Board denies Clearwater Basin Marina expansion appeal

CLEARWATER — City officials again have rejected a plan to expand a 66-slip marina on Clearwater Harbor just north of the city's Seminole Street boat ramp.
For the third time, Todd Pressman, representing Clearwater Basin Marina, LLC, went before the Community Development Board seeking approval to build a high-and-dry facility and add new wet slips around the 900 block of North Osceola Avenue.
For the third time, the board voted no on Tuesday.
After the board's first refusal in July, the developer immediately appealed the board's decision. Pressman returned in August seeking reconsideration and again was turned down. He submitted a revised and scaled-down proposal in September, hoping to sway the board in his favor during this week's hearing.
Had the developer won Tuesday's appeal, the revised proposal could have been resubmitted to the city in December.  Per code, once an application has been rejected by the board it cannot be resubmitted for nine months.
The original proposal was denied because board members said a large expansion wouldn't comply with the zoned district's limited neighborhood commercial use and because of its size and scope.
That plan involved adding 200 dry boat slips and 14 wet slips. The “high and dry” boat storage building would have been 53,700 square feet and 63 feet tall.
The revised site plan submitted in September had extensive changes, Pressman said. It reduced the building to 47.5 feet tall and 47,100 square feet. The number of dry boat slips was dropped to 168 and the building setback was increased to allow for more green space along Osceola. There was no change in the number of wet slips.
Board member Norma Carlough questioned why city staff opposed the marina expansion when the city touts itself as a working waterfront community.
“If this project is so against the community development code for that area, then is not the property right next door (the Seminole Street boat ramp) that's run by the city also nonconforming? I am having trouble understanding why we are so against this … which again is a working waterfront.”
Carlough said the revision satisfactorily addressed the board's previous concerns.
City planning director Michael Delk explained that the purpose of the appeal was to determine whether the July decision should be overturned or modified based on whether the board or city staff misconstrued the development code.
The point of contention was that city staff and the board previously determined that the proposal was inconsistent with the city's land-use and development plan for that district.
Pressman argued Tuesday that the proposal complies with city code, which doesn't specifically prohibit high-and-dry facilities, and that the revision corrects the concerns of the board and neighbors regarding size and setbacks. Moreover, the proposal also compliments the downtown redevelopment plan that encourages recreational use.
“A high and dry is considered recreational use,” he said.
Board Chairman Frank Dame said his major concern was ensuring a balance in a transitional district of residential and commercial business. He said the board previously favored expansion as long as a high-and-dry building wasn't part of the plan.
After hearing the details of the revision, Dame, an avid boater, said, “If this (application) was to come before me in April, I would have a different consideration.
“I think the city is remiss in the way they've done the overall plan. I think a high and dry, provided that all the residents contiguous to this high and dry are in support of it, I could support this marina. But not at today's appeal hearing because it is not substantially different.”
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