CLEARWATER— An agreement to build a seven-story parking garage on Clearwater Beach, which has been opposed by some nearby residents, received unanimous approval Wednesday by the City Council.
The proposal has angered some residents, many of whom live in the Sandpearl and Mandalay Beach Club condo towers. Several people spoke against the project at the meeting, saying a garage would lead to congestion on the streets and in beach access points.
They pleaded for the council to take more time to study the issue.
"Maybe we should have a garage . . . but it should be done in the right way, not in a hasty manner," said Robert Prast.
A roughly equal number of business owners and other supporters said the garage is needed for beach workers and patrons of the Mandalay business district.
Council members agreed, saying the popularity and development on the beach required more parking.
"We're victims of our own success," said council member Hoyt Hamilton.
Paradise Group, LLC, a Safety Harbor developer, wants to build a 642-space garage behind the Pelican Walk Plaza on Mandalay Avenue and Baymont Street.
Paradise would build the garage and the city would pay $11.3 million for 450 spaces in July 2016 once its financial obligation to the Surfstyle garage ends. Until then, the city would guarantee $250,000 of operating losses if the garage fails to gross $1.25 million.
The idea for a garage on north beach has been floating around for the better part of a decade. Previous plans to build a garage behind Pelican Walk fell through.
The developer, Michael Connor, a Sandpearl resident, has said he hopes to open the garage in 2015.
His option to buy the property expires this month. On Wednesday, the city council approved a purchase agreement for its portion of the garage.
The city plans to pay for it with parking fund revenue generated by fines and money collected by meters.
Mayor George Cretekos said some residents' concerns about the garage attracting crime were overblown. He said a Memorial Day shooting in a garage on the beach was an isolated incident.
"I think this is the right thing to do," he said.
Charlie Frago can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4159. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago