CLEARWATER -- This past Thursday night's City of Clearwater's public meeting was full of tension and uncertainty, and the scene in the Clearwater Recreation Center was set with two very different, very passionate opinions.
Planning Director, Michael Delk, began the meeting with a reading of the proposed "Termination Ordinance" and a quick overview of what it is.
Presently, a hotel/motel owner has the ability to convert every four hotel/motel units that they own into three condo units. If the ordinance were passed, it would only allow non-conforming units to become condominium units. Now there was much confusion as to what exactly a non-conforming unit was at the meeting so here's a quick definition: the code of Clearwater states that there may be 40 hotel/motel units and 30 condo units per acre in this particular area of Clearwater; any additionally units are deemed non-conforming and with the issue of the proposed code would become obsolete. The tricky part about this issue is how many buildings on Clearwater Beach have a full acre of land? And how many hotels/motels in this area are all conforming units?
This is where non-conforming units becomes an issue and is where much of the controversy at last night's meeting arose.
On one side of the line lie the people that want to restrict the extensive development on Clearwater Beach. Many members of the City Council fear that if this ordinance is not passed then over-crowding is bound to follow, and it is quite possible that Clearwater Beach could become too residential. If that were to happen then we would obviously lose a large part of our tourism industry in Clearwater, which is, in fact, the largest industry in the Sunshine State and by far the largest industry in Pinellas County.
One of the people who spoke up at the meeting was Sandy Britton, who moved here from Britain and who claims that she had her pick of anywhere in the United States to live, but picked Clearwater Beach because it was such a family-oriented and friendly city. Now she says that, "I would hate to see Clearwater Beach turn into Sand Key or Island Estates," which are completely residential districts. This seemed to be the fear of most people that were standing on this side of the metaphorical line drawn on Thursday night. Mayor Hibbard admitted, "We are not going to make everybody happy." This would be impossible, but the goal of the ordinance is to keep the tourists on North Beach and prevent overcrowding.
On the other side lie the majority of the business owners in this area. Most of these owners fear that if this ordinance is to be passed than much of their lifetime's work would be squandered away because they would lose much of their value to the developers that have invaded Clearwater Beach and because they may not be able to stay afloat financially because of all of the larger establishments that either already do or will soon surround them.
Susan Boschen and others who came up to the microphone claim that this ordinance comes four years too late and that passing it now would only hurt the small business owners on the beach. Ken Hamilton blatantly stated, "Don't do this" near the end of the meeting, and one speaker pleaded that the "economy is driven by supply and demand and you're [City Council] trying to stop that train."
This ordinance would cause major changes in the future development of the North Beach area. Which side is right? That's for you and the members of the City Council to decide. On June 2nd, the City Council will further discuss this issue at the City Council meeting that will be held at 6:00 p.m., and the ordinance could possibly be adopted at the following City Council meeting on June 16th also at 6:00 p.m.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition