BELLEAIR BEACH -- A turnout crowd -- in a protesting mood -- is expected at next Monday's (July 26) Belleair Beach City Council meeting.
The latest outrage, in their view, to be perpetrated on Belleair Beach residents is the plan for a marina on Belle Isle Avenue near Gulf Boulevard.
Residents have barely recovered from the beating they took beginning in the spring of 2003 with exorbitant sewer rates. Refunds in that debacle are in the works, but the City Council has been in no hurry to execute this action.
The sewer rates brouhaha led to bitter protests and expressions of rage in the city, and it was this episode that was the chief factor in triggering a citizens' move to change the fundamental form of government in the city.
When they asked the city council for a referendum to do this, they were refused, so some active citizens got together and forced a referendum on last March's ballot.
Its success will lead to a totally new change in the city's government with a city manager and probably is the first motion of the broom that many think will do some housecleaning at city hall.
Plans for the marina that will be discussed Monday night -- the facility would be an addition to the present city marina on Gulf Boulevard at the city line with Clearwater -- were sprung on the public at the council's meeting July 7.
Up until then, nary a person in the village had heard of such a plan.
But when the word got out -- an exclusive story in the Clearwater Gazette & Beach Views last week -- an immediate firestrom of opposition was triggered.
Conversations ensued (mostly among Belle Isle Avenue residents) and e-mails were zinging back and forth. Letter writers to the paper emerged.
The council plans a three-way joint meeting Monday night. A regular council meeting will be combined with a building committee meeting (that is the group pushing for a new city hall) and a meeting of the marina committee is also included.
At the July 7 meeting Dan Baitcher, chairman of the marina committee, posted a large aerial photograph of the site planned for the marina, with proposed slips drawn in. So the idea to place a marina at that locale didn't come up in three days. But no one had heard about it.
Parking for the marina, according to the aerial photo treatment, would be the park on the north side of Belle Isle Avenue just before reaching Wedgewood.
The question raised by some is whether that park was funded by grant funds. If so, such funds are usually dedicated and subsequent use must conform with the terms of the grant. If grant funds did pay for the park, proponents of the marina may have to look elsewhere (if there is an elsewhere) to provide marina parking.
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