Shortly after the 2004 referendum, we polled citizens to learn more about what you liked, what you didn't like and what you would support for the downtown waterfront. Consistently over 80 percent of you have told us that redevelopment of downtown and the downtown waterfront is important, but previous efforts had clearly missed the mark with you, the voter. It was important for us to learn why.
What we learned has led us to where we are today. A majority of you told us that you would support the development of a boating facility on the waterfront. In that same poll, you told us that you required some key things in order to make a decision: a single-subject referendum with specific financial information and detailed visuals.
We have spent the last year working with national experts in boating, finance and engineering to ensure that this is a facility that will make a positive impact on the Clearwater community. If the market, financing or engineering studies showed that the project wasn't feasible, then we would not have brought it forward to you.
This project unlike many that add to our quality of life will not only be self-supportive it will help support other necessary activities in the city. We anticipate that over the first 40 years of the project $9.6 million will be added to the general fund. What is the general fund? The general fund is what supports our police, fire, library and parks and recreation. In short we have a project that enhances our downtown while supplementing important activities in existing departments.
Certain people who have chosen to oppose this project have thrown out dozens of assertions. Some of the assertions are matters of personal preference. Others are complete fabrications intended to frighten voters or imply malfeasance on the part of the city. I urge you to look through the fog and learn the facts for yourself.
Opponents try to make the case that this is for the exclusive use of 129 individuals. This isn't true. While the public slips are part of the overall equation, it's the overnight slips, side-tie space and free daytime space that make the project work as a community asset. We know that boat registrations continue to rise, and we know that available public space to tie up boats continues to fall. We know that boaters and boating groups are looking for a place like Clearwater to stop and tie up for a few days to explore the area. We know that the average overnight boater spends nearly $600 on non-boating expenses during their trip. These are verifiable facts. What we are all deciding is whether we want Coachman Park and our waterfront to be an active area 365 days a year or only when there is a special event. I choose activity!
Non-boaters will find that the project provides an enhanced waterside experience. The promenade, fishing pier and public walkways on the water will allow a new kind of experience for visitors and longtime residents alike.
This is about creating a dynamic downtown waterfront that provides access and options for a wide variety of activities and interests. Just like everyone in Clearwater, I want to see Coachman Park become the destination and the asset that it was always meant to be. This project is a piece in the overall strategy to create a new kind of downtown for all Clearwater residents - one that we can all be proud of. We already have a list of over 175 boaters who are interested in the project if it moves forward.
The time has come for Clearwater voters to make a positive choice for the future of Clearwater. We have been forthright, thorough and honest throughout this process and we will continue to be available should you have questions. Visit us online at www.myclearwater.com/boatslips to learn the facts before heading to the polls March 13.