City is No Enemy to Island Estates Residents
By Frank L. Dame
In a recent letter to another newspaper complaining about the City of Clearwater’s staff and council, Island Estates resident and current treasurer of the Island Estates Civic Association, Arnie Shal stated, “We are physically isolated by water, have virtually no city facilities (no library, schools, community center, police station, fire station, public land, senior center, few children, very little crime, one postage-stamp size park). Clearwater has no footprint here”. He further stated, “The strained relationship between Island Estates and Clearwater reflects the callous indifference of the existing City Council to Island Estates as a unique waterfront community. The lesson we have learned is that this City Council is willing to sacrifice our island community for tourism”.
It is extremely shameful, disappointing and disheartening to hear a resident of Island Estates and a current leader of the Island Estates Civic Association disparage and disrespect City officials as was done in the referenced letter from Shal.
This is simply not true. Like Morningside or Countryside, Island Estates is a community within the City. The only difference is its residents are fortunate to be a waterfront community. Island Estates has its roads maintained (and recently repaved), obtains its drinking water and reclaimed water as well as garbage collection from the City. The community has use of one of the finest libraries in the county only about a mile from its entrance. It enjoys many of Clearwater’s recreational facilities, including Sunset Sam Park on Island Estates which the City maintains. The community receives the same police and fire protection as any other community within the City.
The statements made by Shal are the kind of incendiary inaccuracies that get citizens riled up but, in the long run, ruin the credibility and effectiveness of the leadership groups such as the Island Estates Civic Association.
The hotel issue on Island Estates referred to by Shal was not brought forth nor promoted by any City official. The owner and prospective developer went to the City planning department to see if anything could be done to increase the number of rooms that could be potentially built on the property. The City’s response was that they would render assistance only if the members of the community and the Civic Association Board would be supportive of such a project. The City was, in fact, sensitive to the community!
When Island Estates conducted a Town Hall meeting, City councilmember John Doran was in attendance and obviously interested in what the community had to say on this issue (as most likely other council members were). Prior to and during this meeting, erroneous information was disseminated by the leadership of the Association regarding a hotel proposal. There was no application presented to the City for a hotel. Also, incorrect property size, potential number of rooms and densities were provided to residents before and during this meeting. At the meeting, there was overwhelming opposition and anger expressed by those in attendance for any hotel development on Island Estates. In a subsequent City Council Meeting, the council members voted down increased densities on commercially zoned properties throughout Clearwater 4:1.
In the past, City staff and Council members have been very responsive to Island Estates residents. In ’05 & ‘06, the City awarded the Island Estates community two $5,000 beautification grants. Civic Association leadership requested from the City a turnaround in the median on Island Way which was subsequently constructed. The City approved a traffic light to reduce congestion and improve safety and the community was awarded neighborhood of the quarter in ’05 for being involved and working together to improve its community.
The Association’s current leadership should be ashamed of itself for providing inaccurate information regarding the hotel issue. This false information and use of tactics that intimidated and frightened its residents, and created a frenzy were uncalled for and helped to foster a distrusting attitude toward City officials that can only be counterproductive to working relationships and our community’s future. Leadership must accept the responsibility to disseminate correct information on issues for its residents to make unbiased but informed decisions. The recent attitude demonstrated by leadership in the Association would not foster good relations with any city staff or elected official.
When addressing community concerns, Association leadership may be better served by understanding how the City functions. This could be achieved by attending Clearwater’s Citizen Academy where they will review each department’s operations and meet with key staff and elected officials. They may also want to attend the annual Clearwater Neighborhoods Conference and the Florida League of Cities conference to develop effective leadership and skills in communicating its residents concerns in a more productive way.
Return to Current Edition