The Clearwater Beach Association wrote friendly letters to the first two homeowners.
Then there was a third.
"When a third house popped up, that was exactly what we were trying to prevent, was a domino effect," association president Wendy Hutkins told FOX 13 news.
A third waterfront homeowner along Clearwater Beach's exclusive North Beach has now roped off an area of sand hundreds of feet behind their house. Several hundred feet of sand dunes and sea oats separate the residences from their privatized areas.
Most neighbors wish they would not do that, and the association is pressing the city take action.
"Having no message sends the message that it's OK," Hutkin said, predicting even more of the beach will be roped off.
The only indication of how the "ropers" view the criticism is contained in a written response to the association's letter.
Long-letter-made-short: "We have done our research and feel private ownership rights extend to the water's edge."
They may be right.
"This is what we're trying to find out," Mayor George Cretekos said. "Where is the public beach, as opposed to where is the private beach, where's the homeowners' beach?"
The mayor said so far, city staff thinks this is a civil dispute and since the city has no ownership interest in the beach, it is up to the neighbors to work things out -- possibly in court.
Hutkin thinks that is quite a burden on a small neighborhood association.
"We do not have a large financial bankroll behind us of course. We'd have to raise money to do that," Hutkin admitted.
The area in question is roughly one mile north of the popular and much more populated portions of Clearwater Beach. Beach walkers are few and far between, and their opinions vary.
"For me, this is fabulous and these few areas that are roped off don't bother me at all," Claudia Smith commented, explaining she bicycles in from Island Estates.
David Prizio of California described himself as an absentee condo owner who stays on North Beach several times a year.
"It's sort of offensive I guess," Prizio said. "It's always been an area that's just been undisturbed, kind of wild lands, and it seemed kind of wrong somehow."
The three "ropers" to date selected different posts, ropes and/or signs, possibly opening one door for city regulation.
"OK, you can do it, but you have to conform to some type of a standard," Cretekos speculated, indicating the city staff is still looking for solutions.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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