Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pass-a-Grille beach property complaint scales back All Children's charity event

ST. PETE BEACH — A July 4 All Children's Hospital charity event has run smack into a long-standing political buzz saw this week, forcing a major downscaling of planned activities.

That buzz saw was an angry Chet Chmielewski, a Pass-a-Grille resident who has long fought the city over use of the beach behind his home at 3214 El Centro St.

Chmielewski, who ran unsuccessfully in 1974 for the County Commission against Charles Rainey, lost a fight with the city in the mid 1970s over a plan to convert a neighboring stucco, two-story building into the Don Vista Cultural Arts Center.

In 1983, he threatened to distribute fliers advising his Pass-a-Grille neighbors to secede from the city.

In 1991, the city considered filing a lawsuit against Chmielewski to stop him from calling them at their homes and private businesses with complaints.

Then last year, Chmielewski won a court battle against the city, getting a judgment that he owns a 50-foot-wide section of beach extending from his home to the waterline on the Gulf of Mexico.

The city subsequently acknowledged that members of the public using the Don Vista do not have the right to "travel onto" Chmielewski's beach property.

Reached by phone Thursday, Chmielewski said more lawsuits are planned against the city over public use of his property, which is part of the Block M&N property south and north of the Don CeSar Resort. "No one has ever received permission from me to use my property," he said.

Which brings the story back to the All Children's charity event.

Organizer James Ramos contacted Mayor Mike Finnerty and City Manager Mike Bonfield months ago about holding the event on the beach near the Don CeSar. Finnerty sought Chmielewski's approval.

"Chet first said it was no problem since it was for kids, and shook hands with the mayor. He later changed his mind and said he would sue everybody," said Bonfield. "Nobody wanted to make this complicated. It just got complicated."

Last week, Chmielewski e-mailed Ramos and city officials charging that "for 37 years this city administration has been attempting to steal Block M&N. The most notorious villain in this has been Bozo Bonfield … Block M&N is private property. Stay off Block M&N."

In response, Finnerty e-mailed Chmielewski "to assure you that no one is trying to harm you, steal anyone's property or depreciate your property value in any way. We are just trying to conduct a fundraiser to save the lives of some very sick children."

Ramos had enjoyed playing Wiffle Ball on the beach as a child. After his two children developed a disease requiring transfusions of their entire supply of blood every week, Ramos became involved with a research doctor at All Children's Hospital who developed a method to significantly increase the time between transfusions.

The July 4th Wiffle Ball Tournament will still go on, says Ramos, but now will not include a planned tent on the beach where alcoholic beverages would be served or a mooring area in the gulf where people could come to the tournament by boat.

Instead, the city's Don Vista Cultural Arts Center will be used as a registration and refreshment center while the Wiffle Ball tournament is held on the beach. In the evening, the event will move to the Don CeSar Beach Resort for a party and awards ceremony.

"I am hoping that this event will be a great success and a mainstay in the St. Pete Beach landscape for years to come," Ramos said Friday. "There are not many fundraisers that I know of as unique as this one will be."

Ramos hopes to raise up to $75,000 for the hospital's Allergy/Immunology Research Fund.

Fast facts

If you go

The event is open to the public. For information about the Wiffle Ball tournament, visit medicalchampion.com/wiffleball.html or call Connie Ramos at (813) 944-2558.

Pass-a-Grille beach property complaint scales back All Children's charity event 05/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 16, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Danny Rolling killed five in Gainesville 27 years ago this week

    Criminal

    The following story appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on October 26, 2006, the day after Danny Rollings was put to death. Also included are photos covering the period from the time of the murders to the day of Rollings execution.

    Rolling Executed

  2. Hernando commissioners propose tax-rate reduction as budget talks continue

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The typical budget battle between the Hernando County Commission and Sheriff Al Nienhuis has largely been averted this summer, except for a dust-up over how the sheriff has accounted for federal inmate money. But a minor skirmish did break out this week.

    Hernando County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes has suggested a small rollback in the proposed property tax rate for the 2017-18 fiscal year and proposes that it be equally shared by the county's operations and the sheriff.
  3. Trigaux: As Florida seeks top 10 status as best business state, red flag rises on workforce

    Business

    In the eternal quest to appeal more to business than other states, Florida's managed to haul itself out of some pretty mediocre years. After scoring an impressive 8 among 50 states way back in 2007, Florida suffered horribly during and immediately after the recession. Its rank sank as low as No. 30 only four years ago, …

    Florida's trying to make strides in preparing its high school and college graduates for the rapidly changing skill sets of today's workforce. But the latest CNBC ranking of the best and worst states for business gave Florida poor marks for education, ranking No. 40 (tied with South Carolina for education) among the 50 states. Still, Florida ranked No. 12 overall in the best business states annual ranking. [Alan Berner/Seattle Times]
  4. Florida: White man who killed black person to be executed

    State Roundup

    GAINESVILLE — For the first time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man for killing a black person — and it plans to do so with help of a drug that has never been used previously in any U.S. execution.

    This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Mark Asay. If his final appeals are denied, Asay is to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Thursday. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated, premeditated murders in Jacksonville in 1987.  [Florida Department of Corrections via AP]
  5. Ex-TPD sergeant LaJoyce Houston takes plea deal in stolen tax refund case

    Criminal

    TAMPA — LaJoyce Houston, a former Tampa police sergeant accused with her husband in a federal tax refund fraud scheme, has agreed to plead guilty to receiving stolen government property, court records state.

    Former Tampa police officers Eric and LaJoyce Houston walk into the Sam Gibbons U.S. District Courthouse on Oct. 28, 2015, to face charges relating to stolen identity tax refund fraud. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES
 ]