It All Depends On A Two Foot Wall
By Anne McKay Garris
The proposed new parking garage, restaurant and shopping mall, planned for Coronado Avenue is large, ambitious, and expensive, with enthusiastic backing from Clearwater city officials. But, unless the city agrees to let them build a two-foot wall on city property in front of the establishment, the Federal Emergency Management Authority will not redesign at the property to the A-E flood zone that would allow the building to proceed as designed.
The wall is supposed to reduce the force of any flood waters coming from the Gulf of Mexico so that ground floor walls, halls, electrical appliances and connections and other vulnerable items will not be destroyed.
FEMA flood regulations have been in force for a long time. Their rules for mitigating the requirements have varied over the years. Back in the eighties, the CVS Drugstore building on Mandalay Avenue was allowed to "occupy the ground floor" because they put their electric wires and outlets above the flood level and used other waterproofing methods for the rest of the area. Then, and now, residents are not allowed to put anything at all on their ground floors in flood areas. Businesses are different and so the Britt's Surf Style parking garage has the choice of building a sand dune on the beach in front of the building, again, on city property, or building the two-foot wall, or everything on the ground floor must be elevated. Since a sand dune affects the view and, by state law, cannot be removed, the choice was the wall.
As described by a city hall spokesman, the wall will have a comfortable top and be suitable for people to sit on. It will be similar to the walls already in place on Beach Drive, but on the east of South Gulf View, not on the west as are the others.
Although the wall will be financed by the developer, it will be built on city property, zoned open space/recreation. The City Charter says no new leased property will be put on open space/recreation zoned property, but a spokesman for the City Legal Department says the wall does not fall into that category.
Permission to use the wall as mitigation for the FEMA flood zone requirements must be gotten by the city from FEMA. The application has not yet been submitted and at least one member of City Council is not sure it is a good idea. The decisions on whether to post the $9 million for the city to purchase the parking garage portion of the building in case it gets into financial trouble will be made on January 14, at the Council meeting which will consider approval of the Development Agreement for the Britt's Surfstyle project.
According to information from City Staff, the site, which now houses both Britt's Restaurant and Surf Style Shops in separate buildings will go from 6,058 square foot of restaurant to 6,887 square feet and from 7,128 square feet of retail space to 34,183, with a total increase of income area going from 13,186 square feet to 41,070 square feet on the same piece of land.
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