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Vol. 15 No. 13 - January 21, 2015

headlines

Cell Tower sale delayed
Carol Whitmore

joe hendricks | sun

Doug Monilaw applies primer to the cell tower base before it
is covered with exterior lattice.

BRADENTON BEACH – City commissioners unanimously denied a request from Florida Tower Partners’ Kevin Barile to sell the recently constructed cell tower and transfer the lease for the city owned land on which it stands to the Boston-based American Tower Corporation.

The commission denied Barile’s request after he provided estimated time frames as to when Verizon and AT&T would install the carrier-specific equipment that will make the tower operational.

Barile said Verizon is expected to have its equipment installed and operational in March.

He was unable to provide an accurate estimate for AT&T due to the company’s $43 billion acquisition of Direct TV, which has led to delays with capital expenditures. Barile guessed that AT&T’s equipment would be in place by summer, and noted that the carrier’s lease with Florida Tower Partners is already generating shared revenues for the city.

During the Jan. 8 meeting, commissioners questioned Barile’s request to transfer ownership.

“I wasn’t aware that you were going to sell this. Is this something you always do?” Commissioner Jan Vosburgh asked.

“It’s ultimately our plan here and with the tower in Anna Maria that our exit strategy as a tower developer is not to hold the towers and collect the rent; it’s to sell them to the large consolidators,” Barile said.

“You’re going to sell this before the tower is operational? I’m not so sure I like that, and I’m going to have to think about that,” Commissioner Janie Robertson said.

She also reminded Barile and the commission that the lease includes an abandonment clause that can be enforced after a prolonged period of inactivity.

“I would view the sale of the tower much more favorably if the system was up and running so we can say to our constituents we did a good thing, and not that we let Florida Tower Partners put up this tower and leave town,” said Vice Mayor Jack Clarke.

“This tower was supposed to be up and running by Thanksgiving, then we went to December, then there was conversation about January, and now we don’t have a commitment. When the cell tower is up and running, with the two carriers as indicated, then I would be receptive to a sale of the lease,” Mayor Bill Shearon added.

Due to the delays, the commission also denied Barile’s request to amend the legal description of the tower footprint to properly account for the fact it currently extends nine inches beyond the original land easement granted by the city.

On Friday afternoon, Barile provided some updated information that he plans to share with the commission at Thursday’s meeting.

“I clearly heard the commission’s disappointment that none of the carriers have been installed on the tower, but there have been new developments with Verizon. On Wednesday, they applied for their city building permit,” he said.

According to Barile, Verizon is also waiting on the shelter structure that will shield its equipment. Built by another manufacturer, the shelter must first be delivered to the company that installs the radios, batteries and other equipment before the 55,000 pound sub-structure arrives at the tower site and is hoisted onto the tower base by crane.

The exterior lattice that will cover the tower base is being installed this week, even though the preference was to wait until the carriers had their equipment in place first, and landscaping is also expected to take place this week.

Holmes Beach imposes building moratorium

HOLMES BEACH – After pleas from Commissioner Marvin Grossman and residents, city commissioners agreed to impose a moratorium on remodeling or construction of homes with four or more bedrooms/sleeping rooms.

“I’d like to call for an administrative moratorium to prevent an influx of another round of permits from coming in before we have an opportunity to fix anything,” Grossman said.

Resident Dick Motzer joined Grossman’s call and stressed, “We are losing the residents to big time investors of multi-family rental units. We need the city commission to step up to the plate once again and grab the bull by the horns.”

He said from 1990 to 2010, the census showed a population loss of 22.8 percent for the city. The unit occupancy in 2000 was 1,743 by owners, 795 by renters and 1,664 by short-term renters. In 2010 it was 1,464 by owners, 559 by renters and 2,150 by short-term renters. In addition, 80 homes were demolished between 2011 and 2014 and 107 new residential units were built.

Motzer urged the commission to impose a moratorium, to charge impact fees for homes with four or more bedrooms and to implement life safety regulations.

Residents call for help

Resident Nancy Deal presented petitions calling for a moratorium and said, “The residents of this Island need help. These are year ‘round renters who vote and contribute to the community and patronize our businesses and are being run off by short-term renters.

“We’re losing valuable members of this community who care about this Island and are caretakers of this Island. Help us save our Island. We don’t know what to do.”

Commissioners discussed various options and agreed that the moratorium would be in effect in the R-2, R-3 and R-4 zoning districts; would include remodeling or new construction of residences with four or more bedrooms or sleeping rooms, with four per side for duplexes; and be in place for a maximum of nine months.

Commissioner Jean Peelen said there could be a rush for permits, and City Attorney Patricia Petruff replied, “You need to give direction to your staff not to accept any plans that fall in this category as of today.”

Plans Examiner David Greene asked for a memo to post at the building department to inform contractors.

Recall petition signatures presented

BRADENTON BEACH – On Wednesday morning, Jan. 14, Pete Barreda submitted to acting City Clerk Terri Sanclemente 118 recall petition signatures gathered as part of the efforts to initiate a special election that would determine whether Mayor Bill Shearon remains in office.

Within an hour of receiving the signed petitions, Sanclemente drove to Bradenton and delivered them to the office of Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett.

Bennett’s staff was asked to verify the signatures and determine if at least 100 were submitted by Bradenton Beach residents who are registered city voters. If at least 100 signatures are verified, the recall process continues, and Shearon will be given five days to submit a 200-word written rebuttal to the original petition charges that allege he violated state Sunshine Law when he used e-mail to communicate with commissioners outside of a public meeting.

The recall committee would then need to collect 115 verified signatures in order to force a special recall election that could be scheduled as early as March or April. Shearon’s inaugural term as mayor expires in November.

Wednesday afternoon, the mayor commented on the day’s developments.

“I can’t say I’m happy about it because I wish it wasn’t even going to happen, but I’ve said from day one let the voters determine this,” he said.

“I’m assuming there will be 100 valid signatures; and this will present me the opportunity to present my side, which I have not done because I didn’t think it was appropriate. Hopefully, this will resolve the forfeiture issues and concerns, and it can go back to the voters as the process is pursued. I’d much rather have this, because it will save the city a whole bunch of money compared to forfeiture,” Shearon said.

Forfeiture revisited

Vice Mayor Jack Clarke plans to revisit the forfeiture of office discussions during the Thursday, Jan. 22 commission meeting. He will seek commission’s approval to secure outside legal counsel to help clarify legal questions pertaining to the forfeiture process.

Clarke said the discussion might also include public disclosure of the 13 charges he previously intended to levy against Shearon, a list that now includes additional allegations.

The vice mayor was asked if he was concerned that revisiting the forfeiture efforts at this time might subject him to additional criticism from those who question the commission trying to remove an elected official from office.

“When a recall election is scheduled, I will support postponement of the forfeiture proceedings,” he said.

“First and foremost, the forfeiture is a different process than the recall. Forfeiture is a remedy sought by our city commission to compel any elected official to forfeit his or her office. Recall is a spontaneous voter-driven remedy sought by voters to expel an elected official,” he said.

“Charges outlined in the recently submitted recall petition are very limited in content, detail and length per the Florida Statute governing the recall process. At the Dec. 2 special commission meeting, specific reasons for the forfeiture of Mayor Shearon were not presented due to procedural problems. Commissioners voted at that meeting to retain an objective third party counsel to assist in the framing and presentation of the forfeiture charges going forward. This requires minimal funding and will be presented Thursday,” Clarke concluded.

Pier walkthrough precedes opening

joe hendricks | sun

The reconstructed city pier features newly installed
Trex composite decking.

BRADENTON BEACH – The weather was cool and cloudy last Wednesday morning, but the mood was cheerful and celebratory as Mayor Bill Shearon and Pier Team Chair and Police Chief Sam Speciale led folks on a preliminary walkthrough of the reconstructed pier that will open to the public on Friday, Jan. 23.

“This is the day we’ve been waiting for,” Shearon said.

“I want to thank everyone for coming today. Let’s go see our new pier,” Speciale proclaimed.

“We had some hiccups in the beginning, but the way the pier looks now is far beyond what we thought it would be. It’s an icon, a focal point of the city, and a fishing pier, so I can’t wait to see people using it again, especially the kids,” Speciale said.

“We’ll do the final punch list and get it open to our fishermen,” Shearon said.

With the city holding a license, no fishing license is needed to enjoy fishing on our pier; and there’s going to be two underwater lights that help attract bait fish,” the mayor added.

“I give tremendous credit to our pier facilitators: our chief and the members of our Pier Team. Even with the setbacks, our builders (Duncan Seawall) and engineers (ZNS Engineering) got this done on schedule,” said Vice Mayor Jack Clarke.

“I’m thrilled for our visitors. I want to thank former Mayor John Shaughnessy for all the work he did in getting the money to do this; and we can’t forget Nora Idso, because she had a lot to do with this too,” said Commissioner Jan Vosburgh.

“This is a vision come true,” Shaughnessy said.

In reference to the late city clerk’s efforts that contributed to Manatee County splitting the cost of the $1.4 million project, Shaughnessy said, “Nora was the person that put away this money so we could get the matching funds.”

Building Official Steve Gilbert said he is glad the work is winding down.

“We really started talking about this back in 2012, when Tropical Storm Debby did the significant damage to the pilings, but we knew since 2007 that we had issues we needed to deal with,” he explained.

“I think we made the best choice we could have made in terms of contractors. The few things we found were things Duncan was already aware of. I’m happy, because they made this job as easy for me as we could have asked for,” Gilbert said.

“We’ve been getting calls for months from people asking when they can bring their boats back to the pier. I expect we’re going to see a tremendous increase in recreational boating, and that will be a blessing for the pier complex and the Bridge Street merchants because now you can bring your boat in and spend the day,” he added.

Public Works Director Tom Woodard said the 20-foot city welcome sign would be installed later that day, with benches and other amenities to be installed before the soft opening. A grand opening ceremony will be held in February.

Injunction hearing scheduled

Credit

The future use of this city-owned property west
of Gulf Drive will be discussed at a court hearing on Thursday.

BRADENTON BEACH – On Thursday, Jan. 22, 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge John Lakin will conduct a hearing to address the emergency motion for temporary injunction filed on behalf of Tjet Martin and Jo Ann Meilner.

The injunction is an attempt to prevent the city from constructing a small public parking lot on the west side of Gulf Drive, adjacent to the south end of the BeachHouse restaurant property.

The hearing will take place at 3 p.m. in courtroom 6E, at the Manatee County Judicial Center in downtown Bradenton.

The injunction filed by attorney Ralf Brookes names the city and the ELRA Inc restaurant ownership group as co-plaintiffs, which means City Attorney Ricinda Perry and ELRA Inc attorney Robert Lincoln will match legal wits with Brookes, who formerly served as the Bradenton Beach’s city attorney.

On Jan. 8, Commissioners Jack Clarke, Jan Vosburgh and Ed Straight approved the parking lot construction by a 3-2 vote, at cost not to exceed $14,500, by a 3-2 vote. Mayor Bill Shearon and Commissioner Janie Robertson opposed the decision.

The city property where the parking lot construction has been proposed is part of a 2012 development agreement the city and ELRA Inc. entered into. The agreement allowed Chiles to make parking related improvements on the south side of the restaurant and also obligated the city to build the adjoining city parking lot.

The development agreement approved by the commission in 2012 led to a lawsuit filed by Shearon, Martin and Meilner that has been tied up in court since. The lawsuit contends the commission violated the city’s comprehensive plan by allowing parking on two properties located in the city’s Preservation zoning district, where parking is prohibited.

The Jan. 8 commission discussion was initiated because there is a Florida Department of Environmental Protection permit tied to the 2012 development agreement that requires the city to remove exotic and non-native plants and trees from the city property.

When addressing the injunction, Lakin will rule on whether the construction of the city parking lot is allowed or not allowed.

Because Lakin was also recently assigned to take over the unresolved 2012 lawsuit, Perry believes the judge’s opinion on the injunction may provide some insight as to where he stands on the 2012 lawsuit as well.

Center treasurer reports positive cash flow

joe hendricks | sun

The crew from Duncan Seawall is putting the final touches
on the reconstructed Historic Bridge Street Pier.

 

ANNA MARIA – Island Community Center Treasurer Jim Froeschile reported to the board of directors on Friday that halfway through the fiscal year, the Center has a positive cash flow and positive net income.

“December was the second month in a row of good results,” Froeschile said. “We are seeing significant improvement in membership that shows the interest is there from the community. We are seeing costs beginning to come under control with the things the two directors are doing.”

He said cash reserves are $100,000, and with the upcoming events, memberships and donations, the positive cash flow should continue. That also includes continued support from grants and the Island cities.

“Working with the financial committee and directors, we have already introduced substantial controls over expenditures and the charging process, we are implementing a paper trial on other expenses and documenting and developing a very rigorous set of financial control policies that will govern the future and create some continuity in how we provide management oversight on both revenue and expenses,” he explained.

“We’re also driving the accountability for that down into the organization so it isn’t just one or two that have to be the watchdogs. With that and some of the changes in systems, reporting and documentation, you’re going to see a dramatic improvement.”
Board member Mike Coleman reported that BB&T, which holds the Center’s mortgage, is deferring principal payments for six months and accepting interest only.

Staff and programs

Executive Director Cindy Thompson and Managing Director Kristin Lessig reported on changes in staffing, facilities and programs.

Lessig said the staff has been restructured, new positions were created and new job descriptions were developed. One staff position was eliminated at a savings of $3,000 per month.

They currently are focusing on customer service at the front desk, have met with instructors to share their vision of the future and are monitoring building cleaning and maintenance.

“We’re are looking a everything and working our way around the building to make sure it reflects a first class organization,” Lessig said.

Thompson said they would be purchasing equipment, tables and supplies for the new childcare facility with money donated by board Chair Blair Schlossberg, and it should be operational soon.

“We’re working on all the programing,” Thompson continued. “We ‘ve been meeting with the teens and parents for feedback, have separated the youth and adult sports programs and are improving the tennis and pickleball programs.”

Thompson said a pottery wheel has been donated to the Center, and she would like to implement a tile project like she did at the elementary school when she was PTO president. Kids and adults would paint ceramic tiles, which would decorate the wall in front of the Center’s parking lot.

She said upcoming events include pancake breakfasts the third Saturday of every month, a Valentine Dance on Feb. 14 and a Neil Diamond show on Feb. 20.

Health and Fitness Center

Board member Shawn Kaleta reported on the progress of the health and fitness center. He said when the Center announced its financial crisis, board members realized that the operating expenses exceeded revenue, and the shortfall was about $300,000.

“We had to try and figure out how to get that $300,000 income to offset the loss,” he explained. “The health and fitness center could be a viable solution to solve all of the cash flow issues.”

He said one way to fund the fitness center was the rental membership program. In this program, property owners who use property management companies may acquire Center memberships for their renters, which allows them to enjoy all the amenities the Center offers.

He said his estimate for the fitness center is approximately $500,000, and other ways to fund it would be seeking donations of supplies and labor from local contractors, grants and sponsors.

The time frame for the fitness center would be one month to get plans drawn and submit them for permitting, one month for permitting and four months to build.

Board members set their next meeting for Monday, Feb. 23, at 5 p.m.

City moves fast to settle Bert Harris claims

ANNA MARIA – Bradenton Beach City Attorney Ricinda Perry made her first appearance as interim Anna Maria city attorney since the firing of James Dye, and she showed great skill in reacting to criticism and moving fast when time runs short.

After Mayor Dan Murphy introduced Perry to the commission and audience, resident Dave McCormick spoke, saying he felt getting rid of the former city attorney was a step in the right direction, hiring Perry was not because she had represented builders in the past and he was afraid she would have a conflict of interest. That’s when Chuck Webb, an attorney, stepped in.

“I have know Ms. Perry for 10 to 15 years, and I suggested her to the mayor” he said. “I am confident of her ability; I am confident of her ethics.”

The rest of the commission expressed confidence in Perry, and Dale Woodland asked if she would answer the city’s upcoming request for proposals for a new city attorney.

“I was not asked, but I am doubtful if I would,” she said. “I love Anna Maria. It’s the first city in which I practiced, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”

With that said, the commission voted unanimously to approve her, and McCormick wished her good luck.

The first order of business was talking about the seven properties whose developers and builders had sent the city notice of their intent to file a Bert Harris claim against the city for loss of value suffered when the city enacted living area ratios for new construction. By law, the city had a deadline of Jan. 22 to respond, and there were settlements for each case authored by Dye, but they had not been introduced to the commission for approval. To further complicate matters, Perry would be unavailable this week.

The settlements would not require the city to pay money for the claimants’ loss of value in six if the seven homes. They would allow the houses to be built according to the original dimensions, but the claimants would have to modify the plans to include three of four suggested design elements to minimize the “big box” look that is spreading throughout the city. Those elements were elevated decking, vertical depth variations in the front building face, varied front façade materials or varied roof elements or roofline.

Commissioners were further distressed to find out the claimants had put dollar values on their claims that would need to be verified by an appraisal and they learned that the going rate for each appraisal would be $10,000 that the city would have to pay. They also learned the city had already gotten time extensions for the claims and the claimants would be reticent to approve another without

They were faced with settling the claims without paying for loss of value by Jan. 22. They agreed to hold a special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 15.

Settlements and delays

The commission began its special meeting by approving the first settlement with Mark and Katherine McLean, who want to remodel their house at 114 Tern Drive to allow for a wheelchair to accommodate Katherine McLean’s degenerative medical condition. Their plan added too much living area on the second story to allow for the wheelchair to enter and exit an elevator being installed.

The original settlement also had the city paying for their legal expenses, which is not required under the Bert Harris Act. The couple came back asking for $700 in additional legal expense, and commissioners were divided between those not wanting to pay the extra money and those who wanted to let it go and settle the claim. The latter prevailed and they voted to accept it 3-2.

There were two claims for homes by Shawn Kaleta. The homes are located at 101 Willow Ave. and 881 North Shore Drive. They said Kaleta had committed to accepting the agreements, and they voted to do the same.

Four properties were under the development of Eric Abrahamson at 104 Magnolia Ave., 607 N. Bay Blvd., 508 Spring Ave. and 857 North Shore Drive.

Commissioner Carol Carter said she spoke with Abrahamson who said he had other properties that he would file Bert Harris claims on, but the city had allowed a window of opportunity for filing claims, and it is too late for Abrahamson to file.

The commission had problems with Abrahamson’s settlements because some of his figures did not appear to be correct. They voted to have City Planner Alan Garrett work on the allowed square footage on the properties, and they would try to get extensions to the deadline and come back on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m.

Southern humor at Island Players

The Island Players will perform “Dearly Departed,” by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, from Jan. 22 through Feb. 8 at the theater, 10009 Gulf Drive, at the corner of Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue. Performances are at 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 2 p.m., on Sundays.

Set in the backwoods of the Bible Belt, “Dearly Departed” is a comedy about the Turpin family who prove that living and dying in the South is seldom tidy and always hilarious. Problems plague the family as they try to pull themselves together for their father’s funeral.

Directed by Kelly Lynn Woodland, there are 12 people in the cast – five newcomers and seven veterans.

Returning actors, in order of appearance include:

Cathy Hansel-Edgerton, as Raynelle; Mark Woodland, as Ray-Bud; Jeannie Hudkins, as Lucille; Jennifer Eddy, as Suzanne; Robin Rhodes, as Marguerite; Mike Lusk, as Royce; and Lora Morales, as Veda.

New to the Island Players are Joseph Mammina, as Junior; Jalex Scott, as Delightful/Clyde; Tod Butler, as Reverend Hooker/Norval; Bethany Dhennin, as Nadine; and Janet Raines, as Juanita.

For reservations or for information, call the box office at 941 778-5755 or go to www.theislandplayers.org

Auditions for the next play, “Becky’s New Car”, directed by Mike Lusk, will be held on Sunday, Jan. 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the theatre.


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