LARGO -- Mayor Bob Jackson and City Manager Steve Stanton were openly engaging in lunge, parry, thrust as their rapiers flashed at the City Commission meeting June 21.
The long smoldering acrimony and contention between the two city leaders emerged over the issue of the future of the site where Crossroads Mall was located, southeast of the intersection of East Bay Drive and U.S. 19.
Rivalry in aims and points of view of the two men is not generally reported in other local publications and virtually only readers of the Clearwater Gazette & Beach Views are aware of it. But the contention broke into the open June 21.
As a subset to the planned development at the Crossroads site is the rivalry between a developer, Boulder Venture South, and a long standing Largo business, Pinch-a-Penny.
Boulder Venture has bought what was Crossroads Mall and Pinch-a-Penny, a company started by Fred Thomas and still held by his family, is seeking land adjacent to it.
The rub is that Boulder Venture claims that Pinch-a-Penny, a pool supply business, is incompatible with its plans for a town center.
That argument is borne out by Largo's Strategic Plan, forged over the past several years, and the putative blueprint for future development in Largo.
What sparked and brought to the surface with some heat the swords' points stances of Jackson and Stanton is that Renaissance Planning Group, a consultant hired by the city to advise on the development at the site in question, served as an advocate at a public informational meeting on the projects a couple of weeks ago.
Jackson found this in conflict with the consultant's role with the city. Stanton disagreed, saying that what RPG recommended was on all fours with the plans of Boulder Venture and fit with the city's Strategic Plan.
When the question came up June 21, Stanton commented, "We can't continue with this thing of the commission against the staff."
Stanton maintians that the town center plan needs a consultant and that the town center plan conforms to the Strategic Plan.
Jackon's view was that a political decision -- that is, the commission deciding whether the site was going to follow the development plans of Boulder Venture or be the location of Pinch-a-Penny needed to be made before an implentation plan by the consultant.
Stanton's rejoinder was that a political decision had already been made -- functionally with the commission's approval of the Strategic Plan.
"That political decision has already been made," Stanton said. "Now, if you want to reconsider the Strategic Plan that is another matter. If you want to re-evaluate that is different."
He went on to say, speaking for the efforts of the city staff and engaging a consultant, "We are proceeding on basis that it has been approved. We are trying to work with both proposals in the context of the Strategic Plan that has already been approved."
Jackson remained obdurate. "I thought the Strategic Plan would just apply to the upper part," he said, meaning the Boulder Venture plan.
"No," Stanton said, "it applies to the whole super block."
Commissioner Mary Black caught Stanton's meaning. She said he was correct. "The staff is proceeding on what the commission has approved," Black said.
She pointed out that there was a new commission and held out the idea that perhaps the Strategic Plan should be re-evaluation and that "re-evaluation should be taken up before the staff proceeds."
Because the underlying question was on increasing the money allocated to the consultant and Commissioner Harriet Crozier's motion to support that got a 3-3 vote (Gay Gentry was absent) the matter will come up again.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition