Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

2008: Drama swirls in beach cities, especially about money

The Redington Long Pier has been renamed the Dubai Long Pier because of a long-running dispute between the owner and the city.

Special to the Times

The Redington Long Pier has been renamed the Dubai Long Pier because of a long-running dispute between the owner and the city.

For some Pinellas beach communities its was a year that brought pivotal changes and ongoing controversy. Political shakeups, higher taxes and fees, and threats to the future of cultural icons were among the issues in the news during 2008.

Here are some of the happenings that made headlines:

Tierra Verde Annexation Battle: Resistance to St. Petersburg's recent annexation of a small commercial portion of this unincorporated community continued in varying forms throughout the year. The latest iteration is a push by Pinellas County to have the courts declare the annexation invalid. Residents of the upscale island community are also asking the state Legislature to require any future annexations to include all of Tierra Verde, which would force a voter referendum before any annexation could go into effect.

St. Pete Beach Development Wars: Voter sentiment on development shifted in March with the election of a new mayor and two new commissioners who support a more development-friendly comprehensive plan proposed by a citizens group tied to tourism and hotel interests. Three months later the voters overwhelmingly approved that plan in a citywide referendum. But developers have been slow to react, in part because of the sluggish economy and perhaps more significantly to a deluge of lawsuits challenging the plan. The city is aggressively defending the new development rules, but warns developers to proceed at their own risk in beginning any projects under the new rules pending the outcome of the legal cases.

Treasure Island Threatens Library Funding: Faced with a choice between raising property taxes and abandoning its longtime financial commitment to the Madeira Beach-based Gulf Beaches Public Library, the City Commission chose to cut $107,000 to the library. The action started a tidal wave of controversy that has resulted in the firing of the library director and two other employees, a cutting of library hours and some services, a reorganization of the library board of directors, and threatened lawsuits charging discrimination against the director and one of its laid-off employees. Then the Treasure Island Commission voted to re-join the library at a sharply reduced funding level. The five-town library consortium — Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach and Redington Shores — will meet in the coming months to decide how the library will be funded and operate in the future.

Cost of Flushing Toilets Skyrockets: In city after city, the cost of treating sewage — or "wastewater," as some communities prefer to call what is flushed into sewage pipes — increased significantly in recent years. At the same time, past-due maintenance and repair of the aging sewer systems could no longer be neglected. Then city revenues were hit by the steep slide in property values, making it impossible to continue subsidizing sewer system costs with tax dollars. This perfect storm of financial events devastated city budgets and forced many towns and cities to consider major increases in sewer user fees: Gulfport, 22 percent; St. Pete Beach, 30 percent; and Indian Rocks Beach, 60 percent. In contrast, Madeira Beach boosted its reserves to $7.8-million when it decided to sell its sewer system to Pinellas County.

Property Taxes Under Pressure: All beach communities cut their budgets, and some raised taxes significantly to deal with the impact of sharp drops in property values and state revenues and the impact of Amendment 1 on property tax collections. Indian Rocks Beach, facing virtual depletion of its emergency reserves, opted to raise property taxes by about 20 percent and decrease spending, including law enforcement services. Madeira Beach reduced its property tax rate by 10.23 percent from the rollback rate. Treasure Island also lowered property tax revenues by about 8 percent, but at the expense of funding for the Gulf Beaches Public Library, four eliminated staff positions, and across-the-board cuts in department spending. St. Pete Beach sharply reduced its staff and restricted capital improvement projects to only most-needed maintenance items.

Voters Save Madeira Beach Snack Shack: Voters called a halt in March to attempts by the city to tear down the Snack Shack, a log cabin built in the 1930s at Archibald Park. The shack will be rehabilitated and eventually will reopen to the public, but how it will be used is still to be decided.

Redington Pier Name Changed in Political Spat: A long-running battle between the town and the owner of the Redington Long Pier took a very public turn last month when a new sign proclaimed the 50-year-old landmark as the Dubai Long Pier. Owner Tony Antonious said he is angry that safety issues cited by the town and county cost him more than $500,000 and that the town continues to refuse to grant him a permit to build condos in the pier parking lot.

2008: Drama swirls in beach cities, especially about money 12/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 29, 2008 11:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system

    Testing

    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  2. Tampa Bay woman, 11-year-old boy had sex up to 20 times the year their baby was born, detectives say.

    Crime

    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  4. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery

    Ml

    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]
  5. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times