CLEARWATER BEACH – Frustration so thick you could cut it with a knife was the theme of the Clearwater Marine Advisory Board Wednesday morning.
Two items were on tap and the frustration was most pronounced with the first of them, that brought about 20 commercial boat operators to the meeting room at the Clearwater Marina building.
A marina expansion feasibility study is going on, due for presentation at some point to the City Council and that is what triggered the lamentations and frustrations of the eight members of the MAB.
Other recent happenings along the city’s water front were thrown in, too, as the discussion rambled into areas where the board members felt that they have been ignored by city officials.
Dave Hemerick, a board member, said, “We’re effectively toothless,” and cited plans on the Mandalay Basin that he said were never reviewed by the Marine Advisory Board.
“The city went ahead, gave property away. No one paid attention to the Marine Advisory Board,” Hemerick said.
This was the general theme, reiterated by several board members.
“I think we should tell the council about our dismay,” Hank Epstein said. “We have a lack of influence. Let’s ask them, ‘what do you want us to do?’”
Bill Morris, the Harbormaster and director of Marine and Aviation for the city, explained that there currently is a study going on marine expansion feasability by a consultant.
Fearful that the MAB’s input will be lost in the shuffle, members pressed for a look-see at what the consultant is coming up with before the council gets a full dress presentation.
To that end, the board agreed to move up its November meeting by a week, and gather on November 2 to review what the consultant, whose work is being done under a state grant, has compiled.
Epstein pointed out that the consultant has to know and be ready to give whatever findings it has at that point to the MAB on November 2.
Morris assured board members that he would be in touch with the consultant and that on that very day its report would be given a dress rehearsal to city staff.
Board members made it obvious that they are dissatisfied with lack of movement on creating a city marina at the Coachman Park shoreline.
The commercial boat operators who flocked to the meeting and made the board room standing room only, with some stationed just outside the door, are nervous about what will happen at the present marina.
Suggestions have been made by the consultant to re-locate some slips, but the consensus was that such moves were not working out practically.
Morris reminded everyone that it is a feasibility study and “there won’t be any changes until 2009.” He added that there needs to be a lot of discussion on uplands (dry land) development.
When the board got to the second item of the agenda, the city’s Waterway Management Plan, Gordy Wills, who led that discussion, was trying to rev up more participation from board members.
This led to various and sundry observations by members who finally agreed to look over a management plan developed in Rhode Island as a guideline.
With an urgency and desire to play a greater role in the planning, board members seemed loaded for bear with the upcoming November 2 meeting and a look at the consultant’s feasibility study.
They want more teeth, no doubt about that.
As Hemerick pointed out, “The Community Development Board has power. It does all sorts of things. We make recommendations and no one reads them.”
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