MADEIRA BEACH — While most of the public, according to a citizens committee, wants the Snack Shack to remain at Archibald Park to serve food and drinks to beachgoers, city officials would rather move the structure to another location.
"We should put it on a moving trailer as fast as we can," said Mayor Pat Shontz during a workshop discussion last week. "Then we can do whatever we want to with it."
This historic log cabin has been the source of lawsuits and threatened lawsuits for years.
It cost the city $500,000 to settle one of those suits several years ago.
It continues to cost $180 an hour in legal fees as heirs of the original owners of the beach property continue to contest the use of the park and the Snack Shack building.
At issue is whether commercial activity, including beach concessions, can occur at the park.
At one point, the city planned to tear the 1930s-era building down to avoid legal wrangling over use of the park.
That effort was blocked when 70 percent of voters participating in a March 2008 election approved a referendum that required the city to guarantee that it would preserve, rehabilitate and open the Snack Shack to the public.
The city subsequently repaired the building's exterior and interior to ensure it met safety and building code requirements.
Now, more than a year later, the city appears to be nearing a final decision on the future of the log cabin.
Last week, city commissioners indicated they prefer to move the Snack Shack to another location in the city rather than reopen the building at Archibald Park.
During a workshop discussion, the commission also indicated it does not want to lease the building for any special events until a decision is made.
"The frustration is real. We don't know what to do with it. It seems that whatever we do, we are threatened with lawsuits," says City Manager W.D. Higginbotham Jr.
He said the structure could be moved to an area behind City Hall to be used as a park facility, or it could be moved to the South Beach park opposite John's Pass Village.
"It makes good sense to move the building away from the threat of lawsuits," Higginbotham said.
While the voter-approved referendum requires the city to preserve the Snack Shack building, it does not address whether it could be moved.
Next month, a citizens committee assigned to review proposed uses is expected to report its findings.
At its June meeting, the committee recommended multiple uses for the log cabin, including snack vending.
Other suggested uses include: rental hall for weddings, birthdays and other events; a meeting room for citizen groups; a museum for historical exhibits and display of local art; and a tourist information center.
The committee also recommended reinstalling a deck outside to allow outdoor eating and entertainment.