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Clearwater Basin Marina expansion plan revisited

CLEARWATER—After the Community Development Board denied approval for a major expansion proposed for the Clearwater Basin Marina last July, representatives from the company came back to city hall and tried again.
The board on Aug. 20 heard a “request for reconsideration” regarding the marina’s new plan. It involved construction of a 200-slip dry dock building, a 1,000-square-foot commercial building and 14 new wet slips in addition to the existing 66 at the marina at 880 N. Osceola Ave. The 5.10-acre site is on Clearwater Harbor directly north of the Seminole Street public boat launch ramps.
City staff explained that in order for the board to reconsider the project, it first must determine whether a mistake, fraud or misrepresentation occurred during the initial presentation of the development request.  
Todd Pressman, a representative for Clearwater Basin Marina, LLC, contended there was a misrepresentation made by city planner Mark Parry. Pressman said the group would withdraw its pending appeal if the board reconsidered the application.
“You were told by Mr. Parry that this use was not permissible,” Pressman told city officials.
He cited development code applicable to the area indicating that a marina is in fact a permissible use.
The 53,700-square-foot “high and dry” building with a height of 63 feet was the major point of contention among planning staff, board members and neighbors because of its size and scope in an area with zoning that calls for only limited neighborhood commercial uses.
Parry pointed out that the issue was not whether a marina was permissible but whether the board considered a full-service marina with high and dry storage to be a “limited commercial use.” He said the planning department didn’t and therefore declined to recommend the project for approval.
“I don’t think anyone on the board thought it was a prohibited use; we approved a marina before. We objected to the intensity,” said vice chairman Frank Dame.
The white and shiny boats currently docked at the marina 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, the skeletal remains of a high-rise condominium project approved in 2005 but never completed. The 20-foot pilings still stand and are surrounded by fencing, 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 multi-family residences complete the area known as the Old Bay District of Clearwater.
When the existing marina project was approved in 2009, it was determined that it fit the definition of “limited neighborhood commercial use.” The development order included 23 conditions of approval, among them the specific prohibition of the dry storage of boats.
This latest proposal effectively requested removal of that condition.
Board members decided there was no mistake, fraud or misrepresentation involved in their initial denial of the project, and they unanimously denied the reconsideration request.
Now, the developer can proceed with its appeal on the original decision or modify the project and submit a revised plan at a future date.
“We hope to see you here again very soon,” said board chairman Thomas Coates.
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