TREASURE ISLAND — The city and the state Department of Environmental Protection have been put on notice by three hotel property owners that intend to sue if festivals, driving and parking continue on the beachfront.
The complaint was filed recently and gives the DEP and the city 30 days' notice as required by law before filing suit in circuit court.
The Thunderbird Beach Resort, Tahitian Beach Motel and the Page Terrace Beachfront Hotel, all on Gulf Boulevard, have been pressing the city to stop holding events like the "Greatest Show on Surf" and "Sanding Ovations" that the hoteliers say are an economic headache for them. An online petition drive they started for support against holding carnivals, concerts as well as driving and parking on the beach, has garnered about 10,000 signatures.
The complaint charges that the city and DEP are violating state regulations designed to protect beaches by "creating health, safety and welfare concerns, creating noise, visual and other pollution" as well as impacting private property rights.
At one event a 5-year-old boy "was nearly run over by a vehicle driving on the beach," according to the complaint.
Attorney Tyler Cathey, with the St. Petersburg law firm of Englander Fischer, is representing David King, of the Thunderbird Beach Resort; Arthur Czyszczon, of the Tahitian Beach Motel; and Kevin McInerney, of the Page Terrace Beachfront Hotel.
"The city is in receipt of the notice from the three hotel owners concerning their complaint about beach parking and related issues," said Treasure Island attorney Maura Kiefer. "As previously stated, the city does not agree with any of the factual allegations or legal conclusions and will provide a timely response to these hotel owners."
Mayor Robert Minning said he would like to see evidence from the hoteliers about which beachfront events hurt and help their business.
"It's interesting that David King and the Thunderbird is a sponsor of the kite festival and car show each year," Minning said, since those events are held on the beach.
He also is skeptical about the claims that the dozen or so events held each year create environmental damage claimed in the complaint.
"If they can factually present data that they are causing an environmental impact, the DEP and (the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) would step in and put a stop to it," he said.
Minning, who said only 56 of the 8,500 petitions he has received are from Treasure Island residents, said local surveys have shown that residents are supportive of beach activities.
The complaint alleges that the city hasn't gone through the proper permitting required for the beach events and that DEP is in violation of its own permitting laws.
The men hope the city will cancel events but so far it appears city officials don't intend to drop any, including the Nov. 20-24 Sanding Ovations.
"All the events we have scheduled have been appropriately permitted and I'm not aware of any cancellations," Minning said.