Avoiding a Clearwater Beach Canyon
By Anne McKay Garris
Back in October of 2009, Clearwater City Council members viewed with dismay plans for a very large building at the entrance to Coronado Drive on South Clearwater Beach. The building was designed to be only 2 ½ feet from the property line on one side and right up against the sidewalk on the other. Although the City Attorney reminded the Council that they could deny the requested extra density and make the plan unworkable, the Council approved, even as they mumbled about the "canyon effect" this might foretell for Coronado Drive. "Similar to what we have on Brightwater Drive," agreed one of the Council members.
They approved the building under discussion because, said one member, "How can we deny it after the staff and Community Development Board approved it, and the developer has spent a lot of time and money on it." Discussion continued with questions on how to keep this kind of "load the lot, leave no space" type of plan to come before them again. Staff was asked to address the issue.
Staff's answer to the problem will be before the Council at their meeting, tonight, at 6:00 p.m.
In its report, staff quickly dismisses the thought of space between buildings at the ground level, saying, "Meaningful view corridors along Coronado could not be created since few parcels are laid out in a rectangular pattern."
To avoid "canyonizing" Coronado, staff recommends something they call stepbacks. They are presenting to the Council a program where the setback, or distance from the street, governs a regulation for stepbacks. If the builder observes the basic setback of 15 feet from the street, the building can go up 25 feet before it must be setback 15 feet. If the builder chooses to be 10 feet from the street, he must design his 15 foot setback at 15 feet above ground level, and so on. Furthermore, no building may replicate the setback size and location of an adjoining building, even one across the street.
These regulations are applicable only on Coronado Drive, and only for buildings needing the extra motel density which is granted only by the Clearwater City Council.
"This," said one of the Council members, "gives the Council the opportunity to have input into the design and character of the buildings on Coronado, one of our major thoroughfares."
He pointed out the recently approved A and B hotels which are planned for the property just east of the new Hyatt Hotel. "They didn't build everything to the max," he said, "they put real effort into making them attractive."
The Council will discuss and vote on the amendment to Beach By Design at tonight's meeting. The question of no more 2 ½ foot side setbacks has seemingly been vetoed by staff as not feasible.
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