CLEARWATER - Clearwater's Community Development Board dealt another setback to the Island Estates Civic Association and the current residents of the Island's smallest cul-de-sac, Skiff Point. At their October 18th meeting, the CDB approved a 12-unit, 60-foot tall (over FEMA requirements) condominium complex having only 18 parking spaces for its residents.
As has become the norm for redevelopment projects on the Beach and Island Estates, this new project, named Mirabel Pointe, sought approval under Clearwater's Flexible Development standards, with flexibility requested in nearly every dimension. In addition to 18 feet of additional height, the project sought to reduce front setback from 25 to 13 feet, side setback from 10 to 5 feet, rear setback from 15 to 1.5 feet, and lot width from 150 to 142 feet.
Robert Tefft, the City Planner responsible for reviewing the Mirabel Pointe site plan, explained that the reductions in setbacks and increase in height were justified by the irregular shape of the lot, and recommended approval of the application.
The project's parking capacity of 18 spaces conforms with the City's code requirement of 1.5 spaces per unit, but local residents and the Island Estates Civic Association consider it inadequate.
Frank Dame, President of the Island Estates Civic Association, cited a 1999 survey by the Bureau of Census that documented an average of 2.86 vehicles per family having an income of $70,000 per year or more. "One and a half parking spaces to accommodate these large, 3 bedroom condominium units with 2,500 square feet and greater selling for more than $850,000 on top of what your just approved is simply not enough parking for this area", he said.
Mirabel Pointe's web site claims that there will be one assigned enclosed parking space per residence, and one or two assigned enclosed parking spaces for Penthouse residences.
Neil Spillane, a current resident of Skiff Point, recited his experience with overflow parking on Skiff Point. He said that there are only 5 on-street spaces on the small cul-de-sac, and that the Clearwater Fire Department has even discussed removing those. "The parking issue is not going away," he said, "its just going to be exacerbated if you allow this to happen."
Even as the Planning Staff were recommending approval of Mirabel Pointe and its 1.5 parking spaces per unit, they have been working on some 40 amendments to the City's development Code. One of those, according to Planning Director Michael Delk, would increase the number of parking spaces to two per unit for attached dwellings like Mirabel. Despite that, Tefft responded to the Island Estates Civic Associations parking concern with, "The code still today requires 1.5 spaces per unit. There is no mechanism by which we can force the applicant to provide more parking than required by code."
The CDB approved the Mirabel Pointe application by a vote of 5-1. Board Member Kathy Milam, a former resident of Skiff Point, cast the only vote in opposition.
After the CDB meeting, Development Review Manager Neil Thompson said that parking had been a major issue during discussions with representatives of Mirabel Pointe. He said that as a comprehensive infill project, Mirabel was required to have only 1 space per unit. "1.5," Thompson said, "is probably a compromise that meets code and it worked (with the site plan)."
Had Mirabel's application been submitted after the planned code revision requiring 2 spaces per unit, Thompson said that it would not have passed staff review, and not been offered for approval by the CDB. "As many things in life are," Thompson said, "it's a question of timing."
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