Will Governor Crist Save Our Clearwater Beach Treasure?
Last week, the Internet, in and around Clearwater, buzzed with e-mails to Governor Charlie Crist. Word was out that House Bill 1047 was on his desk, ready for a signature or a veto. Because HB1047 makes it possible for the City of Clearwater to lease the Clearwater Marina land to a developer for up to 30 years without a referendum, interested citizens asked the Governor to veto it.
Although Clearwater's Mayor Frank Hibbard has repeatedly denied there are plans for the Marina property, a citizen was told to stop distributing information about a veto because they were violating a law against "peddling" in public places without a police permit.
It is clear from an article in the newspaper quoting the Clearwater City Manager that developers are interested in the land. It is also clear, from reading the Bill that the development could be "not necessarily public use" and that the use could include dwelling units, if HB1047 is passed.
In 1927, the State of Florida gifted the land to the local government with the stipulation that the land would revert back to the State if it was ever used for other than a public purpose. Or, to quote the law exactly, "…provided further that should said property ever cease to be used for public parks and places of recreation only, same shall revert to the State."
Now, the City Council is trying, for the third time in as many years, to have the reverter clause removed. State Bill 1047 states that the land cannot be sold, licensed, or leased for over 30 years without a referendum. It is the phrase, "leased for over 30 years" that has concerned citizens e-mailing the governor.
Although the building is over 50 years old, there is no record available at City Hall that it has been professionally inspected and found in deteriorating condition. It is one of the few landmarks left on Clearwater Beach with open public bayfront. Free use of the area for boating, bird watching, loafing, and simply enjoying being close to the water is of value to residents and visitors. Many consider it a true treasure, not to be locked away for private use.
Anne McKay Garris
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