CLEARWATER - In a brief and uneventful trial on November 8, Judge Nelly Khouzam validated the City of Clearwater's planned issuance of $15-million in revenue bonds to fund the construction of Beach Walk. The validation was necessary to protect the future bondholders from the risk of default should the City later be found to be without the authority to issue the bonds.
Although it was consolidated into the City's suit and scheduled to be heard at the same time, a suit by Anne Garris and Suzanne Boschen was settled in mediation on October 28; Garris and Boschen alleged that certain terms of the City's agreement with the Hyatt developers involving Beach Walk were in violation of the City Charter.
The mediated settlement appears to have resolved some of the concerns that Garris had expressed earlier this year about the apparent "privatization" of that portion of Clearwater Beach fronting the planned Hyatt Hotel. But per the terms of the agreement, Garris declined to comment on the outcome. The terms of the settlement include:
Arasteh's testimony was substantial. She cited many aspects of the Beach Walk Project that will benefit public health and safety, including eliminating back-out parking on Coronado, improving pedestrian facilities on Gulfview and Coronado, and improving storm water, sewer and water utilities in the immediate area.
Arasteh's testimony also disputed claims that the vacation of Third Street violated the City Charter because it provides access to or terminates at the waterfront. Asked where Third Street terminates, she responded Hamden and South Gulfview; "It does not terminate at the Beach," she said. Asked what Third Street provided access to, she replied South Gulfview; "It does not provide access to the water's edge," she said.
After two hours of testimony and arguments, Judge Khouzam said that the City had met its burden, and agreed with the City that the Beach Walk project is needed for public safety, and that the bond proceeds will be used for a "paramount public purpose".
Despite notice of the trial having twice been advertised in the St. Petersburg Times, and despite an article in last week's Gazette in advance of the trial, no members of the public were present to observe or testify.
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