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Like this serene view? Well on Belleair Shore you can't have it. Image via Adobe.


‘Get off my lawn:’ Florida town bans beach umbrellas in a move that doesn’t make much sense

Skin cancer called, they’re ready to party.

Earlier this month the Town of Belleair Shore quietly approved a new ordinance that is leaving some in the small town scratching their heads.

Town commissioners approved an amendment to an ordinance prohibiting certain activities on the beach to include any “tent, canopy, umbrella, temporary shade structure or recreation structure on the beach within the incorporated limits of the Town.”

That’s right folks, no umbrellas on the beach. Do your worst, sun.

Prior to this inclusion, the ordinance included some reasonable restrictions. Don’t be naked, for example. No tomfoolery or booze, no bonfires or barbecues, no littering. Sure, no problem!

But no umbrellas on the beach? Really?

What makes this move even more ridiculous is its purported reasoning.

“WHEREAS, the Town Commission of the Town of Belleair Shore finds the amendments to be in the best interests of the health, safety and welfare of the community,” the ordinance reads.

I’m sorry, what?

Have these folks heard of a thing called skin cancer? You know, that pesky disease that can range in severity from a minor annoyance to a major life threatening illness that kills, oh, 600 Floridians a year … in a state with the second highest incidence of Melanoma in the country, according to National Institutes of Health.

Either these folks are in bed with the sunscreen lobby or they envision wild parties replete with brightly colored umbrellas turned killer jousting weapons. Think Anchorman battle, but at the beach. Brick killed a guy … with an umbrella?

OR, it could be what some residents suspect — that the swank property owners whose backyard IS LITERALLY THE BEACH, think they’re entitled to views unobstructed by the kinds of umbrellas you might see on a Florida post card. The neighboring town of Belleair Beach literally has a photo of a beachgoer sitting blissfully under an umbrella as its cover photo (read: not using an umbrella to impale anyone.)

This scene is A-OK in Belleair Beach. But at nearby Belleair Shore, those umbrellas are offensive and … dangerous? Image via Belleair Beach.

“No shade? Are you kidding me? We are ‘blocking their view.’ So our 7 year old daughter can roast on the sand because we (are) obstructing a portion of the beach from being seen. These people are sick. They just want ultimate control and deny us from accessing the beach,” resident Michelle Stegeby wrote to town officials Monday.

The question over whether the beach is private property or public has long been a battle in a county chock full of sandy white shores. But using umbrellas as a tool to further the “get off my lawn” mentality seems a new low.

Another resident emailed the town inquiring about the new rule, also noting its hilarity, and received very helpful (hello, sarcasm) clarification that the ordinance only applied to a small sliver of the beach from 40 Gulf Boulevard to 1900 Gulf Boulevard.

Between 2000 and 3500 Gulf Boulevard, “where the condos start,” is A-OK for avoiding skin cancer. Apparently the condo folks figure their views are just fine, even if sullied by people enjoying the beach under the protective shade of a handy beach umbrella.

“That’s the whole beach!” wrote resident  Karen Thomas Friday. “Who came up with that brilliant idea??  All of the mini-mansion owners who are never home & never use the beach?”

Hey, there’s a bright spot (well, if you’re on Belleair Beach there are now a lot of bright spots!) If you wear a mask, at least half your face will be protected. But we hear that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sonja Fitch

    June 30, 2020 at 6:36 am

    Oh the rich white privileged strike again! Funny story, in St. John’s county the beaches have been destroyed by erosion from storms and white privileged are expecting tax payers to fund their restorations! As folks in NC beaches found out it is not possible to save a lot of the beaches! So get over it folks!

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