PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A beach brawl is brewing between Belleair Shore and Belleair Beach in Pinellas County.
The mayor of Belleair Beach has filed a lawsuit to stop an ordinance in neighboring Belleair Shore that bans beach umbrellas.
“They passed an ordinance in Belleair Shore that bans all of the citizens of Belleair Beach that have the exclusive rights to use these lots for beach and bathing purposes, they stopped us from putting up umbrellas or any shade devices,” said Joseph Manzo who is an attorney and filed the lawsuit as a private citizen and not in his capacity as mayor.
Manzo says there is documentation dating back to the 1940s that spells out beach access and parking for the residents of Belleair Beach. Manzo says over the years Belleair Shore have tried to erode those rights.
“They also had banned, a few years ago, eating and consuming food on the beach. So, that’s crazy too. There’s not another beach up and down this coast that prohibits that,” said Manzo.
He says the real intent of the ordinance is to discourage public use of the beach.
“What they’ve really said though was that it’s because of our view and we don’t want the people on the beach,” said Manzo.
Manzo also isn’t seeking greater public access to the beach. In fact, he wants Belleair Shore to enforce existing regulations that limit general public parking in the area and contends the beach at Belleair Shore does not receive any taxpayer funded beach renourishment and as a result, the property owners on the beachside own the land all the way up to the mean high tide line.
Exactly where that line is can be a highly contested issue. Many other beach residents are angry at the push to limit public access.
“I disagree, I just disagree, the beach is the beach and they contend they own right up to the water,” said Joe Romano.
Belleair Shore made national news when former Mayor Bob Clayton used a gold badge to chase away people from the beach.
A city employee said the current mayor would not be able to comment on the beach umbrella ordinance because of the pending lawsuit.
Manzo says he’s seeking to have the ordinance dropped and the rights of Belleair Beach residents affirmed with his lawsuit.