Frishe Rejects Clearwater's “Reverter Clause” Local Bill
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER – City leaders have long spoken in general terms of their hopes to redevelop the Municipal Marina property on Clearwater Beach, a keystone of the city's tourism industry.
But development options for that site have been limited by 1925 State Legislation that originally gave the city the submerged lands to build what is now the Memorial Causeway and bridge connecting downtown and Clearwater Beach.
That act also gave the city the authority to fill the submerged land, and fill they did, creating the property on which the Municipal Marina now sits. But there was a caveat; that landfill could be used only for "public parks and places of recreation.” If it ceased to be used for those public purposes, the ownership of the land would revert to the State of Florida.
Some suggest that if you don't like the the game, then change the rules. And that's what the city leaders attempted to do last week.
At their November 18th combined worksession/Council meeting, under an agenda item entitled Approve the 2009 State Legislative Package, and with discussion that only corrected a grammatical error, the Clearwater City Council approved a Local Bill for submission to the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation.
That local bill, if approved by the 2009 Legislature, would release the marina property from the reverter clause, requiring only that it be developed “in accordance with the Florida Coastal Management Program, the Waterfronts Florida Program, City of Clearwater Comprehensive Plan, City of Clearwater Code of Ordinances, and other applicable law.”
The proposed bill would also remove “public parks and places of recreation” as the only permitted use of the filled upland, and allow development that provides “access to water-dependent commercial activities notwithstanding whether the use is for a public purpose.”
There was just one problem with the Council's action – call it process or political faux pas. The city had failed to brief State Representative Jim Frishe, whose district includes the Marina property and who would ordinarily become the bill's sponsor. Not only that, but they failed to even notify him that the local bill was being submitted before the Council approved it!
Frishe first heard of Clearwater's Local Bill while he was out of town last Wednesday; the bill was read to him over the telephone last Thursday. Blunder or political sleight of hand, Frishe was having no part of it; “I'm not going to file a local bill if I've had only two days to look at it,” he said.
Frishe said that he called Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard last Friday, and that they agreed to pull Clearwater's local bill from the Legislative Delegation's agenda this year.
Beyond timeliness, Frishe wants Clearwater's use of the Marina property to be publicly vetted before removing the reverter clause. Recognizing the opposing views on land preservation and economic development within the city, Frishe said, “Let's bring everybody to the table and develop a legislative work product that solves the problem.”
Hibbard was unconcerned about missing the 2009 Legislative Session with this local bill. He said, “We have no formal plans. That's why I'm not bent out of shape going to 2010. If there was something urgent, then we would have pushed harder. There's no threat of missing some opportunity.”
Absent an agenda item on Clearwater's Local Bill, the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation is scheduled to meet on December 3rd from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM at the USF St. Petersburg Campus Activities Center located at 140 7th Avenue South in St. Petersburg, and on Monday, January 5, 2009 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM at St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater campus located at 2465 Drew Street in Clearwater.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition