MADEIRA BEACH — A growing number of city leaders favor moving the controversial Snack Shack log cabin from Archibald Park to the city-owned South Beach park opposite John's Pass Village.
Such a move was not addressed in a special citizens committee's report to the commission last week on the future of the 1930s-era building. But it's an option some officials are considering.
"At a time we are laying people off, we are worrying about a silly building that will not generate one dime of revenue," Vice Mayor Steve Kochick said.
Mayor Pat Shontz argued that voters wanted the city to "preserve" the Snack Shack, but did not address whether it could be moved to another location.
"We need to load it on a truck and haul it down to John's Pass where the city has control," Shontz said. "We can rent it, and use it as concession without a problem there."
She suggested the city replace it with a "nice bunch of palm trees" at Archibald Park "as a nice entrance to our city."
Commissioner Terry Lister, who was unable to attend the workshop discussion, also is on record as in favor of moving the Snack Shack out of Archibald Park.
The city acquired the beachfront park from the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1972 and has since operated it as a public park. The Snack Shack was operated for years by a veterans group.
The historic log cabin cost the city $500,000 to settle a lawsuit with a concessionaire several years ago, when the city's efforts to convert the building to a destination restaurant were blocked by the federal government.
When the city then considered tearing the building down, a voter referendum blocked that action.
The building has since been minimally refurbished to bring it up to building code requirements, but has remained closed to the public.
Alex Archibald, heir to one of the original property owners who donated the park to the federal government in the 1930s, continues to threaten to sue the city if it allows any commercial activity in the park.
The ad hoc citizens' committee, which began meeting last January, recommended the building be used again as a snack shack, as well as for other uses such as historic and art exhibits, a tourist information center, and a rental facility for birthdays, weddings and similar events.
"The overwhelming feedback from citizens was to have the building used as a snack shack," said committee member Kevin Connolly.
The group also called for rebuilding a deck where beach visitors could eat and gather outdoors. Outdoor eating would discourage future expansion into a destination restaurant, according to the committee.
"Our biggest concern is that we are really shooting ourselves in the foot in contracting with someone to use the building as a snack shack," acknowledged John Hendricks, a member of the ad hoc committee, who said he is concerned the city could be sued by the Archibald family.
When Kochick argued the building "does nothing" to enhance the beach park, Commissioner Nancy Oatley countered that "voters felt differently" when they overwhelmingly opted to preserve the log cabin.
However, City Attorney Michael Connolly stressed the referendum involved "only an ordinance, not an amendment to city charter."
The City Commission, he said, can modify, change or rescind the ordinance protecting the Snack Shack at any time.
"What you have is a political issue," the attorney said. "You have to decide what 70 percent of the voters intended."
In the end, no decision was made, pending future discussion with a full commission.