In all its debates about where to build a Clearwater Beach parking garage, the Clearwater City Council has kept the Clearwater Beach Marina on the list as a potential site. However, last week council members scratched the marina off the list for now by voting to approve a two-year lease extension with a tenant in the marina building. This was not a mistake, because there are other, less problematic sites available for a municipal parking garage.
Two members of the council, John Doran and Carlen Petersen, had earlier ranked the marina property as their preferred site for a parking garage, but theirs was a minority opinion on the council. When the marina lease extensions appeared on the council's agenda Thursday, neither Doran nor Petersen argued that the extensions should be denied in order to keep the marina an option for immediate construction of a garage.
The council voted unanimously to extend its lease with Bruce Littler Inc. another two years. That lease is for three rooms in the marina building where a nautical shop is operated. The council also approved an assignment of an existing lease on the marina bait house to Justin Pfaelzer. The current lease is held by Chuck and Sandra Pollick, but Pfaelzer wants to take over the lease for its remaining five months and then hopes to get a two-year lease for the space.
While the city should avoid signing any long-term leases that would prevent the much-needed redevelopment of the marina property, it is reasonable to sign limited, two-year leases while the city works toward a decision about what would work best on the marina site.
The marina property is well-situated for public parking, but building a garage there will require time-consuming engineering and design work, and Clearwater Beach needs a municipal parking garage now. The marina property has a number of complications beyond the leases. It is next to the roundabout, so a garage would have to be carefully engineered to prevent traffic backups into the roundabout. Some legal entanglements exist on the marina property that would need to be resolved before construction could occur there. And the property is large and elongated, so anything developed on the site would need creative planning and design to be attractive.
The marina property probably is best suited for a master-planned, public/private development that includes some public parking. Creating such a plan and seeking a development partner will take at least two years, said Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin, so two-year lease extensions will not interfere and will keep much-needed revenue flowing into city coffers while the city decides what's best for the marina site.
A few weeks ago a City Council majority firmly eliminated city-owned beachfront land beside the former Adam's Mark Hotel property as a potential site for building a standalone parking garage. Now, the council also has eliminated the marina property. By narrowing its options, the city hopefully is moving toward resolving the garage question after many years of indecision.