Vacation Of South Beach Streets Revisited
By Anne McKay Garris
Tonight, February 19, and on Thursday, March 5, the Clearwater City Council will hold public hearings to hear from the public whether or not they ought to vacate a portion of First Street (running from Coronado Avenue to South Gulfview) and a portion of South Gulfview to the proposed developer of property which lies empty between the Pier 60 Parking Lot and the future Hyatt Hotel.
Back in 2004, when Beach By Design and Beach Walk were only twinkles in the City Council's eyes, a huge and some said "ugly" development proposal was approved for South Clearwater Beach. Hailed as a major breakthrough to herald the much desired redevelopment of Clearwater Beach, the project replaced the ancient, 35-year-old Days Inn across South Gulfview from the Pier 60 Parking lot and the motel to the south, across 1st Street from the Days Inn.
The drawings of the building resembled nothing so much as an oriental palace, jacked up 150 feet from the ground. The design called for 350 hotel rooms and 75 condominiums. The height was 150 feet. It also called for the vacation of the intervening First Street, with conditions that this street right-of-way be replaced at the south of the developer's property by a 60 foot dedication for what will be called, Second Street.
So far nothing has happened on the property, except the old buildings were torn down -- at the insistence of the City.
Meantime the development order deadline has been extended, first to the year 2008, then to the year 2010, and just recently to 2012. The architectural design has been modified from Oriental Pasha (my description) to Tropical Modern (the developer's description). Others have described it as South Florida. The plan has also been modified to 450 motel rooms, 200 of which may be "vacation ownership," formerly known as time share.
When the most recent extension of the development order was discussed, several Council members expressed concern that the order was originally issued using 250 units from the limited "motel density pool," a development device established to jump start hotel development on Clearwater Beach, back in 2004. The extensions for this site plan have deprived reserved for this developers use extra density which other builders could have used in the ensuing years. Some Council members questioned whether this was fair, or good for the community. Nevertheless, the extension of the newly designed development was extended to 2012.
According to a City Hall spokesman, Clearwater does not have a limitation on how long development orders can be extended.
Now that the Council has approved the extension, however, they are having public hearings on the extension of the street vacations. Citizens may speak in favor of, or opposed to the vacations, but are likely to be told the Council must approve the vacations because the extension of the development order has already been approved.
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