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Sunset Beach residents feel trapped by weekenders
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Traffic stacks up recently on a crowded Sunset Beach street. Residents want the city of Treasure Island to limit parking to residents only.
TREASURE ISLAND – The two ladies hoping to spearhead a change in residential parking on Sunset Beach are also adamant about two things:

They are not trying to start a battle of classes between residents and beachgoers. Nor do they have a problem with Caddy’s On The Beach, a popular Sunset Beach weekend destination which Treasure Island Commissioner Alan Bildz recently fingered as the culprit in the growing parking issue.

But what Robbie Wellborn and Kathy Mattice do have a problem with is traffic congestion in their residential neighborhood. It’s an issue that has grown from a bit of a nuisance a few years ago to now what the two describe as a safety hazard.

A recent trip through their neighborhood on a postcard perfect Sunday afternoon magnified the issues the Sunset Beach residents deal with on weekends.

Hundreds of people are milling about the beach which is a good thing, even the two ladies admit. But just a few blocks away is the problem.

Parking, specifically free parking, is available on the neighborhood streets. Those going to the beach, wisely, take advantage of this. But the streets, as Mattice points out, are too narrow for the crush of parking.

On one street a truck tries to gingerly meander between the parked vehicles only to have to escape, even more cautiously in reverse as the vehicle meets an oncoming truck.

On the same street a Sunset Beach resident seems to be multitasking: He’s sitting in a lawn chair reading a newspaper while catching some rays. He’s also blocking the path of a would-be parker in front of his residence.

Another resident has placed orange cones along his or her curb to prevent parkers. Yet another resident has erected “no parking” signs, including a crude, hand-printed sign on a fluorescent orange posterboard ordering nonresidents not to park.

A couple of blocks away a driver parks his truck unaware he is blocking a driveway. His passenger, in a courteous gesture, informs her driver about the issue and the driver leaves to find another spot.

Some of the residents, as they attended the March 18 Treasure Island commission meeting, explained they feel as if they have become prisoners in their own homes on weekends. They sometimes can’t leave either because their driveways are blocked or the streets are too packed.

This raises a safety concern Wellborn said.

“I measured the width of the road from tire-to-tire of the parking cars,” Wellborn said. “It’s 9 feet. I’m not sure an emergency vehicle could get through. The streets were not designed for (the congested parking and traffic).”

Wellborn and Mattice both presented a petition to the commission with 190 signatures asking the city to pass an ordinance to limit parking on the streets for residential only. Residents, the petition request, would be required to purchase a $3 parking decal.

Mattice insisted this would not hurt Caddy’s; rather it would help them.

“People are not taking full advantage of Caddy’s valet parking,” Mattice said. She also noted that some metered parking spots are also vacant as beachgoers take advantage of the free parking in the neighborhood just a few blocks away.

Both Mattice and Wellborn insist they did not have an ax to grind at Caddy’s. Mattice, in a sense, seemed impressed with their clientele.

“They’ve done a great job of promoting their business,” Mattice said of their weekend crowds. “Caddy’s is doing all they can do to help us and to provide parking. If anything we are trying to help them” in getting people to utilize their valet parking.

Parking is not the lone issue but what comes along with it. Wellborn notes she picks up trash each day left by the beachgoers.

Unlike most area beaches which are packed in the spring and not as much later on in the year, that’s not the case at Sunset Beach.
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