BELLEAIR BEACH – The city of Belleair Beach’s main thoroughfare will be getting a major facelift. The City Council approved an agreement at their Dec. 2 meeting for “a complete beautification design for Gulf Boulevard.”
The improvements will be done in conjunction with a plan to upgrade the crosswalks on the boulevard, and as part of a county program to beautify Gulf Boulevard from Clearwater Beach to Pass-A-Grille.
Belleair Beach’s design plan for the boulevard will be special, a letter from Copley Design Associates of Clearwater to the city promised. Drew Copley, MLA, registered landscape architect with Copley, said in the letter the firm recognized “Belleair Beach is a city of very high quality” and “the design elements that will be proposed, designed, and constructed under the oversight of this team will exhibit the statement of quality expected along this section of Gulf Blvd.”
Though the specific beautification items to be included have yet to be worked out, Community Services Director Allen Godfrey said following the meeting that they could include landscaping in the medians along the boulevard, new entryway signs, custom bicycle racks with landscaping and trees bordering the sidewalks. Vice Mayor Leslie Notaro said she would like to see beautification of the bridge causeway intersection.
A review of similar projects done by Copley and associated firms in nearby communities shows items such as upgraded signage, custom trash containers and benches, Xeriscape plantings and fountains.
Though undergrounding of utilities on Gulf Boulevard is a major part of the county’s plan, Godfrey said that element has not been included in the proposal. It could be added, he said, but other projects would have
to be reduced in scope. Some communities are considering undergrounding only the wires that cross Gulf Boulevard, which would cost substantially less than a full-fledged undergrounding project.
The beautification design will cost a little over $300,000. The project will be paid for with $2.9 million that Belleair Beach will get as its portion of the county’s Gulf Boulevard Beautification fund. The city will need to spend its own funds, then get reimbursed by the county.
Asked if the beautification work would be underway during tourist season, Godfrey said the final design needs to be worked out with council and the beautification committee and would be completed in a March-April timeframe. The project will then need to be bid out for construction.
Pool setback loopholes closed
The city’s laws dealing with swimming pool setbacks are being tightened to eliminate loopholes that have caused safety issues.
City Attorney Paul Marino said several contractors are using a loophole termed “angle of repose” as a means of getting around a requirement that swimming pools be at least 5 feet from homes and other structures. That has created a dangerous situation that can result in houses being undermined and personal safety threatened.
The ordinance changes being recommended “closes a lot of loopholes” and “makes sure pools don’t get closer than 5 feet to the house,” said former Mayor Mike Kelly, who helped draft the new wording. Allowing pools closer is “taking a big chance of cave-ins” and having structures slide into an open hole, Kelly said.
It also will eliminate the building of high retainer walls around the pools and prohibit the elevating of swimming pools, he said.
“This is a major, major change to the building zoning code,” said Kelly, who also owns Kelly Pools.
Marino said the changes and additions to the ordinance are “well-written and proper.”
“If the pools are built closer than 5 feet and people are hurt, the city could be held liable,” Marino said.
Godfrey said action on the changes is needed as soon as possible as there are already a couple of cases where a contractor is “willfully violating the law.”
The council approved the revised ordinance on first reading in a 5-0 vote. Mayor Rob Baldwin and Commissioner John Pietrowski were absent from the meeting.