CLEARWATER - After more than two hours of public input and debate, the Clearwater City Council last Thursday put off to their next meeting any decision on proposed amendments to Beach by Design that would tweak existing incentives for the redevelopment of the Marina District on Clearwater Beach.
The changes proposed by the city's Planning Department would encourage consolidation of the small lots that comprise the area by offering height incentives of up to 100-feet for residential use and 130-feet for hotels. But in order to earn the maximum height, a developer would have to consolidate small properties into at least two acres spanning East Shore Drive, and commit to build a public boardwalk along what is now a private waterfront.
The plan also offered to vacate East Shore Drive to developers, both compensating them for the land used for the public boardwalk and promoting the consolidation of properties now separated by East Shore into parcels large enough for quality development.
Height has always been an issue on Clearwater Beach, and the Marina District plan had enough of that to make the natives restless. But this plan also threatened to close what had become the short-cut home to north beach residents, East Shore Drive. Restlessness became action, as beach residents pled with the Council for more than 40 minutes to not close East Shore Drive.
Ron Delph spoke at length, having consolidated time from six other north beach residents. "The decision to vacate East Shore is flawed, and I think it's based on a vision that's about a hundred thousand feet, "Delph said. He questioned what "mixed use" really meant, and cautioned that developers would determine what would be built in the area, and that would likely be condos unless the amendments had more specific requirements for uses in the area.
"Let's go back to the drawing board," Delph said, "lets bring this vision down to ground level where there's some detail." He asked for a debate on what should happen with Poinsettia and East Shore; "Don't give us four options and say 'vote on it' and then reach a decision based on three people voted this way and six people voted another way," he said.
"We're all very concerned about the vacation of East Shore," said Marty Altner, who claimed that the traffic study did not account for a future parking garage at Pelican Walk or the additional traffic expected on Poinsettia if East Shore were vacated. "It just doesn't take much to back-up Mandalay; we just can't get out at times," he said.
Said Guirguis, owner of one of the eight condos at 479 East Shore in the area proposed for redevelopment, said, "we're not going to get this project; we're not going to let it go anywhere. We own 300-feet into the water, how are you going to build a boardwalk around us. You're wasting everybody's time here."
Sazanne Boschen questioned the viability of turning East Shore into a tourist attraction. "Nobody has ever said to me - I can't wait to get to Clearwater Beach because I can't wait to get to the bay. I think we need the access to north beach more than you need a boardwalk," she said, opposing the vacation of East Shore. Anne Garris agreed, saying, "That's a street we need, and nobody knows how well we need it but us."
The Council struggled to make sense out of what Mayor Frank Hibbard had called "an impossible puzzle." Councilmember Bill Jonson said, "I don't think it's soup yet," and asked, "Have we created a scenario that's unlikely to occur, and should we just move on?"
The Council was also concerned about how the street reconstruction would be financed. "How would we fund the roads," Jonson asked. City Engineer Mike Quillen suggested placing assessments on properties undergoing redevelopment, either charging them a proportionate cost based on their street frontage, or forcing those south of Papaya to fund the construction on Poinsettia for its entire length. Quillen estimated the cost of road construction at less than $2-million per block.
Hibbard questioned whether the boardwalk was important to all the citizens of Clearwater. "I don't think the boardwalk can be done without vacating East Shore," Hibbard said, adding his opinion "I don't think these properties will ever be consolidated."
Hibbard called for establishing a window of time to give property owners an opportunity to establish their willingness to consolidate. "If they can't within that time frame, then the opportunity goes away," Hibbard said.
The Council voted 4-0 to continue the issue to their next meeting, Councilmember John Doran recusing himself due to a conflict of interest. They directed City Attorney Pam Akin to research amending the ordinance to eliminate the height incentives and potential vacation of East Shore if current property owners do not agree among themselves on a consolidation plan within a fixed period of time.
The Marina District plan will again be taken-up by the Council during their work session on January 29th and their public meeting on Wednesday, January 31st. Meanwhile, the existing moratorium on development in the area will expire on January 30th. Because the ordinance requires passage at two readings, any action the Council ultimately takes would not become effective until February 16th.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition