Gibson Asks Council to Curb Rampant Development
By Anne McKay Garris
Clearwater City Councilmember, Paul Gibson, has asked the City's Planning Officials to take another look at what can be done to prevent the repeat, on South Clearwater Beach, of the development disaster which allowed Brightwater Drive to become a canyon of tall buildings.
In the wake of the City Council's decision to allow extra density for the proposed Holiday Inn Express, which will be built within two and a half feet of another building, Councilmember Gibson has asked for another look at the design guidelines for the South Beach.
Acknowledging that the city's development code leaves the decision on building design with the unelected Community Development Board, Gibson adds, "Nevertheless, each new hotel project will be seeking extra density units from the 1,385 unit Density Pool, provided by the city to encourage hotel redevelopment on Clearwater Beach. These must be approved by City Council and it is my opinion that we should consider our objectives before approving any allocation of density."
He acknowledges the situation, in which most brand name hotels require a certain size lot to build hotels adequate for their requirements. Also, not all of the property owners on South Beach want to sell their land. But that does not excuse the Council from approving density for buildings proposed for land that is too small to accommodate them without causing problems for the neighbors.
Reiterating that he "supports more mid-range hotels because they are important to our beach economy," Gibson adds, "We have an obligation to make our guidelines clear to ensure developers are able to submit plans without the need for subsequent major modifications."
He asked the Council to direct the Planning Department to provide options which would require any new developments to have an esthetically pleasing appearance; to include increased setbacks and reduced mass so that there would be view corridors between hotels; to feature step backs to avoid box-like tall buildings; and to include varied heights to avoid the big city look that fills the skyline.
As he did, in debating the issues of the Holiday Inn Express project on Devon and Coronado, Gibson also asked for sidewalks that are at least 7 feet wide, "to allow families to pass each other without stepping off the sidewalk," he said.
Gibson explained his reasons for the request for more detailed planning by referring to the Holiday Inn project. "This hotel met our ordinances and we were compelled to approve it. I do not want to be in the same position as new hotel development continues on Coronado Drive."
The City Council approved Gibson's request and the results of the Planning Departments efforts should be reported by January.
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