TREASURE ISLAND – A Treasure Island man who represents 71 business owners and residents says the group is ready to sue the city if it doesn’t do something about cleaning up the beaches.
Speaking before commissioners at a Dec. 1 workshop, Sid Appel said he has circulated a petition demanding the city maintain the beaches as it did in years past. Appel said the lack of maintenance has reduced revenue for beach businesses.
“Many tourists are finding other places to go without weeds and sandspurs,” said Appel.
Mayor Bob Minning explained that the city’s land development regulations create dune preservation areas that are not raked, which results in the development of weeds and sandspurs. These areas are generally a 15-foot radius around the dunes.
“The areas just north of St. Pete Beach are the worst,” said Minning. “I would be in favor of cleaning up this area.”
Commissioner Carol Coward suggested identifying “nuisance” plants.
“This is something that can’t be fixed in a day,” she said. “We need a plan.”
Commissioner Ed Gayton said the city needs to take care of the needs of motel owners along the beach and was glad to see the unified effort.
“This is long overdue,” said Gayton. “We’ve got to get back to where we were, which is maintain our beaches the way they should be. I think we need to rescind the no-rake area along the Beach Trail. We have to do something and we have to do something quick.”
“I completely agree,” said Vice Mayor Phil Collins. “This is our industry that is affected. The areas getting overgrown need to be remedied.”
Appel, meantime, requested to be involved in any future meetings the city has on the issue but City Attorney Maura Kiefer warned against it.
“Just keep in mind we have a man here that is threatening to sue the city,” she said.
When Appel asked if he could have access to any public documents regarding such meetings or the issue itself, he was instructed where he could find that information free.
“People in charge need to wake up on this issue,” said Appel. “Without tourism this town is dead. You can forget about downtown redevelopment because with nobody here it won’t do any good to have any businesses downtown.”
Dominique Reiter, executive director of the Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Appel’s position.
“The beach is the focus of our tourism,” she said. “I’ve had people come in and complain about the beach. We want to be tourist-friendly and help out our motel and hotel owners.”
City officials were expected to take a tour of affected areas on the beach Dec. 2.
On another issue, commissioners decided to move forward on the possible revocation of a beach concession license agreement granted Oct. 1 to Gelatis Etc. Inc.
City officials granted the one-year agreement to Brian Cocozza to operate a beach cabana rental business on Sunset Beach. However, homeowners in the area submitted a petition to the City Commission expressing their dissatisfaction with a large storage box, large water tricycles, cabanas and umbrellas in the area.
Cocozza was accused of blocking police access to the beach and a public boardwalk leading to the beach.
“I don’t obstruct anyone,” said Cocozza. “If anyone gives me a reason to move something, I will.”
Commissioner Alan Bildz said he favored exercising a clause in the contract with Cocozza that allows the city to void the agreement.
“When we accepted this lease, I specifically asked if the residents don’t like this, do we have an out?” said Bildz. “Well, the residents don’t like it and I think we should execute our out. This operation is two months old and there’s a major uprising. So I’d like to see this move forward and void out this contract.”
In other workshop discussions:
• Commissioners viewed a video presentation by JTV Inc., regarding its relining project on city sewer lines. The city has 19 miles of sewer lines and about two miles have been repaired to prevent saltwater intrusion. Most of the line is 8-inch clay pipes.
• Chamber of Commerce officials said the recent Sanding Ovations event behind the Bilmar Beach Resort was a major success and attracted a steady stream of spectators. Reiter said next year’s event will be expanded to 10 sculptors and will take place Nov. 15 through 21 at the same site. The sculptures also will be illuminated for night viewing.