2006: The year in review, part 2
Board vs. magistrate: Holmes Beach officials joined Anna Maria in considering a special magistrate system an attorney rather than a board to handle code violations or disputes.
Mounting fines: GSR Development LLC's trouble on the Island continued to mount, literally, as the Bradenton Beach Code Enforcement Board fined GSR for a mound of dirt at a property in the 2500 block of Gulf Drive. The board said a $250 fine would be levied for every day the mound remained. Later in the month GSR declared bankruptcy. Court records listed 115 creditors owed between $10 million and $50 million.
No third term: SueLynn announced that she would not run for a third term as mayor of Anna Maria in the November general election. She made the decision after discussing another election and another term with family and friends. "The job has consumed my life with very little value added and I do not wish to continue my life this way," she said. "While it's going to be extremely difficult to walk away, I realize it's time to get out." She would later announce plans to serve as the executive director of The Studio in Anna Maria.
Easy election day: Island races in November were finalized as the qualifying deadline came and went. Rich Bohnenberger became a sure bet to win mayor of Holmes Beach on election day. No one else qualified to run for the post being vacated by Carol Whitmore, who ran for an at-large county commission seat.
Rotten's franchise: The Bradenton Beach City Commission awarded Rotten Ralph's Restaurant of Anna Maria a contract to operate a franchise on the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier. The contract had gone to Harry's Continental Kitchens, which withdrew from the project in late July.
OK with coastal overlay district: Anna Maria city commissioners decided to proceed with a coastal overlay district that would control new construction in areas within the Federal Emergency Management Agency's A-1 flood zone and seaward of the coastal construction control line. The decision was made knowing the city might be sued over the COD.
More headlines and highlights:
- Anna Maria city commissioners at their July 13 meeting agreed that a contract to remove some Australian pines in the city's Gulffront Park should proceed.
- An early morning crash into a power pole blocked traffic to and from the south end of the Island for more than 12 hours July 18. More than 3,000 utility customers were left without power, according to Florida Power and Light.
- Citing commercial and private gain for use of public property, Bradenton Beach city commissioners denied a permit to an arts and crafts festival at Coquina Beach planned by its promoter.
Robbery off the high seas: Islanders, their representatives and the state insurance commissioner gathered for a town hall meeting on the insurance crisis. One resident characterized the high wind insurance costs as "legalized robbery" and another said insurance carriers were operating under a "pirate mentality." The message was clear to Insurance Commissioner Kevin M. McCarty, who was gathering information to present to the Florida Cabinet.
Park promotion: The Manatee County Commission's plan to expand parking at the Kingfish Boat Ramp found formal opposition as two residents of nearby Westbay Cove formed the Kingfish Wetlands Project. While the county pushed expanded parking, Westbay residents Molly McCartney and Margaret Kelley pushed a park a small nature trail for the 400-500 foot strip of land.
Murder-suicide: Oland Hanks, 32, of Bradenton, abducted his ex-girlfriend, Michele Smith, from her home on 102nd Street in Bradenton and forced her to drive to Coquina Beach. Hanks ordered Smith to telephone her relatives to tell them she probably wouldn't survive. Hanks shot Smith with a .38-caliber pistol and, as she lay dying on Gulf Drive, he went into a wooded area and shot himself in the head.
Lightning strike: Lightning triggered the fire that ripped through a building at Town & Country Perico Apartments on Aug. 15. While all the residents safely escaped the building, fire destroyed the top floor apartments and water damaged the ground floor units.
Summer slump: The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau released numbers for June and July that put tourism on the Island at a four-year low. "People seem to be cutting back on their vacations, although the last week of July we were packed," said Marge Moran of the Club Bamboo Resort in Bradenton Beach.
Sign off: In a split decision, the Anna Maria City Commission voted against a sign ordinance restricting the number and size of commercial signs on residential property. The ordinance any sign ordinance could expose the city to a free speech complaint, cautioned attorney Mike Connolly.
GSR seeks sale: GSR Development LLC asked a federal bankruptcy court for an emergency order authorizing the sale of its Villa Rosa property in Anna Maria. GSR petitioned the court, claiming the land could be sold for $11.5 million and that after liens and mortgages were paid, the developer would have some operating capital.
To the general: Carol Whitmore won her primary bid and advanced to the general election race for an at-large county commission seat. Whitmore entered the general election as a Republican facing Democrat Sarah Meaker.
Tax burdens: Some Island officials shared concern with the Island's contribution to the county pot with about 2.7 percent of the county's population, the Island accounted for about 16.2 percent of the county's property tax revenues. Later in the month, the county adopted a record $582 million budget.
Bumpers at the beach: Manatee County and Bradenton Beach officials met in late September to discuss traffic at Coquina Beach, specifically how to improve traffic entering and exiting the park.
Creditors boo Bon Eau deal: A committee of unsecured GSR creditors created by a U.S. bankruptcy court complained in late September that GSR's effort to save its $6.5 million deal with Bon Eau Enterprises LLC was criminal.
No comment: With no comment from city commissioners or citizens at a hearing in mid-September, Bradenton Beach took 11 minutes to adopt a $3,831,315 budget for fiscal year 2006-07.
Capital work: On Sept. 20, Anna Maria city commissioners held a 45-minute hearing before adopting a $3.37 million budget for the fiscal 2006-07 year. The budget is a record for the city and includes $1 million as a line of credit for capital improvements.
Big money: The Holmes Beach City Commission on Sept. 26 approved a record $12.1 million budget for the new fiscal year.
More headlines and highlights:
- Rhea Chiles announced in late September that her Anna Maria project at the corner of Pine Avenue and Gulf Drive would be known as The Studio and serve to promote the arts and the exchange of ideas.
- Islanders felt slight shudders and tremors from an earthquake in the Gulf of Mexico about 250 miles west-southwest of Anna Maria Island. The quake, measured at 6.0 on the Richter scale, did not cause any damage and didn't generate any major waves.
- A red tide bloom persisted in the waters off Anna Maria Island in late September, but the impact was not close to the damage caused by red tide in 2005.
Crime in Cortez: About 170 people gathered Oct. 12 in Cortez to discuss with area officials how best to combat crime in their community, particularly drug-related crime. Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells said there are few crimes not related somehow to substance use or abuse.
Plane ordinance grounded: Anna Maria city commissioners voted on Oct. 12 against a daylight plane ordinance after hours of meetings and $3,000 in consultant fees. The ordinance would have required new construction to conform to increased setback requirements on upper floors as the construction became vertical.
Registered and ready: A report from the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office showed that voter registration for the Nov. 7 election went up from last year in the Island cities but down slightly in the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key.
Friends of officer friendly: Community groups, business leaders, friends and colleagues united to raise money for Holmes Beach Police Officer Pete Lannon and his family as Lannon battled cancer.
Festival by the bay: Pine Avenue in Anna Maria hosted Bayfest, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce event benefiting local organizations and uniting Islanders in a pre-season day of celebration.
Lucky Seven: A slowdown in the real estate market and major changes for St. Joe Inc. of Jacksonville seemed to have no significant impact on the SevenShores project on Perico Island. The company announced plans to exit the Florida building market, but to plow forward with SevenShores.
More headlines and highlights:
- Hundreds turned out on Oct. 28 for the annual Fall Fest at Anna Maria Elementary School. The fest featured magic, a haunted auditorium, tricks and treats and a principal kissing a pig.
- Gregg Allman returned to familiar territory in late October to perform at the Sarasota Blues Festival.
- Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Holmes Beach welcomed a new full-time pastor, the Rev. Rosemary Backer.
- The Island Players opened the new season with the production of "Quartet."
- The landmark building on Marina Drive that housed the Griffith-Cline Funeral Home for four decades went up for sale in early October.
- The sea turtle season ended with the best hatch rate in years, with 7,477 hatchlings from 9,778 eggs.
To the polls: Islanders joined the rest of the nation in casting ballots in the Nov. 7 general election. Holmes Beach's Carol Whitmore was elected to an at-large seat on the Manatee County Commission. Rich Bohnenberg changed seats in Holmes Beach from commissioner to mayor. Holmes Beach voters elected two commissioners incumbent Sandy Haas-Martens and newcomer John Monetti. The commission then appointed third-place finisher Pat Geyer to finish Bohnenberger's commission term.
Anna Maria makeover: Voters in Anna Maria elected Fran Barford mayor, who defeated Tom Turner in the race. Voters also elected two commissioners incumbent Duke Miller and Jo Ann Mattick. Linda Cramer lost her seat by 22 votes.
Vote with impact: On election day, voters in the West Manatee Fire Rescue District, which includes the Island, gave their OK to an increase in impact fees for new construction. Next stop for the district will be the Florida Legislature in 2007.
Veterans get their day: About 150 people turned out to commemorate Veterans Day on Nov. 9 in the butterfly park next to Holmes Beach City Hall. The American Legion provided the honor guard for the program honoring the "Greatest Generation."
Annexation frustration: The Manatee County Commission Nov. 7 rejected Holmes Beach's request to voluntarily annex the area around Kingfish Boat Ramp. So the Holmes Beach City Commission drafted Police Chief Jay Romine to help educate the county on safety concerns in the area.
Under nourished: Manatee County officials announced that a partial renourishment of several portions of Anna Maria Island beaches would not take place in December as expected. "There was not enough time to get all the plans in place," said Charlie Hunsicker, the county's ecosystems manager.
Grounds crew: The Anna Maria Island Community Center held a formal groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 16 to celebrate the work on a new facility in Anna Maria. The new center is expected to open in the late summer.
Testing the waters: With warmer than usual weather up north, businesses saw a lukewarm start to the tourist season. Some resort operators reported better than average occupancy, but others saw vacancies that made them cautious about their winter forecasts.
Comprehensive conclusion: It may have taken just under four years from start to finish, but Anna Maria revised its comprehensive plan and accompanying evaluation and appraisal report and future land use map. The city commissioners voted unanimously at the Nov. 30 public hearing to approve the plan, EAR and FLUM and forward them to the Florida Department of Community Affairs.
More headlines and highlights:
- Mote Marine Laboratory released a male loggerhead turtle in the Gulf in mid-November. The turtle, which required treatment for red tide ailments, swam off wearing a satellite transmitter that researchers hope will expand their knowledge of the males.
- The U.S. Coast Guard did not, as expected, implement peak opening times of every 30 minutes on demand for the Cortez and Anna Maria bridges. The change was delayed because of a need to re-advertise notice of it.
- Ooh La La! Bistro staff and volunteers dished up an early Thanksgiving dinner at Anna Maria Elementary School Nov. 14 to raise money for the Officer Pete Lannon Fund and the Bridgit Miller Memorial Scholarship Fund.
- The paddlewheeler "Showboat" in Cortez got new shipping orders a transfer to the Virginia coast.
- Anna Maria merchants and the Anna Maria Island Historical Society/Museum celebrated the holiday season with an open house on Nov. 24, the day after Island churches shared Thanksgiving with Island residents and guests.
- The federal government pushed back until March 2007 a rule requiring the installation of vessel monitoring systems on certain commercial Gulf fishing boats, including some out of Cortez.
- Bradenton Beach city commissioners unanimously approved a plan to construct a new 92-seat restaurant at the city pier. Commissioners also approved, pending Florida Department of Environmental Protection permits, construction of a dockmaster's office, a bait-tackle-tourist kiosk and rest rooms.
Principal plans: Islanders learned that Anna Maria Elementary School Principal Kathy Hayes would be leaving her position at the school Feb. 1 to become the principal at B.D. Gullet Elementary School at Lakewood Ranch. Hayes said she always hoped to open a new school.
Moving day: When Cortezians began anticipating the move of the Burton Store, the Soviet Union power structure was crumbling, Diana and Charles were splitting and "Dallas" was headed off the air. Moving day arrived on Dec. 5, drawing crowds into the streets to watch the historic structure travel about 1/2 mile from the A.P. Bell Fish Co. through the Cortez fishing village to the grounds of the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum.
Yo, ho, ho: Santa Claus arrived on a sleigh, shouting "merry Christmas" and privateers arrived aboard a wheeled ship, shouting "argh" and "ahoy." Dec. 9 began with the annual Christmas Parade from Anna Maria through Holmes Beach to Bradenton Beach. There, at Coquina Beach, the celebration continued with the Holiday Fun Day, with music, games and prizes, and food.
Lame-duck action: The U.S. House, after fierce debate in the final hours of the 109th Session Dec. 8, passed legislation expanding drilling for natural gas and oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The Senate followed with a 1:49 a.m. vote on Dec. 9. The drilling legislation was folded into a tax bill containing extensions for college tuition deduction, a research-and-development credit and a deduction for teachers' out-of-pocket expenses.
Tourism troubles: A study released by Smith Travel Research reported that Florida tourism industry is sputtering, particularly in the Orlando area. The study found that while bookings for hotel/motel lodgings have been declining, interest in time-shares is on the rise.
Office raid: In early December, agents with the Florida Attorney General's office raided the Acute Care Inc. in Anna Maria, seizing boxes of records for an apparent investigation into alleged Medicare fraud.
Journey's end: Early Dec. 18 25 Cuban migrants arrived to Beer Can Island at the northern end of Longboat Key. A delivery driver saw them, cold and wet, on Gulf of Mexico Drive near North Shore Road and notified police. Quickly Longboat Key Police were working with other area emergency officials to care for the migrants while federal authorities were trying to find out how they came to America. No boat or smugglers were found. Over the next year, the migrants who made the long journey from Cuba to America, take the journey to permanent residency.
More headlines and highlights:
- The Island Players presented the second show of their 2006-07 season, "Breaking Legs," a comedy in which the mob gets tangled in the production of a New York play.
- Santa arrived early in Holmes Beach, making a stopover on Dec. 1 in the downtown commercial district for an open house and tree-lighting ceremony.
- Moviegoers seated on the lawn next to Holmes Beach City Hall Dec. 2 caught a free screening of "It's a Wonderful Life," the second year of the holiday event for the city.
- All the Island celebrated the season of joy with a Christmas parade presented by the Anna Maria Island Privateers and a old-fashioned Family Fun Day for the Anna Maria Island Community Center.
- Winterfest took place Dec. 9-10 on the field next to Holmes Beach City Hall, drawing appreciators of fine arts, good barbecue and foot-stomping music.