LARGO - There is no doubt what the elected officials, city manager and staff of the City of Largo have in mind - a livable city with superb amenities and a place to make a destination.
This was clear from the topics pursued at length and at depth at an "executive retreat" held last Friday at St. Petersburg College's Epicenter on 58th Street.
That is an out of the way location. The meeting was not designed for public attendance and that was probably just as well.
Questions would have retarded and delayed the picture that was being drawn by the city's leaders. Mike Staffopolous, the city's Director of Development, was excellent in giving the overall presentation through the agenda.
The rich menu that city officials plowed through from early morning to late afternoon was replete with ideas and looks at the future that are designed to add luster to Largo.
Generally, this session was about - more than anything else - the city's Strategic Plan and how to implement it.
Staffopolous at the outset, in an overview look at the plan, pointed out that the purpose of the meeting was to weigh the city's strengths and weaknesses. He described the city in terms of the difference between those who live here and those who pass through.
"People see different Largos," Staffopoulos said. He pointed out that there are different Largos, citing as an example, that the areas east of U.S. 19 do not have what the rest of the community has.
This is the result of the city's annexation expansion to the east. As a result, much of future planning will be aimed at bringing amenities to the eastern portion of the city.
The High Point area is an example of what officials had in mind. The neighborhood lacks parks, recreation facilities, etc. Coupled with those deficiencies is the lack of land immediately available for those things.
Mayor Pat Gerard made the point that "It is hard to make improvements on the west side when not doing anything on the east side."
Commissioner Andy Guyette said that the east side needed something in the recreational mode like the existing Southwest Recreation Center.
A lot of the talk concentrated on the neighborhoods and "connectivity." The latter is an attempt to join areas of the city together that have become isolated because of the vagaries of street patterns.
One connection for the future given some attention was the idea of having a way to get from the Pinellas Trail, which runs north and south and follows a course west of Clearwater-Largo, to Central Park.
The park is becoming the focus area of the city with the land itself, the Cultural Center adjacent to it and the new Largo Public Library in the same vicinity.
Current thinking is that the connector would come from the Trail parallel to Eighth Avenue, go north to the Seminole Boulevard-Missouri Avenue intersection and then east into the park.
On the neighborhoods, Staffopolous noted that some are deteriorating and to fight this, neighborhood planning needs to be established. This would upgrade deficiencies through the use of stronger codes and enforcement.
Guyette also urged that the commission and staff get into the neighborhoods for meetings. The commission has held "out of city hall" meetings on several occasions, but Guyette wants it to be more frequent. The last such meeting took place well more than a year ago.
The theory in bringing the city to the people would also have the effect of bringing the people to the city. Such a program might overcome the apathy that is endemic in Largo.
Also talked about the mobile home parks problem. This is a mode of living that seems, from all signs, to have had its day. Developers want to use land for a higher and better use, in their view.
Gerard made the excellent point that "We need to work with the mobile home parks somehow. For those residents who don't have ownership, they are inevitably facing being dislocated. There is a lot of 'denial' there, but we need to do something to prepare them for the day the bad news comes. Better for them to have something in mind than to face a 45-day deadline."
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