BELLEAIR BEACH -- Two things seem very clear: The citizens of Belleair Beach do not want a marina -- particularly on Belle Isle Avenue -- and they may not want a new city hall.
This is the reading gained from a big turnout of residents Monday night at a City Council worksession that discussed both those topics.
Almost 70 people showed up for the hot issue of a marina.
And with that amount of folks on hand, the idea of a city hall got a going over, too, with a strong plea from one citizen, Frank Tricarico, that there be a referendum on that subject.
If the citizenry was anything, they were vocal. And there was no confusion -- the idea of another marina anywhere in the city may not have much of a life.
One citizen, John Murray, showing some penetrating intelligence, asked, "Is there a need for a marina?" He wanted to know why the question of need was not aired before some preliminary plans were drawn up.
"It's premature to draw up plans for something the people don't want," he said.
Karyn Conrath, a resident, asked, "Why is this coming up now when people are so angry about other things going on in the city?"
Others pointed out that a new marina, located anywhere in the city, would adversely affect property values in its immediate area.
Councilmember Donna Durante, with her usual perspicacity, timing and sense of the mood of the citizenry, moved that the whole idea be killed.
This then led to mass procedural confusion with a Gulfside version of the Gong Show. Couldn't have a vote, Presiding Officer Lynn Rives said, because this was a work session. So a polling for consensus was conducted, with each member saying something like "Against," or "Not in favor," with the concomitant confusion over whether they meant they were against Durante's idea or against the marina.
When Councilmember Stan Sofer went into one of his soliloquy like ruminations, voices from the audience cried, "What's the vote? What's the vote? What's the vote."
The issue will go on the agenda at a regular meeting and then there will be a definitive vote, apparently.
As soon as plans for the marina were publicized in the Clearwater Gazette & Beach Views three weeks ago, residents in the Belle Isle area mobilized. There had been no word on the marina plan until the Gazette divulged it.
One piece of information distributed by opponents attempted to rouse the neighborhood -- "Can you imagine the amount of traffic increase, crime potential, and general character change of our streets if the proposal is passed? That is why it is imperative for us, as citizens, to be at this meeting and voice our opinions about this outrageous proposal."
And voice their opinions they did.
After the marina discussion, half the citizenry left, leaving the battlefield to those who oppose a new city hall.
Again, Murray, with the kind of insight not often seen at city hall, asked the council, "If we have 50 or more citizens here tonight who strongly favor a referendum what do you think? Do you listen to the citizens or not?"
This subject, too, was left for further consideration by the council.
Monday's nights proceedings, packed as they were with citizenry and business, were the beginning of a busy week for Belleair Beach officialdom.
Earlier in the evening, the Finance Committee reviewed the police ($560,000) and the code enforcement budgets and made no changes from the mayor's draft budget.
On Wednesday, the Transition Committee met to fine tune its work on tracking down a city manager who will come into the picture at the beginning of the year.
Two meetings were slated Thursday -- the Administrative Committee met to discuss compensation for the elected officials (it will be the first time Belleair Beach elected officers will be paid), and the Finance Committee met again to discuss budget matters.
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