I wanted to take this opportunity to applaud the Clearwater City Commission on its recent decision to proceed with the Clearwater Beach Community Redevelopment Agency. Clearwater Beach is the heartbeat of Clearwater in terms of tourism and potential revenue generation. It is crying for redevelopment, and the key to success is the generation of a plan and a vehicle for administering the plan.
The Community Redevelopment Agency seems to be that vehicle, and I support its formation and implementation. It already seems to be the consensus of the commission that the beach agency should be a separate corporation from the downtown agency, even though they will be administered by the same staff. I feel this is absolutely essential. The two areas are totally different, and it does not seem that it would be feasible to combine the two. Especially since, in terms of tax increment financing, the beach area probably has the potential of providing more funds than the downtown area. This would not be a popular move for the people on the beach who feel that the city has long neglected their needs.
Another objection to beach redevelopment keeps cropping up in conversations, and that is of the residential area on the north end of Clearwater Beach. Some seem to feel that any redevelopment and attempt to maximize the attractiveness of Clearwater Beach to tourists would have an unfavorable effect or present an inconvenience to these residents. Please take into consideration the following items:
No attempt has been made in any plans that would disturb the residential area of the north beach.
Visual and physical enhancements to the commercial beach area will not have a negative impact on the residential area of the north beach.
In fact, implementation of proper planning will result in better traffic handling, and improved appearance and reputation for the commercial area. The proposed hotels and condominiums are to be upscale and high-end establishments. Bringing these establishments to the north beach, and the clientele and residents they will entice, will enable current business owners in the area to improve their businesses and will make the area attractive to new, upscale businesses.
Clearwater Beach property owners (business and residential) pay the highest property taxes of any of the barrier island communities. Better land use in the proposed redevelopment area will increase the tax base and result in additional revenue, which will benefit all Clearwater residents.
I was particularly interested in Florida Planning Group's recommendation to provide entertainment and facilities that will attract the day-tripper. I hope that the firm's advice in this area will be heeded. Last year, there was quite a bit of negativism regarding day-trippers. I was amazed at this at the time, as these are the people who keep the beach in business _ for the business owner as well as the city. These are the people who use the attended parking lots and the metered lots. Like the planner said, "The whole-day experience drives the commercial market."
It is also pleasing to know that the commission will pursue the parking space realignment to increase the number of parking spaces in the current parking lots, and that it will be putting up signs that will direct people to parking on the north beach. The proposed real-time sign that would inform visitors entering the beach of available parking is also something I feel the commission should pursue without delay.
The streetscaping project? I can't begin to tell you how happy I am that this project seems to be imminent. I have looked at the broken sidewalk in front of my property for years now. This project will definitely be an asset to the businesses and provide for enhanced pedestrian traffic. I feel the benefits will exceed the loss of parking spaces, and the new signs directing people to public parking should help alleviate any visitor frustration.
I look forward to hearing that the progress on these projects is speedy. The commission has my wholehearted support in this endeavor.
Nick A. Gionis
Library owes name to family's gesture
In regard to the naming of the new library, we know that many city residents wish to have the facility named the Tarpon Springs Public Library. There have been letters expressing this sentiment published in the St. Petersburg Times.
The Ellis Foundation and representatives of the Ellis family have been longtime supporters of the city and they, too, recognize the need to maintain a strong sense of community. Recently, the Ellis Foundation released the city from its commitment on the name of the library. Accordingly, the name will be the Tarpon Springs Public Library. It is important for our residents to know of this gracious gesture so that we can continue to keep our energies focused on the central goal of having the best and most beautiful library for our city. I wish to again express my gratitude on behalf of the city of Tarpon Springs to the Ellis Foundation and family representatives for their thoughtfulness and strong sense of community.
Mayor, Tarpon Springs