Parking Garage Approved
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - A proposed parking garage on Clearwater Beach was rescued by last minute negotiations last week between the city and L.O.M. Inc., owner of the property on South Gulfview Blvd. where the facility would be built.
At last week's City Council worksession, City Attorney Pam Akin exposed an unresolved issue with a proposed "Parking Covenant," one component of the Development Agreement between the city and L.O.M.
The proposed "Parking Covenant" required that the property maintain 300 public parking spaces for a term of 30 years, with automatic renewals for successive 10-year periods. L.O.M. was concerned that the unending requirement for the 300 parking spaces could cause problems if the structure was ever redeveloped again. They feared that future changes in land development regulations could limit the size of the restaurant and retail components of the project, whose revenues would be needed to sustain the garage operation.
Akin promised to work on a compromise with L.O.M. on Tuesday, but agreement was not reached until Thursday. The revised documents were done so late that the Mayor and City Council had not seen the final versions before their Thursday meeting started. "I'm sort of reading this on the fly," said Councilmember Carlen Petersen as she took her turn during Council discussion of the agreement.
The compromise involved reducing the required number of parking spaces if future regulations reduced the square footage of the retail/restaurant space. For every 1,000 square foot reduction in restaurant/retail, now approved for 41,000 square feet, the parking requirement would be reduced by 8 spaces, but in no event would the required number of public parking spaces fall below 100.
The Council unanimously approved the L.O.M. Development agreement and Parking Covenant, but only after modifying the source of $9.3-millon needed to fulfill the city's obligation under a "Put Agreement." That agreement would obligate the city to purchase the garage component if the project's lender foreclosed on the property within five years.
City staff had earlier recommended that $4-million of the $9.3-million come from General Fund reserves and Central Insurance reserves. Under Council pressure, Assistant Finance Director Jay Ravens stated that the $14.7-million balance of Parking Fund reserves was sufficient to cover the "Put" agreement and all projects planned to use that funding source.
Councilmember Paul Gibson moved to fund the entire $9.3-million "Put" account from parking reserves, returning $2-million each to Central Insurance and General Fund reserves. That too was approved unanimously.
The $2-million returned to General Fund reserves could play a role in balancing the city's 2010/11 budget, which is now forecast to have a $9-million deficit at the current city property tax rate.
If all goes well, visitors to South Clearwater Beach will find the new garage open for business by September 30, 2012.
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