CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel told fellow commissioners Oct. 2 that she had attended a meeting at Belleair Beach the night before to discuss nourishment and parking.
“It was not a fruitful meeting,” she said.
She said “there was quite a bit of discussion,” including that Commissioner Chair John Morroni intended to ask the Tourist Development Council to provide $250,000 – the amount the county believes it will be fined by the state because Belleair Beach does not have the required number of parking spaces to receive full reimbursement of costs for the latest beach nourishment project.
She said Belleair Beach continues to point to a letter written by a former county employee in 2009 that said the city had adequate parking. She said the Belleair Beach Council voted 5-2 Monday night to request that the county ask the state for a variance.
“I told them no one in the state has ever received a variance, and I didn’t think it would be successful,” she said.
Seel said the City Council did discuss the possibility of purchasing three vacant lots on Gulf Boulevard to be used to provide the additional 29 spaces to comply with state requirements.
She said the alternative was to continue with parking on Gulf Boulevard “using our legal rights.”
County Administrator Bob LaSala asked if the lots were in the city limits. Seel said they were. He then asked if the city would be willing to zone them for parking.
Seel said they seemed willing to discuss it; however, it was unknown if the lots were in the area where parking was lacking.
Commission Vice-Chair Ken Welch said he thought the commission had decided to go with parking on Gulf Boulevard. LaSala said the plan was to put parking on the west side north of the beach access.
Welch asked if Belleair Beach had considered the county’s proposal to pay for Gulf Boulevard parking at its Monday night meeting.
“Nope,” Seel replied.
“So where are we going,” Welch asked.
Seel said she would like to see if the vacant lots would be sufficient and find out the cost; however, she said if the lots would not work, there were only two choices remaining – no nourishment for Belleair Beach in the future or the county putting in parking on Gulf Boulevard.
Welch said he would support putting in the parking.
County Attorney Jim Bennett said he would look into the legalities to “make sure we’re on firm footing.”
Seel said another point brought up at Belleair Beach’s meeting was that some of the parking spaces now being used to satisfy the state’s requirements were not deeded, so they could be revoked.
“We want to be careful that we have legal access to all points,” she said.
Bennett agreed, saying that parking spaces on private property could be “revocable at will.”