoothing out the sand near 52nd Street next to the Martinique, but no new sand was coming ashore. A cold front was headed for the Island and high winds were expected to bring in lower temperatures.

Meanwhile, there have been reports of beachfront property owners complaining that the pipes and machinery have closed a section of beach, are hurting their view and making them have to walk out of their way to get to the water, Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said. She warned that the pipes would be in place possibly for a couple of days while they wait out the cold weather and rough water.


Boat owner inquires about ferry


The area outlined in red where Lake LaVista empties into
Tampa Bay is where charter boat Captainx Mark Hubbard
wants to load and unload passengers from a proposed
ferry boat route.

ANNA MARIA – A charter boat owner wants to add Anna Maria Island to his schedule and to load and unload passengers near the city pier.

Mark Hubbard sent a letter to Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn saying instead of docking at the city pier, he would like to explore using the mouth of Lake LaVista, on a pile of rocks that he said could be capped by concrete so people could safely walk on it.

“The pier can be dangerous when the water gets rough,” Hubbard said.

He drew up a picture of where the land spot would be located and sent it along with the message, asking the mayor to have appropriate staff review the plans and get back with him.

Hubbard said he would like to run a ferry service from Pinellas County, with stops at Egmont Key.

“I got involved with this idea 12 years ago, as Tampa Bay was planning for the possibility of being the site of an Olympics,” he said. “I tried a ferry boat from Tampa Bay to Key West.”

Hubbard said they did a study of a ferry to Anna Maria Island and it looked good because it would bring in tourists who did not bring cars.

“We’ve got a lot of water, but not a lot of roads,” he said.

Hubbard said he’s knowledgeable of the Tampa Bay area.

“I was born and raised here,” he said. “My dad had a water taxi from Mullet Key to Fort DeSoto. I applied for, and got, the right to run from Port DeSoto to Egmont Key.”

Hubbard said he now does two runs to Egmont Key during the day and his boat sits for 1 1/2 hours after they arrive there. He said he would like to bring people to and from Anna Maria during that time.

“It would be historical because those passengers would be landing near the pier and coming into town like they did a hundred years ago,” he said.

Neighbors protest tree trimming

Neighbors gathered on New Year’s Day to bemoan
the trimming of this tree on Park Avenue.
pat copeland | sun


ANNA MARIA – Neighbors met on New Year’s Day to protest the trimming of a banyan tree on Dec. 31 on property owned by Steven Walker on Park Avenue.

Brent Whitehead, of Whitehead Construction, confirmed that Walker had the tree trimmed in preparation for selling the property and added, “It was three lots, but Mr. Walker had it converted to two, so we wouldn’t have to take down the tree.

“Two arborists managed the trimming so it would grow back in a natural way. It will allow a house to be built there, but the tree will still be beautiful.”

Whitehead said the remaining roots could be affected by the construction of a house, but it is not an issue.

“With this variety of tree, the root system is extremely extensive, which makes the tree very stable,” he explained. Construction won’t impact the tree negatively.

“Mr. Walker protected the tree with deed restrictions. It only can be trimmed under management of an arborist.”

Owner responds

On Jan. 2, Walker wrote city officials and a neighbor.

“While I realize that folks are upset with any change that happens in their neighborhood, I think they have completely lost perspective of what we have done with the development there, versus what we could have done if we were driven solely by the dollars,” he pointed out.

He said all trimming was done by certified arborists, “not some less expensive hack with a chainsaw and a dirty pick-up,” and all work was done in accordance with the laws.

He said he did not make as many lots as were allowed, instead combining lots. In addition, he established restrictions to protect the trees and limit what a purchaser could do.

“I have personally donated money to the city of Anna Maria to replace plants and trees that we were required to remove by the state. All of this has cost me money and potential return. But I have been happy to do so because I believe in the value of protecting the environment.

“I have been willing to put my money where my mouth is. The solution for folks that are upset is for them to put their money where their environmental or sentimental mouth is and step up and purchase the lots that remain. Then they can do whatever they please with them.”

Cell tower debate continues


Trudy and Stewart Moon Jr. celebrate the expansion
of their Island business, Air & Energy, at their
new warehouse in Bradenton.


BRADENTON BEACH – The proposed cell tower, originally approved by city commissioners in 2012, was the subject of two separate, but related, conversations during the first commission meeting of 2014.

At the Thursday, Jan. 2 meeting, Church Avenue resident Paul Georges presented the commission with a petition containing the signatures of 70 citizens who oppose the construction of a 150-foot communications tower on city-owned land.

A second discussion on the cell tower ensued later, when commissioners addressed a series of easement requests made by Verizon Florida and Florida Tower Partners. Both companies require additional access to city property in order to install underground cables and conduit needed to connect to existing telecommunications and utilities equipment.

According to the lease signed by then-Mayor John Shaughnessy and Ridan Industries II managing member Kevin Barile on July 25, 2012, the cell tower is to be built in the parking lot adjacent to the public works building, between Highland and Church avenues, just south of the Cortez Bridge.

The original lease granted Ridan Industries the right to sublease the tower to a third party. On Oct. 16, 2013, less than a month before he lost his reelection bid, Shaughnessy signed an amended lease with Florida Tower Partners President Brett Buggeln.

Barile represents both companies. He said the two firms are “affiliated through a contractual relationship” and entered into a sublease agreement for accounting purposes.

In exchange for leased property rights, the agreement calls for the city to receive a one-time payment of $350,000 and 30 percent of the revenue generated by the tower, paid to the city on a quarterly basis, after the subtraction of a $7,500 quarterly lease fee.

Thursday night, Georges told commissioners, “We, the undersigned voters, residents, taxpayers and renters of Bradenton Beach oppose any cell tower in Bradenton Beach and ask for a repeal of permitting this to occur.”

The petition lists seven points of contention, including the claim that a cell tower would “decrease the aesthetic beauty of our beach community.” Additional concerns include decreased property values, potential health hazards and safety concerns.

The document suggests that a tower in that location will not provide better cell service in Bradenton Beach and questions why smaller digital boxes placed on existing structures cannot be used instead.

The petition questions whether the previous commission rezoned the proposed tower location without giving proper notification to abutting property owners and claims that alternative sites were not fully investigated.

In December, the Georges and three of their neighbors filed a request with the Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) for a ruling on the legality of a cell tower. The request was denied because DOAH is not the proper avenue for those seeking relief from a city commission decision. When Mayor Bill Shearon asked for commission comment following George’s remarks, Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said, “I think we have to move on this one way or another.”

Vosburgh and Commissioner Ed Straight are the only remaining commissioners who participated in the original decision making process that also produced a city ordinance that allows the cell tower.

Shearon said he wanted to review the petition, having just received it, and the commission agreed to discuss the matter in detail, with interested parties making their arguments for and against the tower, at the conclusion of the Thursday, Jan. 9 department head meeting work session. The meeting will begin at 1 pm and take place inside city hall.

“We need to have closure on this cell tower issue, period,” Shearon said.

When commissioners discussed the easement requests, Barile was on hand to clarify concerns raised by Vice Mayor Janie Robertson at the Dec. 5 meeting, this time providing commissioners with an illustration detailing the easement locations.

Addressing tower location, Barile said the proposed site is ideally suited to provide coverage along Cortez Road, in addition to improving reception on both ends of the Island.

Robertson made a motion to delay any decisions on the easement requests until after the Jan. 9 work session. When no commissioner seconded her motion, it died without a vote.

Vosburgh then made separate motions for the four easement requests, of which were approved by a 4-1 vote, with Robertson as the dissenting vote.

Shearon, Barile, City Attorney Ricinda Perry and Building Official Steve Gilbert have each recently shared their personal opinion that the city is contractually obligated to move ahead with the tower.

If the current commission agrees that the city must adhere to legal obligations entered into by the previous commission, the final resort for opponents would be an appeal to the circuit court.

If the commission attempts to block the cell tower, the city would be subject to a lawsuit and in potential violation of state and federal communications acts.

Barile said he hopes to begin construction on the tower in late January. At Thursday’s meeting, he said construction documents have been submitted to the city and require some minor revisions requested by Gilbert.

Pier rest rooms more accessible by week’s end

joe hendricks | sun

The public rest rooms located on the Bradenton
Beach City Pier will soon be monitored around the clock.


BRADENTON BEACH – Friday afternoon, a conversation ensued inside the Banana Cabana restaurant regarding the status of the public rest rooms located on the Bradenton Beach City Pier and the increased presence of homeless visitors.

Patron Sean Kummerow and employee Tina Chambers bemoaned the fact that access to the rest rooms has been sporadic of late, especially later in the evening and early in the morning, when the rest rooms have been locked.

Chambers said she was concerned that when the rest rooms are closed, anchorage dwellers and other users might be more prone to relieving themselves in public or in a manner that endangers natural resources, especially the waterway.

Operators of the Rusty Anchor bait shop have offered to provide and monitor after-hours access to the rest rooms once the new business is fully staffed and operating around the clock.

This will be accomplished via lock and key, with the bait shop staff holding the rest room keys and dispensing them in a manner similar to a service station or convenience store that utilize locked rest rooms.

Police Chief Sam Speciale and Rusty Anchor proprietor Jeffery “Rusty” Roberts said Friday that some of Kummerow and Chambers’ concerns should be alleviated this week.

Roberts said he expected to fully staffed by week’s end.

“We’ll be open 24-7 within a week,” he said.

Speciale explained that when Rotten Ralph’s restaurant closed in 2013, the rest rooms were at first left open 24 hours a day, but vandalism, theft of toilet paper and other supplies, incidents of defecation and reports of people sleeping in the rest rooms prompted the decision to lock the doors at night.

Since then, the public works department and the police department have shared the duties of opening the restrooms at 7 a.m. and closing them at 11 p.m. Holiday work schedules and other factors contributed to recent instances of the rest rooms not being accessible during the normal time frame.

Speciale said he would be delivering rest room keys to Roberts this week and expressed gratitude that the Rusty Anchor staff is willing to assist with the matter.

Speciale added that there appears to be an increased presence of homeless in Bradenton Beach in the past two months, and this may have contributed to some of the issues with the public rest rooms.

The chief suggested that some of these people are making day trips from Sarasota, using discounted bus tickets and passes provided by mainland organizations that assist the homeless.

Speciale and one his officers said Bradenton Beach might be perceived as a more pleasant and less-hostile environment than what currently exists in Sarasota, but this has led to an increase in panhandling and other undesirable practices.

Kumarow, a former Sarasota resident and longtime homeless advocate, said the new arrivals he has encountered are 19 and 20 years old and not always pleasant or receptive to his suggestions.

When he approached a few of the homeless visitors about earning some money in exchange for some day labor, those he encountered expressed little interest in the yard work and other odd jobs offered.

Kumarow said he has seen an increase in homeless people sleeping on the Island of late, and despite his past advocacy for the homeless, he does not feel especially sympathetic toward these recent arrivals.

One city official felt that some of the problems with the rest rooms stem from homeless or unemployed anchorage dwellers who are not being respectful of city property and city resources, yet expect the public rest rooms to be accessible to them at all times.

It was noted that those who behave in this manner help create a negative perception of the live-aboards who reside in the anchorage in a law-abiding and respectful manner.

City clerk resigns

Pat copeland | sun

Alice Baird has spent 28 years as city clerk
in Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria.

ANNA MARIA – City Clerk Alice Baird has turned in her resignation due to a health problem and asked for an audit by the city’s independent auditors “that is required due to the duties and responsibilities of my position as city clerk.”

Baird started in the Bradenton Beach City Clerk’s office as an assistant in 1984. She moved up the ranks to head clerk and then resigned to move out of the area in 1999. She came back and was hired by Anna Maria as city clerk in 2000.

In her letter that was dated Jan. 2, she said her last day would be Feb. 11.

“I have enjoyed my 28 years assisting the citizens of Anna Maria Island and wish all of you continued success in your future endeavors and in the years ahead,” the letter said.

Baird said she was not sure she wanted to make city clerk a career when she first started.

“I didn’t know whether I would enjoy it, but it became my life’s love,” she said.

Baird said she is grateful for the support she had over the years.

“I appreciate everyone I ever met while clerk in Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria,” she said. “A lot of people touched my life over the years and I have had a wonderful career."

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said she would address replacing Baird in the near future.

“We will replace the position, but we’ll never replace Alice,” she said.

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