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Clearwater Beach resort plan moves ahead despite neighbors' objections

CLEARWATER — A five-floor resort planned for Clearwater Beach edged one step closer to reality Tuesday, dodging neighbors who had rallied against its timeshares, traffic and construction.

The Brightwater Blue Resort would be built on 2 acres of empty land on Brightwater Drive, spanning two football fields of waterfront on the coast of Clearwater Harbor.

The resort would house 54 townhomes, half of which could be rented out weekly. It would offer five private docks with 46 boat slips. Building the resort could take up to five years.

The city's Community Development Board unanimously approved the plan, agreeing with officials that it fit within the city's long-term plan for Clearwater Beach, called Beach by Design.

The plans will next go through the city permitting process, but they do not need City Council approval, officials said.

The resort would fill most of the last open parcels on Brightwater, a cul-de-sac of multi-level condos.

Plans show the resort would include underground utility lines, a ground-floor parking garage, a second-floor swimming pool, and a lobby concierge. Units would have private gardens and balconies overlooking the harbor.

The proposed resort's neighbors say it would dwarf their homes, lure in overwhelming traffic, and subject them to years of dust, debris and the din of construction. Others worried about potential blight if the development stalled or failed.

"These are neighborhoods. This is a very private, quiet street," said Brightwater resident R.J. Wood. "Imagine looking out of the window of your home for five years and seeing construction."

The developer, Brightwater Blue Resort LLC, scaled back plans after catching flak during neighborhood meetings, reducing its timeshare space, canceling its 12 hotel rooms and cutting 11 boat slips.

After the change, neighbors continued to argue it would bring constant noise, "visual pollution" and heavier traffic that could endanger children and pedestrians.

In his closing comments, developer representative Todd Pressman jabbed at neighbors by paraphrasing former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco.

"You could pave the streets in gold," Pressman said, "and somebody would complain about the glare."

Other action

Shelter rejected

The Community Development Board on Tuesday also voted to reject plans to open a shelter for poor pregnant women, arguing that it would operate too close to other social services.

The Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg sought to open the Foundations of Life Villa in a defunct nunnery at 1305 Franklin St., in the East Gateway neighborhood near the St. Cecelia Catholic Church.

Led by a house mother, the shelter's nine women would be offered housing, counseling and transportation before and after childbirth.

"These women often have no support systems," said Rose Llauget with Catholic Charities. "They have nowhere to go."

But city planning officials said a code banning social services from operating within 1,500 feet of each other forbids the shelter from its proposed site, about 1,000 feet away from the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen.

East Gateway neighbors have cheered city efforts to move or shutter the soup kitchen and nearby social services. East Gateway Business and Neighbors Association president Julie Thompson, who has likened the soup kitchen to a "cancer," said on Tuesday, "The code is on the books for a reason."

Catholic Charities president Frank Murphy argued that the shelter's residents would have less impact on the neighborhood than keeping the nunnery closed.

"If this isn't used, it's going to be boarded up," Murphy said, "or it's going to be a place where the homeless break in and sleep."

The volunteer board voted 6-1 to deny the application. Board member Kurt Hinrichs dissented.

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or dharwell@tampabay.com.

Clearwater Beach resort plan moves ahead despite neighbors' objections 12/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 8:03pm]
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