LARGO -- Largo's plan for redevelopment of Clearwater-Largo Road stalled again as the County Commission split on its vote by 3-3 at its meeting August 16.
Commissioners Ken Welch, Karen Seel and Susan Latvala opposed approval while Commission Chairman John Morroni, Bob Stewart and Calvin Harris gave a green light to a no strings attrached plan.
A motion by Welch to approve recommendation with conditions similarly got a 3-3 tie. Commissioner Ronnie Duncan was absent.
The deadlocked issue will come before the commission again on September 6.
The sticking point for those opposed centered on what would happen to those people being displaced by redevelopment while those favoring wanted the plan to move ahead, trusting that the displacement issue would be solved.
Largo has worked on the redevelopment plan for almost four years. A parade of citizens came before the county commissioners imploring them to approve the Largo plan. They cited deplorable conditions including drugs and prostitution crime that plague the area.
Carol Stricklin, Largo's assistant community development director, gave a thoroughgoing presentation of the plan in all its aspects, addressing those concerns raised by the county.
Largo's city attorney, Alan Zimmet, also appeared before the County Commission and said that conditional approval would accomplish very little. He suggested that the county has a live or die control over the redevelopment plan.
Density and relocation of those people being displaced (estimated at perhaps up to 700 people) are the key issues. Largo proposes a 15 unit per acre density and has offered plans for relocation in affordable housing.
In introducing the Largo plan, County Administrator Steve Spratt cited changes that his staff recommended and suggested that the plan be appoved subject to conditions.
Following up in comments after hearing from the public, Spratt stressed the necessity for adequate plans for relocation of those being displaced by any development.
"More work needs to be done in the area of finding adequate housing," Spratt said. "That is the chief reason for our recommendation. The (city) needs to do some more work."
Seel cited an e-mail that came from Zimmet to a county staffer that seemed to contain a threat. She said she did not "appreciate it."
That set off a minor flap late Wednesday, with Mayor Bob Jackson of Largo requesting copies of the e-mail exchange between Zimmet and county staffers.
Zimmet late Wednesday apologized for his language and said he had not intent of offending.
Many merchants and those who have an interest in the Clearwater-Largo Road corridor have passed or are reaching the point of exasperation.
One restaurateur, Nick Pappas, who operated Grillmarks, gave up some weeks ago. The Largo plan for redevelopment has dragged on interminably. Much of the reason for that is obstacles put up by the county.
The 15 unit per acre benchmark is necessary, the city says, to provide an incentive for developers to provide affordable housing. Belleair Place, recently developed, was cited as successful in this area. It occupies what was a shopping center behind Alfano's Restaurant.
Even so, the development of townhomes along West Bay Drive where the city hall used to be are on the basis of 12 units to an acre and those properties are selling in a range from $200,000 to $400,000.
Citizens supporting approval begged the commissioners to give their okay with "no strings attached."
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