1. News

Clearwater to fight proposed mooring field in Mandalay Channel

Published Sep. 17, 2016

CLEARWATER — A local developer is working to build a 42-boat mooring field in the middle of the Mandalay Channel, something never before pulled off in the high-traffic waters around nationally renowned Clearwater Beach.

William Blackwood's proposal would allow boats up to 60 feet long to buoy over 20 acres of submerged lands he owns in the Intracoastal Waterway. With Island Estates condos to the east and the residential north Clearwater Beach to the west, the mooring field would take up much of the waterway bordered by private docks and used daily by boaters.

City and county officials were blindsided by the project because Blackwood started the application process at the top and received a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in June. With the project now in the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the city intends to fight the mooring field and request a public hearing over concerns about navigation dangers, said City Attorney Pam Akin.

The Army Corps is notifying surrounding waterfront property owners they have until Sept. 28 to submit opinions.

Even if Blackwood were to get approval from the Army Corps, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the county, the city expects to squash the project because mooring fields don't exist in city code.

"He would have to submit an application to the city," said assistant planning director Gina Clayton.

"If he filed an application, we would probably reject it because we don't have the authority to approve a use that is not listed."

There is only one mooring field in Pinellas County, near the Vinoy Marina in St. Petersburg. A second has been approved in Gulfport, but hasn't been constructed.

David Walker, Pinellas County environmental program manager, said mooring fields make sense in places where they'd have low impact on navigation, recreation, natural resources and other public uses.

Walker said Blackwood has not applied to the county for the required water and navigation permits.

"It's an unusual project because we don't see a lot of them and it's right smack dab in the middle of the channel," Walker said.

Blackwood, owner of the Cove apartments on Clearwater Beach, discovered his deed included 26 acres of submerged lands when he hired a consultant to assess his property after Hurricane Jeanne took out his apartments' dock in 2004.

He said he sees the mooring field as a tourism and cultural asset.

Because the Mandalay Channel is a no-wake zone, Blackwood, a retired Honeywell engineer, said the mass of parked boats would not be difficult to maneuver. He plans to use two slips on the Cove's dock for dinghies to shuttle visitors to and from the mooring field.

"It's going to enhance boating in the city tremendously, it's a tourism boom," he said. "It could go so far as to accommodate people who cruise the Great Loop, which runs on the East Coast up into Canada."

However, as residents hear murmurs of the project, many are uneasy.

Pat Dowling, who lives on the fifth floor of Bay House condos east of the channel, said neighbors are reluctant to trade their views of open water for a parking lot of boats.

"It's going to destroy all the homes," Dowling said. "I'm looking out my window at water, and now we're going to have noise pollution and a wall of boats."

William Morris, Clearwater's marine and aviation director, said he's concerned about water congestion and accidents for boaters who aren't used to obstacles in the way.

"If you're driving along in the dark and the boats out here don't have the proper lights, somebody can run into an unlit boat," Morris said.

Brad Dunn, captain of Bait House Charters, said the channel is wide enough that he's not worried about navigation, but he doesn't trust all tenants won't illegally dump sewage and waste.

Another complication is a dispute over who owns a 6-acre sliver of submerged lands on the southern end of the site.

Blackwood's deed for the 26 acres overlaps with 6 acres in the channel the city claims to own.

Both deeds trace back more than 80 years to an entity called the Clearwater Island Bridge Co.

Blackwood filed a legal motion in February to claim the 6 acres. If he were to lose the land in question, but secure all necessary permits, Blackwood said his project would go forward — just 6 acres smaller.

"This is a good project, this is a navigable channel," he said.

Contact Tracey McManus at or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.


  1. Investigators say the women then took the man back to his hotel room where he passed out. SUE OGROCKI  |  AP
    The unidentified man was approached by the women while at the slot machines at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood.
  2. Shirley Joseph is named superintendent of Madison County public schools. Madison County school district
    The previous superintendent resigned amid conflicts with the School Board.
  3. President Donald Trump meets with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in Washington. EVAN VUCCI  |  AP
    “It’s not between Turkey and the United States, like a lot of stupid people would like you to believe,” Trump said.
  4. In this image from a Pinellas County school district video, former School Board member Lee Benjamin motions to someone he knows while sitting with family members during at 2013 ceremony to name the Northeast High School gymnasium in his honor. Mr. Benjamin was the school's first basketball coach in 1954 and later became Northeast's principal in a long career with Pinellas schools that included 14 years on the School Board. He died Wednesday at age 92. Pinellas County Schools
    He was a teacher, coach and eventually the principal of Northeast High in St. Petersburg. Then he became a district administrator and later, a School Board member.
  5. FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2019, file photo, Yolanda Jacobs, a United Auto Workers member, walks the picket line at the General Motors Romulus Powertrain plant in Romulus, Mich. With the strike by factory workers against General Motors in its 29th day on Monday, Oct. 14, there are signs that negotiators may be moving toward an agreement. PAUL SANCYA  |  AP
    Details of the four-year agreement have yet to be released.
  6. Hernando County School District
    Local officials’ requests for legislators also include sewer project funding and teacher bonus reforms.
  7. A South Florida developer plans a condo tower on the parking lot between the Northern Trust building, left, and the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront. SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN  |  Susan Taylor Martin
    South Florida company plans a 35-story tower next to a Hilton hotel.
  8. Screenshot of Austin Davis from a Vice News documentary on Youtube. Vice News/Youtube
    The 20-year-old Keystone Heights resident has selective eating disorder believed to stem from childhood trauma.
  9. Kathleen Hudak, historian with the Brooksville Cemetery, tells the story of William Henry, son of Mr. and Mrs. Quitman Varn during a walking tour of the historic Brooksville Cemetery on Tuesday as part of Brooksville's Founders' Week celebration. The boy died from appendicitis in 1913 at the  age of 9. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
  10. Tech Data's headquarters in Clearwater. The company is one of the largest in the Tampa Bay area. TD AGENCY  |  Courtesy of Tech Data
    The Clearwater company’s stock price soared Wednesday following the report, which the news service based on information from “people familiar with the matter.”