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Whitney Beach public, but still private

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  • | 4:00 a.m. May 27, 2009
  • Longboat Key
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The signs at Whitney Beach Plaza used to warn beachgoers that their cars would be towed if they parked in the shopping center. But, now, Andrew Hlywa, the plaza’s owner, has a different message for those headed to the beach: They can park at Whitney Beach Plaza and use the 12 restrooms at Whitney Beach Deli & Wines for free. Hlywa hopes to promote a little-known public beach access at 6847 Gulf of Mexico Drive owned by Beachwalk condominium, which is required to keep the approximately 10-foot access point open to the public.

While they’re at it, Hlywa also hopes beachgoers will stick around at the restaurant for a sandwich or drink.

On Monday, May 18, Hlywa asked town officials for permission to change his red-and-white “Shops are open” sign with a new one reading:

“Free beach parking & access
Public toilets
$1 drafts

On Thursday, May 21, Hlywa stood outside the shopping center wearing a sandwich board of the sign he hoped to erect.

But town officials met with Hlywa Friday, May 22, to tell him that he cannot put up the sign or advertise public parking and restrooms.

According to Planning, Zoning & Building Director Monica Daigle, Hlywa can’t advertise “public restrooms” because they aren’t public — they’re located on private property in a place of business.

As for beach parking, the 188 spaces at Whitney Beach Plaza are the minimum allowed by town codes.

“There technically is not a surplus that can be used for other purposes,” Daigle said.

Hlywa also learned that the flea markets that he had been holding in the plaza parking lots on the first weekend of each month since last October have been illegal, because, according to town codes, such events are limited to non-profit cultural centers, pre-schools, elementary schools or places where childcare has been approved.

Meanwhile, town staff members are researching whether or not the town’s sign code allows for “human signs.”

Hlywa said that he had hoped to drum up business for both his restaurant and tenants by advertising public restrooms and parking. Hlywa said business was strong when he opened Whitney Beach Deli & Wines in
February, but, since then, tourists and snowbirds have headed North, leaving him with little need for the shopping center’s 188 parking spaces or the restaurant’s 12 restrooms.

Hlywa said he will comply with town and state codes and will no longer advertise public restrooms and parking. He plans to change his sign to read: “Free toilets, $1 drafts/food.”

“These bathrooms are private, but the public is welcome,” Hlywa said.

He hopes that beachgoers get the message that they’re still welcome at Whitney Beach Plaza. In his restaurant, Hlywa plans to scratch off window signs that say “Proper attire required.” And, he recently added a sentence to his menus: “Just a few steps from the beach access at 6847 Gulf of Mexico Drive.”

1. 2825 Gulf of Mexico Drive
2. 3055 Gulf of Mexico Drive
3. 3175 Gulf of Mexico Drive
4. 3410 Gulf of Mexico Drive
5. 3495 Gulf of Mexico Drive
6. 4711 Gulf of Mexico Drive
7. 4795 Gulf of Mexico Drive
8. 6399 Gulfside Road
9. 100 Broadway
10. 100 Palmetto
11. 100 Coral Ave.
12. 7055 Seabreeze Ave.
13. 100 North Shore Road

Commission wrap-up
At its Thursday, May 21 regular workshop, the Longboat Key Town Commission:

Forwarded to its Monday, June 1 regular meeting:
• A resolution that allows the town manager authority to use funds and take emergency action in the event a quorum of the Town Commission is not available in the event of a hurricane.
• A resolution that will allow the Town Commission to spend up to $200,000 in commission contingency funds on storm or red-tide cleanup in the event a quorum of the Town Commission is not available this summer.
• A resolution that allows for the cancellation of the July and August regular workshop meetings and the August regular meeting.
• A resolution that provides for the adoption of an identity-theft prevention program.

To hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 30 to consider modifications to a Dry Dock Waterfront Grill site plan  for a covered dining area on the waterfront. The meeting is contingent on approval of the site plan from the Planning and Zoning Board next month.



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