St Pete Beach has a unique opportunity.
Installing docks by Horan Park improves one of our City properties, takes advantage of our natural geography, and follows policy and objectives in our Comprehensive Plan.
I’ve talked to many people concerning this project and I hear solid support, a few who are not in favor of it, and some good questions. I am not preaching to the choir or the firing squad. Here are my answers to the most common questions.
Q. Is there too much risk?
A. We have already been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior for $219,750. We need to spend $73,250 in matching funds. When we finish construction we will have an asset worth $290,000. This is similar to receiving a brand new house worth $290,000 by paying $73,250. We will supervise and administer construction. We are not adding people to build this. I don’t call that risk, I call it opportunity.
Q. Will this cost the City in ongoing expense?
A. Gulfport installed a transient dock (about the same size as we are building) in 2005. They have spent nothing ($0.00) in maintenance costs. Our City Finance Director estimates no added insurance costs; our current umbrella policy should cover this dock. Automatic pump-out stations are no more difficult to operate than car wash vacuums, and if we charge for dockage we could use parking meters like St. Petersburg. We do not plan to add any people to operate the dock. We do not plan to add any other amenities.
Q. Can we make any money on this?
A. Talking to the Gulfport Harbormaster, looking at usage numbers in Gulfport and St Petersburg, and conservatively discounting expectations indicates that one dock could net around $30,000 to $50,000 a year on an ongoing basis; returning our initial investment in about two years and building up funds for possible self-funded future expansion. Ultimately we could bring in over $150,000 per year, in my opinion.
Q. Should the City be competing with private business?
A. Cities exist to provide services to those residents that choose to live in them; localized services we cannot get from the County, State, or Federal government. SPB “operates” two beach grills, Merry Pier, the Don Vista Building, Community Center, Warren Webster and the Municipal Pool. We receive income from all of these in the form of rental, usage fees, or expense payments. They are each in some form of competition with business. Depending on which ones you count we make between a half ($500,000) and one million dollars ($1,000,000) a year. This is revenue that not sourced from our real estate taxes and goes to offset City expenses.
Evidence indicates that docks would increase local businesses’ economic activity. Boaters can walk to a grocery store, drugstore, restaurants, a movie theatre, and other local shops. Taxi and Free Beach Rides can cover our entire City in minutes. The type of tourist this dock will attract could spend more money in our community, per capita, than our spring breakers and families.
Q. Does anybody want a marina?
A. The majority of residents I have talked to are in favor of this dock project. Most people live on an island to enjoy water. A barrier island, our City is about 2.2 square miles land (88%) and about 17.6 square miles water. This project provides an attractive addition to our waterfront, does not significantly add to City traffic, provides alternate access to future redevelopment areas, and makes the City more attractive for commercial and residential investment.
To Dock or not to Dock
This project, this unique opportunity, is a positive accomplishment regarding our Comprehensive Plan, which I support. That Plan was developed with tons of citizen input. This project meets residents’ wishes to “maintain public access to our beaches and waterfronts using environmentally sensitive design.” It also addresses the Comp Plan call to encourage land development which highlights scenic amenities and ensure public access to the waterfront.
Most directly, this project addresses the Comp Plan Objective that states: “Public waterfront access shall be pursued and expanded.”
During development of the 2012 Capital Budget, after good discussion, questions and concerns, the Commission was unanimous in support. I never stop analyzing. The more I look into this project, the more I talk to residents and local municipal harbormasters and go over usage and financial reports, the more I am in favor of it as a sound addition to our community and the more I appreciate our grant award.
There are, of course, more questions. Is the boating industry dying? Will the Corey Bridge be open more? Why no fuel? Why would people stop?
If you want more detail, and my findings and opinions on these other questions, visit my website at www.JimParentSPB.com or send an email to me at J.Parent@StPeteBeach.org.
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