TREASURE ISLAND — It took more than three hours and three votes, but in the end the city's Planning and Zoning Board ignored the pleas of a room full of Sunset Beach residents opposed to a valet parking lot that serves Caddy's on the Beach customers.
After two tied votes Thursday, the board approved 5-4 an application to change the zoning designation for three vacant lots at 8701 W Gulf Blvd. The board stipulated, however, that the property should be used only as a parking lot.
Planning and Zoning Board member Robert Shogren, who cast the negative tying vote on the first two votes, left the meeting before the final vote.
The board's action is only a recommendation, and the final decision will be made by the City Commission. No date has been set for that hearing.
The city will now have "a big hoopla on its hands," according to 40-year resident Teri Goth, one of nearly 30 residents who filled the meeting room Thursday to oppose the zoning change.
She warned the board that changing the zoning from RM-15 (residential medium) to CG (commercial general) would destroy a "nice quiet area" of Sunset Beach.
In contrast, board chairwoman Heidi Horak, who sat in the audience because she lives near the lots, argued that a well-landscaped and buffered parking lot "might be more to residents' liking" than a multistory residential or commercial building.
"I am not sure this would be a bad result for the neighborhood," Horak said.
Christopher Sierra, the board's vice chairman who ran the meeting, strongly disagreed, calling the rezoning request "offensive," particularly since a temporary city permit to operate the parking lot had long since expired.
The lot is owned by T.I. Holdings Inc. and Gulf Sands Properties LLC, which are both partly owned by Caddy's operator Tony Amico.
The city recently cited the parking lot owners for violating the city zoning code.
Amico told the board he is willing to file a deed restriction or other legal agreement required by the city to guarantee that if commercial zoning is approved, the lots will be used only for parking.
The peninsula-shaped property is bounded on the east by Harrell Avenue and lies across the street from and just south of the beachfront Caddy's bar and restaurant.
In recent years, the behavior of some of the beachgoers who crowd the beaches at and near Caddy's has angered and frustrated Sunset Beach homeowners.
"These large numbers of beachgoers have generated complaints by some residents of Sunset Beach of traffic congestion and illegal parking … as well as complaints of rudeness and rowdiness," city planner Lynn Rosetti told the board.
The city has restricted public parking in Sunset Beach neighborhoods on weekends and holidays, has banned beer kegs on the beach, and has increased law enforcement in an attempt to alleviate resident complaints.