The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 34 - June 18, 2014


Board: Ban parking on residential streets

HOLMES BEACH – In a move that is sure to create controversy, the Island Congestion Committee is recommending eliminating all parking on residential streets in the city.

Member Jayne Christenson introduced the idea at the group’s recent meeting, and members approved it. They plan to present it at today’s meeting of Barrier Island Elected Officials and at the July city commission work session.

“Over the last five years, we have seen more traffic and parking in the neighborhoods and in the streets,” she said. “It’s become a real concern of mine and my neighbors. It breeds a lot of issues. My goal is to find ways to eliminate or reduce it.”

She said issues include visitors parking on both sides of the streets and in people’s yards creating safety issues and damaging grass and sprinklers, trash left in yards, relieving themselves in public and using residents’ garden hoses to rinse off and opening vehicle doors blocking sidewalks. She also has concerns about the safety of neighborhood children.

“Technically, it is city property (right of way), but we maintain it,” she stressed. “To me it’s unacceptable.

“Tourists have rental units with parking, but in the summer months, local people are here and don’t have rentals units to park their cars, so they are overflowing into our neighborhoods.”

Finding solutions

Christenson said solutions include doing nothing, implementing Commissioner David Zaccagnino’s paid decal plan or eliminating parking on the streets, but she said Zaccagnino’s plan would not take vehicles of the streets.

“It would give people permits to park in front of our houses, and the cost would be huge,” she said. “It would generate revenue, but that is not the issue.”

Christenson said her plan would: be low cost to implement and manage; reduce parking in residential neighborhoods; and not require police time to issue tickets.

Member Pam Leckie said she agreed with the plan, however, member Ursula Stemm asked what people would do when they have parties or celebrations such as graduations.

Christenson said there could be exceptions, and residents could let the police know when they have events.

Resident John Hutcherson said, “You need input from people who may like parking in the street, but I think it’s a good idea. The community has changed, and you have to think about your residents.”

Hutcherson also asked about parking for beach renourishment, and Christenson said she would find out the requirements.

Christenson recommended eliminating residential street parking in R-2, but Leckie said R-4 should be added. The others agreed to add R-3 and that Key Royale and public parking areas at the beach accesses would not be included.

Commissioner Marvin Grossman said R-1 “does not get very many people going to the beach,” and that they should start with R-2 to see how people react.

However, Hutcherson pointed out, “Do it city wide because it creates problem for enforcement.”

Chair Carol Soustek suggested that members canvass their neighbors.

Center crisis rolls on

ANNA MARIA – With the community still reeling from the news that the Island Community Center could be forced to close due to lack of funds, Executive Director Dawn Stiles shared her thoughts on the issues surrounding the announcement.

“Everyone had a different reaction to the meeting,” she said regarding the Save the Center community meeting held June 4. “The board members thought we should be open and ask for ideas.

“Some people thought we should have a plan, I do have a plan. I know where we’re going. I am putting together next year’s budget, and I will share it and my plan with the community in another meeting.”

Meanwhile, Stiles is implementing measures to cut the budget, which the board of directors said she must reduce by $50,000 to $100,000. The first is not to replace Assistant Executive Director Scott Dell, who resigned on Tuesday, June 10. Dell’s salary was $62,000 plus benefits.

“The staff and I are are doing a systematic review of all costs,” Stiles continued. “We are going through our programs to see where the revenue is, standardizing how we collect money, looking at our expenses, reviewing each staff member’s job and looking at new programs to bring in revenue.”

May’s financial statement showed a loss of $193,293 for the year to date. Stiles said the Affaire to Remember, the Center’s biggest fundraiser, brought in $91,000 versus $121,00 in 2013 and $221,000 in 2012

As to why board members let the situation gets so bad before sounding the alarm, Stiles said, “You need to ask them.” But she did point to a chart in the audit report that shows expenses greater than revenue every year since 2009.

Saving costs/increasing revenue

Some cost saving measure include:

• Purchasing a computer program to control the air conditioning temperature, which is not possible now;
• Reviewing the insurance, which has increased by 58 percent since 2008;
• Renting office space in the building;
• Seeking more volunteers;
• Seeking sponsors for kids’ scholarships.
New ideas for programs/services include:
• Implementing a credit recovery program for high school students to get credits by studying with volunteer teachers;
•c Developing a program for rental property companies in which they would buy memberships for their renters to use;
• Developing classes for home schoolers;
• Evaluating ideas from community members;
• Planning a newsletter to keep the community informed.

Stiles said they are reviving standing committees and establishing new committees such as marketing, event development, member advisory, governance and volunteers. She also is seeking board members from the community.

“We made call for new board members at the meeting and had about 15 responses,” she said. “We sent them the application, the contract and the conflict policy.

“When we get them back, the governance committee will interview them and bring recommendations to the board meeting for a vote.”

Donations coming in

Donors at the recent Island Blood Drive gave $6,808 to the Center. An anonymous donor makes a $100 donation to one of four non profits designated by the donor. This more than doubled the Center’s proceeds from last year’s blood drive.

The endowment funds have been requested. The maximum allowed is 10 percent of the total, which equals $83,000 plus and will be disbursed to the Center on Friday, June 20.

Stiles said the Center needs $700,000 to operate for the next year to year and a half. It has received $35,000 toward a $50,000 match offered by an anonymous donor.

“I want enough so that we don’t have to constantly hold small events to raise money,” she explained. “We need to have a plan and go forward, and we need time to do it right.

“I’m trying to keep the staff from being demoralized, but keep some urgency in the community. Always being in a crisis mode is no way to live.”

Stiles said she is hopeful that city commissioners in the three Island cities will explore the possibility of implementing some type of fee for the Center.

The city of Holmes Beach has donated $22,542 to the Center every year since 2008, up from $20,000 previously. The city of Anna Maria leases the land to the Center in addition to donating $16,000 per year.

At Thursday’s Anna Maria City Commission work session, the Center issue was brought up, but Mayor SueLynn said, “Commissioners appeared to be content with the land they lease to the Center for $1 a year. There was no real discussion of doing more.”

The Holmes Beach City Commission has not met since the Center’s crisis was revealed.

“We understand how important good stewardship is,” Stiles concluded. “Our lack of transparency in the past has led to public distrust.

“We are committed to regaining your trust through the sharing of financial data monthly and easy access to Center administrators always.”

Cities losing Homesteaded properties

Annual taxable property figures show a drop in the numbers of Homesteaded properties over the past three years.

Properties are eligible for a $25,000 per year reduction in their taxable value if they are owner occupied and the owner applies for the Florida Homestead Exemption. Seasonal residents who live in their Island homes for more than half the year are also eligible.

As Homesteaded properties are converted to vacation rentals, either by the owner or a developer, they are taken off the Homestead exempt list. When they are, they lose the cap on annual taxable value increases that the Homestead Act allows, which adds taxable value to the cities’ tax rolls, meaning more money for the cities.

The figures, which come from estimates of taxable values for each city to aid them in figuring income from property taxes over a fiscal year, show losses in the number of Homesteaded properties in each of the Island’s cities for 2012, 2013 and estimates for 2014. However, the drops are not as high as some might think.

Anna Maria had 564 Homesteaded properties in the 2012 report. That number fell by 17 properties to 547 in 2013 and by 39 properties to 525 in 2014. Overall, the city lost 329 properties from the Homesteaded ranks for a rate of 7 percent.

Bradenton Beach dropped 21 properties off the rolls: from 279 in 2012 to 266 in 2013 and 258 in 2014 for a loss of 7.5 percent.

The Island’s largest city, Holmes Beach, dropped a total of 58 Homesteaded properties: from 1289 in 2012 to 1252 in 2013 to 1231 in 2014. The three-year drop amounted to 4.5 percent.

Bob Johnson to run for mayor in Holmes Beach

HOLMES BEACH – Bob Johnson chair of the Charter Review Committee and a former member of the Island Congestion

Committee, announced Friday that he plans to run for mayor. “I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I’ve been here 20 years, and it’s the right time for me to step up and help the city.”

Johnson said he is not running against Commissioner David Zaccagnino, who also plans to run for mayor, but is running “to do a job that needs to be done.

“I have no political motivation. I’m practical, organized and results-oriented. I know how to lead organizations.

Leading is motivating and that is delivering what the customer wants. Our customers are the citizens and businesses of Holmes Beach.”

Asked if he is concerned about the lack of civility and respect cited by Mayor Carmel Monti as one of the reasons he is not running again, Johnson said he is not.

“I have a good idea what I’m walking into. My experience on the two committees has given me good insight into the city. I don’t think I’ll have a problem maintaining civility.”

Johnson said he plans to campaign in the fall and talk to as many citizen and business owners as possible and stressed, “I want them to know me and I want to know them.”

Johnson spent 21 years in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. Since leaving the service, he has worked in the high tech industry dealing with major companies in IT operations and services.

When told of Johnson’s announcement, Zaccagnino said, “I think he’s a good guy. I wish him luck.”

Titsworth to run for commission

Incumbent Commissioner Judy Titsworth, who was considering giving up her commission seat to run for mayor so Zaccagnino wouldn’t run unopposed, said she plans to run for commission after hearing Johnson’s announcement.

“I am elated that Bob Johnson, a very talented, respected and civic minded man, is willing to throw his hat in the ring and run for the mayor’s seat.”

“There are still many important issues facing the commission in our efforts to save the residential character and quality of life in the city, and my vote on the commission is crucial.

“I feel it would be a challenge to find anyone that has more respect and love for this city. I will continue to bring not only years of history and business experience but also leadership, stewardship, pride and compassion.”

Titsworth is a third generation member of the Holmes family for which the city is named.

In addition to the above candidates, qualifying packets have been picked up by incumbent Commissioner Marvin Grossman, who said he plans to run; Carol Soustek, chair of the Island Congestion Committee; and Andy Sheridan and Renee Ferguson, code enforcement board members.

Candidates must be citizens of the United States, registered voters in Manatee County and two-year residents of the city. They have until noon on June 20 to qualify for the mayor’s seat and two commission seats.

Five file for three positions

ANNA MARIA – All three incumbents are listed as seeking re-election in the Nov. 3 election this year.

Mayor SueLynn has qualified and will face competition from Dan Murphy, a Vietnam veteran who worked at teaching, newspapers, telecommunications and retail. He is a 36-year resident of Anna Maria Island with 21 years in the city of Anna Maria, according to his candidate statement. He lists hobbies as walking four to five miles a day with his wife, Barbara, playing bridge, gourmet cooking and enjoying his grandchildren.

David Bouchard has qualified to run for city commission. He said he would provide a fresh outlook for a changing Island. He has lived in Anna Maria for 12 years with his wife and two children and he owns rental property in the city.

Bouchard will face incumbents Chuck Webb and Nancy Yetter for a seat on the commission. The two candidates with the most votes will win the election.

The Anna Maria City Clerk’s office reports former commissioner Gene Aubry took out two packages to run for office. He said he took a packet for a friend and if that friend decides to run, he will too. He said the commission needs to quit playing games.

Qualifying ends at noon on Friday, June 20.

Traffic sign ordinance changes pass

ANNA MARIA – After working on a number ordinances to deal with the influx of tourism, city commissioners finally got one past the final public hearing.

Commissioners on June 12 unanimously passed the amendments to the traffic sign ordinance that controls parking, pedestrian safety and parking on public streets.

The changes are intended to address safety concerns at Gulf Drive and Magnolia, where there is heavy pedestrian traffic; add a four-way stop at Gulf Drive and Coconut Avenue; and ban trucks rated at eight tons or more on Magnolia Avenue between South Bay Boulevard and Gulf Drive and Spring Avenue between South Bay Boulevard and Gulf Drive, unless they are making deliveries on those streets.

They also added crosswalks on Gulf Drive at Coconut Avenue, Palm Avenue, Palmetto Avenue and Willow Avenue. Also at North Bay Boulevard and Lakeview Drive, North Shore Drive at Newton Lane and Pine Avenue at Roser Church and South Bay Boulevard.

Beach wedding permits?

The commissioners discussed a special events ordinance that was drawn up by City Attorney Jim Dye. They spoke about whether to require permits for beach weddings, even if they are small and the reception is elsewhere.

Dye said weddings at some areas are exempt, such as at Roser, where weddings are part of the agenda, and the Sandbar, which has facilities in its site plan for weddings.

In fact, Dye said weddings at the home of the bride or groom’s family would be exempt because it is normal for parents to host weddings for their offspring.

They talked about weddings that are too noisy, and Mayor SueLynn said when there is a problem like that, it can make for hard feelings.

“There was a wedding at The Studio at Gulf and Pine and they had a noise complaint,” she said. “The parents were livid.”

They also discussed administrative permits, which require less feedback, for events at the Anna Maria Island Community Center.

Citizen of the year

The commission agreed to name a citizen of the year after not doing so last year. Mayor SueLynn told the commissioners to name one person each to serve on a committee to choose that person,

Finally, they talked about proposed changing rooms that the county wants to purchase with bed tax funds and put in the public beaches, including Bayfront Park. Commissioners said they were not interested in having them. There could be a showdown later if the idea progresses at the county level.

Sky lanterns to be grounded

It’s a wish come true for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring – sky lanterns, also known as wish lanterns, are on their way to becoming a thing of the past on Anna Maria Island.

West Manatee Fire Department officials noticed coverage by the Anna Maria Island Sun about the lanterns and the dangers they pose to wildlife, and teamed up with Suzi Fox, director of Turtle Watch, to eradicate them, she said.

The lanterns, popular at beach weddings and memorial services, can cause fires when they fall or entangle or be ingested by sea turtles, shorebirds and other wildlife, she said.

Deputy Fire Marshal Jim Davis found a Florida law that prohibits the lanterns, said Fox, who recovered five sky lanterns from bushes, chairs and the beach after a beach wedding last month while conducting a nighttime sea turtle lighting inspection with a Bradenton Beach code officer.

It’s the law

Florida Statute 590.10 makes it “unlawful for any person to throw, drop, or dispose of a lighted match, cigarette, cigar, ashes, or other flaming or glowing substance, or any substance or thing which may or does cause a wildfire. Anyone who violates this section commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.”

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer already has agreed to enforce the statute in Holmes Beach, Fox said, adding that she is in the process of contacting the other two city police chiefs on the Island, and intends to notify rental agents and wedding planners.

The lanterns produce light that can be seen from the beach during sea turtle nesting season, May 1 to Oct. 31, which also is illegal under turtle lighting ordinances in all three Island cities that were adopted pursuant to Florida Statute 161.163, giving the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) a mandate to adopt guidelines for local government beachfront lighting regulations to protect turtles.

In addition, Florida Statute 379.233 prohibits the release of “10 or more balloons inflated with a gas that is lighter than air” within a 24-hour period that are approved as biodegradable or photodegradable by the FWC, and sky lanterns have not been approved as such, according to the FWC.

Setting the lanterns adrift also is littering, Fox said.

In recent years, lanterns have become entangled in a tree at Anna Maria Elementary School and shut down air traffic at Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport.

Science students dissect lanterns

A partnership between Turtle Watch and St. Stephen’s Episcopal School has produced studies by 27 students on the impact of the lanterns on the environment.

Students spent five months designing and conducting experiments, analyzing the results and completing lab reports, according to teacher Allison Misiewicz.

Among the findings: Lanterns burn for 7 to 9 minutes, some brands decompose faster than others, darker colored lanterns take longer to decompose, and lanterns advertised as ecofriendly decompose faster in salt water than in fresh water.

Students reported their findings in creative videos that included a PowerPoint slideshow, a blackboard illustration and a parody of an investigative news report.

“It really was a great project that let our students experience how the scientific method is put into practice from real world observation,” Misiewicz said.

Ground broken for cell tower

joe hendricks | sun

City officials and cell tower representatives participated
in a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday afternoon in
Bradenton Beach. From left, Police Chief Sam Speciale,
Jim Eatrides, Commissioners Jan Vosburgh, Mayor Bill Shearon
and his guide dog Reese, Kevin Barile, Commissioner Ed Straight,
Brett Buggeln, and Commissioner Jack Clarke.

BRADENTON BEACH – Love it or hate it, the Bradenton Beach cell tower is coming.

Thursday afternoon, city officials and tower representatives gathered outside the public works building on Highland Avenue for a commemorative groundbreaking ceremony.

Tarpon Towers Chief Operating Officer Brett Buggeln presented Mayor Bill Shearon with a check for $320,000 as an advance lease payment for the use of the city property upon which the 150-foot Stealth Unipole communications tower will be built. On a quarterly basis, the city will continue to receive 30 percent of the tower revenues, minus the $7,500 applied to the lease each quarter.

Construction will begin this week and should be completed within six to eight weeks.

“I am absolutely thrilled. It’s been a long time coming, and we worked on it for many years. This is long overdue,” said Commissioner Jan Vosburgh, noting that much of the credit goes to former Mayor John Shaughnessy and the commissioners he served with.

When asked about the check and the future revenues, Vosburgh said, “I hope we put quite a bit of it away for an emergency, or in case we have a hurricane in the city.”

Police Chief Sam Speciale recalled how he and Building Official Steve Gilbert were approached “a couple years ago” about the need for a cell tower.

“They said we really think it would be a good idea to put a cell tower in the city because there’s a lack of coverage out here, and here we are today finally breaking ground on a cell tower that hopefully will help the citizens of Bradenton Beach in regard to safety. They’ll be able to use their cell phones to call during an emergency and also just to call home,” Speciale said.

He then thanked tower representatives Kevin Barile, Brett Buggeln and Jim Eatrides for sticking with the city during the lengthy approval process.

“The tower will have no external antennas and will look like a flagless flagpole or a tall sailboat mast,” Eatrides explained.

“The tower will improve both voice and 3G and 4G data service for Bradenton Beach, southern Holmes Beach and Cortez,” he added, noting that he and partners are working on a similar facility in Anna Maria.

When Mayor Bill Shearon accepted the $320,000 check on behalf of the city, he said, “Thank you very much. It’s going to be a good partnership.”

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