TREASURE ISLAND — An effort to close down most of a popular beach bar's parking lots was tossed out of court last week, clearing the way for the city to complete updating its commercial parking lot regulations.
The Circuit Court ruling specifically states that the city has "discretion" over the "method and level of enforcement" of its ordinances.
"We are glad the case appears to be over," City Manager Reid Silverboard said.
The legal action was filed by a group of Sunset Beach residents hoping to discourage beachgoers from crowding Sunset Beach and its surrounding neighborhoods.
"What good is having zoning laws if you don't enforce them?" asked Ray Green, one of the residents suing the city. "It doesn't make sense that a city would allow its laws to be broken."
The residents' lawsuit alleged the city was not properly enforcing its parking lot regulations on several properties owned by Caddy's beachfront bar and restaurant and used for overflow and valet parking.
Caddy's currently provides 200 parking spaces at its business and on seven different off-site properties.
Green said the residents will appeal the dismissal of their case to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
Last month, Circuit Judge Anthony Rondolino issued an order forcing the city to shut down several of Caddy's offsite parking lots.
He backed off that stance earlier this month, instead directing the city to argue why he should not do so.
Then Judge Rondolino suddenly recused himself from the case after the city objected to his meeting privately with the residents' attorneys.
Last week, the new judge assigned to the case, Circuit Judge David Demers, dismissed the residents' request that the court force the city to enforce its parking regulations.
The dismissal also applies to Silverboard and the city's building inspector, who were named as co-defendants in the case. They cannot be sued again, the judge ruled.
Judge Demers' ruling also made it plain the court would not assume a continuing supervisory role over how the city enforces its regulations.
"It is unfortunate that the residents went through the angst of this litigation," city attorney Maura Kiefer said. "It is my hope the community can now focus on a balanced approach to revising the parking lot regulations."
"Nobody should have the right to tell you what you can or cannot do on commercial property," Caddy's owner Tony Amico said Friday.
He said he is confident the city's new parking regulations, when completed, will allow him to continue using his commercially zoned lots for overflow surface parking.