TREASURE ISLAND – A proposed ordinance requiring residential permit parking only on Sunset Beach has washed away like some of the sands on the neighborhood’s popular beach.
Citizens of Sunset Beach have lobbied for months for permit only parking on Sunset Beach due to a significant rise in traffic in the neighborhood that left streets congested, trapped some residents in their homes, cluttered yards with trash from visitors and generally created a safety issue.
The city was on the verge of passing the ordinance when Treasure Island officials learned such an ordinance was in violation of a stipulation where Sunset Beach received county funds for beach renourishment.
By enacting the ordinance, the city could lose upwards of over $1 million in beach renourishment funds, city officials announced at the Treasure Island City Commission meeting Oct. 21.
As Commissioner Alan Bildz said, “This ordinance is dead.”
In short, provisions of qualifying for the beach renourishment funds require the Sunset Beach neighborhood to have public parking available for 47 cars within a quarter-mile of the Gulf, noted Treasure Island Police Chief Tim Casey. Specifically, every 52.8 feet of beach property that receives funds for beach renourishment must have one public parking spot.
A solution the city is looking into would be to find enough parking spots to meet the standard, set aside those spots as public parking thereby Sunset Beach would still have permit parking in the rest of the neighborhood.
Casey noted from his study of the issue, there are two options.
The first would be to “leave as is. But there are too many problems to walk away from.”
The second alternative Casey said would be to have permit parking on one side of the street, but the sides of the street that would be permit parking only would alternate on various days.
Residents have been vehemently opposed to permanent permit parking on one side of the street for a variety of reasons including the expectation that it would create animosity among neighbors.
Casey also said an option of allowing private property owners to allow parking would not be viable as the city would not “have control.”
Casey admitted alternating permit parking on one side of the street would not be popular but by changing the sides of the street for permit parking would “take some of the bite out of it.”
Commissioner Phil Collins thought alternating permit parking could pose problems for residents.
Robbie Wellborn and Kathy Mattice, two Sunset Beach residents who have led the fight for permit parking, both spoke to the commission about possible alternatives.
Wellborn explained there are currently “31 to 36” parking spots available for the city to set aside.
She suggested the remaining parking spots should be donated by Tony Amico, owner of Caddy’s on the Beach.
His establishment has been a target by many Sunset Beach residents as the culprit for the congested parking.
“If Mr. Amico wanted to be a good neighbor he could start his own shuttle service,” Wellborn said.
Mattice even suggested that the city go forward with the permit-only ordinance as the city would only lose a partial amount of the seven-figure funding and that the entire beach does not need to be renourished.
Commissioner Bob Minning scoffed at the suggestion declaring it “impractical.”
“How are you going to tell residents (with waterfront homes), ‘because you don’t have parking in front of your residence you don’t get your beach renourished?’” Minning rhetorically asked.
“We can’t say we only need half of Sunset Beach renourished,” Commissioner Ed Gayton added.
Per the commission’s recommendation, Sunset Beach neighborhood associations are to study possible alternatives and discussion on the issue will take place at a future workshop.
Generally, the funds for beach renourishment are made up of 60 percent federal funds from the Army Corps of Engineers, 20 percent from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and 20 percent from Pinellas County.
The lack of a Treasure Island funded library access for residents continues to be a hot-button issue.
Collins suggested at the workshop that the city reimburse half of the costs of obtaining a $100 library card for the first 3,200 residents who prove residency and provide a receipt.
The only catch is with Collins’ proposal is that the card must be purchased at the Gulf Beaches Library where the city was a partner until approving its most recent budget.
Minning wasn’t opposed to the proposal so long as it allowed citizens to choose which library to use.
Bildz was opposed to the funding proposal and even more against limiting residents to the library. Gayton was in favor of Collins’ suggestion.