The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 15 No. 37 - July 15, 2015


Committee tries to jump start permit parking

Carol Whitmore

pat copeland | sun

Island Congestion Committee Chair Jayne
Christensen reads from a document at the meeting
on Saturday at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.

HOLMES BEACH – While Mayor Bob Johnson urged moderation to address parking issues in certain neighborhoods, Island Congestion Committee members remained adamant that they want permit parking for residents only on those streets.

The two test areas in which members are seeking to ban parking except for residents with permits are called Phase I and include White Avenue to 78th Street and 43rd to 52nd streets east of Gulf Drive.

Chair Jayne Christensen said the committee’s four goals are to:

• Create safety on their streets and sidewalks;
• Promote residential living;
• Reduce the number of signs in their neighborhoods;
• Reduce traffic in their neighborhoods.

Members Ursula Stemm said over the July 4 holiday weekend, there were seven cars and an ATV parked at the three-bedroom house across the street, and Christensen said her family leaves town every major holiday weekend and she feels like “a stranger in her neighborhood.”

Richard Brown, who lives on Aqua Lane, showed photos of vehicles blocking driveways and beer cans, diapers and other trash left in the area.

“We’re losing the residential community,” Stemm said. “We have to do something if we want to keep the future of the school, the churches, the residents. We cannot live on tourists.”

Mayor’s data collection

Johnson presented data collected by the police department in the two Phase I neighborhoods. Surveys were conducted for 31 days during spring break/Easter weekend, post spring break/early summer, Memorial Day weekend and early summer/ AMI schools out at four times of the day – 10 a.m., noon and 2 and 4 p.m.

He said they found some obvious safety issues and installed no parking signs on the east side of Fifth Avenue from 50th to 52nd streets and the north side of 45th Street from Second to Third avenues. However, he said it could be more effective to ban parking during critical times rather than all of the time.

Christensen said the police “don’t give as many tickets as I’d like,” and “the police come, but they just ask them to move the car.”

“The only time we make contact with the drivers is if they are there or live at the residence,” Police Chief Tokajer pointed out. “If they are parked improperly, 90 percent of the time, they get a ticket.

“If they are there, we educate them; that’s our job, and then we enforce if they don’t move. In the last two and a half years, we’ve written over 4,000 parking tickets.

Johnson also presented two data sheets showing the intensity of parking on each side of each block of each street, which shows areas of high intensity use. Two of those areas are 46th Street from Gulf Drive to the beach access and Third Avenue from 47th to 48th streets.

Using moderation

“The question is do we throw everybody in the same basket or try to moderate based on what we see?” Johnson asked. “I don’t have a recommendation.

“I’m trying to look at different options that might be feasible. Maybe no parking on holidays and weekends.”

“That means I can’t have friends over, “ Stemm protested. “If we can’t park in front of our own homes you’re inhibiting our lifestyle.”

“We could say no parking on one side of the street except for residents, but you have parking on the other side, then you could have issues with getting through the street,” Johnson responded. “Its not a simple solution.”

“If we went with a permit system, we would still say, no parking on one side,” Tokajer said.

Brown said the side where parking is allowed should be reserved for residents. However, Tokajer pointed out that Brown puts a chain across his driveway and parks his three vehicles on the street, “so the numbers on Aqua Lane are skewed.”

“I do it because I don’t want the trash in front of my house,” Brown responded. “ If it’s down a block, it makes me feel a little better.”

Tokajer said permit parking would not stop people from creating congestion by driving through neighborhoods looking for parking spaces.

However Marge Motzer said when people eventually realize there is no parking on the streets, that will change.

Commission decision

“I just think that we’re living in Florida,” Johnson pointed out. “It’s a public beach state, accessible to everyone equally. Those of us that live on the Island aren’t the only stakeholders.”

But Motzer countered, “I’m concerned about the perception that we have to provide a parking space for everybody that comes out here. There is a limit.”

Johnson said the decision is up to the city commission on whether to “start with the extreme” or try a more moderate alternative and added, “There are a lot of people who don’t have a problem.”

“If the residents want it, they should be allowed to have it,” Christensen said. “Listen to the residents this is impacting. I would say 75 percent want it.”

Brown asked for Tokajer’s opinion and he replied, “I don’t like the idea of blanketing an area. If we put no parking on one side of 52nd Street, where will it push the cars? It’s the same thing the permits are going to do. We need to go slow and see what the impact is.”

City Commissioner Carol Soustek urged the city to “send a message that if you come here, come early. We want to try to keep them where the lifeguards and restrooms are.

“Put it in place, and if does not work, you can turn it around. Free parking is not a right. When you come to this area this is a residential community welcoming people to come to the beach, but it’s not a beach resort.”

However, Johnson disagreed and said, “We’re a resort city, and we have to live with that.”

City commissioners will discuss the issue at their work session on Thursday, July 16, at 7 p.m. The Island Congestion Committee will hold its next meeting on Saturday, July 25, at 10 a.m. at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive.

AMI businesses asked to check surveillance videos

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking Anna Maria Island businesses to check surveillance videos to assist in the investigation into the death of three black skimmer chicks and damage done to five loggerhead sea turtle nests last month.

Of eight businesses and homeowners surveyed by The Sun after the incident, only one, Wicked Taco Cantina, found a video with something looking like the suspects, although police said it was little help.

Witnesses said a white man and white woman in their late 20s were laughing and aiming at the staked turtle nests while riding a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with a single headlight and knobby tires around 10:30 p.m. on June 27 near the Bradenton Beach/Holmes Beach line.

Two chicks died on the beach and a third died later in rehab; the turtle nest damage will not be known until their hatch dates have passed.

Loggerheads are a federally threatened species and black skimmers are a state species of special concern, and are protected by local, state and federal laws, including the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Florida Marine Turtle Protection Act.

The environmental crimes range from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, carrying penalties of $500 to $1,500 in fines plus $100 per damaged turtle egg, with jail time of 60 days to five years, according to the FWC.

Businesses between Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road are asked to look for an all-terrain vehicle on their videos between 10 p.m. and midnight on June 27 and report it to Wildlife Alert by texting or e-mailing or calling 888-404-3922. Videos of private homeowners and condominiums along the beach also could contain evidence.

Reports to the FWC can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward up to $1,000.

Rewards multiply

Other rewards also are being offered, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has pledged up to $2,500, and the Key West-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has pledged up to $2,000.

Locally, Manatee CrimeStoppers has partnered with Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring to offer a $3,500 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

The reward is made possible by contributions from individuals plus the standing $1,000 reward offered by Manatee CrimeStoppers.

“We know there are many people who feel passionate about this horrendous crime and there are several people or organizations offering rewards, but the reward fund we have established with AMI Turtle Watch is the only official reward we are administering because we can’t be responsible for funds promised, but not actually provided at the time of this announcement,” Manatee CrimeStoppers Executive Director Frank Brunner said in a press release.

The CrimeStoppers reward system guarantees anonymity and has made special provisions with the IRS to waive taxation requirements.

To be eligible for the reward, tips must go through the Manatee CrimeStoppers anonymous tip system, which includes a toll-free hotline, website tips or text tips. Contact CrimeStoppers at 866-634-8477 (TIPS), place a web tip at, or text “MCSTIPS plus the message” to 274637 (CRIMES).

Anyone interested in helping to increase the reward fund is encouraged to make a tax deductible donation to Turtle Watch by sending a check or donating online at

Pier bids opened

BRADENTON BEACH – City officials got their first look at the pier lease proposals Friday afternoon and now have to determine which of the four restaurant proposals is most desirable and advantageous to the city.

Mayor Jack Clarke and Commissioners Janie Robertson and John Shaughnessy were on hand when the bids were opened by City Clerk Terri Sanclemente shortly after 2 p.m.

The Pier Team advisory board, led by Police Chief Sam Speciale, then began evaluating the proposals before making a preliminary recommendation to the City Commission during Tuesday’s commission workshop, at which commissioners will delve deeper into the proposals.

“The city of Bradenton Beach received completed RFP submissions from five extremely qualified candidates,” Clarke said.

“There is plenty of time to review the RFP submissions prior to the Tuesday workshop and commissioners will be able to further review the proposals during the nine days prior to the July 23 commission meeting,” he added, noting that he anticipates a commission vote at that time.

The RFP (request for proposal) issued by the city last month sought to lease the city-owned waterfront restaurant space for $2,500 per month, plus a percentage of monthly gross revenue offered by those interested in the restaurant space previously occupied by Cast-n-Cage and Rotten Ralph’s.

The city is also looking to lease the adjacent bait shop for $750 a month and the former harbor master’s office for $550.

Two of the four proposals included the bait shop and office space, two were for the restaurant only and one was essentially for the office space only.

By the numbers

The most generous offer came from Bradenton Beach Marina owner Michael Bazzy, who offered the city $3,500 per month, plus 5 percent of gross restaurant sales and 10 percent of net operating profits on food, beverage and alcohol.

Bazzy also offered $1,000 per month for the bait shop space, plus 5 percent of gross sales and 10 percent of net operating profits on bait and tackle; and $750 per month, plus 5 percent of gross sales and 10 percent of net operating profits on pump-out services, water taxi and harbor master services for the office space.

Bazzy’s proposal envisions marina-like uses and the preliminary information provided by Sanclemente did not indicate what style restaurant his group has in mind.

Richard Foresta, owner of three Colorado-based Angelo’s and Apeizza pizzerias, offered $2,500 a month, plus 4 percent of gross sales. His proposal notes that these figures could be further negotiated. Foresta also offered $750 a month for the bait shop and $550 a month for the harbor master’s office.

John Horne, president and CEO of three Anna Maria Oyster Bar restaurants located in Bradenton and Ellenton, submitted a proposal for the restaurant space only.

Horne is offering $1,666 per month for the first year of a five year lease, followed by annual three percent rent increases that would equate to $2,500 per month in year two, $2,575 in year three, $2,652.25 in year four and $2,731.82 in year five. This would result in annual rent payments that begin at $20,000 and escalate to $32,781.

Horne’s proposal includes a stipulation that says, “Tenant shall pay landlord 3 percent of sales over an un-natural break point of $1 million, payable within 15 days of anniversary date.”

A group led by Tampa resident Kam Sourivongs is interested in opening an Asian fusion restaurant and offered $2,500 per month plus 4 percent of restaurant sales. Sourivongs’ proposal projects a combined lease payment of $4,000 to $7,000 monthly and notes that this equates to an average cost of $2 to $4 per square foot per month, which he feels is about the current market rate.

Sourivongs is requesting two rent-free months in order to allow for $100,000 in capital improvements which would include remodeling the kitchen and indoor and outdoor dining areas.

Paradise Boat Tours owner Sherman Baldwin submitted a proposal for all three buildings, but his primary interest is the harbor master’s office. Baldwin has also had preliminary discussions with Foresta about subleasing the bait shop and harbor master’s office.

“If Rich Foresta wins the bid for all three, I’ll be running the bait shop and office space,” Baldwin said.

If the winning proposal does include the bait shop and office space, separate RFPs will be issues for those spaces.

Oil spill funds trickle in


The BP oil spill has fueled enduring fears
about environmental impacts to local waters.

BRADENTON BEACH – The city will receive $210,797 from the $18.7 billion BP settlement to compensate for damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion that gushed oil into the Gulf of Mexico from April through July 2010.

Mayor Jack Clarke announced the amount at last week’s commission meeting. The city originally sought $443,607; the settlement was $333,783 less attorney fees of $111,260 and expenses of $11,726.

The city of Anna Maria will net $84,254 after attorney fees and expenses from its $120,363 settlement. Holmes Beach officials are expected to announce that city’s settlement amount this week.

Manatee County has not yet disclosed its settlement amount, citing a confidentiality clause in the settlement agreement. The projects the county previously listed in anticipation of the funds include environmental land acquisition, the expansion of Robinson Preserve, artificial reef enhancement, seagrass monitoring in Sarasota Bay and restoration of the Green Bridge fishing pier.

The municipal settlements follow settlements to local businesses and their employees, commercial fishermen and others who claimed that business losses, mostly tourism-related, were caused by the perception that oil had damaged all of Florida’s Gulf coast. While oil did not reach Anna Maria Island, the spill fueled continuing fears about tourism, business and environmental impacts.

For months after the spill, unprecedented sightings of deepwater whale sharks and other unusual marine species in shallow local waters raised concerns about ongoing environmental damage, including questions about whether oil could have damaged the offshore sargassum used by juvenile sea turtles for food and shelter and whether the chemical used to disperse, but not eliminate, the oil could affect marine life reproduction.

Sun reporters Tom Vaught and Joe Hendricks contributed to this report.

Stormwater bill causes flood of calls

BRADENTON BEACH – Residents flooded city hall with phone calls last week when they opened their mail to find stormwater utility bills that were higher for some and that some had never before owed.

A letter from Mayor Jack Clarke, enclosed with the bills, explained that a new, more equitable computation method was used to calculate the rate of $4.40 per 100 square feet of site acreage.

“That means some folks will pay a little more and some folks will pay somewhat less,” he wrote.

But the new method hikes bills for some single family homeowners, and requires individual condominium owners, whose associations had previously paid stormwater bills, to pay the bills themselves for the first time.

Stormwater billing is transitioning from the city to Manatee County over the next two years, city Public Works Director Tom Woodard said, with bills sent by the city this year and next year and the county doing the billing after that.

The county would have billed individual property owners, not condo associations, when the transition was complete anyway, he said.

“We’re just getting a head start on the new system, getting people used to it a bit early,” he added.

To convert the city’s current billing system to handle the new methodology would have required a new computer program at more expense than was justifiable for two years, he said.

If condo associations collected assessments in advance for this year’s stormwater bill, which covers from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, they will owe owners a refund, Woodard said. He added that since associations will no longer have to pay stormwater bills, they should remove that line item from their future budgets.

Some condo owners questioned the billing, saying it seemed higher than it should be based on the square footage of their units, but the new computation method is based on the square footage of the entire property, not individual units, he said, resulting in owners with smaller units and larger units paying the same amount.

The city settled on the current calculation method after the previous method was criticized by some large resort property owners as inequitable, said the city’s consulting engineer, Lynn Townsend Burnett.

The new method includes an increase that was approved to enable the city to fulfill its obligation of contributing its share towards stormwater projects under a 50/50 Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) grant, she said.

The three-year grant expired in 2013, but the city, in arrears on its obligation due to revenue shortfalls, asked for an extension from SWFWMD “and we had to increase the bills to make up the difference,” she said.

So far, the city has spent about $900,000 on stormwater projects, she said, adding that another $300,000 will be spent between now and Sept. 30 on projects from Ninth Street North to 12th Street North from Gulf Drive to Sarasota Bay. Projects are scheduled from Bridge Street North to Second Street North from Gulf Drive to the bay between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, she said.

Rental ordinance progresses

ANNA MARIA – The City Commission reviewed amendments to the vacation rental ordinance last Thursday and after a lengthy review, gave its approval. At City Attorney Becky Vose’s urging, the draft ordinance will go before the Planning and Zoning Board for its review – a “belt and suspenders thing,” according to Vose.

The amendments include requiring bedrooms to meet the Florida Fire Code and Florida Life Safety Code to the definition of a bedroom. That would mean an exterior window and other safety considerations.

The commission also agreed to change one provision that would have pulled a rental agent’s license for one year for three violations of any kind. That was deemed excessive and, instead, the three violations will have to be on the same property, or 10 total violations on all properties.

Another change concerned a requirement of a 6-foot fence around pools or hot tubs at vacation rental properties. The proposal called for a 100-percent opacity - or solid - fence made of vinyl acoustic material around the pool or hot tub.

Several commissioners came out against that provision during the discussion.

“It would make the houses look like fortresses,” Commissioner Nancy Yetter said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland suggested they drop this portion of the ordinance entirely and rely on the city’s noise ordinance. The commission agreed and this proposal was eliminated from the ordinance.

After reviewing these changes, the commissioners agreed to send the ordinance to the Planning and Zoning Board.

Millage rate

Mayor Dan Murphy said he has reviewed the budget figures, and he recommends they keep the property tax rate, also known as the millage, the same for the next budget. He said the city would make more through appreciation of property values.

Murphy also said he would like to continue to use MT Causley to fill the city’s building official needs since Bob Welch left, but that company wants more money. He said he wanted them to charge less, but he would settle for keeping the same price. Negotiations are ongoing.

On anther budget matter, Murphy said he got a bid from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office for a 6.9 percent budget increase.

“I talked with Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer, and he gave me a bid for eight officers for more than we’re paying for the deputies,” Murphy said. He said he also looked into starting a police force and it would be between $1 and $2 million.

City adopts new moratorium

ANNA MARIA – By a 4-1 margin, the City Commission passed a new moratorium on permits for houses with four or more bedrooms, which differs from the one currently in effect on three or more bedrooms. The new moratorium also will spell out more clearly what the city will review, according to City Attorney Becky Vose.

Commissioner Dale Woodland voted against the moratorium because he believes it is unnecessary. He feels the commission has been dragging its feet and although the new moratorium has a six-month life, he feels the city should work quickly to end it.

The commissioners agreed to a workshop in two weeks.

The commission also passed an ordinance that approves using electronic devices such as a speaker phone, Skype, Face Time or other programs to allow a commissioner to be somewhere besides city hall and still participate in the meeting. Other governments have similar arrangements.

The commission heard the first reading of a budget amendment ordinance that would transfer $60,000 from the city’s unassigned reserve fund to the budget for attorney’s fees, $75,000 from the unassigned reserve fund to the budget for the City Pier Park and $37,000 from the city’s restricted road reserve and fuel tax reserve for paving projects in the city.

Commissioners approved David Young’s application to serve on the Planning and Zoning Board and they approved $10,693 to install Sonitrol door locks in city hall that allow employees and elected officials to unlock doors using a badge or key fob. They also would keep track of who comes in and out of the building.

They approved Valley Crest Tree Care Service to clear the two remaining segments of Gulf Front Park at a cost of $6,240. The money comes from donations from residents and money left over from previous work.

The final item was accepting $84,254 from the BP oil spill claim. The full award before attorney and other expenses was $120,252.

Librarian heads west

jtom vaught | sun

Monica Songy leaves the Sunshine State
for what might be called the rainfall state, Washington.

Monica Songy has enjoyed the past 7 1/2 years at the Island Branch Library, but the other end of the country calls.

Songy said she and her husband are joining her friends and family, who are headed for the cloudy and rainy Seattle area.

“I’m from New England and the wind and rain won’t bother me in Washington,” she said. “My son is still small and he’ll like to play outside more than here, where it’s hot.”

Songy said it’s more like a rain forest in the Puget Sound area and the winters are moderate.

“I guess I won’t be wearing flip flops year ‘round,” she added.

But the move does mean she will be leaving her position at the Island Branch Library behind.

“I will miss everybody and it’s been great working here,” she said. “Everybody has been so nice.”

She said when they made the decision to move, she and her husband worked quickly to find employment there and start packing.

The staff of the library wished her farewell last Friday with a cake and snacks with patrons and members of the Friends of the Island Branch Library.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper