Council Approves College Expansion Plan Compromise
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - As expected, the Clearwater City Council approved an "Alternative Compromise Recommendation" for the expansion of Clearwater Christian College (CCC) at their meeting on Tuesday night.
The compromise plan was formulated by the Pinellas Planning Council (PPC) staff to overcome concerns about the environmental impacts of the development project. The compromise involved reducing the project's wetland destruction from 7.2 to 2.6 acres, and eliminating the planned encroachment of a soccer field on an active bald eagle's next nearby.
To a large extent, the Council based its approval on the benefits of a mitigation plan that CCC claimed would improve the water circulation in Old Tampa Bay, and by the construction of a stormwater system on the entire campus that would limit the runoff of nutrients into the bay.
Councilmember Bill Jonson said of the compromise, "I've had some change of mind and I'm more positive about the project. I especially like the further buffer from the eagle…The main reason to support this is the improvement in the water quality in the area."
"The reason I continue to support this is there's a substantial public benefit to this plan. In my opinion, it significantly supersedes the loss of a miniscule amount of wetlands there," said Councilmember Paul Gibson.
"I think that we are going to have more healthy and prosperous wetlands in this area if the mitigation plan is followed," Mayor Frank Hibbard said, justifying his support of the project.
The City Council unanimously approved both the requested Future Land Use and Zoning changes requested in CCC's compromise plan.
The next step in the approval process is a hearing by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) on Monday, October 11.
TBRPC staff had previously offered their opinion of CCC's original plan, calling it "inconsistent with the Strategic Regional Policy Plan."
The city will send the Council-approved compromise plan to the TBRPC in time for it to be reviewed for the October 11 meeting. City Planner Lauren Matzke said that she had already discussed the compromise with TBRPC staff, and added, "My understanding, based on that conversation, is that they viewed it as others did, a compromise, I believe the word 'livable' might have been used."
Next, the Pinellas County Commission, sitting as the Countywide Planning Authority (CPA), will hear CCC's compromise plan at their meeting on October 12th. Gordon Beardslee, General Planning Administrator for Pinellas County, said this week, "We're recommending approval of the compromise, subject to amendments to the Development Agreement with the city." Beardslee added that approval of the Land Use Amendment would not predispose the county to grant the environmental permits that would later be required by the project.
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