TREASURE ISLAND — The debate over the legality of off-site commercial parking lots, particularly those serving Caddy's on Sunset Beach, will begin again Tuesday when the City Commission reviews proposed changes to its parking lot regulations.
The special workshop, which starts at 6 p.m., is expected to draw a crowd as the commission considers the 64-page report and recommended changes to the zoning codes regulating off-street parking throughout the city.
"The question I am asked by many residents is whether the new parking regulations would allow Caddy's to continue operating its parking lots. My answer is we just don't know," says Planning and Zoning Board chairwoman Heidi Horak.
The 15-member board met 13 times since spring and collectively spent more than 1,000 hours rewriting the parking lot code.
The goal, she said, was to "simplify" the 40-year-old code and give the city flexibility through the special exception process in deciding whether to allow or reject parking lots in particular zoning districts.
The proposed new code, unanimously approved by the planning board, provides definitions of different types of parking lots (special event, temporary, stand-alone, off-site, shared, remote and accessory) and determines for each whether a parking lot would be banned, or allowed either as a permitted use or by special exception approval.
"We wanted a code that would not be so rigid that it would prohibit a commercial activity, but at the same time if a use doesn't fit a neighborhood and the residents are up in arms, the board will have the discretion to deny it," Horak said.
Last year, a group of Sunset Beach residents lost their lawsuit against the city, in which they maintained that the city was failing in its duty to enforce zoning codes prohibiting Caddy's off-site parking lots.
Circuit Court Judge Anthony Rondolino's ruling in favor of the city is now under review by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
"The city is going ahead with new parking regulations even though the lawsuit is very active," said Ray Green, one of the residents hoping to shut down Caddy's parking lots.
Green said he has not yet reviewed the proposed new regulations, but is concerned about what conditions must be met for approval of parking lot special exceptions.
Caddy's owner Tony Amico is also concerned. "I am not going to comment until I see how the details of the plan affect me," he said Friday.
Caddy's, a popular beachfront bar at 9000 W Gulf Blvd., has operated under different names since the 1940s.
Amico purchased Caddy's in 2001 and subsequently acquired seven off-site properties for 200 patron and valet parking spaces.
Closing the disputed parking lots would leave Caddy's with only 45 parking spaces on its original property, according to Amico.
One particular triangular-shaped lot used by Caddy's for valet parking is at 8701 W Gulf Blvd., the site of a demolished 1950s-era motel. A temporary parking lot permit has now expired.
Under the new proposed code, off-site commercial parking lots in RM-15 zones would be allowed, but must first be approved by the city as a special exception.
Another parking lot just to the north of Caddy's is zoned commercial, which the proposed code would allow as a permitted use.
The issue for Caddy's and the city, however, is that the property is not included in Caddy's previously approved site plan. As such, any parking there is technically illegal by current and proposed codes.
The new code would require Caddy's to get city approval to either join the two properties in a single site plan or to apply for a special exception.
City planner Lynn Rosetti said the proposed new code actually makes it easier for businesses throughout the city to meet their parking needs.
"I don't know that anything here would hurt any business proprietors," Rosetti said.