TREASURE ISLAND — The city has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by three beachfront property owners who are asking the court to prohibit parking and driving on city beaches.
The lawsuit, filed last month, claims the dozen festivals held annually on the Gulf Drive beachfront violate Florida law, Department of Environmental Protection rules and city code by "allowing and promoting beach driving and parking."
The carnival rides, concerts, car shows — and all the driving and parking that goes with them — have caused native vegetation and dunes to be destroyed, accelerated erosion and an increase in storm damage to upland property, the suit alleges.
More than 10,000 people have signed an online petition asking the city to stop use of the beach for events such as the four-day Rotary Club's Greatest Show on Surf and the American Legion's Spring Salute Car and Truck Show.
City attorney Maura Kiefer said recently that the city is waiting for a court date to be set on its motion to dismiss. She and other city officials have said beachfront hotel owners have benefited economically from the events and, in some cases, have even co-sponsored.
The hotels suing the city are Page Terrace Beachfront Motel, the Windjammer and the Thunderbird Beach Resort.
Attorney E. Tyler Cathey, with the law firm Englander Fischer, who is representing the hotels, notified the city in October that he planned to file suit unless city officials stopped the beach events. Cathey couldn't be reached for comment.
"The beach isn't the place to be doing these events," he said in October. "The city needs to look at other forums, other venues."
Mayor Bob Minning denies the suit's allegations and said little proof has been shown to support them.
"It's easy to state claims such as those in the complaint. I think it will be very interesting to show proof for the environmental damage, etc. To date, all they have done is allege," he said.