Compromise Nears on "Reverter Clause"
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - If the effectiveness of a compromise can be measured by equal dissatisfaction on both sides of an issue, then the revision of a local bill that would dull the teeth of the 1925 reverter clause on Clearwater's marina property was a success.
At their meeting last week, the Clearwater City Council approved the submission of the local bill with the addition of a clause negotiated by Mayor Frank Hibbard and Representative Jim Frishe. That clause required approval by Clearwater's voters of any sale of the marina property.
But Frishe was not done. Having said that he would 'tighten-up' the bill's wording about allowable uses of the property, Frishe took the local bill to Tallahassee last week, added some of his own revisions, and submitted it to the legislature's team of bill drafters.
The result was Redraft-B of the local bill, which Frishe presented to the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation at their meeting on Tuesday; the revisions were significant.
The phrase "such as lodging, boat hauling and repair, and commercial fishing activities" had been eliminated from one of the whereas clauses, and the trigger for a voter referendum had been expanded from only the sale of the property to include its lease, license sale or transfer.
Clearwater City Councilmember John Doran was not pleased with the revisions. He wrote in an e-mail after the delegation meeting, "Under current state law, city ordinance, and city charter, the City Council could vote to build a parking garage on the marina site; under the version of the local bill presented today, even a parking garage on that site would require approval by referendum."
"My opinion is that the beach marina property will not be revitalized for a very long time if the bill is approved as presented by Rep. Frishe today."
During Tuesday's delegation meeting, those who had been opposed to relaxing the reverter clause praised Frishe for his understanding and effort, but remained concerned about the marina's ultimate fate.
Beach resident Pat Power worried about Florida's Working Waterfront legislation's use of the term recreational and working waterfront, and its definition including lodging as an acceptable use. "As long as they use that definition, there is the potential for large scale redevelopment of the Marina property," she said, "We know that referendums help, but as long as it's a city-wide referendum, the interests of Clearwater Beach could be out-voted."
Beach activist Anne Garris' acceptance of a reverter clause local bill in any form was already a compromise on her part. She was among those who were comforted by the 1925 legislation's protection of the marina from development that was not for the public purposes of parks and recreation.
"If Working Waterfront means that we have to have the opportunity for someone to take financial advantage of that property by putting something on there that's entirely different from what we have now, then can't we name it something besides Working Waterfront," Garris asked.
While Rep. Frishe said he intended to move forward with the local bill, he did acknowledge that another revision would be necessary. The city's lobbyist, Peter Dunbar, had called the language that required a referendum "nonsensical", claiming that it prevented something as simple as restriping the parking lot. "You could do virtually nothing on the site without requiring a referendum", he said.
"The intent was to provide a referendum if there is a change in the public use of that property. Unfortunately, it came back from bill drafting so restrictive that you can't restripe the parking lot or repair a sewer line or anything; that's what we're going to change," Frishe said.
The next step in the approval process for Clearwater's reverter clause local bill will be a second hearing and a vote by the Pinellas County Legislative delegation on December 14, 2009 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM at St. Petersburg City Hall in the City Council Chambers, 175 Fifth Street North, St. Petersburg. Until then, you can be sure that the lobbying effort on the bill's language will continue.
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