What is a definition of a successful Clearwater Beach
"I want Clearwater Beach to be successful," said one of Clearwater's City Council members, recently, as we discussed one more giant building for Clearwater Beach. And I had to ponder whether his definition of a successful Clearwater Beach and mine might differ somewhat, or perhaps greatly.
Over ten years ago, I chided the then City Commission for making two decisions in one month which headed Clearwater Beach in two different directions. Even then we could not decide if our community should be a quality tourist destination, or a popular local beach. With loud and boisterous crowds in the parking lots at night causing headaches for the motel managements, it seemed we were catering to local visitors. These people mostly brought all their equipment, food and beverages with them instead of buying from our Beach businesses. Some of them made things unpleasant for our paying customers, discouraging them from returning.
If having lots of people from nearby cities crowd our beach is the definition of success, then we were successful. But the small motels were not. They began to decline, partly because of the "popular beach" image but mostly because city government refused them permits to make changes.
This lead to a concentrated drive by city government to work towards larger buildings, which the people of the community had resisted for years. At first it was large condominium buildings which encouraged residential use of the area but reduced the number of tourist accommodations.
The condominiums did not make Clearwater Beach successful because they are mostly empty, so, rather than settle for a beach that was mostly residential, the government decided that we needed more visitors to be successful. That led to a decision to allow a whole lot more units per acre to encourage the building of large hotels.
In order to make the Beach more attractive for large hotels, we replaced the large parking lots for the local visitors with an elegant Beach Drive. This brought on complaints from non-beach residents of Clearwater so a demand was heard for parking garages to make Clearwater Beach, once more, a "popular local beach."
Since my discussion with the Council Member, I've been pondering. What is a definition of a successful Clearwater Beach. It shouldn't be my opinion, nor his. It's a vision which should come from the people themselves. With a new year and a new group of people offering to lead our city, perhaps now is the time for community discussion, or debate, if you will, on the definition of success for Clearwater Beach -- quick, before a Council decision is made which gives us a high-rise parking garage in place of our last community asset, our marina.
- Anne McKay Garris
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