Public art program amendment receives initial council approval, developers participation is voluntary

CLEARWATER – The city council has moved a step closer to changing private participation requirements for the Public Art and Design Program from mandatory to voluntary.
On Oct. 16, the board unanimously gave initial approval to an amendment to the 2006 ordinance that formed the basis of the program. It required private developers of projects exceeding $5 million to allocate a certain percentage of the job's aggregate value toward the purchase and installation of onsite public art.
Clearwater cultural affairs specialist Christopher Hubbard said in an interview that the elimination of the mandatory requirement is designed to lessen restrictions and fees for developers while encouraging broader contributions to the Public Art Fund.
“By transferring the program requirements from mandatory to voluntary, we're opening up the option to contribute to projects of all sizes, not just those that exceed $5 million,” Hubbard said. “This would give more developers the opportunity to participate in the program and allow the city to distribute funds to other public art projects such as Sculpture360.
 “... Anytime you offer a voluntary program, it allows developers to continue with their project at a lesser cost,” he said.
During last week's meeting, Mayor George Cretekos said he had heard from members of the public art community who expressed support for the amendment.
Hubbard said while proponents of public art understand the reasoning behind the amendment, they're not necessarily happy about it.
“The Clearwater Art Alliance feels it's sad to see the removal of mandatory requirements, but they understand the need to do so,” he said. “We were one of only 70 communities to have such a requirement in place.”
Despite the amendment, which also calls for the elimination of certain ownership and maintenance requirements, Hubbard said public art remains a priority in Clearwater.
“Art will not go away from the city,” he said. “The city is still required to contribute funds for capital improvement projects over $500,000, and we will find private developers who want to contribute as well.”
The second and final vote on the amendment is scheduled for the next city council meeting on Nov. 7.
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