TREASURE ISLAND – Despite opposition from the management of three beach motels, Treasure Island Commissioners approved a car and truck show that will be held on the beach on Saturday, March 8.
The vote was 4-1. Alan Bildz cast the lone no vote.
Between 300 and 350 vehicles are expected for the second annual Spring Salute Car and Truck Show, a fundraiser organized by American Legion Post 158. Proceeds will go to veterans charities.
The one-day event will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. between 104th and 107th avenues on the beach. The designated area for public parking will be south of 104th Avenue.
The management of the Thunderbird Beach Resort, Page Terrace Motel and Windjammer Motel hired attorney E. Tyler Cathey who threatened the city with a lawsuit if it didn’t change its policy concerning the parking of vehicles on the public beach.
Cathey contends Florida Statute 161.58 prohibits vehicular traffic on coastal beaches. The exceptions are for a cleanup, repair or public safety, or a local ordinance that allows it if passed prior to October 1989.
Treasure Island has a local ordinance but it was not passed until 2003, Cathey said.
Cathey, the motel operators, city officials and City Attorney Maura Kiefer met Oct. 1 to discuss the impasse. But no conclusions came out of the gathering and Kiefer left the next move to the motel operators.
In an Oct. 4 letter to Kiefer, Cathey reiterated his clients’ position and said “the city needs to clarify to the taxpayers of Florida exactly what their intentions are for this beach. Taxpayer money has allowed the city to renourish the beach repeatedly since 1969. I am sure the taxpayers would like to know why the city chooses to use such a valuable resource as sand for a parking lot.
The 7,532 taxpayers and tourists that have signed our petition would like an explanation and so would our clients.”
He gave the city until Oct. 14 for action on the issue, or face litigation.
Kiefer responded the same day to Cathey saying his statements were unfounded.
“Primarily, we would like to note that beach nourishment has no application whatsoever to your stated claims of illegal parking on the beach,” Kiefer said. “Secondly, the city of Treasure Island only holds public events on public property that are in full compliance with all laws and regulations. The city does not agree that they are in violation of state law in connection with these events.”
Bildz reminded commissioners the car show would take place one week before the Gulf Beaches Rotary Club’s second annual carnival on the beach.
“We’ve just got to quit putting a lot of these events on the beach in the middle of the (tourist) season,” said Bildz.
Motel operators have argued in the past that events such as the carnival have driven customers away.
Commissioner Tim Ramsberger asked Gregory Tong, committee chair for the car show, if the event would work at Treasure Island Community Park.
“To hold it at the Community Center would be a big loss,” said Tong. “First of all, we’re not set up for that. Second of all, there are events already taking place at the Community Center. It’s just not feasible to go over there.”
One final hurdle will be approval by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which in the past has routinely approved Treasure Island events with parking on the beach.
The Legion car show will include 40 food and non-food vendors, a beer truck and a barbecue station. There also will be live music during the event with the stage aimed toward the Gulf.
The Legion will provide port-o-lets, beach cleanup and trash removal.
Parking will be operated by the city. All parking revenue will go to the city.
In other action, commissioners:
• Awarded a contract for $25,000 to Morelli Landscaping to plant 31 palm clusters along the city’s Central Beach Trail. Each cluster consists of three trees. The Treasure Islettes donated the money to the city.
• Approved an interlocal agreement between Pinellas County and its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System co-permittees for the implementation and operation of a surface water quality and biological monitoring program.
• Named Carolyn Geck an at-large member of the Vision Stewardship Committee.
• Named Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Joanne “Cookie” Kennedy the city’s nominee for a beach delegate to the new unified Metropolitan Planning Organization/Pinellas Planning Board.