TREASURE ISLAND – The Treasure Island city commission learned more of a proposed ordinance to allow permit parking only on city streets at Sunset Beach during it’s June 3 workshop.
A few months ago, the city was handed a petition from Sunset Beach residents requesting the city develop an ordinance similar to St. Pete Beach where only permit parking is allowed on the streets of Sunset Beach.
Over the years, parking in the popular Treasure Island neighborhood has grown considerably congested due to visitors coming to the area to use the neighborhood beach and the local establishments.
But the increased parking has become such a nuisance local residents consider the parking to be a safety hazard. On a given weekend, driving through the streets is virtually impossible except for small cars or trucks.
Residents frequently complain they have become trapped in their own homes because parking on both sides of the street leave too narrow of a path for through traffic. Sometimes driveways are blocked by the parking.
Residents have also begun to experience visitors leaving trash in their yards and some have reported visitors urinating in their yards. Some residents have noted other lewd behavior and foul language.
It’s not uncommon to see makeshift “No Parking” signs erected in front of residences. Nor is it uncommon to see a resident lounging in front of their residence on the street to make sure no one parks there.
The safety issue, the residents say, is that emergency vehicles would not be able to meander the streets on a weekend afternoon if the streets are congested with parking.
“The problems are not new,” Treasure Island police Chief Tim Casey said. “They go back to 1996. There is minimal residential parking.”
While Casey admitted there is a parking problem, he cautioned about a proposed ordinance.
“The parking ordinance (the proposal is patterned after) in St. Pete Beach works well,” Casey said. “But there’s no ideal method to fix this. It’s not an islandwide problem but (the ordinance) has the potential of just moving around the problem. This is not a perfect plan. We realize there will be an impact. I’m sure there will be an impact on businesses but not catastrophic. I don’t see another solution.”
Casey noted that if not for the valet parking that was created by Caddy’s on the Beach, the parking issue “would be much more chaotic.”
Only residents of Sunset Beach would have access to the permits, which seemed to concern Commissioners Phil Collins and Bob Minning.
“So other residents of Treasure Island would be treated like nonresidents?” Minning asked.
Collins was “100 percent” for the ordinance, but like Minning he had reservations about only allowing parking for residents of a segment of Treasure Island. He voiced similar reservations in previous discussions about the ordinance.
“Sunset Beach is a part of Treasure Island, not apart from Treasure Island,” Collins said. “Sunset Beach is not a separate entity. Therefore, all of Treasure Island should be allowed to park.”
This didn’t go over well with some of the residents of Sunset Beach.
Commissioner Alan Bildz, whose district includes Sunset Beach, countered, “The permits will not be paid for by all of Treasure Island but Sunset Beach residents.”
While many residents, both at last week’s meeting and in previous meetings have spoken overwhelmingly for the ordinance, there were some dissenting opinions voiced, including Sunset Beach resident Gwenda Barnitz.
Barnitz listed a variety of reasons why permit parking on Sunset Beach would be bad, including: “It’s like Big Brother; it would make visitors feel unwelcome; it would hurt businesses which in turn would hurt the city. Businesses on Sunset Beach should be allowed to buy a significant amount of permits to give to their regular patrons,” which the current proposed ordinance does not allow.
“I don’t want to see the businesses sell to another condo developer,” Barnitz said.
Jeff Stern of Ka’Tiki of Sunset Beach noted the city should be doing more to provide visitor parking.
“Treasure Island needs tourism; Treasure Island needs visitors; Treasure Island needs trade,” Stern said. “The city needs to develop parking. You could have bought land for parking. Businesses are closing and moving to John’s Pass. Why do you think that is? I ask you to think (the proposed parking ordinance) through carefully.”
City Manager Reid Silverboard did not dispute the need for additional parking. But with the city’s budget ever so tight, it’s not feasible he said. Silverboard noted that to build a parking garage would cost $20,000 per parking spot. A ground parking facility would cost roughly $6,000 he estimated.
Rice to provide July 4 fireworks
Earlier this year the commission did not act upon renewing the contract for the city’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display.
The main reason was the commission is trying to keep a balanced budget despite revenue streams shrinking greatly.
But the Rice family of Treasure Island has come to the rescue. Syd Rice and his family, owners of Gators on the Pass, has asked for a permit to have a fireworks display at Gators on July 4.
The Rice family will pay for all costs including security and police.
With other beach communities also dropping a fireworks display, Rice is expecting an even larger crowd than what normally showed up at the community beach each summer.