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Caddy's parking request prompts more questions from Treasure Island officials

TREASURE ISLAND — The request to the city's planning board seemed simple enough, but then it got bogged down with issues the owner of Caddy's said the city often ignores at other businesses.

"What is going on here?" Tony Amico repeatedly asked.

Amico said the city allows the Club, a private social and entertainment club, to operate in a residential zone on the Causeway, and recently approved an expansion without enforcing parking regulations.

"This is a private club. (Under city rules) it can't advertise, can't sell tickets, can't promote, but everybody closes their eyes," Amico said.

Amico said other businesses, including Sloppy Joe's, Ricky T's Bar & Grille and Dukes Island Grill, also were allowed to expand without providing enough parking and in some cases actually eliminated parking spots.

"You let people serve food and liquor on the beach who have no ownership, pay no taxes and you don't say a word," Amico said. "I serve on my own property and I get blasted for it."

Caddy's has long been a target of complaints from Sunset Beach residents who have argued that the beachfront bar and restaurant had become a magnet for thousands of drunken, misbehaving beachgoers who disrupted their neighborhoods.

Last year, the city banned alcohol consumption on the beach surrounding Caddy's. The move reduced crowds and complaints appeared to settle down.

Caddy's claims ownership of much of its beach and the city's alcohol ban does not apply on that part of the beachfront.

Meanwhile, several months ago, the City Commission set strict new rules for commercial lots throughout the city, largely as a result of a lawsuit filed by a group of Sunset Beach residents who challenged how the city regulated Caddy's parking lots.

After lengthy meetings with city officials about how to bring parking lots into compliance, Amico sought approval last week for a revised site plan.

That plan laid out how and where Caddy's parks customer cars on several lots adjacent to restaurant. It also pinpointed picnic tables and cabanas where food and liquor are served on his property.

The city's planning staff said the plan met all city rules and recommended acceptance.

Then the questioning began.

Planning board members wanted to know how much of the beach each picnic table and cabana took up, how the city calculated the business' gross usable area and how that calculation might affect parking.

Amico is requesting 78 parking spaces, but based on his business use needs only a minimum of 57. Board members wanted to know why Amico wanted extra spaces.

Then they wanted to know why the locations of some picnic tables, cabanas and a trash bin did not match a site plan approved by the city in 2003.

And then they wanted to know why remote parking lots used by Caddy's weren't included in the site plan and made it clear they wouldn't approve the plan without getting answers.

"I don't know that I want to do this piecemeal," planning board Chairman Chris Sierra said at the start of the hearing. "This is a parcel that has been of high concern to the neighborhood for a good number of years now."

Commissioner Alan Bildz, who represents Sunset Beach and is running for re-election in March, appeared as a "citizen" who supported forcing Caddy's to present a complete parking plan.

Former planning board member Heidi Horak suggested the city might not want to allow extra parking spaces at Caddy's.

"If people can't get a parking spot, maybe not so many people would show up," she said.

Then it was architect Jack Bodziak's turn. "Mr. Amico has done a heck of a job trying to control the patron problem by trying to change the mix, the profile of the patrons he is trying to attract," he said.

Bodziak, who represented Amico at the hearing, said eliminating some of the parking at Caddy's "would be a tragedy for the people living out there and for the city."

He strongly argued that the parking plan was a "positive step … toward curing some of the issues with Caddy's."

But in the end, Bodziak asked the board to postpone considering the site plan until its March 15 meeting to give Amico time "to answer all these questions."

The board unanimously agreed.

Caddy's parking request prompts more questions from Treasure Island officials 02/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 6:13pm]

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