The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 48 - September 28, 2016


Persistent red tide causes fish kill

Carol Whitmore


Dead fish continue to wash ashore this
week on Anna Maria Island's beaches.

Dead fish suffocated by red tide continue to wash up on Anna Maria Island's beaches, causing some beachgoers to get back in their cars and visitors to cancel their vacations.

Red tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of the microscopic organism Karenia brevis, which contains a neurotoxin that can kill fish and marine mammals, poison shellfish, making it unfit to eat, and cause respiratory distress in people, especially those with asthma, emphysema and other respiratory conditions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts high levels of red tide through Thursday in Manatee County waters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) first reported a high concentration of red tide at Longboat Pass on the Island's southernmost tip last Friday, with varying levels from low to medium on the rest of the Island's beaches.

By Monday, the Mote Marine Beach Report ( showed heavy concentrations of dead fish at Coquina Beach, with moderate respiratory irritation.

One Bradenton Beach resort reported two vacation rental cancellations and one rescheduling on Monday due to the red tide.

"I have itchy eyes, an itchy throat, and have been sneezing and coughing for the past three days," said Chelsea Hart, a lifeguard with Manatee County's Marine Rescue Division, on Monday.

Hart and the other lifeguards are wearing masks at their workplaces, Manatee Beach and Coquina Beach. Beachgoers are leaving when they see the masks and read the red tide informational signs and pamphlets that lifeguards are passing out, she said.

The telltale tickle in the throat started on Saturday around 4:30 p.m. at Manatee Beach, Hart said, but red tide hit the southern part of the Island earlier in the week and harder.

"If I was going to the beach, I'd go up north," said Manatee County's beach cleaner, Mark Taylor.

He began raking up the dead fish on Monday, after Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox gave the "all clear." Hurricane Hermine left many sea turtle nests unmarked, and the hatchlings were given time to hatch before the county's tractor rake was permitted on the beach, he said. Whether the hatchlings survived the red tide is unknown.

From his tractor, Taylor said he can see more dead fish far out in the water, which will wash ashore depending on tides and wind direction. Most of the fish he has cleaned up so far are trash fish and eels, said Taylor, a former Cortez commercial fisherman.

With fishermen gearing up to put their stone crab traps in the water for the start of crab season on Oct. 15, it remains to be seen if the crabs left the area due to the red tide or were killed, he said. Crab season and roe mullet season in November are the busiest time of year for Cortez fishermen.

"I hope it's gone by then," he said, adding that he will be on the beach cleaning up the fish every day until the red tide passes.

Take precautions

The Florida Department of Health advises people with asthma and other respiratory conditions to bring their inhalers to the beach during a red tide, or avoid the area.

Residents and visitors to beaches affected by red tide and up to five miles inland are advised to close their windows and run their air conditioners.

Swimming is not advised, as some swimmers experience skin irritation and rashes after swimming in red tide. Swimming in water where dead fish are present also exposes swimmers to elevated bacteria levels.

Sea foam contains a high concentration of red tide, so parents should be aware that children playing on the shoreline in the foam may experience skin and eye irritation.

Shellfish like clams, oysters, and coquinas that are harvested from areas with red tide should not be eaten because shellfish are filter feeders that concentrate the toxins produced by red tide. Scallops can be consumed if only the scallop muscle is eaten; scallop stew using the whole animal should not be consumed.

Crabs, shrimp and lobster can be consumed because they do not concentrate the red tide toxin. Shellfish available through restaurants and commercial food suppliers are considered safe to consume.

To report a fish kill, call the FWC at 800-636-0511.

Bert Harris purchase offer accepted
Carol Whitmore

joe hendricks | SUN

The owners of this vacation rental at 117 Willow Ave.
have tentatively agreed to sell their property to the
city of Anna Maria.


ANNA MARIA – The city of Anna Maria is on the cusp of entering the vacation rental business, at least on a short-term basis.

The business entity known as 117 Willow LLC has accepted the city's offer to purchase a vacation rental property at 117 Willow Ave. for $1.21 million as a means of settling a Bert Harris claim.

State records list attorney Louis Najmy as the LLC's registered agent and Joe Varner and Shawn Kaleta as its authorized persons. The appraisal package that accompanied the Bert Harris claim filed on May 23 mentions AMI Vacations as the property's group finance entity, and the vacation rental known as Ocean Walk is listed at the Anna Maria Vacations website.

The purchase offer is the first to be accepted by a property owner who filed a Bert Harris claim against the city in response to the occupancy limits imposed by the city's vacation rental ordinance.

Attorney Aaron Thomas, from the Najmy Thompson law firm, notified City Attorney Becky Vose of his clients' acceptance with a certified letter dated Tuesday, Sept. 20.

"This letter will serve as my client's formal acceptance of the city's offer to purchase the property. This acceptance is subject to and solely contingent upon receipt of proposed purchase contract by Sept. 30 and my client's satisfactory review, approval and execution of such contract," Thomas' letter says.

The letter was in response to the letter Vose sent him dated Tuesday, Sept. 13.

"The city hereby offers your client a variance from the vacation rental ordinance to permit a maximum of 10 overnight guests. This variance would be equivalent to the before occupancy level described in your notice. The variance would be perpetual, regardless of any changes in ownership. However, if the property were to be remodeled in such a manner as to decrease the number of bedrooms, the variance would expire permanently," Vose's letter states.

As part of their Bert Harris claim, the owners of the four-bedroom home requested a maximum occupancy of 14 persons.

The purchase offer made to 117 Willow LLC was among the 28 settlement agreements approved by a 3-2 vote at the Sept. 8 city commission meeting. Twenty of those settlement offers included the city's first claim-related purchase offers, which amounted to more than $20 million.

"As an alternative offer, the city offers to purchase the property for the purchase price of $1,212,925, which is 1.5 percent over the before value of the property as set forth in the appraisal you submitted. The city would pay all closing costs, not to include the seller's attorney's fees," Vose's letter says.

According and Coldwell Banker Homes' website, the property has a listed sale price of $1.695 million and an estimated monthly mortgage of between $6,758 and $7,960.

"Rental deposits will be turned over to the city at closing. In addition, the city would agree to honor all written valid rental agreements in place as of the date of this offer and subsequent written valid rental agreements made after the date of this offer generally consistent with the rental rates set forth in the appraisal," Vose's letter states.

"The city would also agree to honor written valid property management agreements existing as of the day before the date of this offer so long as such property management agreements are generally consistent with property agreements typically used in the city."

According to the appraisal package provided to the city, the property was rented for 20 weeks in 2014, 46 weeks in 2015 and had 40 weeks reserved to date for 2016 at a rate of $2,100 to $5,600, depending on the time of year. The property has pending reservations that extend to May 20, 2017.

Mayor Dan Murphy declined comment when asked how the purchase would be funded and how the city would use the property. He said those details might be available later this week.

Candidates share their views

BRADENTON BEACH – City Commission candidates Bill Vincent and John Chappie participated in a candidate's forum hosted by The Sun at Bradenton Beach City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Both men are vying for the Ward 4 commission seat being vacated by Jan Vosburgh.

The forum began with the candidates' opening statements.

"I am a novice at this. I've never been elected to office and never campaigned for office before," Vincent said.

The Pines Trailer Park resident referenced the skills and qualifications he believes qualify him to run for office. This included working as a director of facilities for a major health care center in Lansing, Mich., followed by a position at a large financial institution in which he played a significant role in $250 million worth of construction and renovation, including an $82 million corporate headquarters.

Vincent said he was also involved in numerous governmental and professional organizations as a board member or board president.

"The citizens recruited me to run for this position. It was not on my bucket list to do this at almost 70 years old, but they're the ones that called me the voice of reason," he said.

Chappie said, "I've been a 42-year resident here in Bradenton Beach. I fell in love with this place from day one when I came here a month out of college. For over 30 years, I've been involved in almost every committee and board."

He also noted that he's planted several sea oats and trees throughout the city.

The former Bradenton Beach mayor alluded to his pending retirement from the Manatee County Commission and addressed his desire to return to city government.

"I'm running because this is the first time in my 42-year history – and we've been through some battles – that I've been really concerned about what's going on in our community, losing our residential, family and neighborhood feel because of the party houses," he said.

"One other big thing is our community's divided, and I want to try to help bring things together. We need to learn to work together, and we need to understand that we can disagree, move forward and set policy as a commission," he said.

Vacation rentals

Chappie and Vincent were pretty much in agreement on regulating vacation rentals. Both support the citizen-initiated building moratorium efforts, the planning and zoning's board's recommendations for a two guests per bedroom plus two additional guests as a maximum occupancy limit and the recommendation for small exterior signs that provide the owner or rental agent's contact information.

Chappie supports lowering the noise threshold in residential zones between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., side yard trash pick-up for non-owner occupied vacation rentals and city-approved plans that indicate which rooms are used as bedrooms.

In addition to the proposed regulations he and Chappie agree on, Vincent said he hopes to see the planning board eventually move on to addressing "the density issues" by limiting residential structures to four bedrooms, requiring a minimum bedroom size of 120 square feet and using other land use regulations to help maintain what remains of the city's old Florida feel.

He said the building moratorium should have been enacted last year.

Mooring field

Vincent expressed support for Mayor Bill Shearon's unsuccessful efforts to create a managed mooring field. He said it is "morally reprehensible" for the city to allow things to happen in the unmanaged anchorage that would get you arrested in a city park. He said funding a mooring field should be a commission priority.

Chappie agrees that something needs to be done, but he's not sure a mooring field is the answer. He supports getting the police boat in the water on a regular basis, and he said the West Coast Inland Navigation District grant would likely help cover the initial cost of installing a police department boat lift at the pier. Chappie said he was surprised to learn that Police Chief Sam Speciale's departmental budget does not provide much funding for marine patrols, and he would like that changed.

The pier

Vincent and Chappie both support the city reaching a monetary settlement with the Bazzy family in regard to the pier lease lawsuit they filed against the city and others. The city's attorney has told the commission that the city has a strong case, but it is also likely the Bazzy's would appeal a ruling favorable to the city, which would result in ongoing legal costs.

"Settle and move on, we've got other things to do," Vincent said.

"If they can come up with a reasonable settlement, do it," Chappie said.

Neither candidate favors commercial wet slips at the pier and they agree that the day dock, when replaced, should continue to serve the needs of the boating public rather than any commercial interests. Vincent said he would consider finger docks on the south side of the pier, as long as they were for the public's use.

CRA projects

Both candidates believe the anchorage should be included in any expanded Community Redevelopment area boundaries and neither expressed support for a parking garage.

The Bradenton Beach forum can be heard in its entirety at

Candidates discuss Bert Harris claims


joe hendricks | SUN

Commission candidates Chuck Webb, Brian Seymour
and Nancy Yetter shared their views on Bert Harris claim
settlements last week.



ANNA MARIA – During the candidates' forum that took place last week, commission candidates Nancy Yetter, Chuck Webb and Brian Seymour discussed the Bert Harris claim settlement offers recommended by City Attorney Becky Vose.

On three occasions, Webb and Yetter have voted against the settlement offers and have been outvoted by commissioners Carol Carter, Doug Copeland and Dale Woodland, who supported the offers Vose recommended.

When asked during the forum to explain these opposition votes, Webb said he would not answer the question because it might reveal the city attorney's litigation strategies. He then referenced his belief that the city's comprehensive plan prohibits commercial activity in residential zones.

"I still feel the vacation rentals are illegal. For that reason, I will not vote for an illegal use in the city."

Yetter said the settlement offers conflicted with promises she made about trying to protect the rights of residents.

"There's a big difference between profit and greed. I think that if we don't stand up to somebody, sooner or later we're not doing our jobs. I personally can't go along with it," Yetter said.

Seeking elected office for the first time, Seymour said, "My concern is with the financial solvency of the city and that we're doing everything as a city and as residents and property owners to work together to come to a good resolution for everyone. Property rights are big on my priority list, but I also believe the city has rights in trying to reign in some of the egregious offenders that have made an impact on the rental industry as a whole."

If elected, Seymour said he would likely support settlement offers that simply called for occupancy limits of two persons per bedroom plus two additional guests.

Purchase offers?

When the forum took place on Tuesday, Sept. 20, the candidates may not have been aware that the city received a letter dated that same day from attorney Aaron Thomas regarding a $1.21 million purchase offer for a vacation rental at 117 Willow Ave.

On Sept. 8, the commission voted 3-2 to approve 28 settlement offers and 20 of those included purchase offers for the first time as an alternative to the two-plus-two occupancy limit also being offered.

When asked if he would support the city purchasing vacation rental properties, Seymour said, "I do not because I don't think the offers are intended to be accepted. I think it's trying to show good faith by the city for a potential court appearance. My question is where are they going to come up with the money and are they going to get into the rental industry or be the third party between a potential investor? I don't know that that's the answer."

Webb said, "I strongly support it. You go out and finance it. We turn around and sell it to a family, so now we have families coming back in."

He also said he would like to see restrictive covenant attached to such sales, in which the buyer agrees not to use the property as a vacation rental.

"I agree with Chuck that it is a good way to bring families back to the Island. I trust the mayor. If he didn't think it was a solid idea and didn't have an idea on how to finance it, he would not have proposed that. I think it's the best alternative," Yetter said.
"If you agreed with it why did you vote against it?" Seymour asked,

"My understanding was the actual motion was not based on the offer to purchase. It was based on the two-plus-two. That's why I voted against it. If the city attorney recommended that we purchase a property, I'd probably vote for that," Webb said.

As evidenced by the purchase offer accepted last week, the settlement offers voted on earlier this month did include purchase offers for 20 properties.

Yetter said she didn't support the settlement offers because she felt they went beyond what she considered to be good faith offers and amounted to giving the property owners everything they asked for.

"That goes against everything I've ever believed in when it comes to a negotiation," she said.

The Sun's Anna Maria Commission candidates' forum can be heard in its entirety at Additional coverage of the forum will appear in a future issue of The Sun.

Vacation rental certificate program begins

Pat Copeland | Sun

About 50 people attended the second in a series of
meetings to learn how to obtain vacation rental certificates

HOLMES BEACH – In a series of three meetings, the city's code enforcement and police officers outlined the application and inspection process for owners and agents to obtain vacation rental certificates.

Every property owner who rents for seven days or less or is in the R-2 zoning district must have a vacation rental certificate. Properties will be inspected for life safety issues, and the owner will be issued a decal for their property that is valid for two years.

"This program will help takeout city to the next level," Code Enforcement Officer James Thomas said adding that city officials listened to stakeholders when crafting the vacation rental ordinance and certificate.

About 50 property owners attended last Monday's meeting in which T. Rex Ogle, the city's records clerk and IT specialist, first explained how to register their property on the city's website in order to receive a decal. He said if anyone has a problem with the process, they can come to city hall, and someone will help them register.

The cost of the decal is $150, which pays for the inspection program. One property manager asked if she could register all of her properties at once and pay once, and Ogle said she could.

Thomas played videos of mock inspections to show property owners what they are looking for inside and outside a rental. He said his department has an open door for questions about the process from property owners and managers.

Copies of the ordinance and application are available at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. The application process opens on Sept. 13, applications are due Jan. 1, 2017 and inspections begin Sept. 13.

Permits up for home improvements

HOLMES BEACH – Building Official Jim McGuinness presented city commissioners with a series of charts to show the numbers and types of building permits, which showed a dramatic increase in owners improving existing homes.

McGuinness presented charts featuring permitted major construction from 2005 to 2015 in the categories of single-family units and duplex units, which were tear down and rebuilds, and 49 percent improvements of existing ground level structures (as per the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 50 percent rule), as well as demolitions and major and minor work in 2016.

He said to date in 2016, the number of ground level homes being remodeled at 49 percent is 37, the number of homes being remodeled is 26 and the number of new homes being constructed is 14.

Reversing the trend

"That's a complete reversal of the old trend of tear down and build them high," he said. "We have 2 ½ times more 49 percenters than new homes. If you add in the remodels without approaching that 50 percent mark – they're putting money into an existing house – that number totals 63, which is a one to four ratio of tear downs to improving existing homes.

"That's dramatic turn around compared to 2012. Now we're seeing people putting money into homes as they sit on the ground versus tearing it down and building a vacation rental. It's not changing the physical nature of the city as radically as when you tear something down and build it as high as you can."

McGuinness also presented charts showing the number of inspections in 2015 and 2016 and the average permit approval time from November 2015 to August 2016.

Mayor Bob Johnson said the city is "changing the reputation of the building department" because it is moving from the old-fashioned paper system of the past to a new computerized system.

Unpermitted work

In addition, McGuinness discussed the issue of contractors doing unpermitted work. He said one particular case "fell through the cracks. We were overwhelmed and understaffed, but we're going to make changes to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Changes include creating a means for code enforcement to route issues it discovers to the building department and creating an alert in the system so issues won't get lost.

"Regarding the case that prompted this to be on the agenda, a permit has been issued on it, and the contractor has paid multiple fees to get that permit," McGuinness said and added that he is trying to "create a better mesh between the code enforcement and the building department."

Commissioner Pat Morton said he is "very displeased with the process in the one house we're talking about" because one contractor "is getting away with murder.

"He's done a lot of this over the past four or five years and just got his fingers slapped. We need to let people know we're not playing with them anymore."

However, McGuinness pointed out, "A red tag is not a parking ticket. The first one is $500; the second one is $1,000; a third on is $2,000. My first year here I placed more stop work orders than any building official before me. We came out of the block strong and hard and aggressive.

"In 2016, we've had only one because the contracting community is hearing us. We're getting compliance. We haven't been lap dogs; we've been watch dogs."

West Nile virus found in Manatee county

The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County today advised residents that there has been an increase in mosquito-borne activity. A sentinel chicken flock has tested positive for the West Nile virus.

While the risk of transmission to humans has increased, the Manatee County Mosquito Control District and DOH-Manatee are continuing surveillance and prevention efforts to help protect residents and visitors. To protect against mosquitoes, the department urges the public to drain and cover:


• Drain water from garbage cans, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.

• Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren't being used.

• Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least once or twice a week.

• Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don't accumulate water.

• Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.


• If outside while mosquitos are active, cover up with shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves.

• Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with 10-30 percent DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective.

• Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.

• Keep mosquitoes out of your house by covering windows, doors, porches and patios with screens.

eliminating mosquito-breeding sites

• Clean out troughs and gutters;

• Remove old tires or drill holes in those used in playgrounds to drain;

• Turn over or remove empty plastic pots;

• Pick up all beverage containers and cups;

• Check tarps on boats or other equipment that may collect water;

• Replace water in birdbaths and pet or other animal feeding dishes at least once a week;

• Change water in plant trays, including hanging plants, at least once a week; and

• Remove vegetation or obstructions in drainage ditches that prevent the flow of water.

For more information on what repellent is right for you, use the Environmental Protection Agency's search tool:

Report dead birds via the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's site at

For more information, visit DOH's website at or contact your county health department.

According the to the Center for Disease Control, most people, or 70-80 percent, who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Less than 1 percent of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or paralysis.

Serious illness can occur in people of any age. However, people over 60 years of age are at the greatest risk for severe disease. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk for serious illness.

Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent. About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.

There is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatments for West Nile virus. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms. In severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care.

Attorney challenges decision to deny street vacation

HOLMES BEACH – Attorneys for AMI 105 39th Street LLC have filed a lawsuit over the city commission's denial in March of a request to vacate a portion of Second Avenue between 38th and 39th streets and adjacent to Manatee Public Beach.

At the time, City Planner Bill Brisson said he agreed with the building official who rejected the application because he felt it violated the comprehensive plan.

In addition, a Manatee County attorney said the board of county commissioners objected to the vacation, and an attorney representing adjacent property owners also objected to the vacation.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare Section 3.11(a) of the city code null and void because it is "unconstitutionally vague" and to reverse the commission's decision denying the vacation request.

Attorney's arguments

The lawsuit maintains that:

• The petitioner was not afforded procedural due process because "city commissioners openly expressed their desire to deny the request," and a court document was provided to commissioners at the hearing that the petitioner was not given an opportunity to review and that the city attorney failed to "clearly identify the motion" in the court document.

• The commission failed to follow the essential requirements of law because the decision was made "without any consideration of the criteria set forth in the city's code," Section 3.11 (a), which provides six criteria for commissioners to take into consideration when determining if a right of way should be vacated.

• The evidence provided by the two attorneys and the city planner was not competent substantial evidence.

• Section 3.11 (a) of the city's code, which is "unconstitutionally vague and allows for arbitrary decision making" because it states that vacations "shall be considered based primarily, but not exclusively" on the six criteria mentioned above.

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