The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 36 - July 6, 2016


Fitness owner asks city to withdraw Center funding

HOLMES BEACH – AMI Health and Fitness owner Jen Crady asked city commissioners to withdraw funding for The Center of Anna Maria Island at last week's commission meeting.

Crady reminded commissioners that last year she asked for city and community support after learning that The Center was installing a fitness center, which would threaten her fitness center as well as Island Fitness. At the time, city commissioners withheld their funding for The Center until they got further information.

"Well for lack of better words, we got punked, and I hate to say it, but I told you so," she said. "They lied.

"The cities released their funding, and within a few short weeks, equipment was in place, memberships were sold to vacation properties at rates we could never compete with and their original plan was underway.

"Since then the fitness center has expanded, and The Center just finalized a deal for 200 plus vacation properties with AMI Accommodations."

She pointed out that The Center is a 501c3 organization, is tax exempt and receives government funding. She said it is violating their 501c3 by profiting from the fitness center.

"Holmes Beach recently said no to franchise businesses that would essentially come in and destroy local businesses, so I must ask, 'What is the difference?'" she said. "Why is it OK for our own community center to compete with local small businesses?

"I ask you to please stand behind us and defend our local owned and operated businesses in Holmes Beach. We all know that not only my own, but all of our small businesses are the heart and soul of Anna Maria, and they are the real community centers."


Resident Nancy Deal said she supports Crady and said, "I met with The Center's director last year and explained how the community felt about the situation and that Brenda (Brenda Canning of Island Fitness) and Jen felt threatened by what was perceived to be happening at the Center.

"She looked me in the eye and said that's not going to happen, we are not going to expand the fitness center. Less than a month later, they did expand.

"A 501c3 cannot be in business for themselves. Are they are using the community center as marketing tool? Does that violate their non profit status?"

Resident Pam Leckie agreed with Deal and added, "I don't think the city should be donating money to a business in competition with our businesses."

Resident Mike Deal said he works out at the gym, with a member "who is also a part of the rental moguls on the Island," as well as a Center board member, who said, 'We're going to do whatever we want as far as the fitness center at the community center and nobody can stop us.' So I urge you to pull the money from them."

Commissioner Jean Peelen pointed out, "We have a small division on the issue within our community. I understand that a number of young families whose kids go to the programs at the Center and who love the idea of the fitness center because when their kids are in sports programs, they can work out and they have day care.

"What they don't have is the history we have with The Center of exclusiveness, of secrecy, of hiding finances and telling so close to untruths when they were here last year that I don't know what to call that. So I'm not taking a position, but it is a very distressing situation."

Commissioner Carol Soustek said, "I understand they are struggling, so I think they are trying to stay afloat as best they can, but some of their choices might be questionable."

A parents' voice

In an e-mail to the mayor and commissioners, Kelly Smith, a member of The Center's Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), said the PAC requested increased fitness facilities.

"Part of this reason is that there is no other gym on the Island that offers childcare or concurrent classes for our children while we work out. In order to get these services, many island families were leaving the Island and going to the local YMCA.

"We were looking for a place in which our entire family can spend time together. At the Center, we can work, play, learn and even grab a meal there or to take home. It definitely works to allow us to spend time together."

She said the PAC's goals include meeting the needs of current community members and offering services that will draw new members to the community.

"The PAC has worked with the Center administration to strengthen and build classes and fitness at the Center," she said. " It is a huge part of our lives as parents, and we want our children to learn healthy habits as well.

"Also, being busy parents means our time is limited, and if we can get a workout in while our children get a class as well it is a great way to maximize our family time. The Center has responded to our needs."

She said the Center is trying to decrease the burden on families with its rental program to bring in funding from tourists.

"The Center is not a gym or fitness place. Instead it is a place where friendships are formed, newcomers are welcomed to the community, families are supported, skills are taught, children laugh, play and learn and overall the community grows. This is what the local funding supports.

"It is not supporting some huge lifetime fitness center that is drowning out the little guy. I feel strongly that by opening up the Center to local tourists it may even give them a glimpse of how everyday life can be here. It will allow them to mix with locals, and can possibly act as an advertisement for Island life and draw in new residents."

City day dock reopened
Carol Whitmore

joe hendricks | sun

Commissioner Jake Spooner, top left, and John Banyas watch
Cole Banyas, bottom left, and Chris Masse prepare the
damaged day dock for transport to Cortez.


BRADENTON BEACH – The efforts of N.E. Taylor Boatworks owner John Banyas and City Commissioner Jake Spooner saved the city $50,000 and resulted in the storm-damaged city day dock being reopened in time for the Fourth of July weekend.

Banyas and a two-man crew that consisted of his son, Cole, and stone crab captain Chris Masse, arrived at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach Wednesday morning, June 29. They then proceeded to detach the section of floating dock that was damaged during Tropical Storm Colin and led to the day dock being closed in early June.

Once detached and properly positioned, Banyas used his commercial fishing boat, Lily Ann, to tow the removed section of dock across the Intracoastal Waterway and over to his boat works in Cortez.

"We're going to take it to the Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar and make a stage for our stone crab festival. It's going to be a nice stage, with barnacles and some cleats on it," said Banyas, who also owns the Swordfish Grill.

When the city moves forward on removing the remaining section of floating dock and replacing it with a fixed dock, Banyas will also remove those sections of dock at no expense to the city. He said he might use some of the additional sections as a temporary floating dock during fishing tournaments.

"This is so appreciated," Spooner said Wednesday morning when the work commenced.

During its June 16 meeting, the City Commission was asked to authorize an expenditure of up to $30,000 to pay Duncan Seawall, Dock and Boat Lift to remove the damaged section. Although the section of dock was still afloat and appeared to be in good condition, it was feared that it had become detached in a manner that posed a significant threat to the pier in the event of another storm.

The funding request stated it would cost an estimated $23,000 to remove the damaged section of dock as soon as possible and another $37,000 to remove the remaining and still useable sections at a later date.

During that meeting, Police Chief and Pier Team facilitator Sam Speciale told the commission that Spooner had contacted an individual who offered to do the job for free, in exchange for being allowed to keep the sections of dock removed.

The commission unanimously agreed to utilize this cost-free approach if possible. A newspaper ad was published in order to make others aware of this opportunity, but Banyas was the only person to respond.

While attending the Planning and Zoning Board meeting last Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Bill Shearon was notified at the day dock had been reopened.

After the meeting, Speciale said, "I think it's great that somebody from the community stepped up to help us out and save us a ton of money, and it's great that Commissioner Spooner was able to make that happen in time for the July 4 holiday. This is what happens when commissioners and members of the community work together."

In regard to replacing what remains of the floating dock, Speciale said he spoke to someone at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and is in the process of scheduling pre-permitting meeting in order to determine what the state agency needs from the city in order to move forward with the installation of a fixed day dock.

Benderson representatives protest moratorium

HOLMES BEACH – Two representatives of the Benderson Development Company protested the city's moratorium on franchise, or formula, businesses, calling it an attempt to block a new tenant, however, city commissioners said that was not their intent and changed the wording in the ordinance.

The issue began when commissioners learned that Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins were planning to open in storefronts in the Anna Maria Island Centre, owned by the Benderson Development Company.

At last week's City Commission meeting, Todd Mathes, director of development for Benderson Development, said, "It's fair to say this moratorium that's being proposed is a reaction to Dunkin Donuts, our tenant. It's dated June 14, the same date we received comments on the building permit.

"The moratorium is clearly designed to try and block and prohibit that specific tenant so you can decide about formula retail. We see it as an attempt to block a specific tenant. We 're not going to stand by and let that happen."

He said the company would be willing to discuss design and architecture on businesses coming into the center.

Benderson attorney Bradley Ellis said a business owner "can't get a business tax receipt until they've done everything else and are ready to open, so if somebody is far along in the process and all they need is a BTR, the moratorium blocks that."

He also said that the hearing was not properly noticed, but City Attorney Steve Dye pointed out that it is a first reading and not a public hearing, therefore it does not require notice.

Commissioners weigh in

"We're not targeting anyone," Commissioner Pat Morton declared. "We're just trying to save our city from invasion by people that come in and disrupt and destroy our mom and pop and small businesses."

According to Section 3 of the ordinance, the moratorium is on "the acceptance, processing and issuance of applications for new permits and new business tax receipt license applications for formula retail establishments within the city limits."

Commissioner Jean Peelen said commissioners made it clear at the last meeting that it did not apply to businesses that already have their paperwork in the pipeline.

Dye said "new" means anything after June 14.

Building Official Jim McGuinness pointed out that the moratorium says "processing and issuance," which could prohibit those already in the pipeline. He suggested adding a date after which the city would not accept any more applications.

Peelen asked why the ordinance includes permits as well as business tax receipts, and Dye said because some businesses don't require permits.

Commissioners approved the ordinance to include new wording as suggested by McGuinness.

"It has to do with not just saving our small businesses but who we are and the uniqueness of this place," Peelen stressed. "We're not unique with a McDonald's or Dunkin Donuts on every corner.

"If we don't do something, they'll be on every corner because we are now discovered and we're rapidly becoming a year round resort. We can't be old Florida with these kinds of formula retail stores everywhere."

BP check puts The Center in the black




ANNA MARIA – The Center will be in the black for the fiscal year, which ended in June, thanks to a check from BP.

Executive Director Kristen Lessig told board members last week that the BP settlement for lost income as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was for $174,000.

Treasurer Jim Froeschle had reported that there was a $57,000 loss in May and an anticipated loss of $90,000 for the year, which changed with the BP check.

He said Center officials had an aggressive plan for program revenue, which fell short, as did anticipated increases in city funding.

"We're going to fall way short of doubling municipality funding, which was unchanged from the year before," he said. "We're still looking at about 4 percent of our revenues coming from municipality funding, which is an extremely low number for any community center."

Chair Bill Shuman said it should be 25 to 26 percent.

Froeschle remarked, "Twenty-five percent is one of those things you dream about. We're hoping the cities will double their gifting."

Lessig said the city of Holmes Beach's funding has remained the same since 1985 at $22,500. Anna Maria contributes $16,000 plus the use of the land for The Center.

"The mayor described it as a marriage between the city and the Center," said board member Ed Chiles. "In a marriage both parties support each other. We're not seeing that. We deserve to be supported by the cities. It's not right."


Lessig reported that:

• Board member Mike Thrasher designed an ad for the trolley.

• She is working with the AMI Chamber of Commerce and the Annie Silver Community Center to display rack cards.

• Summer camp attendance is up from last year and the teen program is growing.

• A sand soccer tournament is planned for Aug. 6 and 7 at Coquina Beach.

• A pilot program for physical activity and nutrition is planned for third graders at Anna Maria Elementary.

• The Chiles group is offering corporate memberships for employees (see related article on this page).

• Sean Murphy has started a pick up hockey program for youths on Saturdays at 2 p.m.

• A members' social on June 24 was very successful with picnic food and two movies for kids.

Froeschle said he is working with fundraising and philanthropy specialist Bob Carter on revamping the way The Center is funded.

Board member Patty McBean said the governance committee is seeking new board members.

"We are running slim at a board level," she explained. "As we move forward and try to create a board, we want to insure that the board has the skill set and experience that will help us move forward."

She said she has a list of prospective board members, and the committee plans to conduct interviews. Shuman said the board has nine members and can have up to 17.

Chiles offers corporate memberships to The Center

The Center is partnering with the Chiles Restaurant Group to pilot a corporate membership program for its more than 300 employees. The Center is hoping that the relationship with the Chiles Group, the largest employer on Anna Maria Island, will lead to additional partnerships with other area businesses, both large and small.

Through the program, employees will be given access to the fitness center at no charge. The Chiles Group will reimburse The Center on a monthly basis at a rate of $3 per usage per employee. Employees will only be required to pay an initiation fee of $20 for the upfront investment of membership.

In addition to use of the Fitness Center and access to an array of health and fitness classes, tennis and pickleball, employees will have access to the playground, field and gymnasium during non-program scheduled times. Finally, they will receive significant discounts on participation in The Center's specialty, sport and youth program offerings, to include afterschool and seasonal camps.

The benefits of a corporate wellness program are statistically proven to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, reduce employee turn over and reduce associated health care costs.

"We are extremely excited to enter into this new formalized partnership with the Chiles Restaurant Group," Executive Director Kristen Lessig stated. "Both Ed and Tina continue to be very supportive of the new direction of The Center.

"As we continue to focus on ways to reengage our local Islanders, we feel that working with area businesses is a key element to success in doing so. I look forward to seeing the employees and their families active in our diverse array of programs for all ages."

Chiles added, ""This corporate partnership is a great opportunity for our business to encourage a healthy lifestyle for our employees while also supporting the most important community organization in Anna Maria. I hope other local business will join us."

Bert Harris claims keep coming


Bert Harris claims were filed last
week on behalf of the owners
of this vacation rental at
217 Magnolia Ave.

ANNA MARIA –The city of Anna Maria received notice of three more Bert Harris claims last week.

According to Deputy Clerk Debbie Haynes, the claims received on Friday, July 1, were filed by the Najmy/Thompson law firm.

The claim filed for the vacation rental located at 211 Magnolia Ave. seeks relief from occupancy restrictions or $345,000 for the assessed lost value of the five-bedroom rental structure that lists a pre-vacation rental ordinance adoption occupancy of 11 guests. The property is owned by Starfish 66 LLC, which according to state records is registered to Thomas Rushmore, from Reddick, Fla.

The claim filed for the property at 217 Magnolia Ave. seeks occupancy restriction relief or $345,000 in lost value for a five-bedroom structure that can accommodate up to 15 guests. The property is owned by Magnolia Beach Views LLC, which is registered to developer and Island resident Shawn Kaleta, attorney Louis Najmy and Anna Maria Island Real Estate's James Bayer.

The claim filed for the property at 228 Willow Ave. seeks occupancy relief or $595,000 in compensation for a five-bedroom structure than can accommodate 13 guests. The property is owned by 228 Willow LLC, which is registered to John and Deanna Munn, from Celebration, Fla.

The latest claims bring the total number of claims to 54 and the total amount of compensation sought to more than $14.4 million.

For each claim filed, the city has 150 days to negotiate a settlement before the property owner can file a lawsuit.

The city's vacation rental ordinance allows for the lesser of two persons per bedroom or a maximum occupancy of eight. If a registered property received a grandfathering provision, the property is allowed two persons per designated bedroom for a five-year period; and a maximum of eight when the grandfathering period expires in 2021.

The Holmes Beach vacation rental regulations allow in perpetuity a maximum of six occupants or two persons per bedroom, whichever is greater. The city of Bradenton Beach does not have any active vacation rental regulations or occupancy restrictions in place.

Basketball, football leagues to start

The youth basketball league will start at the Center on Aug. 2, and players must register by July 15. Registration is available on-line at or at The Center at 407 Magnolia Ave, Anna Maria.

Players will be evaluated at 6:30 p.m. on July 18 for 5- to 7-year-olds, July 19 for 8- to 10-year-olds, July 20 for 11- to 13-year-olds, and July 21 for 14- to 17-year-olds.

The cost for the league is free for members with a $5 processing fee and $90 non-members. Schedules will be made after evaluations.

There will be coaches and players clinic on July 18, 19 and 20 at 6:30 p.m. by Bradenton Christian Boys Basketball Coach Scott Townsend and players. Attendance is recommended for all players.

The Center is also seeking coaches and sponsors. Contact, Youth Program Manager Drew Mitchell at or 941-788-1908, ext. 9217, for more information.

Adult flag football

The adult flag football league is coming to The Center. The last day to register is July 28, and evaluations will be Aug. 4, with a draft to follow. The season will start Aug. 18.

Schedules will be made after evaluations and draft. Games are played on Thursday nights starting at 6 p.m. The cost is $5 for members and $120 for non-members.

For more information or to sponsor a team, contact Will at or 941-778-1908, ext. 9205.

Tree house motion withdrawn

anna marie Hayden | submitted

A trial date of July 15 has been set for the tree
house initiative petition.


HOLMES BEACH – One day before a scheduled hearing with a special magistrate, tree house attorney David Levin withdrew a motion for a stay pending appeal.

In May, Special Magistrate Kelly Fernandez ruled that Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran, owners of the tree house on the beach in front of Angelino's Sea Lodge at 103 29th Street, did not bring it into compliance by removing the violations or demolishing the structure. She ordered a fine of $50 per day starting from July 22, 2015.

Following the ruling, Levin filed a notice of appeal of the fine to the circuit court. He also filed a motion for stay of enforcement of the order imposing the fine pending appeal.

The July 1 hearing was for the special magistrate to determine whether to grant the motion for stay of enforcement of the order imposing the fine. Regarding withdrawing the motion, Tran said the fine issue would be addressed in the court appeal.

In addition, a trial date has been set regarding the initiative petition filed by Tran and Hazen seeking to put an ordinance on the ballot for voters to decide if the tree house is legal. That trial is July 15 at 1 p.m. in the Manatee County Judicial Center

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