CLEARWATER - More than nine months have elapsed since the mediated settlement of a lawsuit brought against the City of Clearwater by beach residents Anne Garris and Suzanne Boschen. The suit challenged the city's vacation of 3rd Street and its development agreement with the proposed Hyatt Aqualea.
The settlement satisfied many of Garris' and Boschen's concerns about the apparent privatization of the public beach fronting the Hyatt, limiting the size of a proposed concession and prohibiting the display of the Hyatt logo on the concession or its rental umbrellas and chairs. The settlement also limited the term of Hyatt's concession agreement to five years, and required Hyatt to provide a 10-foot wide pedestrian easement on the north side of their property until the city opens a new Second Street.
The final component of the settlement required the city to make a 'good faith" effort to acquire a permanent 10 foot public access easement immediately to the south of the hotel, running from Coronado to South Gulfview. Assistant City Attorney Richard Hull described the result of that effort to the Council on Tuesday.
Hull presented a resolution authorizing the city to take condemnation action against the owner of the Britts Laguna Grill property, which is adjacent to the planned Hyatt Aqualea resort. Hull said that the 10-foot wide strip of Britts property was appraised at $1.16-million, but estimated that the condemnation action would cost more than $3-million.
Hull said he spoke with the property owners, who said that they did not want to sell the property and that they opposed the taking of their restaurant. An outdoor deck with seating for about 50 guests currently occupies the subject 10-foot wide strip of land. Lior Hason, the manager of Britts, estimated that the deck provides about twenty percent of the restaurant's seating capacity.
The proposed condemnation action became a mere formality, however, the Council clearly reluctant to engage in a prolonged legal action and spend $3-million to provide an additional pedestrian walkway only about 100 feet from the new Second Street and its two planned 10-foot wide sidewalks.
Councilmember Carlen Petersen observed to City Attorney Pam Akin, "We don't have to agree to it, you just have to make all efforts to obtain that land and bring it to us proposing condemnation." Akin agreed, saying, "We just have to make a good faith effort and bring it forward to you, which we have."
"Which means on Thursday, we can kill this," said Mayor Hibbard. That Council action will bring closure to the Garris/Boschen lawsuit that once threatened both the city's Beach Walk plan and the Hyatt Aqualea.
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