Belleair Beach Struggle Continues Over Parking to Get Beach Buildup
by Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BEACH - Sand replenishment or, heaven forbid, the lack of it, grabbed the focus of attention at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
In order for local beaches to have eroded sand replaced – erroneously called "renourishment," but actually replenishment – the law requires that the beaches be open to the public in general.
Nicole Elko, Pinellas County’s "coastal coordinator," says that no parking-no sand is the operative situation.
And to accomplish that there must be certain public parking available within easy distance of the given beach.
As it happens, Belleair Beach lacks the minimum requirement and the penalty for that is to not have the replenishment which would border on disaster.
Parking is available at the city marina, located on the north city line with Sand Key, and also at Morgan Street Park. Required are 82 parking spaces. At this point, Belleair Beach can provide 70 – which leaves it 12 shy.
The problem largely involves the area south of Morgan Street Park. Everything north of there has adequate parking. Part of the requirement is that the parking must be within a quarter mile of the beach.
One approach has been to ask condominiums to donate some parking. They are reluctant, with good reason, to do so because of an array of liability problems.
Another alternative is to acquire some vacant lots and use them for parking. But lots go for $300,000 or so and this is most likely out of reach for a city already hard pressed financially and facing some tough budget questions.
Another idea is to some limited street parking, which is otherwise unlawful in Belleair Beach. A clamor from residents would be expected on that – a variation on the "not in my backyard" theme.
Belleair Shore, which fronts the beach on the southern part of the city, can offer no help. For one thing, the beach along that small town does not receive sand replenishment the town has no parking at all.
There is no way Belleair Shore could provide parking. There is no public space within the town which is made up exclusively of private homes.
What may be the last resort might have to be utilized and that would be to go to the authorities and get a waiver on the few spaces the city is short on.
In a footnote to all that, there was a perception that the erosion since the last replenishment has been more severe than at other times. There have been no major storms in five years, but the sand has disappeared more quickly.
That situation was presented to Elko who said that it was found that the sand in the most recent buildup was very fine and this resulted in faster erosion. The next replenishment, should there be one, will use more coarse sand, she said.
At Waste Management’s request, the council agreed – over the protest of Councilmembers Rob Baldwin, Mitchell Krach and Stan Sofer – to allow trash pickup to be changed from the Monday and Thursday to Tuesday and Friday. This will take effect August 1.
The city will pay 3.2 percent more for police services, as the council agreed to a new contract price of $414,628.56. The Sheriff’s Office cited increased expenses it has such as a pay increase for deputies, increased insurance cost and more expense in keeping vehicles on the road.
The council will hold a pre-budget work session June 17 at 6 p.m.
Belleair Beach, like all local jurisdictions, faces a grim budget problem with property values down, and county and state contributions equally down.
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