Clearwater Basin Marina expansion goes before city council

CLEARWATER — After being turned down three times by a development board last year, a developer who wants to expand a 66-slip marina on Clearwater Harbor is taking his project to the city council.
Todd Pressman, representing Clearwater Basin Marina, LLC, wants to build a high-and-dry boat storage building and add wet slips around the 900 block of North Osceola Avenue in the city's Old Bay District, located north of downtown and west of Osceola along the harbor.
Last year, city staff objected to Pressman's project, saying it was inconsistent with the district's high-density residential uses for a waterfront location.
By identifying the district as a prime residential area, city staff hoped tode-industrialize the downtown harbor front in favor of supporting downtown as a residential location,” according to Gina Clayton, assistant planning and development director.
After going before the Community Development Board three times last year, the applicant now is lobbying the city council to consider amending district restrictions to allow for the high-and-dry boat storage. The matter came up for discussion before the city council during Monday's work session.
Vice Mayor Paul Gibson was the most vocal in saying that the residential-only vision for the district “is not realistic.”
“It's been 10 years and we haven't seen anything happen there,” he said. “It's a pipe dream to think this is going to be high-end residential and that we should hold out for it when we have a good development like a high-and-dry available now.”
Councilman Jay Polglaze also supported the expansion. “Being we're one of the largest boating communities in the state of Florida, I think a marina in that area is exactly the right thing to do. It's an incentive to motivate more residential development and to connect our waterfront and downtown.”
Mayor George Cretekos agreed. Because there has been no development in the area for more than 15 years, he said, “We may need to change our focus.”
Pressman's plan calls for high-and-dry storage for 168 boats, plus 14 in-water slips. The boat storage building would be 47.5 feet tall and 47,100 square feet. The building setback was increased to allow for more green space along Osceola Avenue.
The white and shiny boats currently docked at the marina, north of the city's Seminole Street boat ramp,  present a stark contrast to the surrounding area that has been referred to as “Stonehenge” because of about 100 concrete and steel pilings sticking up out of the ground. They're the skeletal remains of a high-rise condominium project approved in 2005 but never completed. The 20-foot pilings are surrounded by a fence, but they're plainly visible from the docks and the street.
Across the street is the former North Ward Elementary School, which has boarded-up windows and overgrown landscaping. Mixes of older single- and multifamily residences complete the Old Bay District.
Representatives from the Clearwater Basin Marina are expected to present their project to the council at 6 tonight in its chambers in city hall, 112 S. Osceola Ave. The council is expected to give city staff direction whether to amend the district restrictions to allow for the high-and-dry boat storage.
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