The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 45 - September 3, 2014


Labor Day: Slow and Mellow
Carol Whitmore


A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling heads for the
Gulf of Mexico on Anna Maria Island.

HOLMES BEACH – Labor Day weekend was slower than expected, but those who hit the beaches had a wonderful time.

“It’s been a rather mellow holiday weekend. We had a couple parking issues, but today’s been slow. There hasn’t been as many people as we expected today,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said on Monday afternoon.

“Traffic-wise, it’s been pretty calm,” he said of the weekend as a whole.

“On Friday, we had some vehicles that were broken into, where people did not heed our warning and left valuables on the seats of their cars, including an iPad and some purses,” Tokajer said.

Parking was scarce, but available at the Manatee Public Beach early Monday afternoon. The beach was busy, but not overly crowded.

“We have the volume, but it’s been a quiet day so far,” said lifeguard Cody Sullivan.

“Everyone’s been well-behaved,” said lifeguard Mark Cox.

Out on the beach, Valrico resident Maureen Hughes sat under a canopy with her husband Kevin and their friends Ginny and Bob Kurtz.

“There’s nothing like the sand in your toes,” she said, while expressing love for her adopted Island.

“It was either here or Siesta Beach and we thought this would be less busy,” she added.

“This is an awesome way to spend Labor Day,” Ginny Kurtz said.

“I’m enjoying the natural air conditioning,” said Kevin Hughes, who makes his living in the air conditioning business.

Things were also relatively calm down at the south end of the Island.

“It’s been a quiet holiday weekend. It’s been surprisingly slow,” said Sgt. James Gill, of the Bradenton Beach Police Department.

In regard to the activity at Coquina Beach, Gill said, “It’s been pretty quiet down there all weekend, and there’s been plenty of open parking spots.”

From his position in one of the Coquina Beach lifeguard towers, Marine Rescue Division Capt. Joe Westerman said, “We’ve got a little bit of a swell and it’s given us some trouble with some lateral currents on the beach.”

Westerman said Monday’s events of significance included a near drowning and a couple children that were temporarily lost.

“Other than that, it’s been kind of a quiet weekend. The crowd level has not been as large as the last two holidays, Fourth of July and Memorial Day weekends, and we’ve had afternoon storms come through that have run a lot of people off,” he said.

According to Westerman, 26,000 people visited Coquina Beach and 21,000 visited Manatee Public Beach during the Labor Day weekend; compared to 56,000 Coquina Beach visitors and 25,000 Manatee Public Beach visitors during the Fourth of July weekend.

Out on Coquina Beach, Sarasota real estate agent Sally Lippert was enjoying a book and celebrating the fact that she sold seven houses in the month of August.

“I haven’t been here in 10 years. I drove 25 miles to get to my favorite beach on all of the Gulf Coast,” she said.

Lippert was accompanied by her friend Rick Rone, who runs a laundry business that services some of the resorts on Longboat Key.

After joking that he has not had a day off in years, Rone said, “I’m playing hooky because I had an invitation from this exquisite lady.”

Bridge alternatives outlined
Carol Whitmore

A Florida Department of Transportation engineeer
explains the options available for the Cortez Bridge during
the hearing at St. Bernard Church.



HOLMES BEACH – Former Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Jim Kissick looked at the sets of plans on easels inside the activity center at St. Bernard Catholic Church. A former fighter pilot for the Navy and a former U.S. Marine, Kissick led the charge of citizens who helped stop an attempt to replace the Manatee Avenue drawbridge with a 65-foot-high fixed span 22 years ago.

Now, at 90 years old, Kissick recalls the research he did on the differences between low-level drawbridges and tall fixed bridges, especially if a storm is approaching. Much of his effort was spent gathering information as a member of Save Anna Maria, a citizen’s group fighting the bridge replacement.

Nowadays, Kissick is pushing for another bridge to the Island, south of the Cortez Bridge.

“I came here to let them know we need a new bridge to carry Longboat Key residents to the mainland without the traffic jams we get in Bradenton Beach,” he said. “It would get people off the Island faster in case of an approaching storm.”

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) held an information-gathering meeting to discuss the options for the Cortez Bridge, a 17.5-foot-high drawbridge that was built around 1957, when the Manatee Bridge was built.

While plans for the Manatee Avenue Bridge indicate the majority of people want a higher fixed-span bridge, and that is slated to happen in the future, the jury is still out on the future of the Cortez Bridge.

FDOT’s alternatives are to do nothing except repair the bridge every 10 years, rehabilitate and modernize the existing structure to add approximately 25 years to its life or to replace the existing structure with either a low-level drawbridge, a mid-level drawbridge or a tall fixed span. Another alternative, replacing the bridge with a tunnel, was ruled out as being too expensive.

Most of the people who talked about the choices were for either of the drawbridges, saying the tall bridge would be too high for the surrounding area. Many said the grade to get to 65 feet high would be too steep for towing a boat behind a truck up the bridge.

FDOT is also asking people their preference for the bridge’s location. They will leave the current bridge up while they work on its replacement so the new bridge would have to be located north or south of the current bridge’s footprint.

Whatever they build, it will have two lanes with a pedestrian lane on each side. There will be extra width to the roadway in case a vehicle breaks down.

Many of the people who waged the fight 22 years ago agree they will likely be dead of old age by the time a new bridge is built, but they are still fighting for what they believe is the safest alternative for getting people on and off the Island.

Mainsail plan OK’d - really

HOLMES BEACH – There was no marching band, shower of confetti or skies lit up with fireworks, just a quiet 3-1 vote to approve Mainsail’s site plan.

The project, located near the intersection of Marina and Gulf drives, includes a lodge with two wings that feature two-bedroom lodging units, an 80-seat restaurant and meeting rooms, a 50-slip marina and a separate building with two-bedroom lodging units.

“We’re excited and thrilled and ready to get to work,” Joe Collier, president of Mainsail Development, said after the vote. “Everyone will be impressed by what we build. Despite all the drama over the site, it will be an asset to the city.”

“Twenty-one months ago, I walked into this building,” Brian Check, the project’s manager, told commissioners at he beginning of the site plan discussion. “I don’t think any of us envisioned spending as much time as we have on this, but it was time well spent.

“We spent a lot of time making sure the concerns of everybody in the city were addressed. Over that period of time we reduced the area of the buildings by 20 percent, removed 2½ buildings and added parking.”

Height and space issues

Questions again arose regarding the height of the screening of the air conditioning units on top of the buildings and City Planner Bill Brisson told the board, “The screening is five feet above the 36-foot height limitation.”

Resident Bob Johnson read portions of the code regarding height and screening and pointed out, “Our land development code is very specific about building height limitations in our city and observance of that limitation is something that is of critical importance to our citizens.”

Check said he decreased the height of the screening and pushed it back from the edge and explained, “We’re doing everything we can to bring the height down. We don’t want this to look out of place.

“Where we have the ability to drop those buildings, we did, and we’ll continue to do that. I’ve gone as far as I can go without getting to the point that I’m drawing something I can’t build.”

Commissioner Marvin Grossman asked why the air-conditioned space is 3,000 square feet more than the original 2001 drawing and asked if they had made the units larger and increased the intensity.

Check said the square footage of air-conditioned space is more because in the original buildings, the corridors, elevators and stairwells were not air conditioned.

“We’ve decreased the livable area,” Check added. “All the units are two-bedroom. There are no three-bedroom units.”

Sound wall

Chair Judy Titsworth asked that the drawing of the sound wall in front of the swimming pool be added to the exhibits, and City Attorney Patricia Petruff said that is unnecessary.

“I’m starting to have a little concern,” Petruff replied. “In 21 months, I’ve seen a lot of drawings. I’m not comfortable with picking out a drawing from a discussion we had whenever. The applicant knows the sound wall is required.

“You’re getting a whole lot more information from this applicant than we require under a site plan review. A lot of this will come out as part of the building permit process. That’s why we had the settlement agreement (reached in two sessions with a special magistrate last year).

Commissioner David Zaccagnino referred to the 21 months it took to get to this point, and Titsworth remarked, “It was worth it.”

Before the vote, Petruff asked that parking leases with Keys Marina and Wells Fargo Bank be added to the exhibits.

Commissioner Pat Morton was the dissenting vote and Commissioner Jean Peelen was out of town.

Check said Mainsail has 60 days to apply for a permit to remove the unnecessary rebar, and Collier added, “Construction drawings will start right away. We’re looking at six months.”

Pier rent abatement discussed

joe hendricks | sun

Roland Pena and wife Tammy Kemper-Pena in attendance
at the Thursday, August 28 work session.

BRADENTON BEACH – During last week’s commission work session, Mayor Bill Shearon proposed a $1,135 per month rent abatement for the proprietors of the three businesses located at the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Shearon’s proposal was scheduled for further discussion at the Wednesday, Sept. 3 Pier Team meeting, with a Pier Team recommendation to be presented at Thursday’s commission meeting for acceptance, amendment or denial.

Commissioners Janie Robertson and Ed Straight have expressed support for some form of rent abatement, while Vice Mayor Jack Clarke and Commissioner Jan Vosburgh have been less receptive to the idea.

Cast-n-Cage restaurant , Rusty Anchor bait shop, and Pelican Perch concession stand proprietors Roland Pena, Tammy Kemper-Pena and Rusty Roberts attended the Thursday, Aug. 28 work session that was scheduled in response to the original abatement requests Pena presented to the commission on Aug. 21.

The $1,135 reduction suggested by Shearon represents the combined monthly rent and taxes for the bait shop ($550) and the concession stand ($750), minus $165 deducted for the city’s portion of the power bill. The installation of a new electric meter will soon alleviate the need for the electrical expense adjustment.

All three businesses are governed by a single lease, and the mayor’s proposal does not provide direct relief for the restaurant space the Penas lease from the city for $5,500 a month, including taxes.

Shearon noted that the lease provides the tenants the ability to request substantiated rent abatement, but does not allow for the retroactive abatement Pena requested at the previous meeting.

Pena said the restaurant is being negatively impacted by the noise associated with the pile driving taking place just outside the restaurant patio. After last week’s meeting, he shared a video that illustrates his point.

“We had people come out here, say it’s too loud, and leave. Inside of the restaurant, you can feel the vibrations,” he said.

Any abatement approved by the commission would apply from September until the pier is reopened for public use. Reconstruction began on Aug. 11 and is scheduled to conclude in January.

Pena said he appreciates the mayor’s proposal, but plans to lobby for greater abatement when addressing the Pier Team.

“We were looking for half of the entire amount for all three entities put together,” Pena said.

This would equate to $3,400 of the $6,800 owed to the city each month.

“The mayor’s suggestion is just a suggestion, and if that is what’s given we’ll take that. Every little bit helps as we’re going through the slow season,” Pena said.

The bait shop shut its doors in early August, when the pier was closed to accommodate reconstruction and the reconfigured floating day dock was temporarily shut down for construction-related safety concerns. Pena said he closed the bait shop because there was no longer any demand for bait sales or pole rentals.

The bait shop opened again during the Labor Day weekend, to coincide with the temporary opening of the day dock, but closed again Monday night in anticipation of the day dock being shut down for another week or so before being opened permanently.

Once open, the day dock will provide some space for fishing, but Pena does not plan to resume bait shop operations until the public has access to the renovated pier.

The concession stand closed in June, but plans are in place for Pena’s daughter to resume business operations at a later date, selling coffee, homemade pies and other snacks.

Standing on the patio Friday evening, Pena said food and drink specials are being implemented in an effort to combat the current challenges.

A temporary banner has been placed at the foot of the pier to inform potential customers that the restaurant remains open, and city commissioners recently approved design and material choices for the pending installation of new restaurant and pier signage.

Commission rejects Island Auto plan

joe hendricks | sun

The proposed location for Island Auto Repair was the former
home of Island Pest Control.


HOLMES BEACH – After watching a larger commercial project on Avenue C receive commission approval, Island Auto Repair’s Judi Rickerson was extremely disappointed with the commission’s 3-1 denial of a plan that would have brought the family business back to the Island.

In the end, it came down to a lack of parking.

After Thursday’s work session, an emotional Rickerson said, “Well, they just shot us down.”

As for what comes next, she said, “I don’t know. It’s a horrible situation and we don’t know what we’re going to do.”

The Rickersons moved their 35-year-old auto repair business to Bradenton late last year after their longtime landlord asked them to vacate their previous Holmes Beach location.

Rickerson, her husband Rick and their son Aaron hoped to resume their Island operations at 3010 Ave. C, the former home of Island Pest Control. The plan called for the installation of repair bays on the vacant portion of the property facing Avenue C, with the existing building leased as office space to another tenant.

Thursday’s work session discussion was a follow-up to the Aug. 14 session at which multiple problems with the site plan and special exception request were identified.

When Commission Chair Judy Titsworth asked City Planner Bill Brisson to provide an update on any recent findings, he said, “Actually I’d rather not, it’s not pleasant.”

He said, “The property is too small to accommodate a 1,200-square-foot office building and an additional 500 square feet of garage. It’s not a problem of back out parking, it’s a problem of getting enough parking.

“I see no way of getting enough parking spaces if you’re going to use a portion of the office for something other than the office for the repair shop,” he added, noting that the commission could waive the multi-business parking requirements as a means of encouraging the revitalization of the commercial district.

“That’s the only way I can see that one could use both businesses,” he concluded.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff advised against waiving the parking requirements, saying it would be unfair to the neighborhood and other business owners.

Residents, a member of the city planning board, and a neighboring business owner expressed opposition and voiced concerns about parking, traffic, pedestrian safety, use of the alley, and the continued encroachment of commercial operations in a neighborhood that abuts a commercial-zoned district.

Others expressed support, including Holmes Beach resident Connie Keen, who complimented the Rickersons for being trustworthy and not charging for unnecessary parts and services.

“You could do a whole lot worse than have this fine family there running their business,” she said.

When addressing the commission, Rickerson said, “It not going to be like the other repair shop that was there, where they drag-raced cars.”

In reference to complaints about parking and traffic problems caused by other businesses on Avenue C, Rickerson said, “Our little shop is not going to cause congestion like that.”

She concluded by saying, “Our customers are inconvenienced by having to come into town. I beg of you to help us with this and bring us back home.”

Commissioner Marvin Grossman made a motion in support of a resolution crafted earlier that day by Petruff that would have allowed for limited use of the property, but the motion died for a lack of a second.

Commissioner Pat Morton then made a motion to deny the requests, which Commissioner David Zaccagnino seconded.

“I’m sorry, there’s just not enough parking to do what you guys want to do. There’s one alternative, and the alternative is offsite parking. There’s three vacant lots on that street and they’re for sale right now,” Zaccagnino suggested.

He also noted that a site plan approved earlier that night included 32 parking spaces.

Morton said, “I’m really sorry, I’ve had work done in your shop, but you have to look at this for the whole city. This is putting 10 pounds in a five pound bag; it’s just not going to work.”

Titsworth expressed hope that the property owner would reconsider allowing the Rickersons to use the existing building as a repair shop.

Fall classes begin at Center

The Island Community Center offers the following classes at 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria. For further details or to register, call the Center at 941-778-1908, ext. 0 or visit For a complete list of center programs and special events, visit the website.

Conversational Spanish

Conversational Spanish will be offered on Tuesdays beginning Sept. 2. Instructor Lisbeth Oscuvilca will teach a Beginners Class from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and an Intermediate Class from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Beginners classes consist of exercises and conversations relevant to travel in Spanish-speaking countries. Classes are taught in three-session packages and offer six levels of learning the Spanish language.

Preregistration is required. Classes will be delayed if the three-student minimum is not met. Members pay $40/three sessions and non-members pay $50/three sessions.

Skill Development Training

Skill Development Training with Ray Gardner, assistant athletic director, is an opportunity to step up your game in basketball. There is a 50 percent money back guarantee if you see no improvement at the end of your sessions.

Schedule by appointment only for Saturdays and Sundays in the AMICC air-conditioned gym. The cost is two sessions/$40, four sessions/$75 and eight sessions/$125. Contact Gardner at 313-207-8506.

Sit and Be Fit

Sit and Be Fit returns in October with Certified Fitness Instructor Karen Iannello on Tuesdays from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. Have fun and move to the music through a variety of movements.

Hand-held weights, elastic tubing and a small fitness ball are offered for resistance, and a chair is used for seated and/or standing support; there is no floor work. Member price is $6/class and non-member price is $12/class.

Staying Strong

Staying Strong is Karen Iannello’s new class, coming in October on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m., for the active, mature adult. This class is about strength training and weight-bearing exercises that promote healthy bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.

Wear well-supported sneakers and plan to use weights, resistant tubing and floor mats, all available at the Center. Member price is $6/class and non-member price is $12/class.

Laundry facility and office space approved

joe hendricks | sun

This vacant lot at 3004 Ave. C will soon be home to a
new commercial development.

HOLMES BEACH – Island Real Estate owner Larry Chatt received commission approval to build a three-story commercial building on his vacant lot at the corner of Avenue C and 30th Street North.

During last week’s meeting, commissioners unanimously approved the proposed site plan despite concerns raised by residents. Commissioner Jean Peelen was on vacation and did not attend the meeting.

Chatt plans to use the first floor to provide laundry services for his vacation rental operations. The second floor will be used by office personnel. The third floor will be leased to another tenant or used for the further expansion of the Island Real Estate offices.

Chatt amended his original Aug. 14 request, asking that the elevator shaft and rooftop air conditioning equipment be allowed to exceed the 36-foot height limit as long as setbacks are adhered to and proper screening conceals the machinery.

City Planner Bill Brisson said the site plan meets the city’s requirements, and he told commissioners he does not expect the facility to significantly increase traffic in the area.

Chatt said the estimated number of daily trips in and out of the facility is low compared to other commercial operations in Holmes Beach.

Chatt said the two other locations he owns on the Island have provided him valuable experience in terms of operating commercial entities in residential areas.

“I have learned from my parents’ value system that you play nice and you find win-win solutions. That’s how I plan to work my business if commission approves my site plan,” he said.

“I’m excited to show other property managers the right way to do business. I think this is a positive step for our community, for cleaners to have a professional spot to park and retrieve their items rather than meeting in public parking lots,” Chatt said.

He hopes to complete construction by the beginning of March.

Resident concerns

Before commissioners reached a decision, residents shared their concerns.

John Flora said, “There’s a park at the end of that road and the traffic is horrendous already.”

His wife, Sue, questioned the ambiguity of the third floor plans.

John Reuss cited right of way parking concerns.

“Air & Energy has a minimum of 20 vehicles parked down there between seven and nine in the morning, plus Air America has another 10 to 12 vehicles parked alongside that road,” he said.

Reuss also commented on the condition of the alley that runs north and south between Gulf Drive and Avenue C from 30th Street to the Grassy Point Preserve.

“That alley is torn up. It’s full of holes and I don’t understand why the city doesn’t do anything with it,” Reuss said.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said he expects Air & Energy’s new Bradenton headquarters to alleviate some of the Avenue C congestion and some of the Avenue C congestion and he suggested that the city consider making any needed repairs to the alley.

Acting Public Works Superintendent Jon Betcher agreed that the alley is in bad shape and requires attention.

Lois Huntington asked if the laundry facility is expected to impact water pressure for neighboring properties.

“Our water pressure is horrible. Are we going to be able to use our third floor bathroom?”

Huntington also expressed concerns about the property’s tendency to flood.

Commission Chair Judy Titsworth said, “We will discuss your water pressure; thank you for bringing that to our attention.”

Titsworth said the county is required to supply adequate water pressure, is subject to inspection and is covered by city code.

She asked Chatt to reconsider the parking lot configuration in order to prevent users from backing out. Chatt said he was reluctant to address her concern in the form of a written resolution, but promised to address any complications that arise.

At this point, City Attorney Patricia Petruff cautioned the commission about the extent of their inquiries.

“I think you’re going beyond what you should be looking at for a site plan,” she said.

Law enforcement faces icy challenge

Before taking an icy dousing Friday morning, Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer issued a challenge for the other heads of law enforcement on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key to get wet and cold to fight ALS.

The law enforcement agency heads – Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Paul Davis of Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale and Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cummings – said they will participate in a challenge over who can raise the most money, and are looking for donors this week.

Davis said the donor who promises the most money will be eligible to pour ice water over the officials’ heads and they are working on having the city mayors join them.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been in the news lately and it has raised a lot of money nationwide as celebrities and elected officials around the country joined the effort. According to the ALS Association, more than $100 million has been raised in the past month. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease because the baseball star died from the disease.

Davis said anybody interested in donating could call him at 941-708-6130, ext. 30.

The date, time and location of the Anna Maria Island Ice Bucket Challenge will be set in the near future.


Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer gets doused by police officers Joshua Fleischer and Brian Copeman Friday. Tokajer challenged the other two Island law enforcement heads, Sgt. Paul Davis of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in charge of Anna Maria enforcement and Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and they agreed to try to raise money for ALS research. They also expressed interest in getting the mayors involved.

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