TREASURE ISLAND – The booming sound of the weekly drum circle in Treasure Island will soon be limited to daytime hours.
Treasure Island City Commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 7 to pass an ordinance on first reading that amends Chapter 24 of the city codes, which makes it illegal for public assemblies to go beyond sunset.
City Attorney Maura Kiefer originally rewrote the ordinance to end outdoor activity on public property by 6 p.m. during months of Eastern Standard Time and 7 p.m. during the period that Daylight Savings Time is in effect.
But after commissioners heard from members of the drum circle, they decided sunset was a more appropriate time to end the festivities.
If groups want to go beyond sunset, they will need a permit from the city.
“I support the drum circle,” said Sunset Beach resident Bob Weber. “I ask that you tread lightly on this and make it sunset. Six o’clock is just too early.”
The drum circle, which previously met Sunday nights at 7 at Gulf Front Park, has a long history in Treasure Island. But in recent months the number of spectators attending has grown and with it has come issues with a more violent, destructive crowd, police said.
One estimate, by drum circle participant D.J. Palumbo of Largo, has crowds at anywhere up to 400 per week.
Police Chief Tim Casey said the city dispatches six officers a week to the location at a cost of $1,200 per week in overtime.
With the increase in spectators has come damage to the city’s public restroom at the park and a lot of trash to pick up the next day, said Recreation Director Cathy Hayduke.
Casey said gang-related violence has also occurred.
Commissioner Butch Ellsworth said he favored ending it earlier than sunset.
“If we wait until sunset, it gets dark and that’s when we have problems,” Ellsworth said. “I like 6 o’clock. Either that or go back and you’ve got to get a permit.”
Kiefer explained that under terms of the ordinance, the option for an extension already exists with a permit.
Commissioner Carol Coward told members of the drum circle that the city isn’t trying to end the events – just get them under control a little better.
“Our major objective is what we can do to handle that small group that’s not acting properly,” Coward said. “We want you to enjoy the beach. I think we should go with sunset and see how it goes.”
A second and final reading on the ordinance is expected on Aug. 21.
In other action, commissioners:
• Granted a 16-month extension on the site plan approval of the proposed Rockhouse Grille and Cabanas at 12765 Sunshine Lane next to John’s Pass. The extension was given to allow new owners of the property time to assess the project.
• Passed a resolution awarding the $1.183 million contract for the reconstruction of the Central Beach Trail to Biltmore Construction of Clearwater. Project consultant Phil Graham of Graham Booth Landscape Architects said the project would likely start the first or second week of October and finish the second or third week of December.
• Passed a resolution to retain the Penton law firm to prosecute a claim for economic damages as a result of the BP oil spill in 2010.
• Passed a resolution to enter into a nonexclusive license agreement with U Missed This Pic to provide photos of events on the beach.