TREASURE ISLAND — A circuit judge softened a previous order Tuesday to allow the city to argue why it should not immediately shut down several off-site parking lots owned and operated by Caddy's beachfront bar and restaurant.
The original order issued by Circuit Judge Anthony Rondolino last month "commanded" the city to immediately enforce its parking lot regulations.
City Attorney Maura Kiefer argued in an emergency hearing last week that the original order was "improper" and "illegal" because, she said, it "deprived the city of due process."
She told Rondolino he had made a factual finding based only on the word of attorneys representing a group of Sunset Beach residents. If the judge did not issue a corrected order, she said the city would consider appealing the issue.
"You're supposed to give us an opportunity to say, 'Whoa, no, that's not what their pleading says,' " Kiefer said during the hearing. "It's wrong … and the court doesn't have the jurisdiction to issue this."
The judge said he did not intend to deny the city an opportunity to dispute his ruling and signed the revised order Tuesday morning.
More than a dozen Sunset Beach residents are suing the city, alleging it is not properly enforcing its parking lot regulations that otherwise would require Caddy's to cease using several properties near the beach bar as overflow guest parking.
Caddy's is a popular gathering spot for thousands of weekend and holiday beachgoers.
The crowds often irritate and anger Sunset Beach residents with unruly and disruptive behavior.
Residents complain of heavy traffic, blocked streets and driveways, drunkenness, and obnoxious behavior — including beachgoers urinating in residents' yards and engaging in lewd behavior among the beach dunes.
If residents are successful in closing down Caddy's overflow parking, they say they hope it will discourage some troublemaking beachgoers from coming to Sunset Beach.
Caddy's currently provides 200 parking spaces at its business and on seven different off-site properties.
City codes prohibit parking on those off-site lots, but city officials are considering changing those regulations to allow limited off-site parking.
The city is holding off on enforcing its commercial parking codes pending a final decision later this fall.
The city and the residents must file any additional arguments on the parking lot enforcement issue to the court by Tuesday. A hearing to either dismiss or make the order permanent will be held on Sept. 16.