One of the major redevelopment components in the City of Clearwater's planning for Beach by Design was the promise of additional public parking on Clearwater Beach.
Today, while hundreds of public parking spaces are being removed for Beach Walk, one has to ask the question: Where are the taxpayers who paid more than $110-milion for the new bridge, roundabout and Beach Walk supposed to park?
The City is not even close to replacing these lost parking spaces, much less providing the first of 900 public parking spaces recommended in the Beach by Design plan. The City's attempt to pawn off this municipal responsibility on condo/hotel developers is not working either.
Adequate public parking is basic infrastructure of every quality community. Lack of parking and associated traffic gridlock negatively impact residents, customers, visitors and emergency services. This reflects poorly on the image of the whole community.
The City of Clearwater and its residents have long recognized the need for additional parking on Clearwater Beach. Numerous traffic studies, consultants and city task forces confirmed this need evidenced by the growing number of days the beach experiences traffic gridlock.
Neighboring cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa provide numerous public parking facilities for their many attractions. While the Clearwater City Council has approved numerous highrise developments on the beach, Council members have yet to bite the bullet for a desperately needed public parking garage.
Former Clearwater City Commissioner Karen Seel stated that good planning called for two beach parking garages to be built before the new bridge was complete. That was almost ten years ago! City staff has provided the City Council with excellent parking garage options to consider on publicly owned lands.
If the bridge, roundabout and Beach Walk are important projects, so is the promise for "additional" public parking on Clearwater Beach! If Shephards's Resort and little John's Pass Village can build parking garages, what's wrong with the third-largest city in the Tampa Bay area? After all, the City has collected more than $50-milion in beach parking revenues in the past 25 years.
It's time for our elected officials to keep their promise to the taxpayers, who also deserve a place to park on Clearwater Beach.
David R. Little