Bradenton Beach to enforce live music ban in expanded outdoor dining areas

BRADENTON BEACH – Bradenton Beach establishments can continue using their temporarily expanded seating for outdoor seating, but an existing prohibition on live music in those areas will be enforced as of Friday, June 4.

On Thursday, June 3, the Bradenton Beach Commission is expected to adopt on final reading an ordinance that will allow the previously enacted expanded outdoor business operations to continue for an estimated two more months or so as businesses continue to recover from the losses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and public input will be allowed on this matter. The updated ordinance, 21-533, to be adopted Thursday is included in the meeting packet, beginning on page 91.

On Friday, May 28, Bradenton Beach Building Official Steve Gilbert and senior members of the Bradenton Beach Police Department crafted a written notice of prohibition and live entertainment update to be provided this week to impacted and potentially impacted establishments.

“Ordinance 20-516, adopted on May 21, 2020, provided for an expansion of outdoor dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ordinance provided for a number of regulations pertaining to the expanded areas allowed. The ordinance also provided for several prohibitions. Section 5 expressly prohibits live entertainment and bands in the expanded outdoor dining areas,” the notice states.

Bradenton Beach to enforce live music ban in expanded outdoor dining areas
The Bridge Tender Inn’s temporarily expanded outdoor dining area currently includes a temporary outdoor stage toward the southern end of the property. Photo: Joe Hendricks

The temporary ordinance adopted in 2020 always prohibited live music in the expanded outdoor seating areas, but that prohibition was never enforced. As of last weekend, The Bridge Tender Inn and the Wicked Cantina still featured live music in their expanded outdoor dining areas; and The Drift In sometimes features live bands in its expanded outdoor seating area on weekend afternoons.

“The city has received complaints of live entertainment and bands in those expanded outdoor dining areas and is responding to these complaints. Be advised that effective June 4, city police and code enforcement officers will begin enforcement of this prohibition. Violations will result in the loss of any expanded outdoor dining areas,” the notice states.

The live music prohibition does not apply to live music areas used prior the temporary ordinance taking effect in 2020.

“This does not mean that those locations of live entertainment and bands in use prior to the effective date of Ordinance 20-516 are prohibited. However, in order to continue providing live entertainment and bands in those prior locations, a sketch of the previous location must be signed, dated, and submitted to the clerk’s office to be filed with the business tax receipt files,” the notice states.

Bradenton Beach to enforce live music ban in expanded outdoor dining areas
The Drift In sometimes has outdoor bands on weekends. Photo: Joe Hendricks

The written update also includes an acknowledgement for the business owner or manager to sign.

“I hereby acknowledge that I have read this document and agree to cease live entertainment and bands in my expanded outdoor dining area. I also acknowledge that if this business previously provided live entertainment and bands, I will provide a sketch to indicate the location used prior to May 21, 2020 to the clerk’s office,” the acknowledgment states.

Recent city commission meetings have included informal discussion about possibly allowing the expanded outdoor dining areas to remain on a permanent basis, but no formal actions have been taken in that regard.

JoAnn Manali has written the book on “Finding What’s Missing”

ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria resident JoAnn Manali has written a memoir about her abusive upbringing and the one true love she found later in life.

JoAnn and Anthony Manali own and operate Captain Anthony’s Seafood Market at 107 Spring Avenue in Anna Maria.

Published by Mascot Books and released in early May, “Finding What’s Missing” is a 93-page tale of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse JoAnn experienced as a child and teenager, and the determination, strength and hard work it took to survive the nightmare she shared with seven siblings. It also serves as a testament to the power of love.

When interviewed recently, JoAnn said, “‘Finding What’s Missing’ is about me finding the love I never had until I met Anthony Manali. I was never loved as a kid. I went through a very abusive childhood and Anthony encouraged me to write this book in hopes that it could help others get through what I went through.”

The cover of JoAnn Manali’s memoir references her love of fishing that began at a young age.
Photo: Mascot Books

Most of the abuse JoAnn suffered came from her step-dad and her mom. Some of her older siblings also contributed to the abuse she endured.

“We all we’re abused. It wasn’t just me. I was the middle child and I saw what was happening to my siblings. Two of them are dead and the rest of them are basically drug addicts,” JoAnn said.

“I refuse to have children because of my abusive childhood. I am too frightened of passing that behavior on,” she wrote in her book.

“JoAnn’s childhood was robbed from her and the smartest thing she ever did was to not have children,” Anthony said.

Regarding his wife’s memoir, Anthony said, “I could only read 10 pages at a time and I had to put it down, and I’ve heard the stories many times. It was too much for me, and it was painful for her to relive it.”

JoAnn Manali has written the book on “Finding What’s Missing”
In each other, JoAnn and Anthony Manali have found what was missing in their lives. Photo: Joe Hendricks

JoAnn handwrote her manuscript using pen and paper and her good friend Vickie Cassidy transcribed it verbatim onto a computer.

“I’m not a writer, I just told a story,” Manali said.

Tribulations and triumphs

“This book is dedicated to my husband, Anthony, the one person in my life who loves me for who I truly am…not the wounded, broken child I had been,” says the dedication that begins the book.

JoAnn grew up in a home where food and love were withheld from the children.

“Food was a big deal. We weren’t allowed to touch anything in the kitchen. We never knew what was in the fridge, and we knew if we touched anything in there we’d be grounded and beaten with a belt. I didn’t open a refrigerator until I was fifteen. I was amazed at what I saw,”
she noted in her book.  

“Once, I was so hungry that I ate my blanket, gnawing on it until only half was left. I was beaten for that and grounded for even longer,” she wrote. “The older we got, the harder the beatings were.”

JoAnn didn’t speak until she was five, and she was nine when she received her first hug, which came from her fourth grade teacher.

“I squirmed and tried to get away, but she didn’t let me go. Finally I stopped resisting, and it felt good. I was nine years old, and I didn’t know what a hug was,” she wrote.

JoAnn began life in Buffalo, N.Y. and her family moved frequently, with stops in Cleveland, Phoenix and Riverview, Florida, where her love of fishing took root.

“There was a small pond in the backyard with a little dock we could fish from. That pond gave me many happy memories, learning to fish and setting trout lines with John (her older brother). I fell in love with fishing and almost lived on that dock. It took me away from all the problems at home,” she wrote.

As was the case with some of her older siblings, JoAnn’s parents kicked her out of the house when she was 15. She lived with various friends and endured a brief and abusive reunion with her biological father who had moved to Detroit. Alone, she returned to Buffalo and with financial support from the state of New York she graduated high school and attended college.

As a young adult, JoAnn relocated to Tampa, where she hung glass on high-rise buildings with one of her sisters. She then moved to Tennessee, where another sister lived. In Tennessee, JoAnn’s life was forever changed by a kindly mentor who taught her how to make prosthetic limbs and support braces.

She later turned that knowledge into the prosthetic and brace business she owned and operated for more than two decades along Florida’s west coast – a successful business endeavor that allowed her to purchase a boat and eventually retire early.  

JoAnn attended fishing seminars given by Carl Golden and Anthony Manali; and as a new boat owner, she hired Anthony to take her and her business partner and significant other fishing.

After she and her business partner and significant other parted ways, JoAnn often hired Anthony to take her and her friends fishing. One day, she finally asked him on a dinner date, which is lovingly detailed in her memoir.

“I picked him up in my beautiful yellow corvette and took him to the Sarasota Ritz Carlton,” she wrote of that first date and the place where they would later get married.

“I hired him to be my captain. I married him because I fell in love with him. I couldn’t believe what a wonderful fisherman he was, but he’s also a wonderful person” JoAnn said.

JoAnn didn’t have a book deal when she started writing her story, but her intent was that it would be a book. Her book deal stemmed from a conversation she had at Captain Anthony’s with Anna Maria resident, and future City Commissioner, Deanie Sebring. Sebring has written two children’s books published by Mascot Books.

“She told me to call Mascot Books and they helped me through this entire process,” JoAnn said.

Mascot Books provides national distribution and the memoir is available online at the Mascot Books website. It’s also available at in print or e-book formats. Locally, “Finding What’s Missing” is sold at Ginny’s and Jane’s E’s Café in Anna Maria, and also at Captain Anthony’s Seafood Market.

JoAnn’s now thinking about a second book that would detail the good times she’s had with Anthony and the many friends they’ve met as seafood market customers and/or fishing charter clients – including celebrities such as Tony Dungy, Lou Holtz and Trisha Yearwood and many more.

“We sell only Anthony’s fresh catch. He’s a commercial fisherman, but he’s a rod and reel man. He’s not a long-liner that goes out for days at a time. He goes out and comes back the same day with his fresh catch.”

“We’re the only fish market around where you’re looking at the guy who caught your grouper and your stone crab,” Anthony added, noting that he and JoAnn each hold multiple world records for fish they’ve caught.

JoAnn Manali has written the book on “Finding What’s Missing”
Captain Anthony’s Seafood Market offers fresh-caught seafood and more.
Photo: Joe Hendricks

Bradenton Beach stormwater engineering contract still pending

BRADENTON BEACH – The Bradenton Beach Commission is still contemplating which engineering firm or firms will be contracted or subcontracted to update the city’s master drainage study.

Last updated in 2006, the master drainage study update would provide an independent review of the successes and deficiencies of the existing drainage elements previously engineered by City Engineer Lynn Burnett and her LTA Engineers firm.

As a more pressing immediate need, the commission is also still contemplating which firm will be contracted to review and potentially reengineer the plans Burnett presented the commission in late April regarding a $2 million flood control project to be funded by a $2.69 million state appropriation.

On May 11, the city commission selected Land & Water Engineering Science as its first choice to provide the additional engineering services sought in the city’s request for proposals (RFP). The commission selected Utility Consultants of Florida (UCOF) as its second choice and Madrid/CPWG Engineering as its third choice.

The scope of outside engineering services sought in the RFP includes an update of the master drainage study, a review of Burnett’s plans for the state-funded flood control project, additional engineering recommendations regarding the failing brick paver crosswalks on Bridge Street and more.

The Land & Water Engineering Science proposal listed a total estimated price of $112,000. The UCOF proposal listed a total estimated price of $95,000 and UCOF would rely on Colliers Engineering to provide subcontracted stormwater engineering services. The Madrid/CPWG Engineering proposal listed a total estimated price of $50,000. Land & Water Engineering and Madrid/CPWG have their own in-house stormwater engineers on staff.

When making its May 11 selection, the commission directed City Attorney Ricinda Perry to attempt to negotiate a contract with Land & Water Engineering – with the understanding that the city, at that time, had no more than $60,000 to spend on stormwater and drainage related engineering services for the remainder of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

Bradenton Beach stormwater engineering contract still pending
City Attorney Ricinda Perry was authorized to negotiate with all three firms that responded to the city’s request for proposals. Photo: Joe Hendricks

According to the Consultant’s Competitive Negotiation Act, the city is to first attempt to negotiate a contract with the firm deemed most qualified by the commission – which is Land & Water Engineering. If the commission deems those initial negotiations unsuccessful, those negotiations would be terminated and Perry would be authorized to negotiate with the second ranked firm, and then the third ranked firm if need be. The commission can also discard all bids received.

During the commission’s May 20 meeting, Perry suggested an alternative selection and negotiation process. She told the commission she requested and received standard contracts from each of the three firms, and she recommended using any of those firms on a specific per-task basis.

Perry and the commission were surprised to learn from City Treasurer Shayne Thompson that the city actually had only $5,000 to $8,000 to spend on stormwater-related professional services for the remainder of the current fiscal year. Thompson said the rest of that $60,000 is already committed to the maintenance of existing stormwater systems.

Participating by phone, Commissioner Jake Spooner said he was “flabbergasted” to learn the city only has $5,000 to $8,000 to spend on additional stormwater engineering services.

Perry said Land & Water Engineering estimated $12,140 to simply review Burnett’s plans, without doing any additional reengineering, and UCOF estimated $8,000. Perry did not provide cost estimates from Madrid/CPWG.

Perry told the commission Land & Water Engineering could reengineer Burnett’s state appropriation plans for an estimated $42,120, and UCOF could provide those services for an estimated $36,000.

Spooner questioned the point of spending any of the remaining money on additional engineering reviews if the city has no money to act upon the engineering recommendations made. Despite the unresolved funding concerns, the commission authorized Perry to negotiate with all three firms.

The state appropriation places a cap on the percentage of the funds that can be used on engineering services. On more than one occasion, Spooner noted Burnett’s 90% completed plans have already cost the city approximately $168,000, which accounts for a significant portion of the total engineering and design costs allowed by the state.

The commission directed Perry to contact Florida Department of Environmental Protection Grant Manager Michael Scheinkman and seek the state agency’s permission to spend a greater percentage of the state funds on engineering services and slightly less on the actual construction costs. On Wednesday, May 26, Scheinkman informed Perry that some of the state funds can be used for additional engineering services.

Bradenton Beach stormwater engineering contract still pending
A special city commission work meeting was scheduled for Friday morning, May 28, to allow for further discussion on the state-funded flood control project and any additional engineering that project may require. Photo: Joe Hendricks

At the request of Chappie, a commission work meeting was scheduled at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 28. The purpose of Friday’s meeting is to attempt to determine if another firm is going to be contracted to review Burnett’s plans for the state-funded project and provide additional options and cost estimates regarding other flood-prone areas that might be addressed instead or in addition to those included in Burnett’s plans.

State-funded project

Burnett presented her 90% completed flood control project plans to the commission on April 27. According to Perry, the fully completed engineering documents for the state-funded project must be submitted to the state by July 31. The project contractor must be selected by the end of October and the project must be completed by June 2023.

Burnett’s plans propose installing pervious pavers or pervious concrete, with underlying drainage components, at the unpaved street ends along the west side of Gulf Drive at 27th Street North, 26th Street North, 25th Street North, 24th Street North  and the Third Street South street end. The commission has not yet determined whether the 23rd Street North street end should be included in those plans, because that area rarely floods.

Burnett said the proposed street end improvements would reduce flooding on Gulf Drive North, provide better ingress and egress for those properties and assist the city with its efforts to reclaim the city-owned rights of ways and parking areas at those street ends. She also noted the commission offered preliminary support for the proposed locations when discussed at the 60% design phase in October.

Bradenton Beach stormwater engineering contract still pending
The map recently provided by Lynn Burnett highlights the proposed drainage improvements along Gulf Drive North and also along Avenue A.
Photo: City of Bradenton Beach

The commission continues to question whether the proposed street end improvements are the best use of the state funds, and whether some of the state money might be better used on more flood-prone areas elsewhere in the city.

Burnett’s plans also propose making needed flood control improvements in the vicinity of the Avenue A and 20th Place North and 21st Place North; and possibly to the alley near Herb Dolan Park.

The commission considers Bay Drive South to be another flooding hotspot, but that area is not included in the current plans for the state-funded project. According to Chappie, city officials and city staff members are exploring other potential grants and funding sources that might cover the cost of that anticipated $500,000 project.

During the April meeting, Chappie expressed concerns about Burnett’s plans for the Avenue A drainage improvements including the installation of stone-covered infiltration trenches that have worked well in some areas, but proved problematic in other areas, including along Bridge Street. The stone-covered trenches require ongoing maintenance and those maintenance costs increase with each new infiltration trench installed according to Burnett’s engineering and design.

Map revisions could impact Bradenton Beach property owners

BRADENTON BEACH – The city of Bradenton Beach’s ongoing efforts to resolve inconsistencies that exist between the city’s future land use maps and zoning maps could potentially impact property values and the future use of many properties citywide.

The inconsistencies began when the city previously adopted a revised future land use map as part of its 2020 comprehensive plan. Building Official Steve Gilbert and City Planner Luis Serna are now guiding the planning and zoning board (P&Z) and the city commission through the early stages of the map revision process. The goal is to make the zoning and future land use maps consistent with each other.  

The map revisions being considered are not intended to alter the current use of an impacted property. The map revisions would become more significant if the property is sold, if an existing structure or structures are demolished by a storm or some other disaster, or if a property owner wishes to redevelop their property in a manner that differs from its current use.  

During the April 21 P&Z meeting, the future land use and zoning maps for the Sandpiper Resort Co-Op were discussed in-depth. The future land use and zoning map designations for several properties in the 2500 and 2300 blocks of Gulf Drive North were also discussed in-depth.

The potentially impacted properties in the 2500 block of Gulf Drive North include Sharky’s Seagrill, the Shell gas pumps and Circle K convenience store, a vacant lot, Club Bamboo and the two-story structure occupied on the ground level by the Studio 104 salon, the KW on the Water real estate office and the Blooms by the Beach florist shop, with residential units located above.

Similar map inconsistencies exist in the 2300 block of Gulf Drive and could potentially impact the Aluna Wellness Center & Spa and Wagner Real Estate properties.

Map revisions could impact Bradenton Beach property owners
Sharky’s Seagrill, the Shell gas pumps and the Circle K convenience store properties are among those that could be impacted by the proposed map revisions. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Several other potentially impacted properties throughout the city that have not yet been discussed by the P&Z board. The maps for the properties citywide that may be impacted by the map revisions can be viewed here.

The board’s map revision discussions will continue at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 5, and are also expected to be discussed at the Wednesday, May 19, P&Z meeting.  

During the April 21 meeting, Gilbert said the purpose of that day’s meeting was for the P&Z members to review the proposed map revisions and make their recommendations to the city commission. The city commission has the sole authority to make any final decisions regarding map revisions.

“This is not a public hearing to formally adopt these maps,” Gilbert noted.

Sandpiper Resort

In 2008, the city commission amended the future land use map in a manner that decreased the maximum units allowed on the majority of the Sandpiper property from 18 units per acre to nine. But the coinciding zoning map that establishes the M-1 (mobile home park) zoning district was not revised in 2008 and has not been revised since then.

The land development code allows a specific number of lots on the Sandpiper property, and the number of lots allowed exceeds the density established by the current future land use map.

According to the existing future land use map, the majority of the Sandpiper property carries a medium density residential land use designation. The portion of the property closest to the Anna Maria Sound shoreline carries a low density residential land use designation.

Map revisions could impact Bradenton Beach property owners
The zoning and future land use designations for Sandpiper Resort property (at the top of this map) and the properties located in areas marked as #4 were discussed at the April 21 meeting. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Gilbert and Serna recommend amending the future land use map designation to high density residential, which would return the Sandpiper’s future land use designation to its pre-2008 status.

P&Z member John Burns opposed that action and instead proposed revising the zoning map to match the nine units per acre currently allowed by the future land use map.

The board members expressed concerns that revising the zoning map to allow 18 units per acre could result in a more intense future use of the Sandpiper Resort property should it ever be redeveloped as something other than a mobile home park. Burns said reversing the 2008 future land map use amendment would double the allowed density.

Map revisions could impact Bradenton Beach property owners
City Planner Luis Serna advised against making map revisions that could devalue properties and property rights. Photo: Joe Hendricks

In response, Serna said, “The intent is to reflect what’s on the ground there currently. This was a change that occurred in 2008 which is basically making those properties non-conforming. They confirm to the zoning, but the zoning does not conform to the future land use. We’re really just trying to give them back what they had prior to 2008.”

Burns said he was not aware of any Sandpiper Resort property owners who objected to the 2008 future land use map revision.

“I’m not sure what the public response was back then, but it is definitely something where the city is out of compliance with its own plan. That’s a concern,” Serna said.

Gilbert said the Sandpiper property has historically been zoned M-1, under the high density residential criteria and changing that zoning would have consequences.

“We would be taking away dwelling unit density from them. Which is why we’re recommending to make this (the future land use map) consistent with the historic use and the current use rather than rezoning it and potentially causing damage to their property value by changing future land use back to what it was before this map was done,” Gilbert said.

Map revisions could impact Bradenton Beach property owners
Building Official Steve Gilbert explained the map revision options and potential consequences. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Board member Bill Morrow asked if the Sandpiper Resort community is currently configured to nine units per acre. Gilbert said the current density is much higher than that.

“There are two choices to be made here: one is to revert back to high density for that entire parcel and a future developer could fit quite a few units in there. If you keep it the way it is, future developers are not going to be able to pack as many buildings or dwelling units in there. The second option is to change it (the future land use designation) back so that the mobile home park remains conforming to current zoning, but that also gives them the ability, if they choose sell the property, to develop the property at 18 units per acre,” Gilbert said.

“I see no benefit to the city nor to adjacent properties in changing it back to the way it was,” Burns said.

The board voted 5-0 in support of Burns’ motion to recommend the city commission amend the zoning map to match the nine units per acre currently allowed by the future land use map. The P&Z recommendation is not what Gilbert and Serna recommend.

Gulf Drive North

The board also the map inconsistencies that exist in the 2500 and 2300 blocks of Gulf Drive North.

The future land use map currently designates those areas as R-2 medium density residential with a C-2 general commercial zoning designation.

“All the uses on the property are commercial,” Serna said of the existing property uses.

Serna and Gilbert recommend amending those future land use map designations to Retail/Office/Residential (ROR) in order to be consistent with the existing zoning and current uses of those properties.    

Burns expressed concerns that commercially zoned property with an ROR future land use designation would allow new structures to be built with 90% lot coverage.

“You might have 90% lot coverage when you get done with the parking lot, but building coverage, no,” Gilbert responded.

Board member Fred Bartizal said he likes the existing zoning the way it is. 

“Why change it?” Burns asked.

“Because the uses of the property are not residential,” Serna replied.

Serna said the Circle K property is zoned C-2 but the future land use designation is medium density residential.
“That’s where the inconsistency is,” he noted.  

Burns asked if a new Circle K building could be built on that property if a storm or some other disaster destroyed the existing structure.

In response, Gilbert said, “Not really, because C-2 zoning is not consistent with the medium density dwelling as established by the future land use map. The future land use map says zero to nine dwelling units per acre and no commercial development is to occur there. It’s a residential land use. Your commercial zoning is not consistent with your comprehensive plan and the existing uses there would become non-conforming uses. In order to make them conforming, you either change the future land use map or you change the zoning. To preserve the character of what’s up there now, the future land use map goes to ROR and the zoning goes to mixed-use, rather than commercial.”

Map revisions could impact Bradenton Beach property owners
P&Z board member John Burns does not support increasing density allowances to correct existing map inconsistencies. Photo: Joe Hendricks

“The comp plan is saying that should be residential and what’s on the ground isn’t residential. That’s all we’re trying to fix,” Serna said.

“You’re opening a can of worms to fix it,” Burns replied.

Serna said not allowing commercial structures in those areas could subject the city to legal challenges.

“They could sue the city and that’s the concern we’re trying to address. We don’t want to take away anyone’s rights through down-zoning,” Serna said.

Regarding properties made non-conforming with city code due to past or future commission actions, Serna said, “They can exist as long as they’re not destroyed, but the owners of those properties could rightly come and say we’ve had a development right under zoning and now it’s being taken away.”

Board member Fred Bartizal expressed concerns about making zoning revisions that could potentially allow for more intense development.

 “What worries me is there’s some pretty smart developers out there right now with some real smart lawyers. If we change any of them, will it make it easier for them?” he said.

Board chair Ken McDonough noted the current challenge for the city is what happens if a property owner wants to develop a property where there are existing inconsistences between the zoning and future land use maps.

“What do you do? Do you go by the zone map? Do you go by the future land use map?” he asked.

“That’s why we’re having this discussion,” Gilbert said. “There’s a vacant lot next to the Circle K. It’s zoned C-2. The land use is duplex and they want to put in shopping. If we follow the zoning it will become a duplex.”

The board unanimously supported Burns’ motion to recommend the city commission change the zoning map to match the current future land use map, which is medium density residential, R-2 – which allows single-family residences or multi-family duplexes and apartments. The board recommendation not what Gilbert and Serna recommend.

Gilbert noted that before any final map revision decisions are made by the city commission, all potentially impacted property owners will be notified and will have the opportunity to address the P&Z board and the city commission when future public hearings are held. 

New banners promote Bradenton Beach’s Old Town Tram

BRADENTON BEACH – Banners are now in place as part of the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency’s (CRA) ongoing efforts to make more people aware of the free Old Town Tram parking tram service.

The free park and ride shuttle service is provided within the CRA district boundaries that extend from the Cortez Bridge to Fifth Street South and include the Bridge Street business district.

One banner is placed at the entrance to the city at the west end of the Cortez Bridge.

Another banner is placed south of the Gulf Drive/Bridge Street roundabout, at the 4th Street South intersection that marks the north end of the Cortez Beach parking lot, where drivers are encouraged to park and catch a free tram to their desired destination.

New banners promote Bradenton Beach’s Old Town Tram
This Old Town Tram banner is located just north of the Cortez Beach parking lot, which is among the locations serviced by the free trams. Photo: Joe Hendricks

A third banner is located near the east end of the Cortez Bridge in hopes of catching the eyes of folks headed over the bridge and into Bradenton Beach.

The free electric trams also service the parking areas near the Bradenton Beach Police Station and the Bradenton Beach Marina, the city hall parking lot after normal business hours, along Bridge Street, near the Bridge Street Pier and elsewhere throughout the CRA district.

New banners promote Bradenton Beach’s Old Town Tram
The Old Town Trams make frequent passes by the Cortez Beach parking lot south of the Bridge Street/Gulf Drive intersection. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Traveling a designated route, a tram is expected to pass by any given point along the route every 10 minutes or so – and the ringing of a ship’s bell signals a tram’s approach.

Upon parking, pickup can also be arranged by calling 941-404-6240. More information, including a tram route map, is available online at

New banners promote Bradenton Beach’s Old Town Tram
This map illustrates the Old Town Tram route. Photo:

City seeks $31,645 from last Sunshine Law lawsuit defendant

BRADENTON BEACH – The city of Bradenton Beach seeks $31,645 in attorney fees, paralegal fees and legal costs from lawsuit defendant Reed Mapes.

Mapes is the only remaining defendant in the 2017 Sunshine Law-related civil lawsuit in which the city prevailed. In July 2019, Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas ruled Mapes and five additional former city advisory board members violated the Government in the Sunshine Law by discussing official city business at their non-city-affiliated Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach meetings in 2017.

The Sunshine Law requires members of the same elected or appointed governmental body to conduct their official business in properly noticed public meetings. It also prohibits members of the same elected or appointed body from communicating with each other privately about their official business. 

In October 2020, Nicholas ordered Mapes, Martin and Metz to collectively pay the city a total of $369,498 for the recovery of city’s attorney and paralegal fees. When issuing that ruling, Nicholas relieved co-defendants Patty Shay, Rose Vincent and Bill Vincent of those shared financial responsibilities. Nicholas did so after learning the three of them had each agreed, before the trial began, to settle with the city for $500 each and an acknowledgement that Sunshine Law compliance errors were made.

The city commission then rejected those 2019 settlement offers because Mapes, Martin and Metz had not agreed to similar settlements which would have brought the case to an end before it went to trial.

In November, Metz and Martin reached a settlement agreement with the city that resulted in the pair paying the city $350,000 and dropping their appeals of Nicholas’ 2019 ruling. In separate actions, Shay and the Vincents agreed to pay the city $500 each, with the Vincents also agreeing to drop their appeals. Shay did not appeal Nicholas’ 2019 ruling.

Final hearing

On Monday, March 29, Nicholas presided over a fees and costs hearing held virtually via Zoom. Assisted by paralegal Michael Barfield, Robert Watrous again represented the city. Mapes represented himself at the hearing that lasted slightly more than 30 minutes.

Watrous noted the actions sought were in accordance with statewide uniform guidelines for the taxation of costs and civil actions. Watrous said he would provide the court and Mapes with a cost summary and detailed supporting documents that verify all legal fees and costs billed to the city of Bradenton Beach through the conclusion of the 2019 civil lawsuit trial.

“Mr. Mapes is the only remaining defendant. We have settled with Mr. Metz. We have settled with Ms. Martin. The other defendants we have settled with also,” Watrous told the judge.  

Watrous said the $350,000 payment made by Metz and Martin, and the $1,500 received from Shay and the Vincents, totaled $351,500, leaving a remaining deficiency of $17,998 in unrecovered attorney and paralegal fees. 

“It’s our position that those would be the responsibility of Mr. Mapes because he is the only remaining defendant,” Watrous said.

Watrous and the city seek an additional $13,647 in legal costs that include court reporter fees, court reporter transcription fees, photocopying and other non-attorney, non-paralegal costs.

“It’s our position that Mr. Mapes be responsible for the costs,” Watrous said.

City seeks $31,645 from last Sunshine Law lawsuit defendant
Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas intends to issue his next ruling without conducting another hearing. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Nicholas then provided Mapes a chance to respond.

“I find it interesting that Mr. Metz and Tjet Martin paid $350,000 to end their issues. Then, after all of this time, Patty Shay and the Vincents settled for $500. I can’t quite figure out what I wasn’t offered the same. It seems somewhat odd to me that they settle with these three people that we know have very little funds. I have no funds. I’m a little bit befuddled about that and can’t quite figure out how they got such a good deal at the last minute,” said Mapes, who was dealing with some health issues before and during the 2019 trial.

Mapes owns a home in Parrish which according to the Manatee County Proper Appraiser’s Office currently has an appraised value of $501,732. In 2018, Mapes and his wife sold their Bradenton Beach condominium for slightly more than $1 million.

Regarding the rejected settlement offers Shay and the Vincents signed before the trial began, Mapes said, “I didn’t sign the document that came out in 2019 because I knew good and well John Metz was not going to agree to it. I saw no reason to sign something I knew was not going to go anywhere, but all the sudden it went some place at the very end with Patricia Shay and the Vincents.”

Nicholas did not ask Watrous to do a line-by-line review of the costs and fees sought, but he did ask Watrous to swear that the information contained in the summary of costs was true.

Nicholas directed Watrous to provide Mapes with copies of the cost summary and the  supporting documents. He also ordered Watrous to file a sworn affidavit regarding the remaining $17,998 in attorney and paralegal fees sought.

“I’m not going to rule today with regard to this issue. I have to review the summary of costs in more detail now that it’s sworn to,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas gave Mapes until Friday, April 16, to file any objections he has regarding the fees and costs sought.

In closing, Nicholas said, “This case is almost at the finish line and I’m not inclined to have any more hearings. I don’t think that it’s necessary. I’m not likely to make any decisions prior to April 16.”

As of Wednesday morning, April 7, Mapes had not yet filed any objections.

County says Piney Point crisis is “under control”

PALMETTO – County and state officials believe they now have the Piney Point crisis under control.

During today’s 4 p.m. press conference, acting County Administrator Scott Hopes said, “This has been short-lived. We have dramatically reduced the risk in a very controlled way, so that, hopefully, all of us have time to recover both physically and emotionally. I think everybody should rest assured that this is very much under control now. The risk has been lessened to the point that people will be able to return to their homes. Well water (and) drinking water is safe. The environment is being protected as much as possible.”

Public Safety Director Jake Saur said the mandatory evacuation order for the Piney Point area has been lifted and residents and business owners and operators are now allowed to return to their homes and businesses. US 41 is open but a stretch of Buckeye Road remains closed.

According to Saur, the breached containment pond currently contains approximately 59 feet of water.

More than 20 pumps are being used to continue siphoning approximately 33-34 million gallons a day of water from the breached containment pond and into the deep water shipping channel at Port Manatee.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is taking frequent water quality samples at the Piney Point site, at Port Manatee and in the waters beyond the port. Water quality sample results can be found at

Kevin Guthrie, deputy director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), said a submersible will be brought in Wednesday to survey and hopefully repair the tear or tears in the liner of the breached retention pond.

Earlier today, during the Manatee County Commission meeting, Acting County Administrator Scott Hopes said there has been no second breach of the containment pond. He said the thermal imaging previously detected by aerial drones, and thought to be another potential breach in the containment wall, proved to be plant material rather than water seeping through a tear and into the surrounding containment wall.

Hopes said approximately 300 million gallons of water remained in the breached containment pond as of this morning.

During today’s meeting, county commissioners unanimously approved using the deep well injection method to remove any remaining water from the breached pond, and also from the more polluted water contained in two additional Piney Point containment ponds that have not been breached.

According to County Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh, the water will be treated to the county’s standards before it is injected deep into the ground using a deep injection well to be located on a nearby county-owned property.

FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said the permitting, engineering and design work for a deep injection well typically takes two to three years before the actual injection process begins. State and possibly federal funds are expected to be provided to cover or help cover the significant cost of the deep well injection process.

In closing Hopes said he did not anticipate the county holding any additional press conferences on the Piney Point situation.

FDEP and FDEM officials and staff area expected to remain at the Piney Point property for the foreseeable future.

Buchanan tours Piney Point

PALMETTO – On Monday, Congressman Vern Buchanan toured the Piney Point reservoir area by helicopter before participating in an early afternoon press conference.

At Buchanan’s request, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers are now involved in the Piney Point response and containment efforts.

Buchanan said the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) are now jointly in command of the situation. The Florida Department of Emergency Management and Manatee County also remain involved in the response efforts.

Before Buchanan spoke, Public Safety Director Jake Saur said state and county drone teams are flying over the site every hour on the hour and providing decision-makers with real time aerial views of the site. Saur said the drones can detect temperature changes within the berms, which indicates penetration by the contained water.

Saur also 100,000 bottles of drinking water are now available at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto for those who need it.

According to Saur, 305 households remained under an evacuation order and the Red Cross and the county are assisting displaced residents. Saur said approximately 30 people, and their pets, had taken shelter at local hotels.

On Monday, it was announced that 345 inmates at the Manatee County jail were being relocated to an undisclosed location, with approximately 720 inmates to remain at the jail after being relocated to an upper level of the facility. 

Buchanan shared his concerns about the water being discharged into Tampa Bay.

“It’s very concerning to me. I know they’re making some progress, but to see the water spewing out, it looked pretty contaminated to me,” he said, noting the Piney Point crisis impacts the entire Tampa Bay region. 

“I am concerned about the threats to public safety, homes as well as businesses, and of course marine life. I’m very concerned about the impact on that. We know what that does to our communities. I really hate to see what’s happened in terms of the algae bloom and red tide, not just here, but across the state. When I see water flowing into Tampa Bay, frankly, it makes me sick,” Buchanan said.

“I want to be hopeful and optimistic, but just the fact that we’re running water into Tampa Bay is not a great thing, but the reality of is it seems like the right thing to do right now,” he added.

“I’m not an expert, but you can see in and around where the water’s spewing in there. Around the port – I hate to say it – if you go a couple miles in each direction to me it looks like algae bloom or something, but that’s something for the scientists to determine,” Buchanan said. “I’ve been following red tide for 20 years and that could have a big impact on all of Florida.”

Regarding the unaddressed Piney Point environmental concerns that lingered for the past 20 years or so, Buchanan said, “This is something that’s being going on for too long and we’re going to come together collectively between the county, the state and the federal government to make sure we get this resolved quickly. We’re going to make sure we’ve got the resources to fix this permanently – not a patch. The company, HRK, needs to be held completely responsible.”

County Commissioner Reggie Bellamy also chairs the Port Authority. He said the Port remains fully operational and anyone conducting port business still has access.

After thanking Buchanan for bringing the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers in to assist, acting County Administrator Scott Hopes addressed the retention area and the breaches in its outer berms.

Hopes estimated there were just shy of the 300 million gallons in the breached reservoir at that time. He said public officials will have a much clearer idea of that status of the breached reservoir now that the Army Corps of Engineers are on the scene.

“Up to this point, we have been relying, and DEP has been relying, on HRK’s third party engineering team. Now we have the Army Corps of Engineers in here with their engineers and we will have an additional independent evaluation,” he said.

“If we go from (pumping out) 35 million gallons a day to 100 million gallons per day, within 48 hours we will be at a situation where we will no longer have that risk of that full breach, which would send that 20-foot wall of water across,” Hopes said.

“The only pool that’s at risk is that southernmost pool where we have identified breaches where we do have some uncontrolled release of water. Regarding the breaches on the eastern wall, the most visible is at the southeast corner where you see the water coming out of the side and then flowing to the north,” he explained.

“There is an area at the top of the berm, around the middle of the eastern wall, that they recognized an extrusion of that wall pushing out about 10 feet. Thermal imaging last night from the DEP drones identified a number of sites with one concentrated site in the norther portion of eastern wall where the temperatures indicate there is water intrusion into the wall at that point,” Hopes said.

FDLE releases investigative report regarding Manatee County commissioners

MANATEE COUNTY – On Thursday, April 1, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) provided a copy of the 25-page investigative report that details the recent investigation that found no evidence of criminal conduct regarding four Manatee County Commissioners.

You can read the entire FDLE report here.

On March 19, FDLE spokesperson Jeremy Burns provided a case summary regarding the investigation initiated in response to a criminal complaint filed by paralegal Michael Barfield. You can read Barfield’s complaint here:

“In December, the state attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit requested FDLE’s assistance with reviewing a citizen complaint concerning allegations of Sunshine Law violations and possibly other law violations by several Manatee County commissioners. FDLE Agents met with the complainant who alleged that Manatee County Commissioners James Satcher, George Kruse, Vanessa Baugh and Kevin Van Ostenbridge conspired to reverse a controversial land purchase and to fire the Manatee County administrator,” the case summary stated.

“FDLE initiated a preliminary inquiry to determine if any criminal violations occurred. After the review of records provided by the complainant and conducting several interviews, there was no information obtained to substantiate that a criminal violation occurred,” the FDLE case summary stated in conclusion.

When contacted regarding the previously issued case summary, Burns said FDLE considered the investigation concluded and closed.

Baugh-Jensen vaccine texts suggest political motivations?

The text messages exchanged between Manatee County Commission Chair Vanessa Baugh and ‎Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc. President and CEO Rex Jensen regarding the pop-up vaccine distribution site they helped Gov. Ron DeSantis establish at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch in mid-February suggest there may have been political motivations involved in those efforts.

One text exchange between Baugh and Jensen alludes to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ possible 2022 reelection bid and how the Lakewood Ranch vaccine clinic might benefit the governor politically. That specific exchange can be found on page 26 of the PDF document below that contains 35 pages of Baugh’s text message records, which also include exchanges with Commissioner Carol Whitmore, Public Safety Director Jake Saur, Information Outreach Manager Nick Azzara and others.