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Pinellas lawmakers back Clearwater marina changes

ST. PETERSBURG — Clearwater's bid to someday redevelop its Municipal Marina has the blessing of Pinellas County lawmakers, sending the measure to the full Legislature to decide this spring.

The county's lawmakers voted 11-0 on Monday to approve a local bill changing an 84-year-old reverter clause for the marina, despite opposition from some residents.

The fight stems from a 1925 decision by the state to give Clearwater land to build a causeway between the city and Clearwater Beach. It came with a caveat: Use the land only for public purposes, such as recreation, or the land goes back to the state.

Several years ago, city officials realized the clause was most likely violated by having a restaurant and other businesses there. They also saw they have a piece of property with potential.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, allows the city to eventually add businesses there without causing the reverter clause to kick in. The law for the marina would match recent legislation involving waterfronts, city lobbyist Pete Dunbar said.

Frishe and city officials say major zoning changing and other development would still need voter approval. But critics fear lifting the reverter clause will turn a public space into a private hotel complex.

"This bill will enable them to get that land," Pat Power of Clearwater Beach told lawmakers.

The issue has sparked tensions between opponents and supporters. Speaking at the lectern, Power suggested an unidentified lawmaker recuse himself from the vote.

"I'm assuming she means me," responded Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, calling the complaint baseless.

"I take some umbrage with the slightly backhanded allegation," said Hooper, a partner in a consulting firm that works with developers.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas lawmakers back Clearwater marina changes 12/15/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:36pm]
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