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Pass-a-Grille sounds off about concert

They apologized for the traffic, noise and public urination during a recent Spin Doctors concert, then city commissioners let residents vent.

Up first was Ann Baker, a 25-year resident.

"I resent the fact that you took it upon yourselves to put our lives and our property in jeopardy," Baker said Wednesday during a meeting about the July 3 concert that clogged historic Pass-a-Grille. "I am absolutely, thoroughly disgusted."

Opinions were mixed among the nearly 100 people, some of whom spilled out of the chamber into the City Hall lobby.

Some came to support City Commissioner Bruno Falkenstein, who has been accused of misusing his elected position for the benefit of his family's business, the Hurricane Restaurant.

"The positives are being overlooked," Millard Gamble, owner of Island's End on Pass-a-Grille, told the board. "This was a win-win event."

The free concert, originally planned for Clearwater, was a benefit for the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum on Pass-a-Grille.

Just minutes before Wednesday's public comments, the long-awaited check was presented to the Friends of the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, a volunteer fund-raising group for the museum.

The concert, which drew a record 8,000 people and closed the neighborhood to vehicular traffic, raised $13,125 for the museum, which is owned by Pinellas County.

The money, library volunteers said, will be used to start a research library and publish a history of the barrier islands.

"We can hardly wait to spend it," said a thrilled Betsy Pheil, president of the fund-raising group.

Despite the gift, originally estimated at $5,000, bad feelings and memories remained.

"I couldn't get my car out of the driveway," said Mary Pheiffer, who lives on Pass-a-Grille Way. Her driveway was blocked by cars parked along the two-lane road leading into Pass-a-Grille.

"I was very frightened that night," she said.

Commissioners made no decision about limiting future event attendance. They will, however, change the special-event permit process to avoid another traffic nightmare. They did not discuss complaints about Falkenstein.

Some residents have said he knew the featured act, Spin Doctors, would draw a substantially bigger crowd than the estimate of 2,500 people given on the permit application. More than 8,000 people showed up.

The popular band performed in front of the Hurricane Restaurant, which co-sponsored the concert and is managed by Falkenstein and owned by his family.

During talks on the event permit, Falkenstein did not abstain from voting.

Wednesday night, his brother, Rick Falkenstein, rallied to his side.

"I am the guy who represents the Hurricane," he told the crowd. "I am the guy who should be under the heat lamp."

Bruno Falkenstein, an 11-year commissioner, was flanked by supporters, including a representative from Leverock's Seafood House. In closing, Falkenstein apologized and said: "I don't own a pair of shoes that are perfect."