Former St. Pete Beach Mayor Maria Lowe was in town for the first time in a year, and gave a presentation at the August 22 city commission meeting regarding her doctoral dissertation. Lowe moved to Paris with her family one year ago, but has been in the doctoral program at the University of South Florida and was in town to present her thesis idea, titled “Pooponomics,” to the college for acceptance.
According to her presentation, Lowe’s goals are “to inform the public on municipal responsibilities for wastewater management and their impact on quality of life, health and safety for a community.” Lowe plans to approach the topic in a humorous, easy-to-understand manner with a focus on global impact as well as local impact. She is recruiting assistance from St. Pete Beach city officials, through a series of interviews, regarding their experiences with dealing with an antiquated sewer system.
“Other cities can learn from us,” said Lowe. She plans to publish a book once her dissertation is completed in December 2018 and donate 25 percent of profits to the city of St. Pete Beach to build a library and install public bathrooms at various locations throughout the city.
Alcohol Ordinance Change Goes Through
Also on the agenda, the Final Reading to amend the St. Pete Beach Code of Ordinances, Chapter 6, which allows the consumption of alcohol on the sand beach in conjunction with a transient lodging facility. The commission unanimously approved the ordinance at first reading at the regular city commission meeting on August 8, after a few adjustments to the language. At the August 22 meeting, the commission again unanimously voted to approve the ordinance which allows guests staying at any of the 17 hotels on the Gulf of Mexico that rent beach cabanas to serve alcohol on the sand beach to registered guests – with a few caveats.
All guests, including day guests, must be registered, must wear a wristband exclusive to the facility, and may only be served alcohol in the designated cabana area, which must be 50 feet from wet sand areas. Servers employed by the hotels must provide the beverages in serviceware with the hotel’s logo. Alcoholic beverages are still prohibited on all private and public sand beach areas, in city parks and in public streets or on city sidewalks.
According to the ordinance, “each transient lodging facility that desires an alcohol Cabana Service Area Permit must complete the permitting process and have an active Business Tax Receipt for cabana rental associated with the lodging facility.” Glass and plastic straws are prohibited.
Despite concerns expressed from the audience regarding more trash, non-biodegradable cups and drinking by non-hotel guests, the motion carried with Mayor Alan Johnson reassuring residents, “This is not a free-for-all,” and there are strict guidelines in place if laws are not obeyed.
Food Trucks May Become More Common on SPB
The First Reading and Public Hearing allowing for mobile food establishments (food trucks) was also on the agenda and generated much discussion from both sides. The city has been discussing the issue since July and held a workshop and meeting of the Planning Board to decide if implementation is an option. The city Planning Board provided a recommendation of approval of the measure 5-0 at a public hearing on July 17.
Mastry’s Brewing Company, located at 7701 Blind Pass Road, has been using a scheduled variety of food trucks to provide food to patrons under a conditional use permit granted by the city, which has expired. Mayor Alan Johnson called food trucks “a paradigm shift in how people eat, and a matter of keeping up with the times,” yet there was still disagreement on if and how to proceed.
Commissioner Melinda Pletcher did not want to be “unfair” to established brick and mortar restaurants and the requirements they have to comply with in order to operate. Commissioner Ward Friszolowski maintained, “I’m not sure it’s in the best interest of the city.”
District 1 Commissioner Terri Finnerty, in whose district Mastry’s is located, said, “Every business in the area that I spoke with said food trucks increased their business and didn’t take away from anything. It added.” Finnerty also disagreed with a portion of the language that she felt did not apply to the proposed ordinance, and called Mastry’s “a gem on Blind Pass Road.”
Many in the audience seemed to support allowing food trucks to operate in St. Pete Beach, including residents who live within walking distance from Mastry’s and restaurant owners.
Keith Overton, the president and COO of the Tradewinds Island Resort, said, “I have no problem with this. What makes the beach cool and attractive are all the things there are to do. Why not add one more thing?”
Matthew Dahm, owner of Mastry’s, said business owners across the street from him have no problem with the food trucks and “appreciate the extra business.” Dahm equated providing meals at the request of patrons the same as providing live music. “Customers are requesting it,” he said.
After much discussion, Mayor Johnson and commissioners Terri Finnerty and Rick Falkenstein voted to pass a new food truck ordinance with commissioners Melinda Pletcher and Ward Friszolowski voting against the measure. A second vote on the ordinance, which, if approved, will put the law into effect, is scheduled for September 12.