It's a License - Not a Lease!
By Vicki Jackson
That's the language the City of Clearwater has used to wrap around this gift to the new Hyatt Hotel on South Clearwater Beach. For starters, granting of the so-called license will allow construction of a building on public open space/recreation land. Even now, the octagonal structure is being built on our South Beach sand just west of the Hotel, according to a City Planning Department spokesman. The open-air concession stand will offer fast food, snacks, and sundry beach items for sale.
The development agreement also gives the hotel exclusive rights to beach rentals directly in front of their property. This effectively removes income to the City from up to a quarter of the beach umbrella rental area. Though concessionaires cannot be specifically identified as "Hyatt" related, they may give that private-beach impression, as guests must be allowed to put purchases on their Hotel tabs.
Further, all concession services, including those run by the City, on that portion of Clearwater Beach must conform to the Hyatt Concession Standards. Failing to meet those specifications, the City could forfeit, without recompense, the right to provide such services there.
It should be noted that the Charter of the City of Clearwater states, in part, "No municipally owned real property identified as recreation/open space on the city's comprehensive land use plan map on November 16, 1989 (or as amended thereafter), may be sold, donated, leased for a new use, or otherwise transferred without prior approval at referendum". In addition, no city lease may be longer than 30 years.
Perhaps following the letter of the law has trumped its intent. Public approval was neither sought nor given for the 50-year exclusive, non-compensated, agreement. Yet, whatever it's called, both 'lease' and 'license' denotes permission to use.
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