Last month the Chamber invited the Executive Director of the Pinellas County Planning Council, David Healy, and the director of the Clearwater Planning Department, Michael Delk, to a forum to explain to the public the proposed new changes in density for transient accommodations. The extra density, which is not for condominiums, is meant to provide an incentive for hotel operators to build new hotels on the beach.
The meeting was well attended, and the general consensus of the crowd was that this is long overdue. Pinellas County employs more than 85,000 full time workers in the tourism business, and tourism generates approximately one-third of the County's sales tax revenue.
The Pinellas Planning Council anticipates making a presentation for this additional hotel density to its board in October with a preliminary draft going to the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners for review in November, with public hearings scheduled for December.
If the County passes this new overlay, each of the 24 municipalities within the County would need to adopt it before it would be effective in that particular municipality. The municipality could change the overlay to make it more restrictive for that municipality if they so choose, but could not make it less restrictive. Or, they could simply opt to not adopt it at all.
Clearwater Planning Director Michael Delk said the City is monitoring this very closely. I would hope that the City would be working on this almost simultaneously with the County so that if and when the county does not adopt this plan, the City of Clearwater would be in a position to enact it almost immediately afterward.
The fact is if something is not done to encourage developers to build hotels on Clearwater Beach, the loss of sales tax and bed tax revenue will be devastating to beach businesses as well as funds for beach renourishment . . . not to mention who would have to pick up the tab for these lost revenues - You, the taxpayer.
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