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Mayor revives marina proposal

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Instead of expanding the beach marina, Clearwater could save money and add boat slips if voters approve a downtown marina.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN Published November 15, 2005

CLEARWATER – Mayor Frank Hibbard on Monday revived a proposal to bring more than 100 boat slips downtown, shelving an $8-million expansion of the beach marina in the process and triggering perhaps another citywide referendum. In 2004, city voters rejected plans that would have built a downtown marina, amphitheater and parking garage. The measure failed by 680 votes.

This time around, Hibbard wants to refocus a second referendum solely on a marina. Clearwater’s waterfront cannot be developed without voter approval, according to the City Charter. “I’m prepared to go back to the people,” said Hibbard, speaking at a City Council work session. “Time has passed. We’ve had lessons learned. The downtown marina is still a priority.” A timetable for the vote was not discussed, nor was a specific location or configuration, though city leaders have in the past considered a location around the old Memorial Causeway bridge.

The marina could hold 138 boats, said Marine and Aviation Director Bill Morris. Compared to the expansion of the city’s existing beach marina, a downtown marina would be more cost effective at $6.5-million, Morris said. Improvements to the existing Clearwater Beach marina would cost $8-million, according to a consultant’s study. And that would only net 64 additional boat slips to the current 166. The beach expansion study, which was discussed Monday, did not include potential improvements to the upland marina facilities. And to pay for a rebuilt beach marina, docking rates would have to double, Morris said. Residents now pay $4.58 per foot per month. Nonresidents pay $7.55 per foot per month. A downtown marina would be able to pay for itself, assistant city manager Garry Brumback said. City Council members agreed to put the downtown marina plan first.

“Downtown, we could get more bang for our buck,” Hibbard said. Just 20 months ago, however, voters killed similar plans for a downtown marina after a last-minute political mailing questioned its merits, along with the other proposed waterfront improvements. Published by the group Save the Bayfront, the political advertisement showed oil spilling into the water from a fuel dock.

A bird above the spill says “Phew! What is that smell?” Save the Bayfront spokesperson Anne Garris said Monday the group has not discussed supporting or fighting a marina that would stand alone. “The marina by itself has never been offered to the people as a choice,” Garris said. “But when you say marina, you haven’t said anything. Are we going to have a great big building and a coffee shop and a refueling place?”

–Aaron Sharockman can be reached at 727 445-4160 or asharockman@sptimes.com Source: http://www.sptimes.com/2005/11/15/Northpinellas/Mayor_revives_marina_.shtml

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