TREASURE ISLAND – City commissioners voted 3-1 on June 5 to avoid getting into a looming legal battle between Caddy’s owner Tony Amico and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over ownership of the beach behind the restaurant.
Amico is adamant that a recent court decision gives him clear title to the land. DEP says the state owns it under terms of a perpetual easement.
In a letter to Amico and Treasure Island officials, DEP clearly stated the land that Amico uses in conjunction with his business belongs to the public.
Commissioner Alan Bildz said he wanted to get a definition of perpetual easement because it would make it more clear what the city’s jurisdiction on the beach is.
Mayor Bob Minning said he wanted to stay out of the fray.
“It’s still a question and a matter of law who owns that beach,” said Minning. “I’m all for them (Amico and DEP) going to court to get this resolved.”
City Attorney Maura Kiefer agreed with Minning saying the issue is “between them (DEP) and the private property owner (Amico).”
“Sooner or later, you’re going to have to stand up and take a stand on this,” said Bildz.
Heidi Horak, an attorney and civic activist, said the city would get dragged into the fight one way or another.
“You’re forgetting there are three parties involved in this, not two,” she said. “That would be the owner, the state and the public. You’re forgetting the public.”
Horak said by avoiding the issue, city leaders were not carrying out their duty to the public.
“If we precipitate this, we’ll get slapped with a lawsuit,” said Minning.
“You’re shirking your responsibility,” said Bildz.
Minning, Butch Ellsworth and Phil Collins voted to leave the issue alone. Bildz voted against the proposal. Commissioner Carol Coward was absent.