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Treasure Island offers to settle lawsuit over beach parking

TREASURE ISLAND — The City Commission is offering three beachfront hotel owners a chance to settle their lawsuit against the city by agreeing to some parking restrictions for beach festivals and other events.

At its meeting Tuesday, the commission approved offering a settlement agreement to owners of the Tahitian Beach Resort, Page Terrace Beachfront Hotel and the Windjammer Resort.

The proposed settlement would allow only four city-sponsored events with public parking between May 1 and Dec. 31. The proposal, however, would ban events with public parking between Jan. 1 and April 30 and would not allow carnivals at any time of the year.

Events not allowing general public parking would be permitted but vendor parking would be restricted to a specific area.

Treasure Island currently holds about three city-sponsored events a year, parks and recreation director Cathy Hayduke said. They include Sanding Ovations, Bands on the Sand and this year, a 60th anniversary celebration for the city.

"This won't have much of an impact on the way the city operates now," Hayduke said.

That's because the lawsuit has already impacted beachfront activities. A kite festival has been scaled back and currently doesn't allow beachfront parking by the public.

Since the lawsuit was filed nearly a year ago, the city has lost at least two beach events sponsored by outside groups that have moved to other locations. Another relocated to Treasure Island Park.

Hotel owners sued to stop what they said was overuse of the beachfront for events like carnivals, festivals and concerts. Since the lawsuit was filed in December, the state has been requiring Treasure Island to jump through more hoops to receive permits for beach events.

Arthur Czyszczon, general manager of the Page Terrace, said the owners would "definitely consider" the proposed settlement but called it a "last ditch effort."

Mediation went on for four weeks, Czyszczon said, and the owners wanted to settle but no solution was found.

"We are not against events on the beach at all, we just don't want the driving and parking," he said.

Whether that will change if a settlement is reached, Hayduke said, "only time will tell. I don't have the answer to that one."

City attorney Maura Kiefer said the next scheduled court date on the suit is Oct. 23.

The agreement proposes each party pay for its litigation costs. City officials Wednesday could not give a recent estimate of its legal expenses.