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No turf war, but bordering on one

Where does Pass-a-Grille end and Don CeSar Place begin? No one is really sure.

By AMY WIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 29, 2001


ST. PETE BEACH -- Within the shadow of the Don CeSar Beach Resort is a boundary that separates the Pinellas beaches' oldest settlement from a neighborhood designed to complement the palatial hotel that is its centerpiece.

These days, that line is fuzzy.

A new sign promoting the Pass-a-Grille neighborhood is inside what is officially Don CeSar Place, residents there say. And Pass-a-Grille residents aren't sure the Don CeSar Place sign is placed correctly, either.

"It's like battling over the Gaza Strip or something," said local Realtor Frank Hurley, author of Surf, Sand and Postcard Sunsets, a history of Pass-a-Grille and the gulf beaches. "I hope we don't have warfare or anything like that."

By most accounts, Pass-a-Grille consists of the southernmost 31 blocks of the Pinellas gulf beaches. The community association's new Pass-a-Grille sign is two or three blocks north of 31st Avenue, its rough boundary. On the flip side, the sign for Don CeSar Place is two or three blocks south of Pass-a-Grille's marker.

The Pass-a-Grille Community Association put the sign where it is partly because it was near an electrical source. If the sign is moved, the association might have to pay for additional wiring if it wants the sign to be lighted.

Each neighborhood was once its own city until they consolidated with the rest of Long Key to form St. Pete Beach in 1957. Of the four cities that merged to form St. Pete Beach, Pass-a-Grille worked hardest to promote itself individually.

Today, residents of Pass-a-Grille are just as likely to tell where they live by their neighborhood, not their city.

Don CeSar Place, on the other hand, was the project of Thomas Rowe, who in 1925 bought 80 acres north of Pass-a-Grille for his hotel and subdivision. Don CeSar Place became its own short-lived municipality in 1950.

"We're building the same image for our community as Pass-a-Grille is, but not as successfully," said Skip Lewis, vice president of the Don CeSar Property Owners Association, who first reported the sign dilemma to his district's city commissioner, Peter Blank. "We're trying to get our historical story out there, but not to the degree that Pass-a-Grille has."

A Department of Transportation sign directing travelers from the Pinellas Bayway, for example, tells drivers to turn south for Pass-a-Grille. In fact, the first few blocks south of the Don CeSar, by all accounts, are part of Don CeSar Place.

"That's the image that Pass-a-Grille likes, and we resent that," Lewis said. "It's kind of a land grab, and I don't mean that in a bad way, but it is just not correct."

City Commissioner Lolly Kreider, who lives in Pass-a-Grille, said: "It's all a mystery to me. It's not really something that will create a lot of friction, I'm sure. It's just an interesting mystery. I'm sure our Pass-a-Grille association would not object to the moving of the sign.

"Don CeSar Place does have a history of its own," she said. "I can respect that, and we don't want to infringe on their place."

Historians and local leaders are working to clarify it. Some descriptions of St. Pete Beach's south side even indicate that a small area between Pass-a-Grille and Don CeSar Place was unincorporated until the consolidation.

"I was handed on old plat map from probably the '20s," Acting City Manager Chris Brimo said. "I don't know whether that is still valid. The boundaries change. We were all part of Hillsborough County at one point."

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