For the past twenty five years or so, Clearwater leaders have been looking for the “Silver Bullet” to cure the malaise of Downtown. An aquarium is the latest.
Past efforts included the emphasis on a business center.
The Community Development Agency encouraged the building of the Atrium building, the Clearwater tower and the renovation of the Coachman building in downtown Clearwater. Unfortunately, the return of downtown as the business center of the City is not probable.
Later came a proposal for a commercial strip on the top of the Coachman Park bluff along Osceola Avenue where the library is now located. A request for a 99 year lease at $1 per year was defeated in a referendum.
Seven years ago a substantial planning change realized the importance of housing to the revitalization of downtown. To create a community neighborhood of residents who bring life to the community rather than visitors who come and go.
The Water’s Edge Condo was started and then along came Station Square and plans for the Mediterranean Village in the park. Water’s Edge and Station Square were completed but others were stalled by the recession.
This interest in residential development led the city to propose a downtown marina to provide an amenity to the new community, a streetscape improvement for Cleveland Street, and a renovation of the old Capitol theatre, all additional assets to Coachman Park and the library for a living community.
The recession put the dampers on downtown revitalization.
Good decisions have been made in our city and the quality of life in Clearwater reflects that.
Too often in bad times decisions made are based on expediency rather than the right decision to accomplish a goal.
The Aquarium is one of these decisions.
The City is asking you to vote yes or no to one short question that has great ramifications.
There are thirty “Whereas” clauses in the ordinance that authorizes and attempts to justify this referendum. One of these states that an aquarium MAY assist in revitalizing downtown. An equally important “Whereas” clause is that an aquarium MAY be a detriment to the creation of housing that would be an advantage to solving the downtown problem.
We are now being asked to amend the charter to negotiate with an entity to lease and build an aquarium on land the City Charter protects from any use other than city needs. We are being asked to override the clause that stipulates any city property must be declared surplus to needs before being sold or leased. We are being asked to override the clause for accepting the highest bid offered. We are asked to override the clause that prohibits leases for a period of more than 30 years.
Citizens like you and me worked years to limit the legislative powers of our elected officials. A vote no on the ballot will thank them for their effort. Let us give more time to complete the residential aspect before we jump into a new direction. Business services will follow quickly when residential housing succeeds.
Should such an exclusion from the Charter, our constitution, be granted to one entity so casually?