CLEARWATER – The Clearwater City Council held its last visioning session for 2005 at the Harborview Center Monday.
Members of the business community were invited to provide input to help shape Clearwater’s future.
Sheila Cole, Director of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce said, “This last session was directed at business people. I was disappointed that more weren’t there to help shape the visioning process.”
City Manager Bill Horne and Commissioners Carlen Petersen, Bill Jonson and John Doran were in attendance and later answered questions during group activities.
Mayor Frank Hibbard gave opening remarks. “We did this in 2002. It’s been very beneficial for us to hear all of the ideas. The information will guide our staff. But always remember we have a limited budget and you will ultimately have to pay the bill,” he said.
James Moore of Tampa-based HDR Engineering, the facilitator for this year’s visioning series, set the stage by reviewing some of the soci-economic issues that have affected the country.
He asked participants to consider Clearwater’s future and the benefits of planning for it now by adopting a specific approach. “Growth and change is inevitable. Anyone living in Florida realizes it’s changing more rapidly here than in other states,” he pointed out.
Moore postulated that the Clearwater of the future has to grow inward and upward, and essentially urbanize. He invited the groups to work as a team and list the city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Groups of up to eight brainstormed for 40 minutes, many saying the same words: beach, parking, downtown, developers.
“I thought the group exercises were very beneficial and an excellent endeavor,” said Cole. “However, I see us not being true to ourselves, because the finished vision statement we were told we ‘created’ together was just a vanilla statement. Unique suggestions were muted and Clearwater is unique.”
Cole said what several other participants apparently felt and refused to be complicit in creating a vision statement that ended up being a glittering generality.
“That statement could be applied to Lake Erie,” quipped Cole. “Plug in any town and it will fit. But I have to say, I love that the city is forward thinking and planning for the future.”
Individuals spoke out and described how they really felt during the question and answer segment:
“We’d talk about a vision but the city is allowing building left and right,” said one.
“Things have changed so quickly we couldn’t keep up,” said another.
According to another, “I feel we’re making Clearwater Beach Sand Key. Vision statements are nice. I did one for a Fortune 500 company once. Four years later the company was gone.”
Details of the 13 elements of the vision along with a visioning survey can be viewed at: myclearwater.com. Results from the survey and visioning sessions will be compiled and reviewed by the council at a future date and considered when implementing future plans and projects.
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