CLEARWATER - The future users of a planned 400-space public parking garage at the Hyatt Aqualea hotel will not be able to get to the beach via a pedestrian overpass across South Gulfview Boulevard.
An application by Aqualea to eliminate the overpass was heard by the Clearwater Community Development Board (CDB) on February 20th. A report by the city's planning staff in support of the application claimed, "the elimination of the pedestrian overpass will present a more esthetically pleasing view…", and described several more justifications for its demise.
The report questioned the potential use of the bridge, claiming that most beachgoers who park in the facility would use elevators to get to the ground floor and then use a crosswalk to reach the beach on the other side of South Gulfview Blvd.
The need for an elevator on the beach side of the overpass also posed a permitting concern and a potential maintenance nightmare because of its location seaward of the Coastal Construction line.
The report also claimed that the safety of motorists on South Gulfview would be improved, eliminating any distraction caused by pedestrians using the bridge or anything they might drop from it.
But while the overpass was being abandoned, the beach concession that was to be a component of its landing was not. The concession would now be a freestanding one-story structure, having no more than 1,200 square feet per the terms of the Garris/Boschen lawsuit settlement in 2005. Because of its location seaward of the Coastal Construction line, the proposed concession building still would require permitting from the State Department of Environmental Protection.
Only board member Nick Fritsch voted against the elimination of the overpass, saying that it would increase the conflict between pedestrians and vehicles traveling on South Gulfview. "It will impede the traffic flow and access to the mainland for people living to the south," he said.
Next, the City Council will be asked to approve amendments to its development agreement with Aqualea, eliminating references to the overpass. That hearing is scheduled for the March 1st Council meeting.
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