CLEARWATER - The City's planning staff has called for a moratorium on certain development activity in the area defined in Beach by Design as the Marina Residential District. The area extends eastward from Poinsettia Avenue to the Mandalay Channel waterfront, bounded on the north by the Belle Harbor condominiums and on the south by the roundabout.
According to Planning Staff Report, approximately 70 site plan applications have been submitted for new construction on Clearwater Beach since the adoption of Beach by Design in 2001, but only two have been approved in the Marina Residential District. Assistant Planning Director Gina Clayton attributed that lack of activity to the difficulty of lot consolidation, an act that is rewarded in Beach by Design with the allowance of additional building height.
Clayton explained to Clearwater's Community Development Board (CDB) on Tuesday that a key component of Beach by Design is the requirement that a developer who takes advantage of the lot consolidation incentives in the Marina Residential District must dedicate an easement for a public boardwalk along the Mandalay Channel waterfront.
But Clayton said that the area's combination of small shallow lots and escalating land values make it "unlikely that the consolidation envisioned by Beach by Design will occur." Clayton said that without lot consolidation, the public boardwalk would not be built; she explained, "If development proceeds on a small parcel-by-parcel basis, we really lose the potential as a city to gain this wonderful public amenity along the waterfront."
Clearwater's Planning Department proposed to the CDB a six-month moratorium on "all comprehensive plan amendments, rezonings, development approvals, development orders, building permits, or other related permits, other than those relating to development of a parcel exceeding 2.5 acres in area." The proposed moratorium would last for six months, ending on January 31, 2007.
Clayton explained that during the moratorium, her department would prepare "revisions to refine the vision for this district." She said that the thrust of the work would be "balancing lower development thresholds while requiring public amenities and benefits," and "ensuring that the public boardwalk can become a reality in our community." She added that overnight accommodations might be added as an allowable use in the district.
While there is not a great backlog of pending development in the area, there is one. Eric Stover, a partner in a planned two-unit condominium at 475 East Shore, appeared at the CDB hearing and asked that his project not be delayed by the proposed moratorium.
While the CDB generally favored the moratorium, Board member Dan Dennehy had two concerns, one for planned developments with approved site plans but for which permits have not yet been issued, and another for small motels, which may need permits to repair storm damage or for other upkeep; both would be subject to the proposed moratorium according to Clayton.
Dennehy's colleagues shared his concerns, and recommended to the City Council the approval of the moratorium, but with the exclusion of projects with approved development orders and of permits involving building maintenance.
The Clearwater City Council will decide the fate of the proposed moratorium during their meeting tonight at 6 p.m.
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