TREASURE ISLAND — Beer kegs may soon be banned from the city's beaches, but a referendum to prohibit beachgoers from drinking alcohol won't be championed by the city.
At issue are continuing complaints from Sunset Beach residents who say visitors park on their streets blocking traffic and driveways, litter their lawns and the beach, and drink too much and behave objectionably.
During a workshop session Tuesday, a unanimous City Commission quickly agreed to ban kegs holding more than 4 gallons of beer on the beach.
Commissioners will formally vote on the beer keg ordinance at two meetings in September, but they declined to consider either temporarily banning alcohol on the beach or to call for a citywide vote on such a ban.
"It is the consensus that the commission is not willing to move forward on its own to initiate a referendum or an emergency ban," Mayor Bob Minning said after more than an hour of debate. "If the voters would like to initiate a petition it is their right to do so."
Drinking alcohol on Treasure Island's beaches has been legal since 1986 when a citywide vote repealed an ordinance banning alcohol on the beach.
Two weeks ago, the commission thought it could not overturn that decision by voters.
Tuesday, they found out they do have that power — sort of.
City Attorney Maura Kiefer told commissioners that technically they could either temporarily or permanently ban alcohol on the beach.
She cautioned, however that taking such a step "would go against the spirit and intent" of another voter referendum prohibiting the commission from repealing or changing any ordinance that had been approved by voters.
Commissioner Alan Bildz, who represents Sunset Beach, wanted the commission to put a temporary ban on alcohol into effect. But Commissioner Carol Coward suggested any move to ban alcohol on the beach should be citizen-generated.
Proponents of an alcohol ban "need to do the work, get your petitions done, get your signatures. I don't think the commission should jump in here and save them," Coward said.
Commissioners Ed Gayton Jr. and Phil Collins agreed.
Although the commission is considering hiring a community policing officer to patrol the beach, particularly on weekends, and increasing the number of garbage pickups, it made clear it won't institute a ban on alcohol.
Resident Dennis Velasco said Friday he has more than enough people to form a referendum petition committee, but that they had "held off," hoping the commission would call for a vote on its own.
"This is probably better. Even though it will be more laborious, a referendum petition will give citizens a chance to come forward to support a ban on alcohol," said Velasco.
The first step, he said, is to decide whether the ballot question should call for a total ban on alcohol in the city, or just for the Sunset Beach area.
Also at issue is whether the ban would apply only until 6 p.m. in the evening to allow residents to take their alcoholic drinks to the beach while they watch the sunset.