Boating and water sports are favorite activities with the residents of Clearwater and Clearwater Beach. The Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico attract sailing and powerboat enthusiasts from Tampa Bay communities to these areas daily.
Owners can haul smaller boats to ramps for launching, but larger vessels must be stored in either high and dry spaces or wet slips. In recent years, a shortage of storage has occurred due to an increase in the number of watercraft and the sale of marinas to condominium developers.
The marketing office for the Residences at Windward Passage is located in the building formerly occupied by High and Dry Marina. During peak season, the Island Estates marina had spaces for 300 boats. To accommodate the construction of the 55-unit luxury condo complex, customers had to seek storage elsewhere.
Clearwater Bay Marina, LLC, 900 N. Osceola Avenue, has 85 wet slips and a high and dry facility with 86 spaces. Plans for a proposed 133-unit condominium are on the agenda for the January meeting of the Community Development Board (CDB). If and when approval is given for a height variance from 30 ft. to 100 ft., the high and dry will close, so construction may begin. More boat owners will have to acquire storage, which is becoming extremely difficult to find.
An effort was made to contact the marina owners to learn if the plans include any public docking facilities. Calls were made to Northside Engineering Services, Inc., the LLC’s representative listed on the CDB agenda, and to Decade Properties of Waukesha, Wisconsin, manager of the high and dry. At each of the companies, the employee answering the phone stated that Clearwater Bay Marina was a limited partnership, and the names of the owners could not be divulged.
The city owns an empty lot adjacent to the marina and overlooking the Seminole Street public boat ramp. Council member Hoyt Hamilton suggested the site might be an ideal location for a publicly owned and operated high and dry, which could generate revenue for the city.
When Interim Mayor Frank Hibbard was queried, he agreed that there is a definite need for boat storage. He further commented that without it “the common man won’t have access to the water anymore.”
City Manager Bill Horne’s prompt answer to e-mail stated, “The city is not making any arrangements to operate a High and Dry storage at the Seminole Boat Ramp. This is an idea that some people have discussed, but it is not something that I have given serious consideration at my level.”
Bill Morris, Harbormaster, provided current information on the Clearwater Municipal Marina’s wet slips. Rates and waiting lists are being adjusted in favor of city residents. He added, “For boats on trailers, there is an immediate need for additional parking at the Seminole ramp.”
Morris said that the number of public accesses to the water is shrinking in this area. Palm Beach County realized access was a problem and “has set aside city resources to provide more and preserve for a waterfront. There is nothing ‘solid’ for a similar plan in Clearwater at this time.”
According to the city’s Code Enforcement, boats may not be parked on the street in a residential zone. Boats over 20 ft. in length may not be stored on private property. These restrictions make storage at a private facility a necessity. An increase in the lack of available spaces may force owners to sell their boats.
In a recent letter to Mayor Hibbard, John D. Fernandez, Esq. eloquently wrote, “This city can never be for sale and when development is allowed at all, the cost to the developer has got to be high.” He continued with a quote from a conversation he had with Gabe Cazares, mayor of Clearwater in the 70s. “The city’s crowning jewel is its bay front and its beach. They must be preserved for the benefit of the ordinary citizen and always remain in the public domain.”
Preservation of the waterways and access to them should be top priorities for city planners. If over-development, of bay front and beachfront properties, continues, boat owners will find they have been left permanently high and dry.
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