tampabay.com

Snack Shack still an issue

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published May 26, 2007


MADEIRA BEACH - A public forum Monday night was supposed to help the city decide the future of the historic beachfront Snack Shack, but may only have succeeded in confusing the issue further.

Responding to public pressure, last month the City Commission backed off its decision to demolish the Snack Shack, but has yet to decide what use, if any, would be appropriate for the building.

"Herein lies the problem: preservation vs. economic development, " said Jerry Keenan, a consultant hired to facilitate the forum discussion.

At the end of the two-hour meeting, City Manager Jill Silverboard said she isn't sure how she will advise the City Commission. "We need more dialogue, " she said.

Silverboard had hoped the forum would provide a basis for writing a formal Request for Proposals that would generate specific proposals for renovation and future use of the 1930s-era Snack Shack.

Instead, the two-dozen citizens attending the forum appeared to split into three camps:

-One to "save" the Snack Shack by renovating the building and returning it to its historical role as a refreshment center for beachgoers;

-Another that wants a more in-depth study of future uses for the entire Archibald Park, including the Snack Shack;

-And a third that favors tearing the building down and replacing it with a "spectacular" tourist destination facility such as a museum and/or band shell.

The last proposal, offered by former Commissioner Len Piotti, was accompanied by colorful, computer-generated slides showing what his idea might look like.

The Snack Shack was nowhere to be found in Piotti's proposal. Nor was any cost estimate. Piotti said it could be paid for with a combination of grants and money donated by the business community.

Eddie Lee, who has filed a petition calling for passage of an ordinance requiring renovation of the Snack Shack, defended the log cabin-style building as an important part of the city's heritage.

If the signatures of more than 900 residents who signed the petition are validated, the commission will have two choices - approving the ordinance or putting the issue on the ballot in a citywide referendum vote.

"First things first - save the Snack Shack, " Lee said, suggesting it could serve as a public meeting facility or a venue for weddings, as well as offering food and drinks to beachgoers.

He estimated it would cost between $50, 000 and $100, 000 to renovate the building to meet current codes.

Meanwhile, resident Robert Shaw described Archibald Park as a "diamond in the rough" that could become a "centerpiece jewel" for the city.

"We need to redefine the use of the park, " Shaw said, suggesting that the Snack Shack could be donated to Heritage Park or some other historical group.

One voice that was not heard during the forum discussion was that of Alex Archibald, grandson of one of the original owners who donated the beach park property to the federal government in the 1930s for use by veterans.

The Department of the Interior deeded the park and the log cabin to the city in 1972 with the provision that it be used for public recreation, including recreation-related concessions.

Archibald is opposed to allowing any commercial use of the park or the Snack Shack, and has threatened to sue the city if it allows food and drinks to be sold from the building.

"The city is at risk of litigation, " City Attorney Michael Connolly cautioned.

"The cost of rehabilitating the building is very, very high, " Mayor Charles Parker said during the forum discussion. "I also think the risk (of a lawsuit) is very high."