County Hearing On Clearwater's Downtown Boat Slips
By Anne McKay Garris
On March 13, 2007, the citizens of Clearwater approved a referendum that allows a promenade, a marina building, and boat slips that cover the waterfront of Coachman Park, with slips on both sides of the new Memorial Causeway Bridge. On June 2, 2009, at 9:30 a.m., the City is seeking permission from the Pinellas County Commission, sitting as the Pinellas County Environmental Management Water And Navigation, to build the slips. This is a public hearing where citizens will be heard and the County Environmental Staff recommendation will be presented for a final decision by the County Commissioners.
Written comments from citizens should be sent to Conor J. Petren at 512 South Fort Harrison Avenue, Clearwater, Florida 33756. These, or any phoned in comments should be at the County office at least a week before the hearing in order to be part of the record considered by the Commission. Citizens may call 453-3385 to review the County's file on the matter prior to the hearing.
The only other permit needed before the building of the boats slips may proceed will come from the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers. To address their views to the Corps Of Engineers representative on the project, citizens should call Tracy Hurst at 813-769-7063 and refer to project file number SAJ-2007-4553 (IP-TEH).
Currently the City of Clearwater is looking at building 129 slips with a cement wave attenuator to protect the boats from heavy wave action coming in from Clearwater Pass. At the time of the referendum, there was an extensive waiting list for boat slips at the existing Clearwater Marina. This fact, and the financial estimates of income from the boat front slips persuaded the city to assure the voters that boat slip rentals would not only pay off the cost of building the docks, but would also bring a surplus in to the city coffers with a net profit of around $8,000 the first year of operation and more thereafter.
With recent changes in the economy, the financial picture has changed. Not only is the project already over the estimated $18.8 million cost of construction and debt payment, but only 14 people, so far, have put their money on the line to reserve a boat slip.
The Clearwater City Council has, several times, discussed the changing financial picture but voted to proceed with the boat slips, nevertheless. Their argument is that if they postpone doing the project, it will only cost more money and Mayor Frank Hibbard stated that he was not willing to give up the million dollar grant of federal funds already committed to the project.
According to city research, the distance of the planned wave attenuator from the Intracoastal Waterway is more than required by Corps Of Engineer regulations. Early plans had called for the Intracoastal to be moved to accommodate the marina but accommodations were made to the plan so that this would not be necessary. A permit from the Corps is expected at any time.
Among the permits already approved is one from the Florida Wildlife Commission, although neighbors of the proposed boat slip site have reported repeated sightings of manatees in the area.
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