Sunday, December 17, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: New parking garage for Clearwater Beach will help, not worsen, traffic conditions

A new and much-needed public parking garage for booming Clearwater Beach faces only one more hurdle: a City Council vote next month on a detailed development agreement now being discussed between the city and the developer. Opponents have failed to make a case for turning aside a solid opportunity for a long-sought public parking garage in the Mandalay Avenue retail and restaurant district. As the city finishes up negotiations, it should consider adding public restrooms to the project.

Last week, the Clearwater Community Development Board wisely approved the design for the 642-space garage. It would replace a 94-space surface parking lot on just under an acre of land behind Pelican Walk Plaza, which is a collection of retail shops and restaurants on the corner of Mandalay and Baymont Street. A garage has long been envisioned there, but the city's previous efforts to find private partners to develop the garage failed.

This time, a real player is in the picture. Paradise Group LLC of Safety Harbor wants to build the garage. Its owner is Michael Connor, who lives across Mandalay Avenue from Pelican Walk in the Sandpearl resort condominiums.

Under the plan presented at this month's CDB meeting, the new structure will have seven levels. The first floor will have 89 parking spaces for the Pelican Walk retailers and about 11,500 square feet of commercial space fronting Poinsettia Avenue, a north-south street just east of Mandalay. The top level of the garage will have just over 100 parking spaces that will be for the use of area businesses, perhaps for employee parking. The levels in between will have 450 public parking spaces that the city will own.

The garage could be a boon to the Poinsettia Avenue/Eastshore Drive area of the beach, which has been slow to attract the kind of redevelopment that has transformed other areas of the island. And it will ease the pressure on the new bars and restaurants that have opened on Mandalay Avenue but have no designated parking for their customers.

Opponents of the garage fought hard, even hiring their own engineer to attempt to rebut the developer's traffic studies that showed no dire traffic consequences if the garage were built. Among their complaints: The garage would be too tall for the neighborhood, it would draw more traffic to Clearwater Beach, it would heavily congest narrow Poinsettia and Baymont streets, it would clog the beach roundabout, it would be an ugly box with no landscaping.

Some opponents also complained that beachgoers, rather than shoppers, would park in the garage and would want to drop off their beach supplies and family members in a half-circle pedestrian drop-off at the public beach access across Mandalay between the Sandpearl and Mandalay Beach Club condo towers. One opponent said that since there is no public restroom at that access, beachgoers might be tempted to urinate on the condo tower landscaping.

It was difficult to take seriously the argument that the garage will be too tall for the neighborhood, when some of those opponents live in neighboring condo complexes that are taller. There is also no evidence that a parking garage causes heavier traffic congestion; on Clearwater Beach, the new garage may reduce the constant circling of motorists looking for a street parking space, thereby lessening congestion in the roundabout and on beach streets.

However, the city should consider the developer's offer to build public restrooms into the garage design if the city will pay for it. There is a serious shortage of public facilities along that stretch of Clearwater Beach. Restrooms in the new garage could serve both beachgoers and shoppers.

As Clearwater Beach is developing with new hotels and restaurants, surface parking lots are disappearing. It is essential to replace that parking so the redevelopment of the island can progress and Clearwater Beach can continue to be a magnet for tourists and locals alike.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17