CLEARWATER - The Clearwater City Council spent one hour of their work session meeting on Tuesday discussing a proposed amendment to Beach by Design that is intended to promote redevelopment of the Marina District of Clearwater Beach. But rather than enjoying the Council's usual support, the plan was met with skepticism.
The change would encourage consolidation of the small lots that comprise the area by offering height incentives of up to 100 feet for parcels of two acres that span East Shore Drive. Property owners taking advantage of the height incentives would be required to build a public waterfront boardwalk, turning the area into what Assistant Planning Director Gina Clayton called "a pedestrian and boater-friendly destination."
The lynchpin of the planning department's vision for the area is the boardwalk. Planning Director Michael Delk told the Council that the boardwalk must be built on land, rather than over water; "That really brings East Shore into the equation for us in terms of ability to achieve these objectives," he said.
The past difficulty of lot consolidation in the area weighed heavily during the discussion. Councilmember Carlen Petersen asked if it was possible that holdouts could break the hoped-for continuous boardwalk. Clayton responded that is was; "It's not going to be simple and easy," she said of realizing the boardwalk, "Maybe we'll only get part of it."
Mayor Frank Hibbard called the hoped-for assemblage of larger parcels and construction of the boardwalk "an impossible puzzle."
Councilmember John Doran said, "You can't vacate (East Shore) piecemeal."
A proposed redesign of the roundabout, providing a bypass lane from the eastbound causeway to Poinsettia, also caused concern. Councilmember Bill Jonson said, "It's critical that if we are going to close East Shore and make some adjustments to the roundabout or a bypass lane, that we get some really credible people helping us on that design, people that have been right in the past and have helped us get out of the box that we were in." Jonson said that in the absence of that help, closing East Shore is not an option.
The helper Jonson was referring to is U.K. engineer Barry Crown, whose redesign of the original roundabout resulted in improved safety and reduced congestion. Crown has been asked by the city for his opinion of the bypass lane proposal this week; it may be presented during tonight's Council meeting.
The discussion ended without a clear consensus of how to proceed. Hibbard said, "I want to hear from the public on Thursday. I don't think we're going to come to a conclusion on this, but I want to make sure that we at least lay the groundwork for a productive discussion on Thursday night."
A public hearing on the proposed amendments to Beach by Design for the Marina District will be held tonight, January 18th, during the City Council Meeting at City Hall.
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