CLEARWATER -- Commissioner Ronnie Duncan, making a plea for a countywide solution to affordable housing, joined by Calvin Harris who switched sides voted against Largo's Clearwater-Largo redevelopment plan Tuesday night as the County Commission rejected Largo's plan, 5-2, and sent the project back to the drawing board.
It was his Duncan's absence at the August 16 meeting that resulted in a 3-3 tie vote that stalled the proceedings.
In his appearance before the County Commission Tuesday, Alan Zimmet, Largo's part time lawyer, said any rules applied to Largo should be applied countywide.
Harris joined Commissioners Ken Welch, Karen Seel and Susan Latvala who continued to oppose approval while Commission Chairman John Morroni and Bob Stewart gave a green light to Largo's plan.
The commission heard a whole flock of citizens on the issue. The complications of the planning, density factors, etc. probably escaped most ordinary citizens.
But the theme of affordable housing for those to be displaced was emphasized. This is a growing problem in Pinellas County where increased property values are driving lower income people out of their residences.
Even politicians are in the game. A beach mayor, vowing he did not intend to flip the mobile home park he bought, proceeded to do so when the words were hardly out of his mouth.
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, once again tried to address the issues that concerned the commissioners.
Zimmet argued that what the county was recommending would be counter-productive. Latvala seized on that and flatly disputed it.
In introducing the subject, County Administrator Steve Spratt cited changes that his staff wanted and recommended disapproval.
Prior to the August meeting, Zimmet sent an e-mail to a county staff member at in which he seemed to demand peremptory action accompanied by a threat.
He was forced to apologize for his language and wimpily said he had no intent of offending. Seel at that August meeting took umbrage at Zimmet's demand.
Many merchants and those who have an interest in the Clearwater-Largo Road corridor have passed or are reaching the point of exasperation.
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