CLEARWATER - At last week's meeting, city council took a few actions to tighten up some of Clearwater's water related policies and projects.
The council agreed to pass an ordinance amending the Beach By Design Guidelines (BBD) that in part increases the maximum density for overnight accommodations, revises building use, height, step backs, setbacks, landscaping and parking access for Clearwater Beach's Old Florida District, a neighborhood nestled between commercial and residential areas.
Mayor Frank Hibbard said he favors incentives for transient properties over residential with height considerations, especially in the southern part of the district.
Vice mayor Bill Jonson said he'd be voting no, as it is his contention that the city's residents have stated they want more open space. He got a round of applause from citizens when he said development should be built in such a way that visitors and residents have breathing space.
Anne Garris, a spokesperson for Save Our Bayfront addressed the council. She asked, "Didn't any of you go to the beach this week? How could you possibly think of increasing the density? There is more to building a tourist industry, and I hate to be singing to the choir here - - but there's more to it than bigger and bigger buildings. We've got to have something for tourists to see and do."
Garris suggested the city needs to start looking for quality rather than quantity.
The amendment was approved on first reading 3 voted in favor of, Jonson against and Hamilton recusing.
Another matter that brought Garris to the podium was an agenda item to approve the anticipated activities and estimated cost of $345,426 for Phases I and II of the Downtown Boat Slips project.
The project is to create 138 boat slips adjacent to the old Clearwater bridge.Garris said she sees this latest proposal as the council, "One more time preempting the public's waterfront to lease to private individuals."
Garris doesn't see how the slips will behoove downtown. She predicted that the boat slip renters will go out on the water return to their slips tired from the excursions and head home, thereby not doing much to better downtown. She said the project would cover the entire waterfront, and may have security fences and obstruct the view. She urged the council to, "Humor the public with some open space."
Around this point, attendees at the meeting and channel C-15 viewers watching the meeting at home may have felt a wave of Déjà vu or thought that they were watching a rerun from a past meeting of several years ago.
The nostalgia was not lost on council member Hamilton, for he made a prediction of his own. He said, "I can promise you there's going to be another misinformation campaign", referring to previous Save Our Bayfront initiatives to kill public waterfront proposals.
Hamilton further speculated that, "… an individual who used to sit up here is probably going to fund that campaign."
Regardless of histrionics behind prior proposals, Hibbard assured that in the end, voters would decide the matter. "It will be very clear what you are going to be voting on. What this will be and what it will not be. And one of the things I can assure you is that the slips will be open first to the citizens of Clearwater."
Hibbard also stated that the project will not allow for fuel docks or boat ramps and will pay for itself. He said plans for excursion boats are underway to attract visitors to downtown. Hibbard then called for the vote, which was unanimous.
A third action the council took was to approve amending a section of the code of ordinances, modifying the designated slow speed minimum-wake zone in Mandalay Channel.
Anticipating flare-ups from a group of citizens gathered at the meeting to be heard, Hibbard cautioned them to keep civil.
Apparently a large volume of impassioned e-mails regarding the channel, some outlandish, precipitated his call for good conduct. Bill Morris, the city's director of the department of marine and aviation said the issue is being revisited because the marine advisory board originally in January 2005 designated vessels measuring 21 ft and larger be required to maintain the slow speed in the channel.
He said as of late, the board has come to believe the vessel size should be changed to 25 ft.
About ten speakers let the council know their positions.
Some citizens heard spoke for skiers, wake boarders and recreational boaters. Others spoke of safety, quality of life, and against noise and water pollution in the channel that's not conducive to hosting manatee, dolphin and water birds. Some declared the water as their playground and the reason they bought their properties. Others mentioned damage to their property's sea walls as a reason to minimize wakes from boats.
A few, like safety advocate Frank Dame, president of the Island Estates Civic Association, gave detailed presentations. Dame researched and offered solutions and pointed out alternative areas in nearby waters for skiers to use.The number of engines a boat has was factored in to discussion.
Mark Smith, a member of the Marine Advisory Board concluded the commentary and described how the board labored for months to come up with a compromise. He said, "It is a compromise. It works. It'll pretty much keep everybody happy. It eliminates the safety issue of someone shoving a small group of people into one small area." He reminded that the board took into consideration signage, enforcement, and safety.
Council member John Doran made the motion. "I would amend it to begin, 'Single engine vessels 25 ft and under may operate at a safe operating speed not to exceed 35 mph from Sommerset Street to the northern most point of the slow minimum wake zone on Island Estates'."The vote was unanimous for approval of the amendment.
On Monday, Garris commented on her experience with Hamilton at the council meeting. "Isn't that interesting? I was trying to express my opinion about the last, open spaced, public owned land on the bay and evidently it isn't the same as his, so he lashed out at me."
Garris acknowledged that Hamilton was agitated by a past mailer Save Our Bayfront distributed that mentioned Hamilton's family.
Fred Thomas, former commissioner and owner of Pinch-a-Penny Pool Supply is the past council member whom Hamilton referred to.
On Tuesday, Thomas said he was aware of Hamilton's reference to him at the most recent city council meeting. Thomas explained, "The reason Hamilton was in the mailer was because his family could have personally benefited from a proposed amendment to the city charter at that time. If you have a copy of that flyer and as crazy as it looks, everything mentioned could have been done with the language of those charter amendments. There was no misinformation."
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition