ST. PETE BEACH — The city plans to hire a “beach manager” who will tour the city’s largest tourist attraction and serve as a liaison between the Sheriff’s Office, code enforcement, area hotels, residents, visitors and city staff.
The beach manager will also be responsible for helping to educate the public visiting the beach, as well as overseeing the dune system and overseeing the maintenance of the beach and its adjacent waterways.
Jennifer McMahon, the city’s chief operating officer, told the Beach Management Committee on Aug. 17 that the position will be created through a repositioning of staff, but did not mention exactly how the transformation would take place.
City commissioners expressed their approval of the beach manager idea when City Manager Alex Rey suggested it during a recent meeting that focused on designing an all-encompassing beach ordinance to centralize rules and regulations.
McMahon told management committee members that staff have met with the City Commission for two workshops and been briefed on what they would like to see in a proposed beach ordinance.
The City Commission plans additional public hearings before a beach ordinance is codified.
McMahon said that while the commission’s initial direction was to ban fishing off the beach during certain hours, so as not to endanger nearby swimmers, subsequent investigation by staff found that a ban could be problematic and violate the law. state.
City staff then proposed a different solution to protect swimmers from those who cast lines and hooks into the water. Under a staff proposal, the city would adopt a regulation that would make it “illegal for any person to fish in the Gulf after being advised by a law enforcement official that the health and safety of bathers is in jeopardy.”
“So you can fish as long as you don’t endanger anyone,” McMahon explained.
If an officer says a fisherman is getting too close to swimmers, they will have to move or be asked to leave the beach, he said.
That change will be proposed to the City Commission the next time the beach ordinance is considered. He said it could also be proposed that fishermen be required to obtain a fishing permit from the city, signing that they have read the new rules and regulations.
City commissioners initially wanted bicyclists to be limited to specific hours, so as not to conflict with pedestrians. Later, they considered limited hours only for residents who wanted to ride their bikes on the beach, after applying for a “bike on the beach” permit where they would sign that they read the new regulations.
“So a compromise, I hope,” McMahon said.
Exactly how bicyclists and fishermen will be restricted will be further discussed at a future City Commission meeting.
When it comes to popular beach huts, McMahon told committee members that direction given to staff by city commissioners includes that huts should only be placed in designated areas when in use or reserved, rather than leave them on the beach all day.
They will also need to be brought every night throughout the year, not just in season with turtle season.
“Bringing them in each night is in the current ordinance, but we haven’t enforced it, and that’s something we’ll be working on with vendors and hotels to give them some time to make adjustments,” he said.
It was also suggested that a density requirement be imposed for hotels using cabins. “The direction I got from the commission was that they didn’t want to go into density limitations at this time,” McMahon said. “The idea is that hoteliers can’t turn off cabins until they’re booked or in use, and having to bring them in every night, could reduce the amount available.”
When it came to seabirds, commissioners favored adding protections to the beach ordinance.
“We’ve had a lot of issues in particular with the Black Skimmers, with residents, tourists and coyotes interfering with their colonies, so we want to make sure we have this here, so it’s enforceable,” McMahon said.
Commissioners said they also want to ban plastic foam containers like Styrofoam from the beach.
City commissioners also want to take advantage of a new state law that allows cities and counties to ban smoking on the beach.
“Other beach communities are waiting for us to follow. If we all adopt it, it will be much easier to educate and promote not to smoke on the beach, “said McMahon.
As for people teaching classes on the beach, McMahon said that if it is an activity that would have taken place inside one of the city’s recreation centers, then it will be treated like renting a classroom for instruction. , and the same applies to city parks.
Some type of seller’s permit may be required for businesses wishing to host beach picnics or weddings.
The city commissioners will make a final decision, based on additional comments from staff and the public, at a future public hearing.