Sand Key Civic Association Resumes Meetings
By Gina McPherson
The Sand Key Civic Association resumed its schedule of meetings after a summer recess on September 3. The first item of business was a report from Joe Calio, chairperson of the Beach Clean Up Project. Calio reported that there was a “mountain of debris on the beach this summer.” He contacted the city of Clearwater to ask for help in cleaning it up and was told that the debris didn’t present a health hazard and therefore wasn’t the city’s responsibility.
Calio then requested that SKCA pay to have it done. The association paid $579 to have the debris bagged. The county picked it up and waived the disposal fee.
Calio said the schedule for the next beach renourishment is in 2010 or 2011 and noted that when tested in July the beach was in “good condition” with only a 10% change since the end of the last renourishment.
Next on the agenda was a presentation from Cathy Harrolson of the Sierra Club on the danger of Red Tide. Harrolson reported that the algae tends to grow most in August and September and if there is a lot of storm activity we might see more of it. She distinguished the green seaweed we have seen on the beach lately from the harmful, red algae, saying that the seaweed may be a nuisance but is not harmful to sea animals or our health.
Harrolson noted that the harmful algae is increasing around the world due to airborne sources, vehicle exhaust, water pollution, sewage overflow and nitrogen and phosphorus released from agricultural fertilizer carried to the ocean from lakes and rivers. She stated us that grass clippings should not be thrown into the street as it finds its way into sewers and eventually into the water.
She said that Red Tide had a huge affect on this area in 2004-2005. It caused the death of dolphins, fish and sea turtles and breathing problems for many people. She said that its affect on human lungs can be devastating and that Red Tide hurt our state’s tourism industry in those years. Harrolson noted that it can take as long as five years to clear up, but that an active storm season may break it up faster.
Harrolson explained the Sierra Club’s goal is to educate citizens on sensible ways to create an environment friendly landscape.
Harrolson also said that the Sierra Club opposes the plan before Congress to allow offshore drilling for oil closer to our beaches. She reminded those in attendance that this vote will be on September 12 and encouraged the audience to read more on the subject.
She told the group that the Sierra Club Board voted to oppose the deviations requested by Legg Mason LLC, Real Estate Investors, for its Cabana Club renovation project at 1490 Gulf Boulevard.
Next on the agenda was a report by Cynthia Remley and JoHelen Farnham of Save Our Neighborhoods, a neighborhood group which, according to its Web site, is dedicated to keeping the Sand Key neighborhood residential. The ladies reported on SON’s opposition plans for Legg Mason’s Cabana Club redevelopment application. SON is collecting petitions from residents in opposition to the code deviations requested by Legg Mason and organizing transportation for people who want to attend the hearing before the Community Development Board on September 16 at 1 p.m. at City Hall. (Visit www.saveourshoppes.com for more infomation on SON.)
This dynamic duo also discussed the community’s options to oppose the April 17 City Council vote to approve an ordinance which increases allowed hotel density on property zoned Tourist throughout the city. The ordinance allows hotel developers to build 110 rooms per acre, an increase from the 50 previously allowed. Farnham noted that this will potentially impact the neighborhood by allowing the Sheraton and Marriott to grow their hotels and could affect the future of the Shoppes of Sand Key. Farnham said that the D.A. Bennett Company, which owns the property in Sand Key on which the shops are located, has filed an appeal to the CDB decision to deny its application for Tourist zoning. Farnham informed the group that if D.A.Bennett wins its appeal and the property is zoned Tourist, it could potentially build 330 units on the 3 acre property.
One option Remley and Farnham said the community could pursue to curb hotel development and growth on the island is to request a referendum to appeal the Council’s vote to increase hotel room density on property zoned as Tourist. They note that a referendum will be expensive and the group will need to collect 6,532 signatures on a petition. This number represents 10% of the Clearwater population that voted in the last large election. Farnham said the organization would, “need generous donations to fund the referendum.”
She continued , saying that the successful result of a referendum could be a forced return to the previous hotel room density allowance of 50 rooms per acre. This, in her opinion, would make it economically unfeasible for future hotel growth and development on Sand Key.
The last item presented by president, Herb McLachlan, was a decision for the association to fund holiday lighting as it has done in the past. The Board voted unanimously to approve the expense of lighting the residential areas of Sand Key. McLachlan noted that the city of Clearwater funds the lighting of the business district.
The meeting ended with a reminder by the president that the next meeting will be on October 1 at 7 p.m. at the Sand Key Sailing Center.
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