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Treasure Island seeks to buy Sunset Beach lot for parking

Published Aug. 11, 2016

TREASURE ISLAND — The city is making a $2.1 million lease-purchase offer on property adjacent to Sunset Beach for a 200-space parking lot to relieve traffic congestion on neighborhood streets.

City Manager Reid Silverboard said the city is waiting to hear from property owner Tom Gaffney if its offer is accepted and then commissioners will decide whether to move forward on the deal.

The vacant 1.5 acres is at the northeast corner of Gulf Boulevard and First Street, across from Sunset Vista Park.

If approved, the city would pay $100,000 a year for a two-year lease and then pay $1.9 million for the property.

But some Sunset Beach residents are objecting to the deal, saying it will only increase traffic in their neighborhood.

"I am adamantly against it," said longtime Sunset Beach resident Robbie Welborn. "The only people with parking problems are Caddy's and Ka'Tiki, the two bars. The only reason they are doing it is to help them out. This will just create more problems for us and draw more people to the beach."

But Silverboard said the parking lot would not increase the number of spaces, instead it would shift parking from the neighborhoods to the north.

"We have complaints now with parking in the neighborhoods and the disruption that causes," he said. "This would shift the crowd toward the north of the Caddy's area rather than having them park in the south. Ultimately, the commission will have to decide if they will go with it."

The commission approved making the offer in a 3-1 vote with Commissioner Ken Keys of Sunset Beach voting against it.

Although Keys said he saw benefits in the deal by getting parking off the narrow neighborhood streets and moving it into a parking lot, he voted against the measure because of strong opposition from his constituents.

"A lot of our residents say if you build it, they will come so I have to side with my constituency," he said.

If approved, revenue from the parking lot would be a welcome addition to city's finances, Silverboard said.

By having a two-year lease, the city could determine how much revenue could be made and then seek a tax-exempt loan to purchase the property, paying it off with revenues from parking fees, he said.

"We would put in minimal improvements at first like grading the property and putting in wheel stops and pay stations," Silverboard said. "We estimate all that would cost under $150,000."