TREASURE ISLAND — Some downtown business owners are asking the city to demolish a gazebo used as a tourist welcome center. They say the homeless are using it as a shelter.
Gail Byrne, owner of the property that was leased to the city and used by the Chamber of Commerce, said the tenants at CJ's on the Island bar in the Pirate Square Shopping Center are complaining that homeless people are threatening passers-by, panhandling, sleeping, and urinating on the 107th Avenue property.
Police have had numerous calls to the property, she said, but the problem seems to be getting worse.
"I feel the time to demolish the chamber building could be now," Byrne said in a letter to the city. "It appears this is now a security issue for my tenants and something must be done ASAP."
Cherie Okie, owner of CJ's on the Island, has taken photos of the people using the property and appealed to Byrne for help.
"Some have threatened me, called me every name in the book. … Tell me I have no rights to get them away from here," she said. "They constantly bother the customers coming in for money."
The gazebo was built in 2001 after property was donated by the former owners of the shopping plaza. The chamber used it for several years and equipment for the city's clock tower is stored inside the structure, City Manager Reid Silverboard said.
He is investigating what the cost would be to demolish the structure and relocate and update the equipment.
"The City Commission will have to decide if it wants to abandon the easement," he said. "The clock and sound system is hard-wired in the building and we would have to move it to City Hall and operate it through a wireless connection, and probably buy new equipment."
Silverboard said the chamber isn't currently using the building, but "it is still available for the public to use as a resting place."
But Allan Martinez, chairman of the board of the Treasure Island & Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the building is still in use during the winter season.
"We have a volunteer there. Lots of visitors come by there and want information on where to go to eat and other activities going on," he said. "It is a good opportunity to interact with the public."
The chamber board met this week and "is 100 percent in favor of continuing to utilize the building," he said. Martinez said he plans to present a plan to the City Commission at its next meeting Tuesday.
Byrne thinks getting rid of the building is the best answer because her tenants feel threatened and harassed.
"I feel bad for the homeless people, but if this is going to interfere with tourists and passers-by, that's not good for Treasure Island," she said.