TREASURE ISLAND – With a downtown redevelopment plan unresolved and looking less likely for the near future, City Manager Reid Silverboard Nov. 3 floated a proposed central beach area site for a redevelopment project.
Owners of the former Buccaneer motel would like to erect a “boutique, upscale – not condo – hotel with standard type hotel rooms and suites,” Silverboard said. The hotel would have 130 dwellings but the proposed height possibly could not fit into current codes. In fact the hotel may be a story higher than currently allowed.
Silverboard noted the Pinellas County Commission recently loosened restrictions on density for communities and that owners of the former Buccaneer property are willing to help fund a study on a possible redevelopment zone that would stretch from 104th Avenue to 119th Street.
“The developer would front the money to hire the consultant but the developer would be working for the city,” Silverboard said. “The increase in density would still have to be approved by the voters.”
Silverboard’s proposal brought a response from Commissioner Ed Gayton that sparked emotions among fellow commissioners and Silverboard. Gayton initially suggested his doubts and Silverboard said Gayton’s reservations were “short-sighted.” The sparks began to fly.
“The (citizens) always wanted slow growth, no tall buildings,” Gayton said. “All of a sudden someone has a vision? Where has that vision statement come from, that we want twice the density?”
When Silverboard told Gayton he was “getting ahead of yourself” and that the voters would ultimately have the final say, Gayton didn’t hold back.
“We already went through this. We’ve already voted. There’s no doubt in my mind the tide has changed (among the community) but at the time there was already 70 percent for controlled growth. This has to go to a referendum. There’s no doubt in my mind people want to see one or two quality hotels. No doubt in my mind that would pass. But to take the whole Gulf beachfront and change the concept, I don’t think that’s what the city wants. I think it’s back-dooring the citizens.
“We should send this to a referendum first. This should have come up in May. The people voted and voted to take (density decisions) out of our hands. This is back-dooring.”
Silverboard responded that Gayton’s philosophy “guarantees we will have hotels and motels that unfortunately will have a high vacancy rate for most parts of the year and no incentives to renovate or to change. This isn’t back-dooring anybody but thinking about how we want our city to be 20 years from now.
“Now is the time to act when the economy is down. I don’t think this is in any way, shape or form back-dooring.”
Commissioner Alan Bildz seemed to side with Gayton when he said, “If this isn’t the back door it’s the kitchen window.”
Mayor Mary Maloof seemed in favor of the proposal and scolded Gayton.
“We are in a financial time that is doubtful and scary,” Maloof said. “We’ve seen businesses go up the street or just go. We’ve got to do something to revitalize this community and to inflame people that we are trying to do something backdoor, I hate to see that even mentioned. I don’t think this community has done anything to try to sneak something through the back door.”
“Everyone should be involved as much as possible or we will have great views of the water from here on in. There will be nothing out there.”
Further discussion of the city possibly reimbursing citizens a partial cost of a library card has been tabled as changes are afoot at the Gulf Beaches Library.
The city was a partner in the library until its recent budget which axed monies for the library. A recommendation by Commissioner Phil Collins to reimburse citizens who purchase a library card for $100 is now tabled in the wake of library director Jan Horath being fired.
Part of the reason – not the main reason – for Treasure Island cutting its contribution to the library fund was what it perceived as uncooperative relations with the library. City officials on multiple occasions had requested documents for both the number of Treasure Island residents with library cards and financial statements.
In fact, Gayton boasted that he had just recently, after months of requests, received a copy of the audited library budget for 2006-07. But Gayton never received the information from the library. He had to obtain the information from Madeira Beach.
“Wonders never cease,” Collins crowed when he learned of Horath’s termination in addition to various cuts the library has made in recent weeks.
Alcohol on the beach
The city is proposing an ordinance that would restrict alcohol on the beach within specific radius of certain buildings and properties on the island.
Silverboard emphasized that the ordinance is not a ban on alcohol on the beach.