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Commissioners reject mural as too pricey

The artwork, at a cost of $60,901, had been proposed as a greeting to tourists entering the city on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

Seeing no beauty in spending $60,901 on a mural on the U.S. 19 overpass above Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, City Commissioners unanimously voted against the staff plan at their meeting Thursday night.

Commissioners felt the price tag was too high for a painting that staffers hoped would serve as an alluring greeting to tourists.

"Sixty thousand dollars is outrageous," said Commissioner Bob Clark.

The mural would have been a strip of aqua-colored paint on the railing of the overpass, with the word "Clearwater" in blue floating on waves over the three lanes of westbound traffic. The city's name would be painted to the right of the four traffic lights at the overpass.

City Manager Mike Roberto had argued earlier in the week that the painting would help beautify Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard for visitors as they drove toward downtown Clearwater and the beach. The city is spending $5-million for new landscaping, traffic signals and street signs and for relocating a portion of the utility lines.

Still, commissioners rejected the idea.

"I don't feel it enhances the One City. One Future" redevelopment plan, said Commissioner J.B. Johnson.

In other action, commissioners voted 3-2 to allow JMC Communities of St. Petersburg to build a $65-million condominium complex at Clearwater Beach, despite the assertion of the Pinellas Planning Council that the 157-unit development violates county redevelopment codes.

City staff members insisted that the planned development would be within city codes and the county could not overrule the commission's decision.

Johnson, who said he did not understand why the county's concerns were being brought before commissioners, thought the development, called Mandalay Beach Club, would be an economic boon for the beach.

"I think it will be a great economic shot in the arm for the beach," said Johnson, who voted in favor of the proposal along with Mayor Brian Aungst and Commissioner Ed Hooper.

Commissioners Ed Hart and Clark voted against the proposal.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.