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Can 30 days and 47 names save 1 shack?

MADEIRA BEACH A commission or citywide vote may hold cabin's fate.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published July 1, 2007


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The 1930s-era Snack Shack at Archibald Park got a reprieve Tuesday when petition organizers were given another 30 days to collect the remaining 47 voter signatures required to force the city to abandon earlier plans to demolish the building.

Assuming this third try to gather the 833 valid signatures is successful, the commission could take its first vote on a proposed ordinance by the end of the month. The ordinance specified in the petition calls for the city to repair and reopen the building to the public. How that would be financed is optional and could involve any combination of public and private funds.

According to the city's charter, the commission is only obligated to vote on the proposed ordinance. If it turns it down, the fate of the Snack Shack would be up to voters in a citywide referendum sometime during the coming year. Mayor Charles Parker, who supports tearing the building down, asked Tuesday if the pending petition forces that action to remain suspended.

"There is no legal impediment to moving forward, " said City Attorney Michael Connolly. "But it is still my advice to stay the demolition and give an opportunity to finish this issue (the petition drive)."

Whatever the city finally does about the historic log cabin, it may face a lawsuit from the grandson of one of the original donors of the beachfront park. Tuesday, Alex Archibald formally asked the commission to voluntarily agree to his claim that any commercial use is prohibited under both the warranty deed turning over the beach property to the federal government in 1931 and the subsequent quit-claim deed from the Interior Department turning the park over to the city in 1972.

To Archibald, that means no concessions, whether a snack stand or rental of beach umbrellas, chairs or cabanas anywhere in the beach park.

"I am sorry I am now pursuing legal action against the city, but you can't give away something you never got. I am going to fight any commercial use on this property, " Archibald told the commission Tuesday.

He also accused the commission of using "shenanigans" several years ago when it tried to lease the Snack Shack as a destination restaurant. That unsuccessful attempt resulted in the city paying $500, 000 in a court settlement with the concession holder.

Now the Snack Shack is essentially gutted and needs substantial repair. Archibald has no objection to reopening the building to the public, but is adamant that nothing be sold there. A letter sent by his attorney, Kenneth Weiss, challenged both any concession agreements and the city's revenues from parking meters. "It is also possible that the use of parking meters also violates the restriction on commercial use, " Weiss said. He asked the city to "resolve this matter by settlement" rather than "engage in a protracted and expensive litigation."

Weiss is well known on the beaches for his involvement in protracted political and legal battles against high-rise buildings in both Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach. Now focused on a slightly different battle in Madeira Beach, Weiss also contacted petition organizer Eddie Lee, asking him to join Archibald's lawsuit and pay half the anticipated $5, 000 in legal expenses.

Lee turned Weiss down.

"In no way am I in favor of city giving away the right for operating a concession at the Snack Shack, " said Lee. "I have a moral obligation to hundreds of people who signed this petition and expect another limited menu snack shack in there." At the same time, Lee said he would have no objection to a court making a definitive ruling on the dispute over how the Snack Shack would be used. "This may be the only way to have Archibald not to hold a stick over our heads. It's obvious he is not going to go away, " said Lee.

Lee has formally notified the city that the petition drive will continue. He says the group has already collected nearly enough signatures. Monday, members of the group hope to collect even more signatures outside the post office on Madeira Way between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

[Last modified June 30, 2007, 23:13:28]


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