CLEARWATER – Ever since the automobile replaced the horse and buggy as tourists’ preferred mode of transportation to Clearwater Beach, city officials have been scrambling to keep up with the demand for parking spaces.
On March 12, city officials signed a letter of intent to cooperate with the Paradise Group, LLC in the construction of a 600-space parking garage on the site of the current Pelican Walk parking lot.
“Paradise recognizes that additional off-street parking open to the public on the parking lot will contribute not only viability of the Pelican Walk Shopping Center but also to the retail and restaurant district, the marina district and the destination resort district,” the letter of intent states.
If the deal goes through as expected, the city would purchase 450 of the “parking garage condo” spaces for a total of $11.3 million. It would also have the option of buying additional spaces for $25,144 each. The fees earned from people parking in those spaces would then go to the city.
The plan is meeting opposition from neighbors who fear that the structure, which would be mostly 75 feet tall but have an elevator tower adding another 15 or 20 feet of elevation at each end, would block their view. But Councilmember Hoyt Hamilton said at the City Council’s June 2 work session that many of the people doing the complaining live in condominium complexes that faced stiff opposition when they were built because they blocked the neighbors’ views. When asked, City Attorney Pam Akin concurred with Hamilton’s contention that “nobody has a right to a view across another person’s property.”
Mayor George Cretekos said that the situation could be even worse for the neighbors because, if the parking garage is not built, zoning laws would allow a 150-foot-high hotel to be built on the site.
“This is a very, very difficult and complicated site,” and previous owners’ attempts to build on it failed, Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin told the council. He added that the current plan meets the city’s needs, and $11.3 million cost to the city is less than previous plans would have required the city to ante up.
The money will come from parking revenue, and Akin assured the council that the plan will not require taxes to be raised or general-obligation bonds to be issued.
“The city desires to … promote the revitalization and redevelopment of the retail and restaurant district, the marina district and the destination resort district of Clearwater Beach and recognizes that additional off-street parking open to the public is needed to support such revitalization and redevelopment and … provide additional beach parking,” the purchase agreement says.
The matter will be voted on at the June 4 council meeting, which is being held on a Wednesday night instead of the usual Thursday night and is too late to make the deadline for this week’s newspaper. If the purchase contract is approved, the council will vote on the development agreement at a later date.