CLEARWATER - Revolutions are as American as apple pie and baseball games. From the Boston Tea Party to the Battle of Gettysburg, Americans have fought for either self-governance or de-annexation when dissatisfied with representation, concerned with getting their fair share of services, or indicating a strong desire for more local control. Still alive and well in the hearts and minds of some Pinellas County residents, is that same revolutionary spirit, and unfortunately, that same disappointment, which spawns it.
Organization members said they are dissatisfied with high taxes and spending, inadequate beach parking and the rezoning of the Shoppes on Sand Key, which resulted in a loss of commercial zoning. The organization is researching the possibility of breaking away from the City of Clearwater to form a separate municipality.
Encompassing Sand Key, Island Estates and Clearwater Beach, the three-island community would become “The City of Clearwater Beach,” Farnham said. “That would be the name if I had to guess.”
When asked how the 10,000-plus inhabitants of the three-island community expects to support the infrastructure, Farnham admits they do not yet have all the answers, let alone all the questions. “It is an exploration of the issue and we plan to have answers in 90 days.”
According to the group, a major issue leading to the group’s decision to begin researching de-annexation is the city’s refusal to fund underground utilities for Island Estates from Penny for Pinellas (a tax providing funds for capital improvement projects).
According to Clearwater City Mayor Frank Hibbard, undergrounding utilities would just be another case of high spending. “Undergrounding utilities would cost $1.2 million a lineal mile ... and we do not have the resources to underground every neighborhood’s utilities.”
Mayor Hibbard expressed his reluctance of the project. “It does not guarantee that power will continue during a storm surge. Actually, the power company will shut it off in the event of a storm due to the fact that they cannot allow saltwater intrusion into the power line.”
When asked his stance on the possible secession of the islands, Mayor Hibbard replied, “These folks represent a minority. A significant amount of residents feel that we do not need another municipality. Clearwater Beach belongs to all the citizens of Clearwater.”
Farnham and Mayor Hibbard acknowledge that there is a “difference of philosophy” when it comes to establishing priorities.
While Farnham and the Islands Independence Initiative are at work hosting public meetings, investigating conservation overlay districts, or sending out numerous emails and petitions, Mayor Hibbard acknowledged that the subject is “currently not on the agenda”.
Farnham and the Islands Independence Initiative contend, “We would consider this process a success if it allows for an intellectually honest discussion.