2005: The year in review - Part Two
Beach start: An emergency beach renourishment project began for much of the Gulf side of Anna Maria Island. The project, at a cost of $4.2 million, was authorized by Congress after the 2004 hurricanes eroded sand from the beach. Goodloe Marine of Apollo Beach was awarded the contract.
Consolidation question OK'd: Holmes Beach city commissioners gave their blessing on having the three Island mayors draft language to ask voters if they were interested in pursuing some form of consolidation of city governments on Anna Maria Island. Anna Maria City and Bradenton Beach officials were to discuss the matter at a later date.
Rental offering: Holmes Beach planning commissioners recommended to the city commission that existing short-term rentals in residential zones be grandfathered, but limited to at least a one-month stay by visitors.
Building approved: A circuit court judge ruled that Frank Davis can build a four-unit condominium at 5622 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. The city's board of adjustment granted him a variance for the construction; neighbors filed suit to block the building.
Fireworks, fun: The Anna Maria Island Privateers hosted their traditional Fourth of July parade along the length of the Island, and fireworks lit up the night sky in Bradenton Beach July 3 at the annual celebration at the BeachHouse Restaurant.
Storm No. 1 hits: Hurricane Dennis brushed by the Island, causing little damage other than some spotty beach erosion. The storm churned past Southwest Florida and made landfall just west of Pensacola. The threat of the storm stalled the beach renourishment project's startup, at least three sea turtle nests were lost due to the high surf caused by Dennis and some shorebird nests were destroyed.
Building approved, too: Susan Negele won a four-year-long battle against the City of Anna Maria over her request to build a beachfront house at 107 Elm St. The city had denied a variance request she made; she took the matter to court, and a settlement was reached.
How high is high?: Dorothy and Mark English were taken to task by the Anna Maria Code Enforcement Board when a complaint was filed regarding what was termed a too-high fence on their property at 776 N. Shore Drive. The code enforcement board deadlocked on the matter and tabled action for three months.
Surf's up!: Bluewater School of Surfing came to the Island, and 30 youngsters signed up to work on their wave-riding skills.
Fire: A house fire at 764 Jacaranda Ave., Anna Maria, caused about $300,000 in damage. Fire officials said the house was a total loss. Owners Joan Zak and Bob Dancey were not injured in the blaze.
Wow!: Anna Maria Island's total assessed evaluation reached $3.3 billion for 2005, up 24 percent from the previous year.
Center gets the nod: The Anna Maria Island Community Center received a go-ahead by the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board for its renovation efforts. Their recommendation went to the city commission for final action.
Hunts win: Robert and Nicki Hunt won a lawsuit filed against the City of Anna Maria after it denied them a site plan for construction of a three-story retail-office-residential facility at 303 Pine Ave. City commissioners denied the project through an interpretation that only two-story buildings could be constructed in the ROR zone in the city; the judge could find no basis to the "only" clause and overruled the city.
Red tide's added feature: The lingering - or malingering - red tide outbreak produced yet another added feature in an outbreak of flies at some bayside locations of the Island. "It sounds like a violin playing one note, constantly," one Island resident noted. Red tide began to impact Southwest Florida last December.
Consolidation language: Island mayors agreed to the following question for voters later in the year: "Should the (respective city) continue the process to explore the feasibility of the consolidation of the three Anna Maria Island cities?" Next up: The cities must agree to place the issue on the ballot Nov. 8.
Closed: Coquina Beach was closed to swimmers for two days after water tests revealed high levels of harmful bacteria. Cause of the high bacteria counts was postulated to have come from the large number of birds that were present of late, eating the dead fish caused by red tide, and then defecating in the water.
Too short: A group of property and business owners hired a professional planner to object to a city proposal to limit retail-office-residential zone height restrictions to two stories. The group wants the height limit to be three floors of occupied space.
Who's on first?: Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn signed a contract for emergency debris removal after Hurricane Charley's passage with the blessing of a Federal Emergency Management Agency official. When the city received only a pittance of the agreed-upon amount, she asked why and was informed that the FEMA official apparently didn't exist - the Dan McDonald that OK'd the contract was tall and thin, while FEMA's Dan McDonald was short and wide.
Shipwreck feted: The "Regina," a molasses barge that sank just off Bradenton Beach in 1940 in a winter storm, was named the 10th Florida archeological preserve. The site is popular with recreational divers and is the only preserve in the state that is easily reached from shore.
No moratorium: Holmes Beach city commissioners rejected a moratorium on short-term rental licensing. Planning commissioners had recommended the moratorium in order to further refine the city's comprehensive plan; city commissioners feared the move would put people out of business.
Center plans finalized, approved: Anna Maria city commissioners approved final plans for the Anna Maria Island Community Center's expansion.
Fined: A variety of fines were levied against dredgers and property owners in the wake of a huge channel that was dredgede off Jewfish Key without benefit of permits in 2004.
Going, going …: While the Island's population has remained basically stagnant for the past five years, voter registration numbers have dropped more than 12 percent. Bradenton Beach was hardest-hit, with a 16 percent decline; Holmes Beach lost 13 percent, and Anna Maria lost 8 percent of its electorate.
CART help: The Coalition Against Runaway Taxation received county help in the form of the formation of a Manatee County task force tasked with working out the feasibility of locking-in property tax increases to 3 percent per year. CART has complained that tax assessments based on "highest and best use" for hotels, motels and other businesses based on a potential use as condominiums is forcing the smaller businesses into selling their properties. Some of the "mom-and-pop" motels on the Island have seen their property taxes more than double in a single year.
Shack sale going public?: Cortez Seafood Shack owner Ham Jones indicated he would be willing to sell the popular waterfront eatery and its adjacent property to Manatee County, although he admitted that he's also talking to other prospective buyers. Property sale price was estimated to be $14.5 million. The county would use the Shack as a site for a maritime museum and boat ramps.
Pier plans unveiled: Bradenton Beach city commissioners approved conceptual plans for the city pier to replace the damaged restaurant with a new facility as well as increase boat dockage space, create a harbormaster office and have a stand-alone tackle and bait shop. Still to come were permits from federal, state, regional and local authorities and funding sources. The city was also designated a "Waterfronts Florida" community, clearing the way for a state grant and planning assistance.
School days: School started yet again for Island students.
Dead zone: A huge area of lifeless water stretching from Naples to New Port Richey was discovered off Southwest Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, prompting some scientists to term the area a "dead zone." Red tide was suspected to have been locked into a thermocline in the water, forcing the red tide organisms to the bottom and killing life in the Gulf in that zone.
Delayed: The beach renourishment project was delayed on the Island, thanks to mechanical problems, rough seas and red tide. The project began in mid-July and had a 120-day scheduled completion deadline.
Turtle strandings: Another hit from red tide impacted sea turtles off the Island, with 12 sea turtles stranded on the Island apparently suffering from red tide-induced ailments. Another 107 turtles were sick or dead in adjacent counties.
"Worms": The Sunrise Basin and T-end canal seawall-dock-whatever issue was termed a "big can of worms" by the Holmes Beach City Commission after property ownership issues arose yet again. The water was apparently owned by the city; the docks were owned by property owners adjacent to the canals. Who owns what is the issue, and then there is the issue of other canals in the city and other docks and some alleged rental docks and the commercialization of those docks in residential areas and … well, call it a can of worms. Staff was directed to find out who owns what and address liability issues.
Record: West Manatee Fire & Rescue District commissioners approved a record $4.57 million annual budget after raising base assessment rates to the maximum allowed by law.
Top Notch winner: Amelia Talucci took top honors in The Islander's 2005 photo contest with her "Yee Haaaa" photo of nephew Jacob being launched out of the water in a pool by Uncle Nate Talucci.
Survey says …: An informal survey of Island residents by The Islander indicated that the vast majority favor a consolidation of services study for the three Island cities.
Going up: Property values continue to skyrocket for Island properties, with the latest figures indicating a 27 percent increase in home prices from the same time last year.
Katrina: Hurricane Katrina's passage through the Gulf of Mexico toward her landfall near New Orleans prompted a high-surf spectacle for Anna Maria Island but had little other reaction locally.
Consolidation killer: Anna Maria city commissioners voted to reject the placement of a consolidation question on the November ballot for voters, effectively killing the issue for the time being. Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach commissions approved the ballot language asking if a study on looking into some type of Islandwide merger of services should be conducted. It had been decided earlier that all three Island cities should give a positive response to the matter for the proposal to continue.
All winners: The annual O'Connor-Islander bowling challenge reaped almost $9,000 to benefit the Anna Maria Island Community Center's sports programs.
Katrina aftermath: Island native Soctt Blackwell and wife Diana return to the Island after their home in Waveland, Miss., was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. They had evacuated from the seaside town inland 12 miles, and still saw a storm surge of an estimated 16 feet.
AME award: Anna Maria Elementary School received a "Five-Star School Award" from the Florida Department of Education for the second year in a row, one of only nine elementary schools in Manatee County to receive the designation. The honor was based on the school's variety of community services.
Courting a court: Holmes Beach city commissioners approved more than $17,000 for creation of a basketball court near city hall.
Lots of improvements: More than $1 million in improvements along Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach are in the works, according to Mayor John Chappie. Among the improvements: $513,000 for a multi-use trail through Coquina Beach and $600,000 for landscaping and sidewalks along much of the rest of the city rights of way.
Budgets: All three Island cities adopted budgets for the 2005-06 fiscal years. Anna Maria approved a $2.6 million spending plan, Bradenton Beach $3.1 million and Holmes Beach $10.1 million.
Qualified: In election news, qualifying ended in all three Island cities for the November ballot. In Anna Maria, incumbents John Quam and Dale Woodland will face Jo Anne Mattick and Chris Tollette Nov. 8 for three seats on the commission. In Holmes Beach, incumbents Don Maloney, Patrick Morton and Rich Bohnenberger will face a challenge from David Zaccagnino for three seats. Bradenton Beach won't have a political race: Incumbent Mayor John Chappie and Ward 1 Commissioner John Shaughnessy, plus Ward 3 newcomer Janie Robertson were the only people to file for office.
Grant: West Manatee Fire & Rescue District received a $282,500 grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The grant was used for equipment, facilities improvement and training.
Island HEARTS for Katrina victims: An outpouring of aid to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita took place, with several homes opened for victims in a special program, the Hurricane Evacuation Assistance Relocation Team, leading the way to help families who lost their homes in the storms.
Help!: Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore asked Anna Maria city commissioners to pony up some funds for repaving Gulf Drive in her city, citing the fact that the roadway is the prime pathway in and out of that city, too. "I think it's only fair for Anna Maria to pay for its portion," she said. Anna Maria was cool to the idea.
Parking, finally, approved: Anna Maria city commissioners approved a parking plan for neighborhood streets after more than 30 years of argument. The scheme will allow for alternate side of the street parking on the rights of way in designated locations, with the parking to switch sides annually. The plan was scheduled to be in place by year's end for the beach access zone within the city.
On the market: Cortez Trailer Park owner Butch Howey announced plans to sell the park, which has been in his family since 1959. Asking price: $14.75 million. Park residents have first dibs on the property, according to Florida law.
Also up for grabs: A city planner said that Anna Maria City was ripe for the picking by developers, who could assemble multiple parcels of beachfront property and build multimillion-dollar subdivisions. Alarmed city commissioners agreed to look into the merits of a moratorium to block such an action.
Wilma washout: Hurricane Wilma joined other storms in bypassing Anna Maria Island, causing little damage other than some power outages and downed tree limbs.
Lost friends: Islanders lost two of their favorite people with the deaths of Chuck Stearns and Greg "Shiprek" Davidson. Stearns was a longtime police officer in Holmes Beach; Davidson headed up the Anna Maria Island Privateers.
Price hike: Key Royale Bridge reconstruction price estimates jumped about 44 percent, from the projected $2.7 million to an expected $3.9 million. Holmes Beach will pay for the project in the 2005-06 fiscal year, then get reimbursed by the Florida Department of Transportation in the 2007-08 budget. Bids were expected to be opened in early 2006 on the project.
Changes approved: With little comment, a host of land-development changes were approved in Bradenton Beach.
Crash turns fatal: A Bradenton woman was killed in a car crash at Manatee Avenue and East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach after her car was struck by another vehicle and a delivery truck. Police said Mary Moore was turning at the intersection when she pulled in front of another vehicle.
Winners: Anna Maria electors chose incumbents John Quam and Dale Woodland, and political newcomer Christine Tollette to the city commission. Holmes Beach voters selected incumbents Rich Bohenberger and Patrick Morton, and newcomber David Zaccagnino ousted longtime incumbent Don Maloney in that city. Bradenton Beach set a countywide first: A tie vote on one of the 13 charter amendments dealing with term limits for city commissioners, while the other charter issues passed.
Consolidation passes, too: In a moot point with Anna Maria opting out of the equation, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach voters overwhelmingly passed a non-binding referendum question to conduct a study on consolidating services.
English fence battle over: The Dorothy and Mark English fence battle in Anna Maria ended with the city's code enforcement board voting that they had indeed violated the city's fence height ordinance. The matter first surfaced in July.
Pier costs: Permitting and design fees for the Bradenton Beach City Pier were estimated at $51,700, and construction scheduled to begin in August 2006. The pier was severely damaged by Hurricane Frances in 2004, and its restaurant remained closed since.
Status quo: After review, the tie vote on term limits in Bradenton Beach was broken and the result was no change in the number of terms elected officials may serve - they still have three two-year terms in office. One ballot was rejected by the vote-counting machine because the person marked both "yes" and "no" on the card; after review, it was determined that "no" was the voter's intent. It was the first tie vote in Manatee County history, according to elections officials.
Bad food: It was a letter that had a faint odor about it - a woman claiming she and a friend had had a bad meal at a local restaurant and hoped that "some sort of restitution" could be made. When one restaurateur mentioned it to another, it became apparent that they both had received identical letters. Bradenton Beach police were called, and a total of 13 letters were eventually uncovered as being penned by the same woman. Many of the restaurants sent her gift certificates and apologized. Police tracked down the woman and, after she destroyed the gift certificates and wrote a letter of apology, the case was closed.
One for one: Holmes Beach city commissioners approved a request to vacate Fifth Avenue between Manatee Avenue and Loggerhead Junction to allow construction of a bank there. The commission rejected a request to vacate Fourth Avenue between 41st and 42nd streets, though.
Moratorium: Anna Maria city commissioners approved a moratorium on new subdivisions along the beach while drafting a new ordinance regulating such activity. Attorneys representing construction and business interests said the proposed ordinance would be an unfair taking and threatened lawsuits to block its adoption. A second opinion was sought and the matter continued.
Fire: Five suspicious fires were set in Bradenton Beach and Cortez on Thanksgiving, two of them at post offices. No one was injured, but all were "intentionally set," according to fire officials.
Going condo: More and more small resorts on the Island were converting units to condominiums to avoid high taxes.
Hurricane season ends: With the close of November and the wrap-up of hurricane season 2005, records were broken across the board. Although the Island was spared from any major storm damage, the season had 25 tropical storms - the most active ever recorded. Hurricane Katrina was the most destructive storm ever, Wilma the most intense ever, and Katrina, Rita and Wilma marked the first time three Category 5 storms had ever been formed in a single year.
Deadline passes: Building permits for the Rosa Del Mar condo project in Bradenton Beach expired. The proposed 14-unit Gulffront development at 2510 Gulf Drive was to be built by GSR Development LLC. Developers said they intended to re-apply for another permit and hoped the initial permit fees of $122,000 would suffice for the city. Another GSR Development project, Villa Rosa in Anna Maria, also had final plat approval problems, but was expected to be approved by the city soon.
No Kingfish expansion: Westbay Cove residents objected to a Manatee County proposal to remove Brazilian pepper trees and expand the parking lot of adjacent Kingfish Boat Ramp on Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach. The matter was expected to come before the Manatee County Commission in early 2006.
Cell, again: Verizon officials proposed construction of a cellular communications tower in Anna Maria City. The sites under discussion: city hall, the city public works garage, Roser Memorial Community Church and the Anna Maria Island Community Center. A similar cell tower controversy erupted in 2001 and caused a community uproar.
Out: Longtime Anna Maria Island Historical Society Administrator Carolyne Norwood announced she was retiring from the position after 15 years.
Parade fun: The annual Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas Parade drew thousands of spectators as it traveled the length of the Island. A lighted boat parade that evening capped the day's festive fun.
Honored: Sean Murphy of Beach Bistro was named Businessman of the Year by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and the Anna Maria Island Rotary Club.
Homeless haven: The Island was termed as a haven for the homeless, although there is little problem with the folks, who tend to ride the free Manatee Trolley and enjoy the view at the beach.
Growing: Bradenton Beach officials proposed a boundary expansion into the waters of Anna Maria Sound and the Gulf of Mexico in order to provide better law enforcement protection. The matter needs the blessing of adjacent governmental entities, Manatee County, plus the Florida Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush for adoption, as well as voters through a charter change.
Retiring: Anna Maria Post Office's Ruth Koci announced her plans to retire after 22 years with the service, seven on Anna Maria.
Moving on out: Movers took to the classrooms of Anna Maria Elementary School to move the school into its new quarters during the holiday break. Classes will start in the new building Jan. 4.
Stalled again: The proposed ordinance limiting construction near the beach in Anna Maria was blasted by development attorneys as being "arbitrary." City commissioners decided to hold off on its passage until January.
Happy New Year to all!