1. Archive

Mayor: Being proactive keeps Clearwater attractive

Re: Pillage of waterfront must be stopped, March 14 letter.

I felt compelled to respond to the aforementioned letter because of the amount of misinformation it contained.

The tourist areas of Clearwater Beach and the downtown are two very small geographic areas within the city. Although they are small in size, their impact on the overall quality of life, economy, tax base, employment base, vitality and perception of our city is significant.

The tourist and downtown areas of any city, including Clearwater, are where the most concentrated development is expected. This city has a history of allowing greater densities, intensities, and height in these areas through our codes and comprehensive plans. All one has to do is look at the existing buildings within these areas for evidence.

Beach by Design does allow increased density and height in a very small geographical area in the commercial heart of Clearwater Beach. It is possible that three to four resorts could be constructed up to 150 feet in height. The majority of property still has the same exact development rights that it has had for many years. Beach by Design actually recognizes the existing character of low- and mid-rise development on the beach and requires that certain areas be restricted to no more than four stories above parking.

This plan will not allow "fortresses" all over the beach, nor does it extend into the single-family neighborhoods of North Beach or the residential fingers on South Beach.

Beach by Design was reviewed at 13 public meetings. Community response was overwhelmingly supportive of new and renovated hotels and motels, a greater variety of retail opportunities, improved rights of way, sidewalks and a great public space along the beach instead of a massive parking lot. The plan also provides improved access to and on the beach, a stable tax base and covered parking. After receiving significant public comment and support of Beach by Design, city commissioners approved this redevelopment initiative.

Concerning the comments regarding a property on Eldorado Avenue, I cannot verify the situation because the letter gave no address. I do know that significant private investment is being made in this neighborhood and on this street to update and improve many of these older, single-family properties. The Community Development Board has granted reductions in setbacks to several properties on Eldorado after conducting a public hearing. I also know that building codes and fire codes permit structures to be constructed close together provided certain construction standards are met. The city's Development Services Department and fire department never compromise safety.

Clearwater is a substantially built-out community. Although Clearwater has beautiful beaches and neighborhoods that attract people, the city must be proactive to keep Clearwater competitive in the regional market and retain it as a desirable place in which to live and work.

The city of Clearwater recognizes that no single component of the city can create continued community health. Our approach must continue to give priority to all areas of the city _ the commercial corridors, the neighborhoods, the downtown and the beach. I am working hard to see positive changes occur, but only with significant public comment, to our beach and to our whole city for our future sustainability.

Brian J. Aungst

Mayor, City of Clearwater

City should stay course on beach plans

Re: Pillage of waterfront must be stopped, March 14 letter.

By now I should be used to people writing letters to the editor that have no basis in fact, but Peter L. Richard's letter even amazed me.

First, Beach by Design has no planned high-rises on the oceanfront. In fact, it does just the opposite and calls for more of the beach to be available for tourists and residents. All of the planned high-rise development is east of Gulf Boulevard and, if approved, there would only be 600 additional hotel rooms available for such construction.

Mayor Brian Aungst was one of five commissioners who approved this concept. Why the writer singles out the mayor is his business, but this was a unanimous decision that was also endorsed fully by the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Second, since the failure of the downtown referendum, no major developer has come forward with any new, specific plan for downtown, including George de Guardiola.

As I have said so many times in the past, tourism is the No. 1 industry in Pinellas County and if we do not continue to improve our facilities, tourism will begin to decline. If that happens, it will be all of the residents who will pay to maintain the quality of life we have here in Clearwater via tax increases. I would suggest that substantial tax increases would affect the "less affluent majority" the writer refers to much more than the wealthier residents.

There is no "rape of the waterfront" occurring. The Clearwater Beach Chamber is committed to maintaining the integrity of Clearwater Beach yet continuing to work diligently toward improving our tourist facilities.

At the same time, we recognize that we all want to be sure residents have complete and easy access to their beach.

Yes, the traffic is bad six weeks out of the year, but that is a very small price to pay for the millions of dollars that are generated into city and business coffers, allowing our tax rate to remain unchanged for years.

I fully support Beach by Design and I urge the mayor and commissioners to stay the course they have charted for redevelopment of our most precious asset.

Louis Piano, president

Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce

Good to see new faces on commission

Re: Votes show residents support redevelopment, March 15 editorial.

I couldn't agree more. The consensus was that the outcome of the Clearwater City Commission election is an indication the citizens are looking for change and new leadership.

Having read the post-election comments made by two defeated candidates, I was both amazed and humored.

Lee Rugulski seemed to think the outcome might have been different if it wasn't for the weather. Were only his opponents' supporters waterproof?

As far as ex-mayor Rita Garvey is concerned, her loss was due to lack of contributions. I believe her constantly referring to the fact that she had 18 years of experience became more of a liability than an asset. Let's just look at what was going on in City Hall during her "experience." I'd have swept that claim under the rug. I admire the fact that Hoyt Hamilton did not get dirty and use her DUI against her.

One of her other comments was, "I'll be back." After losing two citywide elections, does it occur to her that if the citizens of Clearwater wanted her back, she would have won?

We cannot predict what effect the new commission will have on our city. It's just nice to have some fresh blood and new faces. I am tired of the same old political hacks rushing from one elected post to another.

Robert Stegmann, Clearwater

Roundabout has improved flow of traffic

Re: Smoothing spring break traffic, Feb. 26 story.

Thank you, thank you to Times staff writer Chris Tisch for such a great positive report on the famous roundabout. And thank you to Clearwater Police spokesman Wayne Shelor for his comment, "The roundabout's biggest liability is its reputation." How right they are.

I have worked on Clearwater Beach for almost five years. I have driven the bridge and Memorial Causeway during construction of the roundabout and after completion. Before completion it would take approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive from the backed-up Memorial Bridge to the Pier 60 parking lot. Presently, during a backed-up Saturday, it takes 17 to 22 minutes to drive the same distance. And that includes spring break time.

That's not too long to get to one of the country's most beautiful beaches. Even taking 1 hour and 20 minutes isn't too much to complain about.

This roundabout has improved the flow of traffic tremendously. The biggest mistake in designing it was the removal of the plans to build the overhead walkways for the thousands of pedestrians who tie up the traffic flow. And, if everyone would use their turn signals, there wouldn't be many fender benders. The city needs to erect a big sign that says, "Use your turn signal."

Diane Anderson, Clearwater

"Miscommunication' a kind word to use

Re: Seminole, county suffer miscommunications, March 13 story.

Your use of the word "communications" was a kind and generous gesture with respect to the involved officials' actions. Other descriptive words come to mind but might be less well received.

Further into the article, the "redesign" of the 102nd Avenue and Old Ridge Road intersection is mentioned. The term "fix" is also used. In light of other local "improvements," it should be interesting, if not distressing, to see the results of that project.

James W. Kiehl, Largo