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City wants new beach ambience

City officials want to help make Clearwater Beach a nicer place and they're trying to figure out how.

They're looking for ways to assist property owners who would create a tropical seascape architectural theme, one of 67 suggestions for improvement given to the city last year by the Clearwater Beach Blue Ribbon Task Force.

The City Commission on Monday discussed ideas for incentives to encourage property owners in the beach business district, primarily on Mandalay Avenue, to voluntarily make changes to their property that would create a uniform "tropical seascape" appearance.

City Manager Michael Wright said it has been difficult to come up with incentives for property owners.

Commissioner Art Deegan, who served as the task force's chairman, suggested financial incentives.

Wright said low interest loans or grants are a possibility. Mayor Rita Garvey said incentives are a good idea, but loans or grants could also benefit other commercial areas.

"If you do it for the beach, you've got to do it for the other areas that really need it, like Missouri Avenue and U.S. 19," Garvey said.

Deegan also suggested tax breaks, but City Attorney Al Galbraith said that would be illegal.

Commissioners are considering spending up to $55,000 to cover the architectural costs of coming up with designs and to provide technical guidance.

They abandoned an idea to create a special district that could force property owners to conform to the theme.

Enforcing rules in such a district could be difficult, Galbraith said.

"You're still going to have some people who want to paint their building shocking pink instead of Boca Raton pink," Galbraith said.

Instead, the majority of the property owners would need to agree to a theme and to participating.

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