CLEARWATER - The docks proposed for the Sandpearl resort project on north Clearwater Beach took a step forward last week as the City of Clearwater submitted a dock application to Pinellas County, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
As reported by the Gazette in April, the discovery that the City, not the State, owns the submerged lands in the proposed dock area voided certain terms of the Sandpearl development agreement. In that agreement, the City had promised to help Sandpearl negotiate a submerged lands lease with the State of Florida for a cove adjacent to the Clearwater Beach Recreation Center, and authorize the construction of a 57-slip docking facility that would be accessed via that City-owned upland property.
Negotiations for a submerged lands lease between the City and Sandpearl began, but were never completed. According to Clearwater mayor Frank Hibbard, the City's focus is now on the proposed downtown boat slips. Regarding the proposed Sandpearl docks Hibbard said, "We don't have any sense of urgency on it."
But JMC Properties, the developer of the Sandpearl resort, does feel some urgency. JMC, according to its land use attorney Ed Armstrong, hopes that the docks can be completed when the Sandpearl resort is opened in February 2007.
Recognizing the delays involved in obtaining the approvals of three government agencies plus the City of Clearwater, JMC wanted to start the application process early. They hired consultants to prepare the application and paid the City's cost of submitting it to the other agencies. According to Armstrong, JMC undertook the application process at its own risk because an agreement had not yet been reached with the City.
According to Morris, the purpose of the application was to act as a trial balloon, soliciting the comments of the several agencies in the approval process. Their objections, if any, could be addressed in a later application while still keeping the proposed dock project on a schedule that met JMC's needs.
The dock application proposes a total of 54 boat slips: 11 day slips, 21 slips for boats up to 40 feet, 12 for boats less than 30 feet and 10 for boats less than 26 feet. According to Morris, the City and JMC have agreed on how the slips would be allocated, with 21 reserved for day use by the public and the remaining 33 managed by the Sandpearl resort.
Armstrong said that JMC's focus for the docks is as an amenity for resort guests. Although Sandpearl condominium owners would have no ownership rights to the docks, Armstrong said, "We would expect some ancillary use by condo owners on an availability basis, but that's not the primary focus."
According to Mayor Hibbard, the City will resume its submerged lands lease negotiations with JMC sometime after the planned downtown boat slip referendum in November.
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