Some Belleair Beach residents, including Mayor Joseph Manzo, are suing the town of Belleair Shore over an ordinance adopted in June that bans beach umbrellas on the town’s beachfront property.

BELLEAIR BEACH — The city is distancing itself from a lawsuit filed by Mayor Joseph Manzo against the town of Belleair Shore relating to a ban on beach umbrellas on that town’s portion of the beach.

The City Council voted 4 to 2 at its June 7 meeting in favor of a resolution that, in Council member Leslie Notaro’s words, “clarifies that the city is not part of the lawsuit.” Notaro temporarily chaired the meeting after Manzo recused himself from voting on the issue.

Council member Rita Swope said, “A lot of people feel that this is Belleair Beach against Belleair Shore. We need to say we are not a part of it.”

Vice Mayor Dave Gattis, who initiated the resolution, said, “People need to know who is suing who, and this is the mayor against Belleair Shore.” The wording of the resolution says it is “providing for a public declaration that the city of Belleair Beach, Florida, is not party to a pending lawsuit.”

The city’s non-involvement in a beach umbrella suit against Belleair Shore disappointed a number of residents who spoke at the meeting. Many were passionate about the issue. The beach at Belleair Shore is heavily used by Belleair Beach residents who live south of 19th Street. For years, those residents of Belleair Beach have enjoyed the full use of the nearby beach, but that changed when Belleair Shore passed an ordinance in June 2020 banning the use of beach umbrellas.

Resident Yoli Redero said she had spoken to many residents “who are shocked the city of Belleair Beach is not defending them; that the city is not in this lawsuit and you’re not there to speak for them.”

Bob Angelo said he is a frequent visitor to the beach at Belleair Shore. “That beach has been used for the past 60 years,” Angelo said, “and now, all of a sudden, a year ago they throw up a sign that says my seven-year-old son can’t have sun protection.”

Mary Schock said, “Others who use the Belleair Beach portion of the beach can use beach umbrellas, and we can’t.”

Ken Blanchard said he is definitely involved in the lawsuit over the beach umbrella ban. “The document says Manzo versus Belleair Shore. But I’m involved because I walk across to the beach at Belleair Shore, where I can’t have a beach umbrella to save me from skin cancer.”

John Handzuk, who lives on 22nd Street, said he agreed with council member Frank Bankard, who “wants to know why an injunction hasn’t been filed against the city of Belleair Shore” by Belleair Beach.

Voting against the resolution were council members Robyn Ache and Frank Bankard.

Ache said she did not think the resolution was needed, and could even cause more confusion. Council member Glenn Gunn, reacting to a citizen comment that the two communities should be working with one another, said, “That’s what we wanted to do all along, and that’s what was in progress, and then a lawsuit was filed, and guess what happens then? The shields go up, and all discussion ends.”

Following the 4-2 vote on the resolution, Notaro stressed again that the vote was not on the merits of the lawsuit, but was simply a clarification that the city is not a part of it.

Utility undergrounding refunds

Residents living in the Bellevue Estates Island neighborhood who are being assessed to pay for the utility undergrounding project will soon see a reduction in the amount they pay or get a cash refund if they prepaid a lump sum, City Manager Lynn Rives said.

The project came in significantly under budget by about $400,000, and the residents will benefit, Rives said in April.

Rives announced the reduction in assessments for residents will be up to about $300 a year for the remaining 17-year duration of the loan.

Property values up

Rives distributed preliminary budget information for the upcoming 2021/2022 fiscal year starting October 1. He said property values supplied by the Pinellas County Property Appraiser for use in the budget process show a 6% increase for Belleair Beach properties.

Landscaping complaints top code enforcement list

The city’s code review committee met to decide what to prioritize in code enforcement, Gunn reported. Based on a survey over the past year, the committee decided to focus on call-in complaints as a priority, Gunn said.

The largest number of call-ins by far, 42%, were landscaping complaints, followed by trash issues at 16%, parking, 15%, and construction, 13%.