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St. Pete Beach approves water slide for summer

An inflatable water slide three stories tall can go on the beach behind the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, three of five commissioners ruled last week.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the slide will be placed at the center of the Island Grand property, about 400 feet from the Seamark condominiums and the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Beachfront Resort.

"The key factor in this is that we can at any time terminate the special exception," said Commissioner Julie Christman. "I just didn't see any harm for giving it a try."

Those who spoke against TradeWinds' application said that allowing the slide would set a bad precedent for businesses on the beach.

"When are you going to stop giving special exceptions for things like this?" asked Roy Siegle, who lives at the Seamark. "Why put something on our beach that is not consistent with the pride we have in our beach?"

Said James Kotsopoulos, owner of the Holiday Inn and Best Western: "You'll be opening the door to a lot of other applicants with special exemptions to allow the circus in town."

Only one person from the audience, Ken Foulsom of Don CeSar Place, endorsed the slide.

"I've used the slide four times and each time I thought it was extremely family-orientated," Foulsom said. "St. Pete Beach is not just known for its pure sands but also for its family atmosphere, all of which I think (the slide) represents."

Christman added later: "It was a difficult decision to make. We can't base our decision solely on a handful of people who come to the meetings."

Commissioners Peter Blank and Lolly Kreider voted against the hotelier's application.

TradeWinds general manager Keith Overton said the water slide is a part of a marketing strategy to attract more business.

"What we're trying to do here is create a marketing niche for our properties that nobody else has," Overton said. "Every thing in this market and economy is about value and anything we can do to add value to the experience at our resort give us a competitive advantage."

TradeWinds was seeking its first waiver from the City Commission since July, when Overton accused city officials of being unsupportive of the hotel's efforts to attract more tourists.

The commission allowed the slide with some conditions:

+ It must be located with ample separation and protective barrier between the slide operation and any existing dune vegetation;

+ The days and hours of operation be limited to seven days a week from 8 a.m. until sunset; and

+ The special exception should be valid between Memorial Day and the end of Labor Day weekend on an annual recurring basis, with the condition that the slide operation "may be terminated at any time for any reason as determined by the City Commission."