Beachfront city hall questioned 

Location, location, location is still the issue for residents and officials regarding a city hall move to beachfront property, particularly for some who fear the pretty property may also come with tsunami risks.

The Planning Commission this week reviewed a draft of the project’s environmental impact report, which has earned a range of positive and negative reviews. Though the city makes a point of putting tsunami information on its Web site, the environmental report did not adequately address any expected danger from one, according to resident Mark Stechbart.

"This is irresponsible public policy to fixate the public on an ocean view city hall as the source of their services when they will have to literally run for their lives in the event of a tsunami," Stechbart said.

On the other hand, former Planning Commissioner Todd Bray said that the city hall move still makes good fiscal sense, because the city would only need to remodel the buildings at the Sharp Park Sewer Plant on 2212 Beach Blvd., the proposed location for the city hall, rather than build from scratch. Concerns that a revenue-generating source, like a hotel, would be a better fit for the area are coming from a small, but vocal majority, he said.

"To me, a penny saved is a penny earned," Bray said. Furthermore, the city hall project would only take up a small percentage — eight percent, according to a city report — of the 3.2-acre site, which is city property. This leaves room for private development, Bray said.

City Councilman Cal Hinton said he would still like to see a revenue-generating source on the site, which he said is prime property for a hotel. He added that a hotel could also spur some retail redevelopment on Palmetto Avenue, which runs parallel to and directly east of Beach Boulevard.

The city has authorized $2 million toward the project, but critics have said the project can’t be done for less than $5.7 million.

Plans include an 18,000 square-foot, completely "green" city hall with new council chambers. The one-acre site of the current council chambers would generate $2 million if sold, according to a city report.

Officials have said that the current city hall located at 170 Santa Maria Ave. poses health and safety risks due to termites and mold, but some residents have said that there isn’t proper documentation for these claims.

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