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Beach Beacon
St. Pete Beach addresses parking issues
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Photo by BOB McCLURE
St. Pete Beach commissioners granted the owners of this parking lot at 3855 Gulf Blvd., a temporary use permit for six months.
ST. PETE BEACH – The operators of two controversial off-street parking lots were given permission to continue operation for another six months under a temporary use permit and the owner of a third parking lot has agreed to apply for conditional use permit.

St. Pete Beach City Commissioners voted unanimously July 8 to temporarily extend parking privileges to Sungold LLC at 3855 Gulf Blvd., and Grand Plaza Resorts at 5030 Gulf Blvd., through Jan. 30, 2015.

Meanwhile, in a closer 3-2 vote, commissioners voted to allow Greg Nicklaus, general manager of the Sirata Beach Resort, to withdraw his application for a temporary use permit after Nicklaus agreed to apply for a more permanent conditional use permit within 60 days for a parking lot at 5195 Gulf Blvd.

Two of the three locations have become hot topics of conversation, following a request by neighborhood residents who say the lots are ugly and are contributing to lower property values.

The parties using them for parking own all three properties, but none were operating under valid city permits.

“When you start reading the verbiage for temporary use, it means it’s something that can be done for a fixed period of time with the intent to discontinue,” said Commissioner Melinda Pletcher. “Ideally, I would like to see that property (3855 Gulf Blvd.) redeveloped and provide a revenue source for the city.”

The site at 3855 Gulf Blvd. was given a temporary use permit on April 21, 2011, which expired September 30, 2012. Property owner Beth Ann Morean reapplied in May for a period up to 12 months as an overflow parking lot for use on weekends, holidays and during special events.

The lot is located in the Bayou Residential zoning district, which currently has no provision for the more permanent conditional use permits.

“I think there has to be many more conditions placed on this parking lot,” said Commissioner Terri Finnerty. “I think this is probably one of the more unattractive parking lots we have in the city. When you pass that parking lot, it looks horrible.”

Finnerty said she did not favor a 12-month extension.

“I don’t want to see this go for another year,” she said. “I think this needs to be just six months and then when it comes back to us, we can make another decision. When you compare it to the Grand Plaza lot, you see a real big difference in the appearance.”

Commissioner Rick Falkenstein concurred.

“I totally agree,” he said. “I think it’s an eyesore. I realize it serves a purpose but it needs some kind of landscaping plan. Maybe add some palm trees and hide the Port-O-Lets so you can’t see them.”

The Grand Plaza site at 5030 Gulf Blvd., was issued a temporary use permit on April 12, 2012 that expired on April 4, 2013. The current application was filed on April 20 of this year for the purpose of employee and overflow parking for Grand Plaza Resorts.

The lot has been improved with fencing, landscaping and a gate to Gulf Boulevard but like the lot at 3855 Gulf Blvd., it is in a zoning district that does not allow a more permanent conditional use permit.

The city’s Planning Board recommended both sites be granted a temporary use permit up to 12 months.

Planning consultant Dave Healey of Calvin Giordano and Associates, explained it further.

“The decision in my mind is either treat it as a temporary use and think of it as temporary to end in six months or a year,” he said, “or change the zoning to allow conditional use.”

In the case of the Sirata-owned lot at 5195 Gulf Blvd., Nicklaus was caught off-guard by the commission’s intent to consider his application for a temporary use permit following a May decision by the commission to put off action on temporary use permits for 90 days.

Nicklaus was out of town on vacation, but emailed City Attorney Susan Churuti stating he would apply for a conditional permit at the site within 60 days if the city would withdraw his application for temporary use and allow him to use the lot for parking in the interim.

“Where we ended up is in a good place,” said Churuti. “It gives you (city commission) the most flexibility and control over the situation.”

Unlike the other two sites, the property is in the Activity Center zoning district, which allows off-premise parking lots as a conditional use.

Deborah Nicklaus, the sister of Greg Nicklaus, said her brother would be applying for a conditional use off-premise commercial parking permit because the lot will be used strictly for employee parking. She also said plans to upgrade the appearance of the property are moving forward. They include external landscaping and a reclaimed water irrigation system, she said.

Commissioners Greg Premer, Finnerty and Falkenstein voted to withdraw Nicklaus’ temporary use application, while Mayor Maria Lowe and Pletcher voted against it.

In other action, commissioners:

• Approved spending $12,932 for upgraded electrical for Lift Station 5.

• Approved spending $17,392 for the purchase, delivery and parts for a deodorizer at Pump Station 1.

• Approved $21,470 for a study by McCarthy and Associates on the possible conversion of city hall into a library.
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