BELLEAIR SHORE — Bicycle riding on the beach is prohibited in this upscale beachside community, and only inflatables are allowed in the water. That is likely to change soon.
The Town Commission agreed at its Aug. 20 meeting to change a longstanding ordinance, removing a ban on bicycling and most watercraft. Town Attorney Regina Kardash will now work on a revised law so bicyclists will not have to skip Belleair Shore when riding along the beach, and people will be able to use their kayaks and paddleboards within town limits.
Still prohibited are motorized and electric bicycles, along with motorized watercraft.
Bicycling by nonresidents must still be done below the high tide line, as Belleair Shore residents claim the beach in front of their property as their own. The private beachfront extends to the tide line.
Still banned along the town’s beachfront are food or cooking, alcohol, fires, dogs, camping and littering.
Commissioner Steve Blume said he favored allowing bicycling and more non-motorized watercraft because “the times are changing.”
Blume admitted at the June commission meeting that he had taken his paddleboard to the beach. He said then, “If we have something on the prohibited list that we don’t object to, why have it on the list.”
Town Clerk Barb Colucci also said at least two commissioners have family members who have used paddleboards in violation of the law.
“Bicycles are everywhere,” Deputy Mayor Deborah Roseman said at the August meeting.
Mayor Robert Schmidt said, “I see bikes going by all the time.”
“I don’t see any reason to have them on the restriction list,” said Blume.
Watercraft such as paddleboards and kayaks will now be allowed along with inflatables, but nothing motorized.
Blume made a motion that an ordinance be prepared to allow non-motorized bicycles and watercraft. He said, “We need to give some leniency.”
The motion passed unanimously. Commissioner Ray Piscitelli was absent.
It will be several months before the new ordinance can be written, passed on two readings, and take effect.
Millage rate expected to be lowered
The town’s property tax rate of 0.6594 mils, already the county’s lowest, will be reduced even more, to 0.6350, for the coming year. That is the roll-back rate, which keeps the tax revenue at the same level as the previous year, since property values are increasing an average of 7%. It is the “no tax increase” option.
Two budget hearings are scheduled for September to vote on that rate. It remains to be seen if the budget meetings will be held on the advertised dates, as there is some doubt there will be enough commissioners available to form a quorum at the Sept. 5 meeting.