TREASURE ISLAND – City commissioners tentatively approved a kite festival planned for the beach in October despite the threat of a legal challenge from a group that says parking vehicles on the public beach violates state law.
The inaugural Fall Fly at TI is scheduled Oct. 18-20 on the beach behind the Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island. Organizer Joe Fala, owner of Windworks in John’s Pass Village, is partnering with The Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration and Aquarium in an expanded version of what used to be called Kite-Toberfest. Plans call for four kite fields, which require vehicles on the beach to anchor the lines in the air to the kites.
The event traditionally has parking on the beach for spectators.
However, if a legal challenge by motel operators David King and Arthur Czyszczon is successful, the event may not take place.
The legal challenge, which was sent to city attorney Maura Kiefer earlier in the day on Sept. 18 by attorney E. Tyler Cathey, concerns the second annual Spring Salute Car and Truck Show planned on the beach March 8. The all-day event, sponsored by American Legion Post 158, is expected to draw between 300 and 350 vehicles onto the beach.
Cathey contends Florida Statute 161.58 prohibits vehicular traffic on coastal beaches. The exceptions are for cleanup, repair or public safety, or a local ordinance allowing it passed before October 1989.
Treasure Island has a local ordinance but it was not passed until 2003, Cathey said.
“The nourishment of these beaches was never intended for driving or use as a parking lot,” Cathey said is his letter to Kiefer. “The cumulative effect of promoting and holding events that allow driving and parking on the beach evidences lack of proper management by the city of Treasure Island, violating the direct Legislature mandate of Florida’s Constitution and in Florida Statute, Chapter 161.”
Kiefer said the threat could have a major impact on future events on the beach.
“If this comes to fruition, it will affect all the events on the beach,” said Kiefer. “It’s substantial and it’s serious.”
In his letter, Cathey said the city has held about 53 events since 2010 with driving and parking on the beach. He contends the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued permits for about half of those events.
Fala said if he were not allowed to bring vehicles onto the beach for the kite festival, it would have a major impact on its success.
“I don’t know how to do the festival without bringing vehicles out there,” he said.
Cathey set an Oct. 2 deadline for the city to take action on revisions to its local ordinance concerning parking on the beach so it conforms more to current state law. Otherwise, Cathey said, his group will file a lawsuit against the city.
In the meantime, Kiefer was scheduled to meet with Cathey to discuss the matter further.
Whether or not the kite festival flies on Oct. 18-20 remains to be seen. City officials will discuss the matter further on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
In other action, commissioners:
• Voted 3-2 on second reading to pass the fiscal 2014 millage rate of 3.3368 mills to go with City Manager Reid Silverboard’s $10.2 million operating budget.
• Extended the city’s contract with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority for Beach Trolley service. The city’s cost is $205,725.
• Extended the ALS first responder services agreement with Pinellas County through Sept. 30, 2014. The city will receive $370,920 for providing the service.
• Approved spending $23,285 to remove and replace a section of sidewalk along the east side of Community Center Park.
• Approved an increase of 65-cents per month in the stormwater utility fee. The increase raises the amount to $7.17 per single-family property, which will generate $59,039 more for the city’s Storm Water Fund Budget.
• Named Eric Corson to the Beach Stewardship Committee.