Sunset Beach residents granted reprieve from rezoning for now

07/22/10 Andrea Lypka
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Sunset Beach has become so popular that some residents in this Pinellas community complain about weekend traffic congestion, illegal parking and rowdiness. But the situation may change if the Treasure Island City Commission approves the rezoning of an unauthorized parking facility used by Caddy’s on the Beach.

Residents at the public hearing on July 7 said that Treasure Island reminds them of Trash Island. Last year, the City Commission banned kegs on the beach but residents still complain about drunkenness, public urination and indecent behavior on Sunset Beach. Bob Nicholson says he has enjoyed living on the beach since the eighties.

“Just this weekend, there was a little storm on the beach and about half a dozen people settled underneath the deck of my house and started drinking beer. They had no respect for private property. (On the same weekend,) I am out in my yard facing West Gulf Boulevard in broad daylight when three young men come walking towards their parked cars. One of them takes a beer can and throws it on my lawn right when I am looking. His buddy says I go get it and excuse us he has been drinking, he is not responsible. And I agreed with him,” he said.

What was going on that property has never fit well with some residents, including the crack motel that was demolished in 2005. The request to rezone the property near Caddy’s on the Beach from residential to commercial was the last straw for some residents. The property is currently used as valet parking for Caddy’s. But records show, the license for the parking has expired.

“Since the 1980s all my children have come and spent time with me. Unfortunately, my daughter was down in the spring break with her children. She will no longer allow my grandchildren to visit grandma and grandpa because of the congestion, the profanity and the other things she saw. So the home has less value to me,” Nicholson said.

Several residents say that commercial rezoning may drive down property values and it may cause more traffic congestion, illegal parking and rowdiness in the community. But John Bodziak, an architect who represents the owners of the property, TI Holdings, Inc. and Gulf Sands Properties, LLC said the answer is not that simple because of an anomaly in the zoning.

“It’s one of the few locations in Treasure Island where a zoning rapidly changes within one block to a totally different zoning and there are very few occasions when this occurs,” he said.

Bodziak said there are other businesses in the area where the parking lots are separate from the businesses.

One of the owners of the property, Anthony Amico, who also owns Caddy’s, said indecent behavior and underage drinking the residents complain about happen outside his business. The property would be used as a surface level parking lot for the visitors and the residents.

“During the week the residents can park on both sides of the street and but when it is busy the weekends and visitors want to park and there is no space for them. I swallow my pride and I don’t say anything, I go along with it. I pay the policemen. The policemen are needed south or north of Caddy’s where the kids gather on their own with their own beer. We never had underage drinking problem in Caddy’s. Ever,” Amico said.

Commissioner Alan Bildz represents Sunset Beach, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Treasure Island.

“That part of Sunset Beach is moving towards residential. There used to be 8 businesses there, now there are 2. To take a little peninsula or even an island that is residential and transform it into commercial, I think it would be a travesty” he said.

But at the last minute, Amico withdrew his request for rezoning. He says he wants to reapply for a residential rezoning permit.

“And I will apply for rezoning for RM with a special request that allows a special usage on that property for a parking lot.”

City attorney Maura Kiefer says that upcoming changes to a parking code may make this scenario impossible.

“The applicant and the city do not know how these future changes would affect this property… Right now we don’t have too many things on the books allowing for a standalone parking lot.”

The next public hearing on this issue is set for Tuesday August 3.

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