New Year-Old Challenges
By Vicki Jackson
Clearwater Beach Association (CBA) members and guests assembled at the
Clearwater Beach Recreation Center last week for the first meeting of 2010, only to be informed that the reserved room was not available. Ultimately they were allowed just an hour, hardly adequate for the business at hand, let alone for the evening's speaker. Election of Officers was the first order of business, with Sue Johnson elected as President, and Jerry Murphy as Vice President. David Ramos and Kim Pointe were re-elected to the positions of Treasurer and Secretary.
Following the Election of Officers, Michael Delk, now Director of Planning & Development for the City of Clearwater, was introduced. He noted that recent city staff changes have combined two departments under his leadership. His responsibilities include code enforcement, building, and permitting. He believes that opportunities to increase coordination between the disciplines should produce desirable changes in code enforcement, meeting the responsibility to get items in violation before the Municipal Enforcement Board in a timely fashion. He acknowledged that Clearwater, with its "diverse, urban community", was a "challenging place--in part due to re-development" and the volatile impact of "changing neighbors". Nonetheless, he expressed confidence that an "enthusiastic staff would work towards targeted resolutions and get things off our plate".
Responding to concerns voiced about the outdoor lights on proposed developments, such as the new Hyatt Hotel, misguiding sea turtles away from the Gulf, Mr. Delk stated that Clearwater has a "turtle lighting ordinance", updated just last year, and makes annual inspections.
Intense discussion then centered on building approvals by staff granted for large, lot-consuming re-development projects on the beach, with specific reference to precedent-setting setbacks allowed. The example was given of several front setbacks, which allowed 5 feet where 20 feet is required. One board member asked what could be done to change the custom of giving builders "anything they want on the beach".
Mr. Delk explained that, historically, attempts at regulating how large a house can be have been controversial. In outlining what influences staff approval he said they first look at the nearby development pattern and standards, such as setbacks and heights. In addition, for new construction, two parking spaces must be on-site. Since these spaces may be located under the house, then subsequently enclosed or filled with storage, it can result in residents ultimately using traditional setback areas for parking, often across the public sidewalk.
In attempting to define the purpose of zoning, Mr. Delk summarized, "…to bring order to urban environments, residential versus commercial versus industrial", resulting in "order and predictability".
Someone countered, "Is zoning designed to preserve or improve character of the community, or to indulge individuals?" With the meeting time almost up, Mr. Delk graciously offered to return at a later date to continue the lively discussion.
Some thought was given to the possibility of the Board gathering the following week at an alternate site. Briefly, additional items were presented, including an update on the reverter-clause situation with the Clearwater Marina, as well as the one-way streets proposal for South Beach.
Just before adjournment, a motion was made to participate in a matching grant opportunity for purchase of additional computers at the Beach Library. Due to the uncertain economy, and a question as to whether the Beach Library would survive next year's budget cuts, the motion failed.
Newly elected CBA President, Sue Johnson, capably steered the productive meeting to an untimely close, when the space had to be vacated for insulation work on the meeting room. Noting that the insulation project was surely scheduled, as was the reservation for the meeting room, there was a question as to why no notice of conflict had been given. A sigh drifted audibly across the crowd, "Just another slap in the face for the CBA".
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