Viewpoints: Citizens V. Madeira Beach

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It is sobering to see our neighbors, our Mayor and City Manager pitted in a war of words over the proposed developments near our city’s entrance. You get the impression that the Mayor, City Manager and Developers are desperately trying to demonstrate the economic benefits of hotel tourism. There is a definite tone of urgency to getting this done.  We need the revenue.

The Price of Proposed Developments

Building a “tourist magnet at the gate of our city will put us on the map” we are told.

And for that pot of gold, all we have to do is:

Dolphins Jumping in Waters near Madeira Beach

Has Any Consideration Been Given to the Ecological Impact of Development?

  • crush forever the fragile ecology that thrives along the shores of Boca Ciega Bay
  • fill our air with exhaust fumes
  • clog traffic east, west and south
  • raise our noise pollution several decibels and
  • attempt perilous exits from our communities.

And, yes, give up our city’s delicate environment and traditional character.  Not to mention:

  • blindly assume responsibility for untold infrastructure costs to enable $180M of development.
  • making it difficult for our veterans on the east side of the causeway to get to the beaches… OR 
  • possibly delaying for fire and emergency vehicles that need to cross the bridge to save lives.

“House Poor”?

In the October 2015 letter to the BOC and residents, the City Manager presented the millage increase, needed because of the spending spree on the multitude of capital projects “and to sustain services for a long time”. Crawford states that we need new revenue streams to fund these projects.  This is because, the “Crown Jewel” that sits across from Winn-Dixie and Dollar Tree… that shadows the Fire Station and the Library.., has an outstanding service debt of $7.5 million on it.  That debt limits what we can do now... as it appears we are “house poor”?

Madeira Beach Commission Chambers & Shelter for Mr. Karns' Vehicle

Madeira Beach Commission Chambers… A shelter for Mr. Karns’ Vehicle, also.

Tourism $ = Tourism Promotion, Not Electric Bills

Because of the need for “new streams of revenue” Mayor, City Manager and developers of this project are desperately trying to market the benefits of tourism as a strong source of city dollars. Many residents and business owners nod in happy anticipation. The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce presented a financial scenario of possible effects of these planned hotels. They showed the example that Pinellas County sent $39M in Tourist Development Tax to the State. Pinellas County received $9M of that and so we could conceivably reap something like $1.6M using a similar formula. It seems the Mayor and the City Manager are using these figures to make the point that without these developments, we may be subject to another property value increase. What they are not making clear is that the city cannot derive funds from raw tourist tax dollars …. but only “trickle-down” monies that the state and county allow.

Florida Restricts Use of Tourism Tax to Tourism Promotion, ONLY

Southern End of Madeira Beach at Johns Pass

Southern End of Madeira Beach at Johns Pass

The reality is that in the State of Florida, tourism taxes are set aside for tourism promotion and for building new venues for tourism. Maybe we would get even more hotels……. Some states like Nevada, New York, California use their tourism revenue to fund schools, police, infrastructure…not Florida.  Under state law, tourism taxes are set aside for more tourism promotion.

And not to diminish its value, one third of our State’s revenue comes from Tourism. Tourism is a great industry. But economists may agree that stimulating tourists is not without flaws. To thrive, tourism usually requires a low-wage and a low-economic environment.  Heavy tourism generates unforeseen problems for the community. If not planned properly, a tourist draw does not gather the momentum to help other businesses succeed. And failure can be an economic blight. As respected as this industry is, there is a real question of how much we are willing to bargain?  And given things we have learned , do we trust our city leaders to do the right thing for this City?

The price of anything is the amount of life you
exchange for it.” Henry Thoreau
Shells and sea weeds left by tides on Madeira Beach

Shells and sea weeds left by tides on Madeira Beach

“…revenue projections are in a conservative fashion as we are in unchartered territory”,” Shane Crawford (excerpt from 10/1/2015 Letter to the BOC)

Thanks to the resident who took time to share their thoughts with us in the article! 

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