BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Residents of Belleair Bluff’s Dolphin Drive neighborhood may soon see a long-delayed cleanup of two clogged up ponds begin.
Dredging efforts have been put off for more than three years due to a dispute between residents and the city over the granting of property easements.
The pond cleanup has been considered critical, as the area is subject to flooding. The lack of maintenance has caused sediment to accumulate in the ponds, putting property as risk. The pond sediment has also adversely affected fish and wildlife species.
But some residents have been reluctant to grant perpetual (permanent) easements on their property, a condition the city has demanded before any cleanup work can start.
That issue has now apparently been cleared up. City Attorney Thomas Trask announced at the Oct. 8 City Commission workshop that all residents have now agreed to the permanent easements requested. Trask said he hoped an agreement that would allow the dredging of the ponds to begin will soon be completed.
While some minor issues still remain, Trask called the easement accord “the removal of a major stumbling block.”
Mayor Chris Arbutine, who last month declared the city should not even be talking about accepting a bid for the job before the easement issue is settled, said “it sounds like we have made a serious stride forward.”
An agreement to allow the pond cleanup could be approved at the commission’s October 15 regular meeting.
Boat/RV parking to be restricted to weekends
The city of Belleair Bluffs will be changing an ordinance that allows boats and recreational vehicles, called domestic vehicles, to be parked in residents’ driveways for no more than seven days out of a 30-day period.
Public Works Director Robert David said the law has been difficult to enforce, and at least one resident has complained about being unfairly cited for violations.
The current ordinance “is impossible to monitor,” City Clerk Debra Sullivan said recently.
The new ordinance being proposed would permit boat and RV parking overnight only on weekends (from Friday night until Monday morning) and specified holidays.
Even during that period, the vehicles can be parked in the resident’s driveway only for the purpose of “loading, unloading or cleaning,” Trask stressed.
That’s what the law has always said, but some people have been confused, believing they can park their recreational vehicles for any reason within the allowed times, Trask said.
David said residents can lawfully park their boats and RVs at any time behind the setback line or in a garage.
“This (ordinance) lets them put it in the driveway” and that will be limited to weekends, he said.
Policy needed for business events
A recent “block party” held by the Bluffs Business Association pointed out the need for a city policy regulating such events, Sullivan told the commission.
The affair was considered a great success for the participating businesses, but traffic, parking and cleanup issues arose, she said.
Sullivan said the business community is revitalizing and wants to move forward with more planned events to bring people into their shops. But the city does not have specific codes that cover the type of block event they had, she said.
Sullivan and Public Works Director David looked at event policies from Dunedin, Indian Rocks Beach, Clearwater and St. Petersburg before deciding they liked the Dunedin policy best.
Sullivan said, “It’s very specific and clear to participants.”
“We want to encourage this type of event,” Sullivan said, “but we need something because the current code does not apply to what’s happening.”
“Events such as business block parties are a good thing for the city,” said Commissioner Taylour Shimkus.
Shimkus also favored the Dunedin policy, which she said is very clear and user friendly.
David said such events need to have a policy and be permitted.
“In this case, the participants went from seven businesses to 18 overnight. They had no idea about where they were going to park, how much electric they used,” or other related issues, he said.
The Dunedin event policy covers parking arrangements, traffic control, barricades and garbage disposal, said attorney Trask, who is also Dunedin’s attorney and helped write their rules.
Trask said he would create a similar event policy for Belleair Bluffs. As an added benefit, the issuing of permits could be an income producer for the city, Shimkus pointed out.
Christmas party is set
The city’s popular Christmas party will be held on Friday, Dec. 14, Sullivan announced. The event has traditionally been held on a Monday.
The Salvation Army brass band has been rebooked as the main attraction. The Belleair Bluffs ornaments, which are given to all attendees, are in, and Santa will be there, Sullivan said. The popular hayride will take place from 7 to 8 p.m.
“We’re ready to roll,” she said. The festivities will begin at 6 p.m.