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Clearwater City Council asked to wade into beach access dispute

CLEARWATER — Residents of the Mandalay subdivision on north Clearwater Beach offered plenty of opinions to City Council members recently on how their quiet patch of beach should look.

Longtime beach activist Anne Garris said the council should stop residents from roping off sections of beach before the activity spreads. The beach should remain open to all, she said.

"The city needs to be interested in this, even if you don't have any legal involvement in this," Garris said at a Wednesday council meeting.

Meanwhile, Scott Suarez, who owns a beachfront home, said he and four of his neighbors plan to section off the sand in front of their houses by next summer.

"We allow, as homeowners along the beach, the public to walk across our back yard. I'm sure you wouldn't be well-enthused about thousands of people walking in your back yard," said Suarez.

Beachgoers have left "inappropriate" items on the beach, argued with his family when asked to leave the beach behind his house on July 4th, and had sex close enough that his teenaged daughter could hear them from their patio, Suarez said.

Suarez's primary residence is near Belleair Boulevard and Belcher Road. His beach house is worth more than $1 million, according to county property records. He didn't return a phone call requesting comment.

Over the last few years, three beachfront property owners along Suarez's street, Eldorado Avenue, have put up ropes and fencing on small patches of beach. None of those owners could be reached for comment, although in a June letter, W. Miller, listed as a manager of 1068 Eldorado, wrote that the public had plenty of options for sand and surf to the north and south.

City Attorney Pam Akin told the council that the city didn't own the stretch of beach near the Carlouel Yacht Club. She said the issue would likely end up in court.

Akin said that city planners would decide if the signs and fencing fell under city jurisdiction.

Clearwater police aren't planning on enforcing the "no trespassing" signs posted on some of the roped-off areas, said city spokeswoman Joelle Castelli.

"We use our no trespassing program on private property when CPD is attempting to address a public safety concern like drug activity or prostitution, not when the only purpose is to have CPD be the property owner's personal security force," Castelli wrote in an e-mail to city staff.

Mayor George Cretekos said the council would discuss the issue further at an upcoming work session.

One beach resident, Steve Samaha, appealed to the city to enter the fray and help residents find common ground.

"The beach is sort of the goose that laid the golden egg in Clearwater," Samaha said, "so everyone has an interest in preserving and maintaining it for the benefit of the entire community."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Charlie Frago can be reached at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter@CharlieFrago

Clearwater City Council asked to wade into beach access dispute 11/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 22, 2013 5:30pm]
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