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Treasure Island expected to approve restrictions on Sunset Beach parking

TREASURE ISLAND — The city's four-year effort to limit parking for beach visitors on Sunset Beach will reach its final phase next week when new parking regulations are expected to be approved.

The new rules, which are effective citywide, prohibit commercial parking in residential zones.

The rules define different types of parking lots (special event, temporary, stand alone, off-site, shared, remote, and accessory) and designates the zones where parking lots would be banned or allowed either as a permitted use or by special exception.

The net effect for Caddy's restaurant and bar on Sunset Beach will be to make illegal more than half of the business' approximately 250 parking spaces, mostly on seven off-site lots.

When asked if other businesses would be affected similarly to Caddy's City Planner Lynn Rosetti said she was "not aware" of any.

The city began looking at its parking lot rules several years ago at a time when Sunset Beach residents were complaining — and even sued the city — in an effort to close down Caddy's remote parking lots.

The residents blamed Caddy's for attracting thousands of beachgoers, many of whom became drunk and intruded onto neighborhood streets where they created disturbances and trespassed on the lawns of private homes.

The city embarked on a series of solutions that sharply reduced the number of people flooding the beach near Caddy's.

The most effective was a daytime ban on drinking on the beach during spring and summer months. Parking on neighborhood streets was also restricted.

Simultaneously, the city also began revising its parking regulations, particularly as they affect commercial lots.

Last week, the commission unanimously approved on first reading those new parking rules.

"It will make some of my lots illegal," an angry Caddy's owner Tony Amico said Tuesday.

Amico is bitter about the city's treatment of his business.

"I've been through this with them for almost two years. They don't care what I say," Amico said.

According to Amico, he was asked years ago by the City Commission and city officials to provide more parking for his patrons to relieve neighborhood streets.

He then began purchasing property adjacent to and near his business and converted those lots for parking.

Amico said he has spent more than $4 million on parking lots that now the city says he can't use.

City Manager Reid Silverboard said Tuesday that once the parking ordinance is fully approved by the commission at its meeting next Tuesday, he and his staff will begin reviewing remote parking lots throughout the city.

Those found to be violating the new rules will be sent letters demanding that they be brought into compliance even if it means closing existing parking lots.

Amico says the city is "very anti business" and is targeting his restaurant in particular.

"They are not coming after anybody but me," Amico said.

In a related matter, the city is also investigating whether Amico's settlement agreement with the state actually gives him ownership to his section of beach as he claims.

Currently, Caddy's patrons can bring their drinks onto the beach, unlike the public beach just to the north and south where alcohol consumption is prohibited during most of the year.

After prodding by a former member, Ed Gayton Jr., the commission asked its attorney several weeks ago to investigate whether Amico owns most of the beach behind Caddy's.

A report on that investigation, which appears to deny Amico's claim, is expected to be released at Tuesday's commission meeting.

"It is a very lengthy and complicated report. I am not sure what the commission will do with it," Silverboard said.

Treasure Island expected to approve restrictions on Sunset Beach parking 10/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 4:18pm]
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