Monday, June 18, 2018
Politics

Clearwater voters easily pass referendum allowing waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Voters in Tuesday’s election overwhelmingly agreed to amend the City Charter and allow construction along the downtown waterfront, effectively greenlighting the city’s $55 million Imagine Clearwater redevelopment plan.

The referendum passed 75.8 percent in favor out of 15,109 votes, according to unofficial results.

"This was a grassroots effort," Mayor George Cretekos said. "I’m overwhelmed by the support. It shows people care about Clearwater and are supportive of our plan to make the downtown, Coachman Park area everybody’s second neighborhood."

Imagine Clearwater calls for reshaping Coachman Park and the waterfront to have more walkable access, gardens, a larger concert green, a gateway plaza and a winding Bluff walk with terraces, paths and views of the Intracoastal. Because the City Charter prohibited anything but open space from the Bluff to the water, most of the plan hinged on voters passing the referendum.

The plan is the city’s latest effort to revive the depressed downtown, which has struggled for decades to attract businesses, residents and daily foot traffic.

The redevelopment area covers 66 acres with the marina to the west, Osceola Avenue to the east, Drew Street to the north and Court Street to the south. The idea is the vibrance will encourage businesses to invest in empty storefronts and bring residential projects to the adjacent downtown core.

The city began negotiations last month with Stantec Consulting of Tampa to develop the design of Imagine Clearwater. The design phase could take up to a year, and construction is planned to begin early 2019.

Brian Aungst Jr., Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce vice chair of government affairs, said now that the citizens have given a vote of confidence, it is the city’s job to follow through with aggressive recruitment of residential projects to spur economic growth.

He pointed to the massively successful efforts of St. Petersburg in the early 2000s, which brought condos and apartments to Beach Drive and fed the vibrant restaurant and retail district.

"I think any private sector investor should be very excited about the fact that 75 percent of the citizens of Clearwater have consistently supported public investment in the revitalization of downtown Clearwater," Aungst said. "Downtown Clearwater has a bright future, has a future for everyone, and is open for business."

But the redevelopment has one more logistical hurdle to clear: the Legislature must pass a bill to amend a 1925 law preventing the city from relocating its concert band shell to a restricted area of the waterfront.

The 1925 Special Act, passed when the state granted Clearwater strips of uplands and submerged lands to construct the Causeway Memorial bridge, prohibits any "carnivals or shows of any character" in the 500 feet north of a boundary that runs by the bridge. That 500-foot stretch is nearly the exact location of the proposed site for the new band shell.

The Pinellas County Legislative Delegation on Nov. 1 unanimously approved the proposed bill, sponsored by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, which will now progress to the 2018 Legislative session.

Clearwater Downtown Partnership executive director Jay Polglaze said with Tuesday’s public buy-in, he doesn’t foresee a problem.

"This is another domino that has fallen in our favor," he said.

ELECTION DAY 2017: Get the latest news and results from the Times Bay Times.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Is ‘Imagine Clearwater’ redevelopment plan downtown’s last hope? (Oct. 26, 2017).

Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

 
Comments
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administration’s move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.It’s also...
Published: 06/17/18

Pasco Political Notebook

Perenich to ‘Walk the District’Stephen Perenich, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Florida District 12, will be "Walking the District" June 25-29. Perenich will be walking 55 miles in five days, starting in Dade City and heading...
Updated: 3 hours ago
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administration’s aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tol...
Published: 06/14/18
Sarah Sanders and  Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are considering stepping down, according to a CBS report. Sanders promptly responded in a Tweet saying, "I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." Does @CBSNews k...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate for the second time this year and signaled that it may step up its pace of rate increases because of solid economic growth and rising inflation. The Fed now foresees four rate hi...
Published: 06/13/18
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

TAMPA — Law enforcement officers never want to be outgunned. Neither do political candidates.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister need not worry.The Republican candidate has amassed what appears to be a record-sized war chest of just more than $1 mil...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ain’t voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ain’t voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ain’t voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ain’t voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Trump’s tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

Trump’s tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

TAMPA — June 16 will mark a year since President Trump announced a tougher Cuba travel policy, but unlike in much of the nation, the changes don’t seem to have hurt local bookings to the island.The number of people traveling between Tampa and Havana ...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/13/18