TREASURE ISLAND — Attorneys for three beachfront businesses are threatening to sue the city if it continues to allow parking and driving on the beach during special events.
In a letter from E. Tyler Cathey with law firm Englander Fischer, city commissioners have been told that the city incorrectly amended its ordinance in 2003 to allow beach traffic and is now in violation of state law.
Florida law prohibits driving on the beach and "the city is relying on an invalid ordinance . . . to allow driving on the beaches," Cathey wrote.
Page Terrace Beachfront Motel, the Windjammer and the Thunderbird Beach Resort are pushing to end parking and driving on the beachfront at events like the four-day Rotary Club's Greatest Show on Surf and the American Legion's Spring Salute Car and Truck Show.
"Our clients not only no longer have the usage of the beach they previously enjoyed," the letter stated. "They are losing business from patrons who had the idea they were actually going to stay on a beach, a world class beach nonetheless and not a fairground, or worse, a parking lot."
Cathey said if no action is taken by the city by today to resolve the situation, he plans to sue.
"The business owners feel that the City Commission hasn't listen to them, they've just ramrodded it down their throats and forced them to accept it," he said.
City attorney Maura Kiefer has sent a letter to Cathey to set up a meeting. In the letter she questioned how Thunderbird hotel manager David King can be a sponsor of the kite festival event each year on Treasure Island beaches, which includes beach parking and driving, and yet object to other events.
"How is it that Mr. King objects so vehemently to this festival through your firm, yet he is a major participant and sponsor? How is it that he is losing business from patrons when the event participants are favoring his hotel?'' she said.
Arthur Czyszczon, general manager of Page Terrace Beachfront Motel, started a petition drive a few months ago on change.org to elicit support for banning parking and driving for special events. The petition has so far collected more than 5,000 signatures, some from people across the country.
Cathey said the core of the dispute revolves around the city's interpretation that beaches are public gathering places.
"The beach isn't the place to be doing these events," he said. "The city needs to look at other forums, other venues."