Are Super Long Docks In Clearwater Bay's Future?
By Anne McKay Garris
The Clearwater Marine Advisory Board, Wednesday, voted to table a developer's request for super long docks extending into Clearwater Bay. The developer's representative described two docks, one on each side of Somerset Street, one reaching 89 feet and the other 111 feet into the bay, in an area used by small boat sailors, jet skiers and water skiers. The length of both docks is extended three (3) feet by the width of boats expected to be docked at the outer edge.
A neighbor of the proposed docks on the residential side was asked to recluse himself from voting on the issue. Another neighbor, located on the tourist district side, was not asked to do so.
The board members expressed frustration that they had not received the information on the docks until they arrived at the meeting. They made a motion to request the Community Development Board to also table the proposal until they had time to look more carefully at the information. The developers' representative informed the board members that the Community Development Board would hear the dock request, with, or without, the vote of the Marine Advisory Board.
It was acknowledged that permitting the extra long docks in the transition area, between single family residential and the commercial area beyond the Old Florida District, would set a precedent. This, according to one of citizens at the meeting, would reduce by half the open water area available to navigation and small boat, if similar docks were built on the Island Estates side.
The developer's representative acknowledged they had to resurvey the area because some marine grass beds had been discovered since their last survey. She claimed that a new configuration of the docks protected the grass beds. Others on the board and among the boaters in the audience disagreed with this, stating the depth of water over the grass beds was not sufficient for the boats to maneuver without damaging them.
Several citizens from Island Estates argued that the applicant's claim of owning riparian rights did not give him the absolute right to build docks, only the right to keep his access to the water unobstructed. Others argued that the longer docks in the "recreation zone" of the bay would be dangerous to young boaters. One citizen warned that a young water skier, in a centrifugal turn, would be unable to avoid the docks and there would be fatalities. Another commented that he had never heard of transitory sea grasses that moved around and suddenly appeared where they had not been seen before, as the developer's representative implied
Several people, on the board and in the audience, called for comprehensive review and changes to the dock ordinances before any more are permitted. One current rule allows additional width of combined properties to trigger permission for docks extended further into the open water of Clearwater Bay, historically one of Clearwater's most valuable resources.
At press time, the CDB was still scheduled to hear the request for the 98 foot and 111 foot docks on Tuesday, November 21. It was unclear whether or not the CDB would be informed of the Marine Advisory Board's vote and views on re-examining the dock code.
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