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Clearwater Marine Aquarium responds to neighbors' worries



Clearwater Marine Aquarium officials have responded in detail to concerns raised recently by a group of residents in a neighboring luxury condo building.

At a City Council work session earlier this month, several residents buttonholed CMA's chief operating officer Frank L. Dame seeking answers about the $160 million new aquarium that CMA wants to build on a downtown site now occupied by City Hall.

Water's Edge, the high-end condo, would be a neighbor of the proposed aquarium, scheduled to go to voters for approval in a November referendum.

The residents raised concerns about noise, traffic, blocked views, and night-time events. Dame told them he wanted their support and would get back to them quickly.

He did. In a five-page letter, Dame laid out the future for Winter the Dolphin's new home if voters pass the high-profile project.

Here are some highlights

*A traffic study indicates that the site's traffic could be adequately handled if a parking garage was built at 301 Pierce St. But that site isn't a done deal yet.

*Construction on the proposed 200,000 square foot aquarium wouldn't begin "until all funding to complete the project has been identified."  Conduit bonds using the county's tax-exempt status, private fundraising and other funding sources are in the mix.

*A 50-cent surcharge on each aquarium admission ticket will provide up to $7.5 million for a new city hall on a as-yet-undetermined site. "This should be more than enough to cover the full cost," Dame wrote

*After-hours events will be held, but that shouldn't be an issue, Dame wrote, because the CMA"s current facility on Island Estates hasn't had problems with neighbors with its special events.

*Noise from spectator bleachers and speakers in the aquarium's dolphin stadium will be directed away from Water's Edge, but plans aren't final. Although Dame did write that "we do not intend to have loud shows like Sea World."

Lighting and roof design will be sensitive to neighbors. So will truck deliveries, he wrote.

Dame ended his missive with an appeal for support from Water's Edge residents.

"We are committed to being outstanding neighbors," he wrote in the June 6 letter to the condo's board of directors and residents.

[Last modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 1:00pm]


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