CLEARWATER - The City of Clearwater has been sued by two residents, Suzanne Boschen and Anne Garris, for violating the City Charter by approving certain terms of a development agreement with Beachwalk Resort, LLC, for the construction and operation of a Hyatt Hotel on Clearwater Beach.
The class action suit, filed on April 15 in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in Pinellas County, claims that the Clearwater City Council exceeded its authority by vacating Third Street and portions of South Gulfview Blvd. for the private benefit of Beachwalk Resort; portions of the resort are planned to be built on those vacated streets. The City Charter states, "no right of way or public easement which terminates at, or provides access to, the waters edge of a body of fresh or salt water may be vacated for private benefit."
The complaint claims that the Council further exceeded its authority by transferring to Beachwalk Resort the exclusive right to operate a beach concession facility for fifty years on land identified as "open space/recreation". The City Charter states, "No municipally owned real property which was identified as recreation/open space ... may be sold, donated, leased for a new use or otherwise transferred without prior approval at referendum..." Because the concession agreement was not subjected to a referendum, the suit claims that Clearwater's voters have been disenfranchised by the Council's action.
Finally, the suit alleges that aspects of the agreement, including those that impose Hyatt specifications on beach concessionaires, amount to a de facto privatization of a large segment of the City's public beach, also in violation of the Charter.
The complaint seeks an injunction preventing the City and Beachwalk Resort from taking any action called for under the Development Agreement that is in violation of the Charter, and makes a demand for a jury trial.
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