TREASURE ISLAND — After a year of debate and hours of meetings, the City Commission and Sunset Beach residents will try, once again, to find a solution to problems caused by thousands of weekend beachgoers.
Tonight's special "solutions workshop" is a response to continuing complaints from residents over the behavior of beach visitors, which residents say is ruining their neighborhoods.
They complain of drunken beachgoers parking in their neighborhoods, blocking driveways and leaving piles of trash.
Some say people are urinating in the bushes along neighborhood streets and in the dune areas on the beach. Some were observed engaging in sex acts.
"In the past few months, we have noticed public intoxication, public nudity, public urination, mass littering, disorderly conduct, underage drinking, near drowning, vulgar language towards members and guests, destruction of state protected sea oats and trespassing," Dan Beauchesne, treasurer for the St. Petersburg Lions Club on Sunset Beach, told the commission at a meeting last month.
Crowds at Sunset Beach, particularly around Caddy's beachfront restaurant and bar, reached the thousands during spring break earlier this year and have continued with little reduction since then.
City police estimated more than 3,000 visitors crowded the beach during the Fourth of July weekend.
In response, the police department has increased patrols, both on the beach and along neighborhood streets. Illegally parked vehicles have been ticketed, beachgoers have been asked for identification, with some arrested for underage drinking or ticketed for having glass containers on the beach.
Last month the city eliminated a boat anchoring area near Caddy's that officials said was becoming dangerously overcrowded.
"We all know the problems in Sunset Beach. We've heard residents' concerns. It is essential we now take the dialogue to the next level," Mayor Bob Minning said.
City officials want residents in the entire city to come to the meeting at 6 tonight armed with solutions and suggestions, not just repetitions of past complaints.
One suggestion the city is already considering is putting public toilets at Weckesser Park and Sunset Vista Park.
Some residents reportedly are reviving last year's proposals to restrict parking in some of the neighborhood streets, abandoned last year amid resistance from residents and concerns over beach renourishment funds.
At the time, the city was ready to ban public parking on side streets and ticket any cars that did not have special resident permits.
That plan died when the city discovered it had to retain some public parking spaces to continue qualifying for beach renourishment, and residents objected to having those spaces in front of their homes.
Repeated proposals over the years to ban alcohol on the beach have been rejected by residents who, although bothered by drunken beach visitors, still want to be able to enjoy their own beer or wine on the beach.