Despite a vocal crowd opposing it, the city council last Thursday approved a change to the Coastal Management Plan that could open the door to certain commercial additional activity on the beach.
The discussion, and the majority of the opposition, focused on food and beverage vendors.
Since Thursday, the mayor, who opened this can of worms, has backed away from the concept of allowing food and beverage vendors on the beach.
Stepping back to look at the big picture, what the council has done is to create the mechanism that gives the city the flexibility to consider ordinances that would allow food and beverage sales and “beach related services” on the beach.
What the city council has not done is approve the sale of food and beverages on the beach.
For that to happen, the city council would have to direct staff to draft an ordinance that would go through three public readings before it could be voted up or down. (Issues such as this are why we have opposed shortening the number of public readings required to pass an ordinance.)
Given the opposition to such a move, as well as a lack of interest on the part of council members who voted to approve the change to the plan, it is unlikely such an ordinance will make its way to city hall.
The fact that the council approved the change to the Coastal Management Plan that opens the door to more commercial activity on the beach only means it can happen, not that it will.
Any type of commercial activity can only occur at the behest of the council after the required three readings.
We agree that the beach should not be turned into a commercial strip.
We agree that, though vendors would be required to clean up their “work space” and even the area around it, we live in a culture that too readily accepts litter as a way of life, and food and beverage sales on the beach would generate trash over which vendors would have no control.
We also have concerns that allowing food and beverage vendors on the beach might have a negative impact on businesses in town whose existence depends on food and beverage sales, and that foot the bills for store fronts and all that encompasses as well as year round employees.
We agree, too, with the majority of the council that there should be a mechanism for the city to expand offerings on the beach.
Our vision is one that sees such things as catamaran rides, surfboard rentals and lessons, equipment rental for volleyball, bocce ball and other types of beach games and activities. Our vision does not include one commercial activity after another. Instead, it sees one vendor per activity spaced over a broad area of the beach so the existing ambiance is not interrupted.
We do not agree that a referendum to repeal the council’s vote to amend the Coastal Management Plan is necessary to prevent the sale of food and beverages on the beach, which by all indications is the primary objection to the amendment.
Any forward movement relative to the change in the Coastal Management Plan should be made with careful thought, with a process that engages the public and goes beyond the required three readings of an ordinance.
For now, though, the matter should be left alone to give time for cool, creative and visionary heads to prevail.