Sand Key Seeks Answers
By Vicki Jackson
What about Sand Key? Six individuals vying for two City of Clearwater council seats took the opportunity to share their views at a forum hosted by the Sand Key Civic Association (SKCA) last week. Approximately one hundred citizens gathered at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center to hear the forum speakers.
Gene Gillespie, Vice President of SKCA, served as moderator for the ninety minute event, which allowed each candidate to have a turn at being the first to answer one of six questions. He began, "What do you see as the biggest issues facing Sand Key in the short-term and long-term, and what do you propose to do about it?" Another query regarded the proposed new rules for dock construction extending east into the bay, and a possible exemption from that rule for Sand Key. The 'doubling' of hotel density in tourist-zoned property was an important concern, as was the possibility of offshore drilling within ten miles of our beaches. No candidate favored drilling, so defined.
Mr. Gillespie continued, "The Community Development Board (CDB) apparently never met a variance it didn't approve. Would you, could you, exempt Sand Key?" He concluded by asking candidates if they would support efforts to prevent variances, as residents and the Islands Initiative movement seek to preserve Sand Key as a residential community.
There are four candidates for City Council Seat Number Four. Among them, Wayne Carothers, a long-time area resident, and 23-year business owner defined his platform as "Support small business." He wants "less government telling us what to do," and said, "If they stay out of our way, we can create jobs." He expressed concern about beach erosion and drilling for oil and doesn't "want to see our beaches polluted." As far as variances go, public safety would be his concern. He "would bring back the original density design". If elected, he vowed, "I promise to listen to you."
Bill Jonson, former City of Clearwater Council member, said he had "a reputation for asking tough questions, and a passion for public service." He defined three major problems for the city as the upcoming budget, supporting neighborhoods, and expanding business outreach. He'd like to change the criteria the CDB uses to include compatibility with adjoining properties and believes that could be done fairly quickly. Regarding dock construction, he said, "The problem has gotten more complex, and we need to look at the environment as well as the safety of boats." He assured Sand Key residents, "You will be a part of the city."
Joe Paige, a U.S. Air Force veteran, and local contractor, outlined his vision for less government, regulation, and taxes, with more individual freedom and liberty. About density, he said, "It's economics, high buildings generate income and lower taxes. Owners should be able to do what they want, but most developers don't live in these buildings, and they should quit trying to build larger and larger buildings on Sand Key." As for the CDB, he believes "variances should be for small changes" and they should "stop changing the rules in the middle of the game." Regarding his candidacy, he announced, "I'm the alternative to the status quo", and promised, "not to raise the millage rate."
Herb Quintero, a lifelong Clearwater resident and small business owner, voiced the promotion of greater flexibility with small business owners, so as to increase revenue and thereby lessen the burden on taxpayers. He said, "The wants and needs of the community must come before those of leadership". He'd "limit growth through legislation, and not make the same mistake over and over again." He would support going back to a Citizen's Review Board in place of the current Community Development Board, to get more community involvement. He said he had "learned how things work" and wanted "to listen and try to get you what you want."
There are two candidates for Seat Number Five. Paul Gibson, current Vice Mayor, City of Clearwater, stated he "is not anti-development-just anti-bad development". He announced a platform of "fiscal responsibility" to deal with the impending $9 Million deficit for the coming fiscal year. He said the city has a flexible development code, but it is being changed, i.e. starting setbacks at 15 feet, instead of 0-15 feet. In reference to losing the rezoning battle of the Shoppes at Sand Key, he stated, "The city bungled the first round, but the density pool is a second chance-just don't give them the extra density. As a candidate," he said, "I've got the experience, education, and commitment to do this."
Michael Riordon, a fifteen-year Clearwater resident, and small business owner, said, "The biggest short-term problem for Sand Key is invasion from the north. Clearwater Beach is beyond built-out." For the long-term, erosion is a big concern, but he believes "technologies are out there" for alleviation. He cited the need to "bring back the City of Clearwater values, and called for the dissolution of the CDB, adding, "We don't need experts to make common sense decisions." He stated, "The budget problem is not what's coming in-it's what's going out!"
The evening concluded with refreshments and an opportunity for candidates to mingle informally with attendees for further discussion. Of residents polled, some had arrived at a decision, while others wanted to hear more before they vote in March. They'll have that opportunity when other candidate forums are held on February 17, at the Christ Community Presbyterian Church at 2310 Nursery Road, and at St. Brendon Catholic Church on March 2.
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