CLEARWATER - The docks proposed for the Sand Pearl resort and condominium project on north Clearwater Beach may be in jeopardy because ownership of the dock's submerged lands belongs to the City, not the State of Florida as originally thought.
This discovery effectively voids certain terms of Sand Pearl's Development Agreement with the City according to Assistant City Manager Garry Brumback. In that agreement, the City promised to help Sand Pearl negotiate a Soveriegnty Submerged Lands Lease (SSLL) with the State of Florida for a cove adjacent to the Clearwater Beach Recreation Center, and authorize the construction of a 57-slip docking facility that would be accessed via that City-owned upland property.
If the SSLL had been granted by the State, a separate Boat Dock Agreement would have been made between JMC and the City. Under the terms of that agreement, JMC Communities was to build the dock at its own expense, and assume responsibility for all maintenance. The resort would have controlled of 67% (38) of the slips for the benefit of its owners, tenants and guests. The City would have controlled 33% (19 slips), but those would have been limited to "day use" by members of the public. The proposed dock agreement would have had an initial term of 5 years, with automatic renewal for 5 successive terms of 5 years each.
Because of the discovery that Clearwater owns the cove's submerged land, negotiations are now underway for a new agreement between City and Sand Pearl for the docks. According to Brumback the terms being discussed include a submerged land lease of between twenty and forty years, although he opined that it would be thirty years or less so as not to trigger a City Charter clause requiring leases of longer than thirty years to be put to a public referendum. "The challenge," Brumback said of the lease terms, "is to make it economically viable for the City."
Although City staff are negotiating the terms of a proposed submerged land lease, it's the City Council who will ultimately determine the outcome.
The Council have recently signaled their desire to preserve public access to the waterfront and to replace some of the diminishing number of available docking facilities. The addition of public boat docks to an area that already includes a public swimming pool, public tennis courts and the public beach could create a recreation facility that rivals private Yacht and Country Clubs. The City Council will decide the issue later this year according to Brumback.
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