Beachfront homeowners launch Preserve AMI campaign

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The version of this story recently published by another publication omitted the section at the end about the Preserve AMI campaign. That information is contained toward the end of this version of the story, as originally submitted for publication.   

UPDATE: Saturday, July 24:
On Tuesday, July 20 FDEP issued a final order in favor of Fedora Campbell’s ability to develop her vacant beachfront lot at 105 Elm Avenue in Anna Maria. Campbell’s property is located seaward of and in front of the Jordans’ beachfront home at 107 Elm Avenue. FDEP’s final order was issued after this story was written and originally published. A follow-up story about the FDEP final order is being written.

ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria homeowners Wendy and Robert Jordan recently launched the Preserve AMI campaign, in part to protect their mostly unobstructed view of the beach and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Preserve AMI campaign also addresses wider reaching concerns about the potential impacts of a pending Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) permitting ruling. The Jordans and some of their supporters fear the anticipated ruling could establish a precedent regarding construction seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL), which in turn could impact beach dune systems, sea turtles and other wildlife.

The Jordans own and operate the North Carolina-based Jordan Lumber & Supply company and several other timber-related businesses. In April, they purchased the beachfront home at 107 Elm Avenue for $4 million through their North Carolina-registered WAJ Rustic Vacations LLC.

According to the city of Anna Maria clerk’s office, the home was previously registered as a vacation rental, but that’s no longer the case since the change in ownership.

Prior to the Jordans’ purchase, some neighboring property owners had already filed a petition for a formal administrative hearing in opposition to a 2020 FDEP permitting decision regarding the vacant lot at 105 Elm Avenue. Owned by Fedora Campbell, that property is one of two undeveloped lots located between the Jordans’ home and the Gulf.

The Jordans also recently purchased from Steven Decker the vacant lot at 103 Elm Avenue which is seaward of both the 105 and 107 Elm Avenue properties. The purchase of the 103 Elm Avenue property resulted in Campbell’s property now being located in between two properties owned by the Jordans.  

On Feb. 13, 2020, an application was submitted to FDEP on Campbell’s behalf seeking to construct a single-family residence on her property. On June 25, 2020, FDEP provided Campbell and her associates with a notice to proceed and a permit for construction or other activities. The FDEP notice stated those whose substantial interests may be affected by the department’s action could petition for a formal administrative hearing.

On Aug. 3, 2020, attorney David Levin filed a petition for formal administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). Levin filed that document on behalf of petitioners David Morris and Ling Liu (owners of 108 Elm Ave), DAR Real Estate Enterprises LLC (owners of 109 Sycamore Ave) and Richard Theidel (owner of 100 Sycamore Avenue).

“On or about June 25, 2020, petitioners became aware that permit number ME-1341 had been issued to a neighbor authorizing the construction of a new single-family residence at 105 Elm Avenue,” according to the petition for hearing document that named Campbell and FDEP as respondents.

“The structure authorized by FDEP’s CCCL (Coastal Construction Control Line) permit will substantially advance seaward the established line of existing construction. By way of example, immediately adjacent and to the east of Campbell’s proposed residential structure is a single-family residential structure at 107 Elm Avenue. Said residence was authorized by FDEP permit number ME-919 to be constructed to the existing line of construction. According to the CCCL plan submitted with Campbell’s application, the residence at 107 Elm Avenue, and hence the established line of existing construction, is 270 feet and 249 feet seaward of the CCCL, north and south respectively. Petitioners specifically allege that as presently designed and authorized by Permit No. ME-1341, Campbell’s proposed structures do not comply with the applicable requirements and are not eligible for a CCCL permit. Petitioners seek a final order revoking Permit No. ME-1341,” according to the petition for hearing.  

Recommended order

In response to the petitioners’ request, administrative law judge Francine Ffolkes presided over a  DOAH hearing that occurred during a six-day period this past February.

According to the DOAH website, Ffolkes was assigned to DOAH’s environmental and specialization districts in 2017. Before that, she served as deputy general counsel in charge of FDEP’s litigation section. 

On June 7, Ffolkes issued her recommended order regarding the FDEP permit issued for 105 Elm Avenue.

“Based on the foregoing findings of fact and conclusions of law, it is hereby recommended that DEP enter a final order granting respondent Campbell’s application for a CCCL permit to construct a single-family residence and associated structures seaward of the CCCL,” Ffolkes stated her written recommended order.

On June 29, Wendy Jordan sent a lengthy email to Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and all five city commissioners in which she stated, “We learned before closing that our property was

involved in litigation between several contiguous waterfront neighbors. We gladly joined the fight. We first offered the lot owner $2 million for her lot. She asked for $2 million and we met to set the closing and then she turned it down.” 

Regarding Ffolkes’ recommended order, Jordan’s email noted petitioners had 15 days to respond to what she referred to as “the unbelievable ruling.”

Jordan’s email also said, “For those who immediately say, ‘You are only worried about your view,’ of course I am worried about my view. We paid for a view and it is in jeopardy of change that will ruin the wildlife.”

When contacted on Thursday, July 15, an assistant in Ffolkes’ office who wished to remain anonymous said FDEP can follow, modify or discard the judge’s recommended order, and she wasn’t aware of a final order being issued.

On Friday, July 16, The Sun received an email response from FDEP Press Secretary Alexandra Kuchta that said, “The department will issue a final order in this case on or before July 22.”    

City permits also needed

If permitted by FDEP, the development of 105 Elm would also require building permits issued by the city of Anna Maria.

On July 6, Anna Maria Building Official Luke Curtis sent an email to Murphy regarding that property.

Curtis’ email referenced a determination of buildable area report for 105 Elm the Environmental, Consulting & Technology (ECT) firm provided the city in February 2018, before the current dispute ensued.

His email noted the ECT report said, “This buildable area determination should only be considered a preliminary determination to ensure consistency with the city’s zoning regulations, but the extent of development on this lot will ultimately be decided by FDEP.”

Curtis’ email noted the ECT report said, “The parcel was previously situated much closer to the Gulf of Mexico relative to its current position. The significant transition in the beach profile is due to beach renourishment projects that were initiated in 2002 in an effort to remediate major erosion along the shoreline. FDEP will need to evaluate whether the lot would be considered primary dunes which are subject to more restrictions.”

Curtis’ email states the buildable area determinations provided by ECT – and a separate report provided by the ECO consulting group in 2017 – both confirm 105 Elm is a buildable lot per city code.

Elm Avenue currently ends near the Jordans’ driveway and does not provide direct access to 105 Elm Ave.

Elm Avenue ends near the Jordans’ driveway and does not currently provide direct access to 105 Elm. Photo: Joe Hendricks

“Prior to any building permit being accepted by the building department, a development permit, along with a site plan – including but not limited to access to the property, sewer, water and electric utilities – will need to be considered and approved by city commission,” Curtis noted in his email.

Preserve AMI campaign

The Preserve AMI campaign is being carried out by Patrick Coyne, a longtime friend of the Jordans. Coyne lives in North Carolina, where he owns and operates Coyne & Co., a firm that offers “innovative brand building” across multiple media platforms. Coyne also serves as the Preserve AMI spokesperson.

To date, the campaign has included the website, full page newspaper ads and an online petition that as of Sunday had been signed by more than 840 people.

The Preserve AMI website contains a video in which land surveyor Jeff Hostetler explains the dispute as it pertains to the coastal construction control line and how the Jordan’s home that was built according to the CCCL line as it existed in 2012.  

One full-page newspaper ad included a headline that referenced Murphy and said, “Tell Mayor Dan to do the right thing.” Another full-page ad included a different headline that said, “Tell our local officials to do the right thing.”

On Wednesday, July 14, The Sun conducted an hour-long phone interview with Coyne, who at the time was on or near Anna Maria Island. Coyne acknowledged that doesn’t live on Anna Maria Island, is not real familiar with the Island and has never met Murphy or attended an Anna Maria City Commission meeting.

When interviewed, Coyne did not yet have a clear understanding as to the distinction between the city of Anna Maria and Anna Maria Island as a whole. Coyne could not clearly articulate whether the print ads that referenced “local officials” pertained to local officials in Anna Maria only, or to local officials in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach as well. Nor was Coyne able to clearly articulate any specific actions the Preserve AMI campaign seeks from Murphy and other local officials regarding the FDEP permitting dispute.

When asked why one full-page newspaper ad addressed “local officials” and the other addressed “Mayor Dan,” Coyne said the differing headlines were part of his campaign strategy.

In reference to interim FDEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton, additional Preserve AMI signs and website materials say, “Tell Florida’s DEP Secretary to do the right thing.” 

The Preserve AMI campaign has included signs placed at and near the Jordans’ beachfront home. A visit to that area on the morning of Thursday, July 15, revealed a Preserve AMI sign placed in the dune on the 103 Elm Avenue property, a similar sign attached to the Jordans’ balcony and another free-standing sign placed on private property at 104 Elm Ave, alongside the beach access path. All three signs carried the “Tell Mayor Dan to do the right thing” message.  

On the morning of Thursday, July 15, this sign was standing in the beach dune area seaward of the Jordans’ home. Photo: Joe Hendricks

When contacted that day, Code Enforcement Manager Debbie Haynes said the signs were legally placed on private property. Haynes noted the Jordans were previously cited and fined $250 for a campaign related sign on their property that exceeded the size allowed by the city’s sign ordinance.

On Friday, July 16, Coyne shared an email that stated Preserve AMI was putting a pause on its print advertising campaign until a private meeting between Murphy and the Jordans could be scheduled. As of Friday, July 23, that in-person meeting had not yet been scheduled because the Jordans were unavailable to meet in person and Murphy declined conducting that meeting remotely via Zoom teleconferencing software.   

When contacted, Murphy has declined commenting publicly about these matters.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – An early Wednesday morning tour of Anna Maria Island revealed Hurricane Elsa’s impact was minimal in the three Island cities.

The storm that passed through Anna Maria Island Tuesday afternoon and evening and into Wednesday morning produced localized flooding but no reports of significant property damage, one reported fallen tree and no reported downed power lines or power outages on the Island.

According to – an affiliate of The Weather Channel – the highest wind gust recorded at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport weather station during Elsa was 54 mph at 10:53 p.m. Tuesday evening.

Wednesday morning, Anna Maria resident Doug Copeland said he and his wife’s rain gauge indicated 2.8 inches of rain fell during Elsa at their home near the Rod & Reel Pier.

Bradenton Beach

According to Bradenton Beach Public Works Director Tom Woodard and Lt. John Cosby from the Bradenton Beach Police Department, at approximately 11 a.m. Tuesday morning an unoccupied sailboat on the Cortez side of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) broke free of its mooring and began drifting toward the Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
Officer Eric Hill and members of the Bradenton Beach Public Works Department secured this sailboat that broke loose on the Cortez side of the ICW. Photo: Bradenton Beach Police Department | Submitted

“We were able to go out and get it and get it tied up and secured. They got it under control and out of the way before it caused any problems,” Cosby said, noting that Officer Eric Hill piloted the police boat stationed on the police boat lift adjacent to the pier.

Cosby and Woodard said the pier and the floating dock sustained no damage during the storm. Cosby said it may take a few days to have the sailboat removed.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The sailboat that broke loose Tuesday morning remained tied to the Bridge Street Pier Wednesday morning. Photo: Joe Hendricks

A 7 a.m. visit to the pier Wednesday morning revealed the sailboat was still secured to the dolphin pilings at east end of the floating day dock and none of the 15 or so liveaboard vessels anchored south of the pier had broken free or sunk during the storm. The one sunken vessel currently in the area sank long before Tuesday’s storm.

“Everybody did what they needed to do,” Cosby said of those liveaboard boaters.

According to Cosby, Officer Hill contacted many of them via cell phone on Monday and reminded them to secure their vessels with double anchors before the storm arrived.

“It appears everybody did it, because I don’t see any issues,” Cosby said.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The liveaboard boaters south of the Bridge Street Pier weathered Elsa’s waves and winds. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Cosby and Woodard said they weren’t aware of any property damage or serious flooding issues elsewhere in the city. A tour of the city indicated some localized street and yard flooding, but less than can often be seen during other heavy rain events.

“I don’t believe we had any calls for service or any type of distress calls,” Cosby said.

Cosby said some of the Gulf-side beach areas “took a pretty good hit” in terms of beach erosion.

“That was expected. No big surprise there,” Cosby said of the erosion.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The sailboat that broke loose Tuesday morning remained tied to the Bridge Street Pier Wednesday morning. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Holmes Beach

A pass through Holmes Beach at 7:30 Wednesday morning revealed standing water covering the edge of Marina Drive, near city hall and the Island Branch Library, but the travel lanes were not completely submerged. Standing water was also covering portions of some of the adjacent side streets.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The flooding along Marina Drive in Holmes Beach was limited to the edge of the road by the time the sun came up. Photo: Joe Hendricks

When contacted later in the day, Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said that city fared well during the storm.

“I was out all day and night until 5:30 this morning. We had some flooding by city hall around 3 to 4 a.m. After the rain stopped, the water subsided pretty quickly. We had minor overnight flooding and one tree down in the parking lot of Martinique North. We dodged the bullet,” Tokajer said.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
Standing water covered this portion of 63rd Street in Holmes Beach Wednesday morning. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Anna Maria

At approximately 8 a.m., Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and Public Works Manager Dean Jones were touring the city and accessing the storm damage.

“So far, we’re looking pretty good. We’ve got some local street flooding in the areas that would normally flood – and it’s not saltwater flooding, it’s rainwater flooding. There’s no trees down. All of our major roads are clear, but there’s some outlying areas and backstreets where we’ve got some issues with flooding. Some of that we’ll be able to pump out and some we won’t,” Murphy said.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
This Anna Maria homeowner’s yard experienced Elsa-related flooding. Photo: Joe Hendricks

A tour around Anna Maria indicated North Bay Boulevard, near the Bean Point beach access, was among the most flooded areas.

The visit to the beach in front of the Sandbar restaurant revealed significant beach erosion may have occurred.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The beach in front of the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria appeared to have suffered beach erosion during the storm. Photo: Joe Hendricks

The new Anna Maria City Pier came through the storm unscathed and residents and visitors were going about their business as usual as the sun appeared and the new day got underway, with some intermittent sun showers throughout the day.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The new Anna Maria City Pier sustained no storm damage. Photo: Joe Hendricks

The city’s “Reimagining Pine Avenue” public information meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon was cancelled and rescheduled at 2 p.m. on Monday, July 12.

Cortez Beach

A mid-morning trip to Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach revealed several people walking along the beach and few surfers in the water. Red flags were flying on the lifeguard tower and a member of the Manatee County Beach Patrol called a group of young men back to shore who had walked out to the end of one of the groins being battered by the high surf.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
Due to high surf, these young men were asked to vacate a beach groin at Cortez Beach. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Anna Maria declares local state of emergency for Hurricane Elsa

ANNA MARIA – Due to the approach of Hurricane Elsa, the Anna Maria City Commission declared a preemptive local state of emergency Friday afternoon.

As of 5 a.m. Saturday, the National Hurricane Center predicted hurricane force winds could arrive in the Tampa Bay area as early as Monday.

The local declaration of emergency was enacted via emergency resolution R 21-771, a resolution that provides Mayor Dan Murphy with additional storm-related powers for the next seven days.

In effect now, the resolution allows the mayor to enact curfews, suspend alcohol sales, close roads, close certain areas of the city and spend up to $10,000 without additional city commission authorization while responding to the storm and any storm-related public safety and/or cleanup efforts.

During Friday afternoon’s emergency commission meeting, Murphy told the attending commission members that he would first consult with each commissioner by phone before making any final decisions regarding the city’s storm preparations and response efforts.

During the meeting, Murphy noted the city experienced power outages and downed power lines during Hurricane Irma in 2017, which resulted in the entrance to the city being temporarily manned and controlled by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

Murphy said those efforts were complicated when the cities of Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach allowed residents and visitors back on the Island before the city of Anna Maria was prepared to do so.

Murphy said he will be meeting with the Public Works and Code Enforcement departments on Sunday to further evaluate the approaching storm.

Murphy and Public Works Manager Dean Jones said Public Works personnel will be on duty Monday despite Monday being a federal holiday and a day off for city employees. Jones said the city is aptly prepared for a storm of this scale and has the chain saws, tools, fuel and other equipment needed to clear the roads of fallen trees and storm debris if need be.

Sgt. Brett Getman said the Anna Maria Unit of the Sheriff’s Office will also be monitoring the approaching storm. “We’ll be prepared,” Getman said.

Murphy said the city already has a debris removal company, Jet Hauling, under contract and ready to roll if needed. The city has a new generator on order for city hall but it has not yet arrived.

Murphy said any evacuation orders would be issued by the county. Murphy said he’s in contact with county officials but the city is leading its own storm preparation and response efforts.

“This is our city. We need to make it safe. We need to make decisions for our city. That is the purpose of this resolution,” Murphy said.

Free sandbags are available at the northwest end of Bayfront Park, near the North Bay Boulevard/North Shore Drive intersection. Those seeking sandbags need to bring their own shovels and it’s a good idea to bring another person to hold the sandbags while they are being filled.

Free sandbags are available at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Murphy said Friday’s emergency declaration has no impact on the AMI Privateer’s parade taking place Saturday morning. The parade will begin in Bradenton Beach, pass through Holmes Beach and end at City Pier Park in Anna Maria.

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