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Beachfront Snack Shack's future remains up in air

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published April 30, 2007


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MADEIRA BEACH - The key question left unanswered Tuesday, as the City Commission surrendered to public pressure to stop a planned demolition, is what will happen to the historic beachfront Snack Shack.

Mayor Charles Parker surprised the overflow crowd of Snack Shack supporters Tuesday by asking the commission to postpone tearing down the 1930s-era building.

He got quick agreement as the commission unanimously voted to "indefinitely" delay any demolition.

"When the public speaks that loud, sometimes you just have to step back and listen a little bit, " said Commissioner Steve Kochick, who with Commissioner Nancy Oakley had opposed the commission's February 3-2 vote to abandon the Snack Shack.

That possibility prompted strong citizen opposition, leading to a petition drive that organizers say collected more than 800 signatures.

"Thank you for having cooler heads prevail, " said Eddie Lee, who organized the petition drive. "We just wanted to put the brakes on this thing."

His petition, which has yet to be filed with the City Clerk, calls for an ordinance that would require the commission to halt any demolition efforts and work with community groups to renovate the structure and reopen it to the public.

Kaitlyn Chalke, a 12-year-old Madeira Beach Middle School student, became the public face of that opposition as she attended rallies, collected signatures, and sat with school friends in the front row at Tuesday's commission meeting.

Each carried large, yellow hand-lettered signs calling on commissioners to change their minds.

"This is really cool. Save it, baby, " she said after the commission voted to call off demolishing the building.

The commission now plans to hold a town hall meeting in May to seek public comment on the Snack Shack's future.

City Manager Jill Silverboard said Friday that the planned May 17 meeting date will be changed, due to scheduling conflicts.

After that meeting, Silverboard plans to publish a formal request for written proposals from groups interested in either taking over or working with the city to renovate and manage the building.

The commission's final decision could be just the same - the demise of the Snack Shack.

A major issue confronting the city is a conflict between the original 1931 deed transferring the beachfront property to the federal government and the 1972 quit claim deed, turning over use and management of the Archibald Memorial Beach Park and the Snack Shack building to the city.

When the Archibald family donated the property to the National Park Service for recreational use by veterans, the deed prohibited any commercial use. But when the Interior Department turned the land and facility over to the city, the quit claim deed allowed the city to operate or contract for a food and drink concession.

The concession was operated for years by the Disabled American Veterans. More recently, the city approved a new concession agreement that allowed conversion of the log cabin into a restaurant.

The Interior Department opposed that plan, resulting in long delays and an eventual lawsuit from the concessionaire. The city settled earlier this year - at a cost to taxpayers of $500, 000.

Maureen Cadzow, a local resident who represents the Archibald family, says although the family supports saving the log cabin building, they strongly oppose any commercial use, including the sale of food or drink.

[Last modified April 29, 2007, 21:10:54]


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