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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

The Islander's 2004 year in review, part 1

Murder in Bradenton Beach, land use squabbles in Holmes Beach, parking woes going on and on and on in Anna Maria, plus beach erosion-accretion, soaring property values, rising poverty ... 2004 was quite a year, and this week's wrapup only covers the first six months.

Below is the first half of The Islander's 2004 year in review, through June.

January

Kenricks 2003 "Islanders of Year": Ilona and Jeff Kenrick were named "Islanders of the Year" by The Islander newspaper. The Holmes Beach couple are facilitators of an anonymous charitable foundation with local, national and international ties which makes contributions to religious, educational, charitable and scientific purposes. Locally, the pair established a blood drive that accounted this year for 230 units of blood to be contributed on the Island. The foundation contributed $100 for each unit, with the funds to go toward the donor's choice of one or all of four Island not-for-profit organizations.

Buy now: Island real estate prices continue to soar. Off-water condominium prices have increased 25 percent in the past six months of 2003, with no ceiling in sight.

No harm, no foul, but get an education: The state attorney's office declined to file charges of Sunshine Law violations against several Bradenton Beach officials. The former building official claimed a rash of e-mails between various elected and appointed officials were against the law; the state attorney's office said there were no violations but that "it is recommended that Bradenton Beach officials receive training in the Sunshine Laws."

Thanks: Two teenaged girls who were set adrift from the boat from which they were parasailing Dec. 29 thanked an unknown paramedic for helping them after their parachute became entangled in power lines in Bradenton Beach, which then exploded and the two crashed to the ground. The Massachusetts teens were unharmed but for scratches and bruises.

Pier problems: Bradenton Beach city commissioners voiced concerns regarding the revenue reductions and delinquent payments by city pier franchisees Karen and Jake Gallo. The Gallos pled with commissioners to be allowed to have a few months operation during "season" to correct the financial woes; commissioners agreed.

Sharks OK in Anna Maria City: City commissioners agreed that there was little they could do to ban shark fishing from beaches since the State of Florida regulates fishing laws. Some officials were upset about the shark catches coming ashore amidst swimmers and sunbathers.

Road rage charged: Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips was charged with "intent to do violence" by neighbor Ronald F. Ockerman after a verbal altercation during a traffic incident. Ockerman's attorney said the incident was an example of "road rage."

Kabris rezone request: Angelina and Patrick Kabris made a second request for a rezone from recreation to residential medium-density zoning on their beachfront property at 101 75th St., Holmes Beach. The couple wants to add a unit to their home.

Off now: In one of the most enduring stories of 2004, plans for renovation of the Anna Maria City Hall were stalled when the budgeted $153,000 was bested by $26,000, and city commissioners balked at dipping into the city's reserves to make up the difference. Mayor SueLynn said she would review the matter and report back to the commission.

Ours, or yours if you want it: Document checks revealed that Holmes Beach owns the boat slips in the Sunrise subdivision between 27th and 28th streets, although residents have used and maintained the docks for some 40 years. Since the city doesn't want the slips, the matter appeared to be correctable. However, the city doesn't own the docks, just the land upon which the docks are situated.

Dock done: The historic Miller dock at 123rd Street West in Cortez has been refurbished and is again open. The dock is a popular spot for Cortezians to meet and socialize.

Tag! Holmes Beach is it: Holmes Beach officials agreed to take over building official duties in Bradenton Beach in the wake of that city's building official's resignation, for a fee. The term of service was 90 days, to allow Bradenton Beach to find a new building official.

Parking plan, version 100-plus: Anna Maria City Commissioner Duke Miller offered a parking plan for the city which would allow parking almost everywhere as long as all the wheels of the vehicle were off the pavement, as long as the adjacent property owner agreed. The plan was met with some controversy and debate on the matter was expected. Parking has been an issue in the City of Anna Maria for more than 80 years.

Height OK: Robert Taylor received Holmes Beach approval for a 3.5-foot height variance for his new Key Royale home roof after being denied the after-the-fact OK previously. City officials agreed that they had not seen elevation figures when the permit was granted for the remodel. Much of the approval was apparently based on aesthetics by the city's board of adjustment: A re-done flat roof would not be in keeping with the neighborhood, while the already-built peaked roof reflected the neighborhood's ambiance.

Outdoor dining OK: Holmes Beach officials agreed to allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining in the city for up to eight seats under a minimal site-plan process.

City hall solution - find the money: City commissioners instructed Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn to find the shortfall to remodel city hall from somewhere in the budget other than the reserve account. Funds on the hit list included parking and public works.

Davis controversy: Holmes Beach city commissioners granted approval for Frank Davis to build a fourplex on his property at 5622 Marina Drive contingent on his receiving a variance from the city's board of adjustment for less than the allowable frontage. Adjacent property owners immediately said they would sue to block any such approval.

Rezone OK: Holmes Beach planning commissioners approved recommending a rezone for Angelina and Patrick Kabris. The planning commission recommendation will go to the city commission.

Religious notes: The Rev. Dale Lawson was selected to head the Island Baptist Church; the Rev. John H.R. Willis is leaving St. Bernard Catholic Church; and the Rev. David Webb was named interim pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.

Road rage charges dropped: Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputies declined to press charges against Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Lisa Maria Phillips in what was called a "road rage" incident earlier in the month, stating "there was no threat by word or act to do violence to the victim," resident Ronald F. Ockerman.

Tidemark bankruptcy: Tidemark Partners filed Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection for its planned marina-condominium-hotel-restaurant at the former Pete Reynards-Marina Bay restaurant on Marina Drive in Holmes Beach. Lenders had filed foreclosure actions on the property last year. Managing General Partner Nick Easterling said other investment institutions were committed to the project and it would come to fruition.

Frightening: Although many West Manatee Fire & Rescue District firefighters are trained to deal with critical-care patients, state law prohibits them from performing level-one emergency care. Instead, only Manatee County Emergency Medical Services personnel can perform those tasks to save lives. With more and more people moving to the eastern section of Manatee County, ambulance crews on the Island are more frequently called off-Island, leaving the Island and surrounding West Manatee areas vulnerable to the lack of attention. Other counties do not see the state law as Manatee County does, West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price said.

Moratorium: Anna Maria city commissioners enacted a partial building moratorium on major developments such as sub-divisions, lot splits, commercial construction and single-family home construction on lots larger than 15,000 square feet until new rules can be promulgated by April 1. Affected by the moratorium even before its implementation was Nicki Hunt, who just bought residential-office-retail property on Pine Avenue in the hopes of turning it into retail-residential and also convert one commercial unit into an office.

Island Marine sale, or not: Anna Maria Island Marine property owner Jeff Van Hoose offered his property on Pine Avenue to the city for recreational use for $2.5 million. The Trust for Public Lands agreed to "broker" the deal and find funds to buy the property from grants after the property was appraised. Van Hoose refused to budge from his asking price regardless of the appraisal. The city dropped the matter.

February

Option offered: Cortez Cove Marina owner Piero Rivolta has offered Cortezian Karen Bell 60 days to come up with an offer for his three-acre Cortez waterfront property, formerly the Sigma Fish Co. Bell said she wants to use the property as a moorage for all kinds of vessels, especially commercial fishing boats. No price was mentioned, although Rivolta said he paid $750,000 for it and put another $1.5 million in improvements into the land.

Tidemark partner?: Cypress Lending Group of Vero Beach agreed to help bail out the beleaguered Tidemark project in Holmes Beach.

Sandbar alley, redux: Ed Chiles has been trying to get the City of Anna Maria to vacate an alley next to his Sandbar restaurant for about 10 years to no avail. Ever persistent, Chiles again requested the vacation to expand the restrooms to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Planning commissioners in the city denied him again.

Now it's asbestos: Anna Maria City Hall now must undergo an asbestos inspection before any work can begin on the long-delayed project.

IMS review: Island Middle School, with its initial three-year charter up for renewal by Manatee County School District, prepared by an on-site monitoring team. Recommendations from the team will go to the school superintendent, who will offer a recommendation to the school board for a final decision on the school's fate.

"Soldier's Heart": Students from Anna Maria Elementary School wrote letters to soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and members of the Harvey Memorial Community Church collected care packages to send to the men serving there.

Murder charged: A Bradenton Beach man was charged with murder, the first in the city in 14 years. Kim Bean, 46, was arrested after Carol Foreman, 56, was found dead in her Third Street North home, suffering what was described as "blunt-force trauma to the head." Crack cocaine was suspected to have been involved in the matter. Bean was one of several suspects interviewed by Bradenton Beach Police Sgt. Lenard Diaz, and Diaz said Bean confessed to the assault.

Skinny to fat - this time, a good thing: Anna Maria Island's renourished beaches have gained sand in the past few months after an apparent "diet" left only 30 feet or so of sand at some locations. The new "fat" beach is now some 100-feet-wide, pleasing Island residents.

Out: Bradenton Beach Code Enforcement Officer Dawn Betts tendered her resignation "due to lack of management support, company structure and low morale." Her supervisor, Building Official Bob Welch, resigned in early January.

Parking: Anna Maria city commissioners rejected Duke Miller's parking plan and entertained a proposal by Commission Chair John Quam for "Plan X," which was based in part on a study done by the city's engineering firm. Further discussion was promised.

Rezone not OK: Holmes Beach city commissioners rejected a rezone request that would have allowed Angelina and Patrick Kabris to add a unit on property they own at 101 75th St.

Comp plan committee commencement: Bradenton Beach appointed a committee to review the city's comprehensive plan. Consultant Tony Arrant said the work will take about two years to complete, pursuant to state law that requires the plans to be updated periodically. Anna Maria is also utilizing Arrant's services for its comp plan review and has its own committee at work.

IMS director grilled: Parents of students at Island Middle School said they wanted the charter school's executive director, Kelly Parsons, replaced by next year, as well as offering a host of other proposed changes to the school's board of directors.

Ouch!: The Anna Maria Code Enforcement Board found resident Mary Lease, 100 block Palmetto Avenue, delinquent in her garbage collection charges since 1990. Fines owed to Waste Management Inc., the city's solid-waste collector, are about $930; if the bill is not paid, city fines for the code violation could amount to $250 per day until the payment is met or otherwise resolved.

Middle school in a hole: The Island Middle School accountant told the board of directors that the school budget is $27,000 "in the hole. It's not a good place to be." The shortfall was based on a projected enrollment of 115 students versus the actual student body of 102.

Early out: Bradenton Beach Code Enforcement Officer Dawn Betts received three days paid leave prior to her intended last day after Vice Mayor Anna O'Brien said she has "done very inappropriate behavior in front of citizens, and she's had citizens crying in the streets." Betts said she was "flabbergasted" by the comments.

New hire: Bradenton Beach retained the services of Ralf Brookes of Cape Coral as its new city attorney. Brookes replaces Alan Prather, whose contract was abruptly terminated last November by the "new" commission.

OK'd, but lawsuit looms: In what may have given Holmes Beach residents a sneak preview of future courtroom battles over the same issue, lawyers on both sides of the Frank Davis lot-width variance request sparred, dueled, jabbed and traded verbal accusations during a two-hour hearing before the board of adjustment. Davis won a 3-2 decision for the lot-width variance, allowing him to proceed with plans to build a four-unit condominium. However, the variance approval becomes final only after all appeals are concluded.

Traffic counts ongoing: Florida Department of Transportation officials agreed to conduct a six-month-long traffic count of Gulf Drive on the Island in an effort to determine traffic congestion and patterns.

March

Assessment and property tax: West Manatee Fire & Rescue District officials are hoping voters will approve a property tax increase on the ballot later this month of up to $3.75 per $1,000 of assessed value of property in addition to the current assessment fee charged for all homes on the Island and in Cortez and Northwest Bradenton. Fire Chief Andy Price said the $3.75 figure would probably never be assessed, and the real number would be less than $.50. The additional revenue is needed to meet a new Florida law that requires additional firefighters to respond to fires. Also on the March ballot was a request to implement a half-cent sales tax for environmental and recreational land acquisition in the county.

Arvida, Perico Island: The Arvida- St. Joe Co. submitted a new site plan for its proposed condominium development on Perico Island, just east of Anna Maria Island within the city of Bradenton. The new proposal drops the number of units of the development from 893 to 686. Island cities, Manatee County and the environmental group ManaSota-88 had objected to the condo development as presented due to height, traffic, hurricane evacuation and aesthetic reasons.

Uh, about that offer ...: Anna Maria's Island Marine owner Jeff Van Hoose requested and was rejected for a variance on his ROR-zoned Pine Avenue property by city planners. The variance, if granted, would have allowed him to build five single-family homes on the property. After the planning board recommended denial to the city commission, Van Hoose said he would again entertain an offer by the city commission to buy the property. He had previously refused to budge on a $2.5 million asking price for the land.

Bradenton Beach lawsuits: With claims of "abusive behavior," lawsuits were filed against Vice Mayor Anna O'Brien, City Commissioner Lisa Maria Phillips and Board of Adjustment Chair Ken Lohn. The suits were filed by former Building Official Bob Welch, former Code Enforcement Officer Dawn Betts, developer David Teitelbaum and citizen Ronald Ockerman.

"No" to Perico re-do: ManaSota-88 Executive Director Glenn Compton said the environmental group was not happy with the revised St. Joe Co. development plans for Perico Island and vowed to continue its legal challenge. Although the number of units were reduced from 893 to 686, and the number of buildings from 31 to 13, the buildings remain highrises, a major sticking point for some Islanders.

IMS brouhaha continues: At the Island Middle School, board members met in marathon meetings and terminated the employment of executive director Kelly Parsons, accepted the resignation of several board members, approved cost-cutting budget measures to address a shortfall, and prepared to address school board questions on whether or not the charter school's contract would be renewed.

NO: Voters rejected both the West Manatee Fire & Rescue District plan to add a 3.75-mill property tax to increase firefighter service in the district as well as the half-cent sale tax increase for environmental land acquisition.

"X" marks the parking plan: Anna Maria city commissioners agreed to proceed with Chair John Quam's "Plan X" parking proposal, which would have designated 107 parking spaces in some parts of the city. More debate is expected.

So long: Bradenton Beach Postmaster Bob Willis announced his retirement after 30 years with the postal service, 11 with the city.

Beach comes, goes: Although sections of the Island's beaches are accreting, others - such as Anna Maria north from the Sandbar restaurant - are losing sand. Further studies of the sand shift are ongoing.

"Regina" historical status studied: The former molasses vessel "Regina," grounded off Bradenton Beach by a winter storm March 8, 1940, was surveyed by state archeologists for inclusion in the Florida "shipwreck heritage trail."

Out: Manatee County School Board members unanimously agreed not to renew the Island Middle School charter. School Superintendent Dr. Roger Dearing said the school violated a number of state statutes as well as a long list of other problems including exposing the school board to liability. Students were allowed to finish the year at the school.

Why don't we just not: Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said she could not endorse the state-funded acquisition of the Island Marine property when she found out the city could be forced to come up with up to $500,000 out of its own coffers to turn the property into public land.

Canal dredging starts: The first phase of what will eventually be a 32-canal dredging effort began in Holmes Beach. The canal parallel to Flotilla Drive was completed, with the spoil placed adjacent to Birdie Tebbetts field in the city, then to be hauled away by the contractor.

Paid off: The final payment by the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage was made to the owners of 95 acres of land east of the village of Cortez, protecting the historic area from encroachment from development.

Water taxi, anyone?: Regional transportation planners quite literally "floated" the idea of a water taxi service from the Manatee River south to perhaps even Englewood - and including Anna Maria Island - as a traffic congestion solution. A study was commissioned.

Ouch!, Version II: Mary Lease of Palmetto Avenue in Anna Maria apparently tried to avoid her garbage bills by putting her trash in a can down the street. The alleged dodge cost was placed at $2,100 from the city in code enforcement fees, notwithstanding the $930 owed to Waste Management, the garbage collector. A lien on her property was issued.

Still pending: Anna Maria city officials approved paving work on Tarpon and Oak avenues in the city in summer 2003. The work did not meet city expectations, and the contractor's final $30,000 was withheld until the matter was settled. Contractor APAC and the city apparently were hashing out the problem.

Finally!: Bradenton Beach officials announced that curbside recycling of newspaper, cardboard, cans and bottles would start by the end of April. The recycling effort came with little comment after the city commission approved a $25 annual sanitation fee increase.

Fire!: A pre-dawn fire closed the Waterfront Restaurant, 111 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria, indefinitely. Fire officials later determined the blaze was caused by arson. Damage was estimated to be more than $400,000. The restaurant is owned by Leah and John Suzor.

One more time: West Manatee Fire & Rescue District officials agreed to place another property tax assessment before the voters later this year, this time asking for $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value of property in addition to the current assessment levy.

Fire destroys yacht: A $4 million yacht was destroyed by fire off Longboat Pass. Crew and passengers escaped unharmed thanks to a nearby vessel, which plucked the people from the water. "It's A Wonderful Life" was registered in the British Virgin Islands and was totally destroyed.

Too much sand here: The canal project in Holmes Beach has resulted in a surplus of sand in the city, and Mayor Carol Whitmore is trying to peddle the beach-quality sand to whomever wants it. The only cost is for the hauling. To date, Bradenton and Manatee County showed interested in moving some sand to the Palma Sola Causeway beaches.

No go: The Anna Maria City Hall remodel cost jumped again, this time for a new roof, and the project appeared stalled yet again. Cost-to-date including the most recent proposal: almost $200,000. Estimate: $150,000.

Kudos: Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine was named to head the Florida Police Chiefs Association.

April

Water taxi good to go: Regional transportation planners gave their blessing on a two-county water taxi study with the goal to service Manatee and Sarasota waterfront locales. Cost of the study is $40,000, completion is about a year, and funding provided by the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Ticket grief: Anna Maria City visitors who had received parking tickets issued from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office became such an earful for city staff that a sign was posted at city hall: Our front desk clerk is here to accept your payment only. Abusive language or behavior will not be tolerated."

Manager, please: Holmes Beach City Commissioner Don Maloney broached the concept of a city manager form of government for that city - heck, almost every city on the Island - and vowed to educate the public on the matter and have it placed on the ballot for Holmes Beach voters to decide come November.

Now it's mold: Anna Maria City Hall's most recent remodeling trevail is a mold problem. No costs yet for the problem-stricken structure to deal with yet another costly issue.

Gardens galore: The first-ever Anna Maria Island Garden Tour raised $4,500 to benefit the Anna Maria Island Community Orchestra and Chorus.

Foreboding: Atlantic hurricane guru Dr. William Gray predicted that the 2004 storm season would be "active."

Roof first, please: Anna Maria city commissioners apparently questioned the entire city hall re-do project, starting from the top - the lack of a roof inspection, as one commissioner described it - and placed the entire project in jeopardy.

No to turtles: Holmes Beach city officials rejected a sea turtle lighting ordinance on grounds that it is too excessive and not in the best interests of residents. The proposed law would have tightened lighting requirements and limited beach activities that threatened nesting turtles.

Sand move: Desoto National Monument accepted the canal sand from Holmes Beach to aid its eroded beaches along the Manatee River. Manatee County couldn't get the necessary permits to take the sand for the Palma Sola Causeway.

Bye: Island Branch Library Librarian Sarah Bicknell retired after 19 years. She moved to Valentine, Neb., where she and her sister purchased a home.

"The Bay is Full of Rum": Wyatt Blassingame's classic mystery on "Sanctity Key" in Florida was reprinted in The Islander's April 14, 2004, edition. It is also available Online at islander.org.

Soldier's Heart: U.S. Army Maj. Rick Ely, stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, responded personally to the Island youth who wrote to the men serving abroad. His letters touched a chord in all Islanders hearts as they were reprinted in the coming weeks in The Islander.

Dismissed: One of the Bradenton Beach lawsuits filed earlier in the year by Code Enforcement Officer Dawn Betts against Vice Mayor Anna O'Brien and City Commissioner Lisa Maria Phillips, was dismissed by a circuit court judge.

Cleanup: Volunteers cleaned up 2,172 pounds of trash from the Island during the Great American Cleanup.

Now sandpile "nuisance?": The pile of sand dredged from the canals in Holmes Beach was called "an accident waiting to happen" by a woman who's son died on a similar construction site when a contractor failed to install a safety fence around a pond of standing water. City officials said they were working to correct any problems that may exist.

Get back ... 'way, back: Replacement of the Key Royale Bridge will occur in the 2007-08, back (again) one year in the state budget, Holmes Beach officials learned.

Wow!: The annual Affaire To Remember, a fundraiser to benefit the Anna Maria Island Community Center, raised more than $300,000.

No: The Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board decided to recommend to the city commission that there was no need to extend the moratorium on street vacations, property rezonings and comprehensive plan amendments for another year. The moratorium has been in effect for two years and was due to expire May 1.

Rehab begins: Rehabilitation on the Longboat Key Bridge between Bradenton Beach and Longboat got under way. The $1.9 million project was expected to cause traffic lane closures.

May

An Island "forbidden subject" - poverty: According to officials with the Anna Maria Island Community Center, a large number of the 1,200 children served by the Center live in families below the U.S. government poverty level. Despite the high cost of housing on the Island, many people have chosen to live on the Island due to its relative safety. "It's worth the sacrifice to live here because of the Center, the Island lifestyle and the trolley," one parent said.

Chiles ups the ante: Island restaurateur Ed Chiles said he's kicking in an additional $2,000 to anyone with information about the cause of the March fire at the Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria, bringing the total cash reward to $3,000. Fire officials said the blaze was caused by arson.

Out: Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Peter Barreda announced he was leaving office six months after being elected due to health and business conflicts.

Yes: Bradenton Beach city commissioners approved another one-year moratorium on comprehensive plan amendments, street vacations and property rezonings. The moratorium has been in effect on such development since May 2002.

Bell buy: Karen Bell, husband Paul Brugger, Judy Breuggeman and Eva and Peter Thurell purchased the former Sigma Fish-Cortez Cove Marina property from Piero Rivolta for $1.865 million.

Recycling starts: Buckets and bins were delivered to Bradenton Beach homes to begin the city's curbside recycling program.

Save the trees: Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore responded to resident complaints regarding exotic tree removal in the city - specifically Australian pines - by stating the city's policy is to remove and replace them as quickly as possible. Residents said the trees should remain.

Spring fling: Anna Maria Elementary School's annual Spring Fling fundraiser dinner and dance raised $25,000 for books and computers for the "school on the bay."

We don't want no manager!: Holmes Beach commissioners refused City Commissioner Don Maloney's request to place a charter amendment on the ballot asking voters if they wanted a city manager form of government. The other commissioners said there was not need for such a change of government in the city.

FYI: Bradenton Beach city commissioners were still interviewing candidates for the building official position as the Holmes Beach interlocal agreement contract deadline to handle such services neared. That deadline is in early July.

Bye: Anna Maria Elementary School teacher Pat Whitfield retired after 25 years at the school.

Bradenton Beach changes proposed: City commissioners in Bradenton Beach agreed to place several governance changes on the November ballot for voters consideration: A city manager form of government, requiring commissioners' decisions be a "super majority" on many issues dealing with land use matters and having the city's board of adjustment be advisory only.

Perico's latest: Manatee County officials said they were "not likely" to provide potable water service to any development on Perico Island in the latest skirmish in the war against new development there. Bradenton City Council members will vote on the revised site plan in June.

First turtles: Loggerhead sea turtles finally showed up on Island beaches in late May, far later than usual.

Graduates: Despite controversies over the years, the first - and only - three-year graduating class of the Island Middle School celebrated at a beachfront commencement ceremony.

June

Out: Bradenton Beach City Clerk Pat Grizzle resigned her post after 11 years with the city. She said she was leaving the area to be closer to family in Michigan.

Parking solution - er, uh, well ...: Parking in Anna Maria appeared to have reached a solution-point until one commissioner decided the proposal was "crazy" and changed her vote. More discussion and debate ensued.

Fast track for bridge: Holmes Beach city commissioners authorized Mayor Carol Whitmore to pursue a Joint Participation Agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation which would call for the city to "front" the estimated $1.25 million cost for the Key Royale Bridge replacement and have the DOT reimburse the city in fiscal year 2007-08.

Whew!: Anna Maria city commissioners finally agreed on remodeling city hall. Southern Cross Construction will do the work.

Sold: Island landmark Gulf Drive Cafe was sold, with Wendy Kokolis taking over operation of the business on land she has owned all along from restaurateur Tom Chipain, former owner of the business. All declined to discuss selling price.

Going up, up, up: According to the Florida Association of Realtors, the Bradenton-Sarasota area had the highest percentage increase in sales from April 2003 to April 2004 of any state metropolitan area in the country. Median sales were up 24 percent in that period, according to the group; on the Island, the increase was a "modest" 21 percent increase.

Good to go: The historic Cortez schoolhouse received about $164,000 from state funds for renovation work.

D-Day: Almost like a squirmish in a battle, Anna Maria City officials relocated offices to begin renovations from city hall to temporary digs at the Island Baptist Church, site of the former Island Middle School. The remodel work was expected to take three months.

Hero here: U.S. Army Maj. Rick Ely and family arrived on the Island for a vacation arranged and paid for by Islanders and area businesses. He just returned back to the United States from Afghanistan and, while there, corresponded with Island youths about his war-time experiences.

New clerk: Bradenton Beach Deputy Clerk Nora Idso was named as city clerk to fill the position left by the resignation of Pat Grizzle.

Marina out, condos in: "First-class, high-end condominiums" will replace the marina at 202 52nd St. in Holmes Beach in the wake of a board of adjustment vote allowing the property to go from commercial to residential. Nine condos will be built on the 1.68-acre site, according to developers Moreland Marine Development.

Perico approval: Bradenton City Council members voted 4-1 to approve the Perico Island condominium development proposal offered by St. Joe Co. Manatee County commissioners and ManaSota-88 and the Island cities still oppose the proposal.

Turtle numbers tumbling : Turtle watchers throughout the state began to worry that the number of nesting sea turtles has been declining in the past few years. Only 25 nests have been found on the Island so far this season, far lower than past years.

Rick Ely Week on Island: All three Island cities honored U.S. Army Maj. Rick Ely for his service to our country in Afghanistan during his visit to the Island.

Nachtigal it is: Rob Nachtigal was named the new Ward 3 city commissioner in Bradenton Beach, replacing Peter Barreda, who resigned for business and health reasons. Nachtigal is a sales representative for Ward Oil Co.

STOP: Marsha Lindsey formed Stop Taking Our Pines, an activist group with the mission to halt destruction of Australian pines on the island and along the Palma Sola Causeway.

Perico challenged: Manatee County commissioners and the environmental group ManaSota-88 renewed their opposition to the Perico Island development, again challenging the project in court.

Outta there: The second district court of appeals overturned a lower court's ruling and said a development in Bradenton Beach that city commissioners had objected to four years ago should proceed. Island Inc. and Beach Development Inc., in the 1400 block of Gulf Drive on the Gulffront across from Bermuda Bay. The two duplexes were rejected by city commissioners due to environmental concerns, developers took the matter to court, a circuit court judge ruled on behalf of the city, and the appellate court ruled in favor of the developers.

Next week: The rest of the Year in Review for 2004.

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Historic Anna Maria City Pier Plank Walk

Put your name, your message, your memorial on the Historic Anna Maria City Pier prior to the Pier Centennial Celebration! And join the fun!

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Cortez Cookoff

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