MADEIRA BEACH — Two months ago, voters "saved" the historic Snack Shack in a citywide referendum.
Now the city is just beginning what could be a long and complicated process to restore the 1930s-era log cabin and eventually reopen it to the public.
How the former Snack Shack will be used is still to be decided.
Last week, the City Commission voted to spend $11,000 for architectural plans necessary to advertise for bids simply to bring the building's shell up to code and ensure it would be safe for the public to enter.
Interim City Manager Mike Maxemow told the commission he hopes construction could begin by August.
"When this work is done, you will have a shell of a building that is up to code. Then the city can decide what to do with it," he said.
Meanwhile, Maxemow proposed seeking a $100,000 state recreation grant that, if approved, would allow the complete redesign and relandscaping of the surrounding gulf-front Archibald Park.
Maxemow said the grant could pay for new restrooms, public shelters, beach walkovers and lighting. The parking lot would be totally redesigned, he said.
In recent years, the park and its Snack Shack have been the focal point of contentious legal and political battles.
Several years ago, a failed plan to renovate the Snack Shack as a "destination restaurant" ended up costing the city $500,000 to settle a lawsuit with the concessionaire.
The restaurant deal collapsed when the Interior Department ruled the building could only be used to support recreational uses of the beach park.
The Snack Shack sat vacant until the commission decided last year to tear the aging log cabin down.
Residents protested, forcing the commission to halt demolition, while they sought signatures on a "Save the Snack Shack" petition for a voter referendum.
In March, more than 70 percent of voters approved a charter amendment requiring the city to protect the Snack Shack and restore the structure for public use.
Archibald Park was originally donated to the federal government in the 1930s.
In 1972, the Department of the Interior deeded Archibald Park and the log cabin to the city, with the provision that it be used for public recreation. The deed did allow recreation-related concessions.
But Alex Archibald, a descendent of the original property owner, repeatedly challenged that deed, arguing that the original donation to the Interior Department in 1931 prohibited any commercial use on the property.
The log cabin building was converted to a beach-related snack shack for beachgoers and operated for years by the Disabled American Veterans.
Archibald still wants the city to amend its 1972 quit claim deed to conform to the original 1931 deed.
If the city were to do so, it could prohibit any type of concessions on the beach, including the sale of food or beach umbrellas.
To date, the city has shown no interest in making such a deal with Archibald.
The commission indicated it plans to seek citizen opinion, perhaps in a series of workshops, on the types of uses for the park and the former Snack Shack.