BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Dogs may now legally accompany their owners to qualified Belleair Bluffs restaurants.
Dog dining has become a common practice in the city, though it was never officially allowed before the City Commission passed on final reading a dog friendly dining ordinance at the Sept. 16 City Commission meeting.
The practice is still permitted only in outdoor dining areas of restaurants that meet specified criteria. To qualify as dog-friendly, a restaurant owner must be licensed and pay for a permit, have hand sanitizers available, and allow the dogs only in designated outdoor areas. The dogs must be leashed and are not permitted on chairs or tables.
Passage of an ordinance making dog dining legal removes a dilemma the city has had in dealing with what had become a common occurrence at a few restaurants. At an early discussion of the issue, City Clerk Debra Sullivan said, “We can’t continue to turn a blind eye to something that is illegal.”
Mayor Chris Arbutine responded, “It would be very embarrassing to send a deputy in to take a dog out.”
Commission members appeared pleased to add dog-friendly dining to the city’s menu of attractions.
Commissioner Joseph Barkley said, “This is important to keep Belleair Bluffs in line with other communities that have adopted similar ordinances and will help the restaurateurs.”
Commissioner Jack Nazario said allowing dog dining “is in line with the feelings of the populace that want to sit down outside with their pets.”
Only those restaurants with outdoor dining areas can offer dog-friendly dining. The animals are never permitted indoors.
Settlement reached with former fire chief
An agreement to settle a lawsuit against the city brought by former Belleair Bluffs Fire Chief Patrick Competelli was announced by City Attorney Thomas Trask. Competelli was fired by Mayor Arbutine in 2009.
Under terms of the agreement reached through mediation, Competelli will receive $225,000 as a full settlement. The city will pay half the amount with the rest paid by its insurance carrier. The attorneys in the case will bear their own fees and costs, Trask said.
The agreement frees the city from any other obligations to Competelli, Trask said. “I do not foresee anything else coming out of this,” he said.
Resident Dave Fynan, who has been critical of the city’s handling of the fire pension payment made to its former firefighters, said the settlement with Competelli is another example where the mishandling of a situation has cost the taxpayers.
“I would urge this body (commission) to be a little more deliberate, and to realize this is a democracy, not a dictatorship,” he said.
Fynan added he believed the city’s “cookie jar” of money “has got to be getting empty, and you’re going back and asking for a utility tax and other fees to fill it back up again.”
Arbutine defended the city’s actions, saying “we did the best we could.” Money was saved by contracting out for fire services, he said, and Competelli’s payment “was about what he would have received anyway as a severance package.”
Arbutine said the settlements with the firefighters and Competelli mean “we are free from the pension plan, free from the obligations, and we need to move on.”