BELLEAIR BEACH — Federal funds will pay for beach renourishment this year, but it could be the last time unless the city provides more parking spaces for beach visitors.
"If we're ever going to get renourishment again, we need to figure out what we are going to do," City Manager Nancy Gonzalez said Monday.
Belleair Beach is short 28 parking spaces needed to qualify for sand to be pumped along its southern 1,483-foot length of beach.
Gonzalez says the solutions facing the city are not desirable. All are potentially costly.
To create the needed 28 spaces, the city will have to allow either on-street parking or create inset parking bays along Gulf Boulevard, which will cost about $100,000.
The only other option — buying property to create the spaces — would be more expensive and require zoning changes.
Currently, there is one vacant lot available but the asking price is about $400,000.
In previous discussions, none of the choices won support from either residents or the council.
The City Council will discuss those options at a special workshop Sept. 29.
"We have never really discussed this in depth before," Gonzalez said.
Federal rules require the city to have a total of 85 parking spaces, evenly distributed along the beach, to provide adequate public access.
Existing parking spaces at the city's marina and at Morgan Park meet those requirements north of 24th Avenue, but there are not enough to the south.
Parking spaces must be located within a quarter-mile of each beach access point.
Gonzalez stressed Pinellas County has assured the city that it will get renourishment sand this year.
Beach renourishment is funded more than 60 percent by the federal government, but the state kicks in the rest and is administered by the counties.
Belleair Beach's portion of the renourishment project is budgeted at about $3.13 million.
According to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' report presented to the county in August, major portions of Belleair Beach do not qualify for renourishment sand.
If, however, the ineligible shoreline is not filled, buildings on the affected areas of the beach, as well as nearby structures, will be more susceptible to damages and losses caused by major storms.
In addition, because the current beach renourishment program is already budgeted and a bid awarded, the Army Corps of Engineers says eliminating the ineligible section in Belleair Beach will not save any money.
The 43-room Belleair Beach Resort Motel sits almost in the middle of the ineligible area. Because it provides tourist accommodations, renourisment rules require that it receive sand for its 213 feet of beach front.
As a result, the county plans to include Belleair Beach in its 2011-2012 beach renourishment project, but has made no commitments for future projects.
The $35 million 2011-2012 renourishment project, which will include most of Sand Key from Clearwater Pass to John's Pass in Madeira Beach, is scheduled to begin in November.