The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 44 - August 15, 2012


Commission slams door on city pier gate
Carol Whitmore

Commissioners will not allow a gate to be installed at the north
pier parking lot entrance.

ANNA MARIA – Chair Chuck Webb dismissed a request from city pier tenant Mario Schoenfelder to put up a gate at the north parking lot and charge those who don’t use the pier facilities.

“It’s not really practical,” Webb stressed. “The tenant doesn’t have the right to all that property, just the right to use a number of parking spaces. We’re not in a partnership; we’re a landlord and a tenant.

“For all intents and purposes, they own those parking spaces. Under the lease, they’re responsible to do what they need to do to maintain them and to maintain them and keep non-customers from using them. I see it as a private property issue.”

He said Schoenfelder can put up no parking signs and signs warning that violators will be towed.

Regarding pier repairs and maintenance, Mayor Mike Selby explained that Schoenfelder is responsible for maintenance of the structure, which is inspected weekly by the public works director and the code enforcement officer.

“Mr. Schoenfelder and I sat down last year and talked about the possibility of the city taking over the maintenance of the pier,” Selby said. “As we get closer to the end of the lease term, I get more concerned about how our assets are being taken care of.”

Selby said maintenance costs have ranged from $18,000 per year to $54,000 per year. He and Schoenfelder discussed a figure of $36,000 per year, which the city would deduct from the rent, if it assumed the maintenance.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick asked about major damage from a storm, and Selby said insurance is too expensive. Commissioners told Selby to continue talks with Schoenfelder.

Commissioner SueLynn suggested that they seek funds from the Manatee County Tourist Development Council for pier maintenance.


City seeks resumés for commission seat

ANNA MARIA – If you’ve been itching to serve on the city commission, now’s your chance.

Commissioners agreed to accept applications from residents hoping to fill the commission position that will become vacant in November. The situation was created when no one qualified to run for mayor.

According to the charter, after the November election, the commission will elect a chair, and that chair automatically becomes mayor for the next two years.

The commission then elects or appoints a person to fill the commission seat until the next regular city election.

Chair Chuck Webb suggested that they accept resumés, but Commissioner JoAnn Mattick said she didn’t think resumés were necessary.

“In a typical election season, you go out and glad hand, go door to door, run ads and wave signs. That gives the voter an opportunity to meet the candidate,” City Attorney Jim Dye explained.

“In the appointment process, that step’s missing. It might be a good idea to do what you can to replace that process. It would go a long way to give the candidate bona fides.”

Mattick changed her mind and commissioners agreed that the applicants would have to meet the city’s residency requirement of two years, get signatures of 10 voters to sign their petitions and submit resumés.

They also agree to ask Dye to prepare an ordinance to maintain the 3-3 election cycle in which three commissioners are elected in even numbered years and two commissioners and a mayor in odd numbered years.

Dye said the appointment process could be done by resolution.

P&Z debates tree protection ordinance
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

This Southern red cedar grows in a yard in
Anna Maria. It could be considered a grand tree
if it met a certain number of points and
would be protected.

ANNA MARIA – Debating whether it’s overregulation or protection, planning and zoning board members decided that they need further discussion on a tree ordinance.

“At our last meeting, we had discussed issues relative to the right of way and tree removal, and it sparked some discussion as to whether we needed to look at a tree ordinance,” City Planner Alan Garrett explained.

He said the city has a landscape code that mandates that native trees be planted when someone builds a house, but there is no ordinance regarding tree removal or protection.

The Sarasota County ordinance requires a tree removal permit to remove trees, excluding invasive exotics, when developing a lot, he said, and the county can require that certain trees be maintained on the site. However, there is an exception for owner-occupied residential lots with a certificate of occupancy.

“In Sarasota County and other communities, there is what is called grand tree protection ordinance,” he continued. “This is where you are trying to save the big old oaks, live oaks and things of that nature.”

The ordinance contains a list of the trees considered grand trees and the points needed to preserve them. Points are based on the trunk diameter, height and canopy.

“If it meets the points, I can’t remove it,” he said.

He said the Bradenton Beach tree ordinance requires a permit to remove any tree, and has criteria for replacement trees.

Overregulation or protection?

Garrett said they should decide whether they want a tree protection ordinance and what they want in it.

“Look at whether you want to require a permit for tree removal, if you want tree replacement and if you want a grand tree designation,” he said.

“I like trees, but it’s another example of government getting involved at your residence,” board member Mike Pescitelli said.

New member Carol Carter said she would like grand tree designation and tree replacement on existing and developing properties.

“I go with Mike,” said Vice Chair Carl Pearman. “I have a problem creating restrictions on people living in their homes.

“I guess I could accept preventing the removal of native trees, but any other trees, I think we should have the freedom to remove them if we wish.”

He said he didn’t have a problem with requirements on new development or protecting grand trees.

“Who’s to determine what is a grand tree?” Chair Tom Turner asked. “We’re getting way out in left field when you’re talking about a grand tree for a city of our size.

“The landscape ordinance pretty well covers permits to remove native trees. We’re getting to the point that we’re overregulating our residents.”

Board member Lou Ellen Wilson said she would agree with grand tree protection, regulating new development and permits to remove leaf-bearing trees.

Garrett said he could narrow the grand tree concept to three or four trees that have large canopies and would come back to the next meeting with suggested language on that, as well as regulating new development and tree removal.

The next meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m.

Peelen to report on neighborhoods

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioner Jean Peelen has announced that she plans to make a report at the Tuesday, Aug. 14 commission meeting on the status of the city’s neighborhoods and recommendations for improvement.

Among the problems she plans to discuss are violations of city regulations in new construction, and the proliferation of multiple-bedroom vacation rentals that she calls “commercial establishments created in the middle of residential neighborhoods in violation of the comprehensive code,” both of which she said disrupt residents’ quiet enjoyment of their homes.

Other items on the commission agenda include the second reading of an ordinance to raise the cost of a business tax receipt by 5 percent, discussing a $60,640 bid for a resurfacing project and a request for a special exception to allow a new building and warehouse at 3004 Avenue C.

During the work session, the commission is scheduled to discuss a draft of an ordinance amending the land development code to require one parking space per bedroom in residences, requiring setbacks for pools and decks and requiring sound baffling for pools.

Also on the work session agenda is a discussion of short-term rentals, a request to discuss canopies for boat lifts and a discussion of the technology needs for the commission chambers.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at city hall, 5800 Marina Drive in Holmes Beach.

NOAA ups hurricane prediction

This hurricane season’s busy first half has prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to increase the number of storms expected over the second half.

NOAA released its amended outlook last Thursday and it calls for a total of 12 to 17 named storms. According to lead hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell, the chance for an above average season rose to 35 percent.

The new forecast calls for five to eight of those named storms to become hurricanes and two or three of those storms will become major, reaching Category 3 or higher. The May forecast called for four to eight storms becoming hurricanes and one to three of those to become major hurricanes. The norm for a season is 12 named storms spawning into six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

“We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic,” said Bell. “These conditions are linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995. Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active season.”

NOAA also said that El Niño winds were likely to take shape during this month or next.

"El Niño is a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which suppresses storm development," Bell said.

“We have a long way to go until the end of the season, and we shouldn’t let our guard down,” said Laura Furgione, acting director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Hurricanes often bring dangerous inland flooding as we saw a year ago in the Northeast with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Even people who live hundreds of miles from the coast need to remain vigilant through the remainder of the season.”

“It is never too early to prepare for a hurricane,” said Tim Manning, FEMA’s deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness. “We are in the middle of hurricane season and now is the time to get ready. There are easy steps you can take to get yourself and your family prepared.”

Visit for more information on preparing for storms.

Morris death re-investigation begins

BRADENTON BEACH – Representatives from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) team who will re-investigate the death of Sheena Morris on Jan. 1, 2009 have met with Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale and original investigator, Det. Sgt. Lenard Diaz.

According to Speciale, one of the members of the panel of law enforcement professionals will be in town this week to help Diaz reconstruct how the young woman’s death was investigated.

A hearing before the panel will likely not begin until mid-September, after the Republican National Convention in Tampa ends, Speciale said, adding that the panel would consist of between 12 and 15 members. Diaz said the hearing itself might run from eight to 12 days.

Speciale called for the panel after Morris’s mother, Kelly Osborn, repeatedly urged him to reopen the investigation because she felt Morris had been murdered. A group of Morris’ friends, relatives and supporters came to a city commission meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 8, to urge Mayor John Shaughnessy to have Speciale ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate the case, but that is not possible.

Special Agent in Charge Steven E. Ibison, of Tampa, sent a letter to Speciale saying, “In investigations without a federal nexus (link), the FBI has very little authority to assist.

“The Attorney General’s guidelines for domestic FBI operations and the resulting FBI Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide thoroughly address situations in which the FBI can provide ‘expert’ assistance or technical assistance to local agencies,” the letter said. “The general rule is that the FBI cannot provide investigative assistance to investigate state crimes if there is no federal nexus.”

The letter explained that providing “expert” personnel is limited to assistance in circumstances where lives are in danger or there is a risk of serious bodily harm to a third person or law enforcement officer.

Another letter, sent to elected officials in the city from District 12 Medical Examiner Russell Vega, explained that his office initially had some suspicions when they examined the case, but not enough to not rule the case a suicide.

Vega’s letter said they changed the cause of death ruling from "suicide" to "undetermined" after Morris presented expert consultants she had hired to review the case.

“My office is not bound by any such outside opinions and I am by no means convinced that the opinion of a staged scene is accurate,” Vega wrote. “However, having outside opinions of this sort served to raise by a relatively small degree the uncertainty that we had always harbored regarding this death. Consequently, we felt that the threshold for a determination of 'undetermined' had been reached and we amended our original reports to reflect this.”

Student armbands to be color-coded for safety

HOLMES BEACH – When the doors open for school this year, kids won’t be allowed in without an armband. It’s for their safety.

When school lets out, students will wear the armbands so teachers and school personnel know how they are getting home – by school bus, Community Center after-school bus, a parent, walking or bike riding. That way, they can direct a child to the proper waiting area.

This year, parents who pick up their kids will do so by the south playground entrance instead of the area just west of the cafeteria.

“This comes from a recommendation by the SAC (School Advisory Council) after a few close calls between kids and cars last year,” said Principal David Marshall. “We want to make sure the pickup kids can get to where they belong with minimal danger of an accident.”

Kindergarten students and their parents will be staged in the auditorium for the first day of school. They will be able to say goodbye to parents and meet their teachers before they march off to their classrooms. Parents are free to accompany them before they attend the PTO welcome breakfast in the cafeteria after the bell rings at 8:25 a.m. The tardy bell is at 8:30 a.m. Classes run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. every weekday.

Something else new this school year is the school will open its doors at 8:15 a.m.

“Students can gather in front of their classrooms and get ready for class, instead of waiting outside for the doors to open,” Marshall said. “This way, they will be more prepared.”

PTO changes Spring Fling from April to February

By the time the students return to class, the Anna Maria Elementary PTO will have had activities planned and changes made for the new school year.

Sue Carroll takes the reigns of the PTO this year and the first change they have made is the date of the Spring Fling, their most lucrative fund-raiser, to Feb. 23. The last Spring Fling was held on April 28.

“We hope to get more participation,” Carroll said. “Last year, they held the DeSoto Festival Parade in Bradenton the same night as the Spring Fling and I’m sure some of the families opted to the parade. We checked around after choosing Feb. 23 and the closest event is the Cortez Fishing Festival (Feb. 16 and 17).”

The Spring Fling will still have a new theme each year, but there will be changes in the menu.

“We want more appetizer stations,” Carroll said.

“Like tapas,” PTO Vice President Amy Talucci said.

“There will be a less formal dinner,” Carroll said. “People can walk around with hors d’ouerves and look at the auction items.”

The PTO has its usual goal of increasing participation from the parents, even if their time is limited.

“With people working more, we want to increase the opportunities for them to help us at home,” Carroll said.

The PTO will continue to work toward enhancing the educational experience of the students, according to Carroll.

“Every dime we raise and every dime that goes out has to be for the children,” she said. “We have to justify that.”

The PTO will have a welcome ceremony for the new parents and parents of kindergarten students on the first day of school and they will be passing out information on volunteer opportunities and what the PTO does.

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