Largo’s Highland Avenue ‘Extravaganza’ Criticized
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO – While many observers were wondering Tuesday why Largo city officials were giving what amounted to a private “state of the city” update at the Chamber of Commerce, a rising tide of opposition was swelling against plans for the Highland Avenue extravaganza.
Bob Jackson, a former mayor, expressed dismay at the city’s plans to spend up to $8 million to upgrade, refurbish and re-do Highland Avenue into a facsimile of the Champs Elysee.
Jackson is pondering of opposing Mayor Pat Gerard in November’s election and well may throw his hat in the ring after having gotten a report of “excellent” health from his doctor.
Other former elected officials joined the opposition to the Highland Avenue project as well.
One observer wondered why the city manager, Mac Craig, along with Mike Staffopoulos, assistant city manager, and Carol Stricklin, director of community development, were at Cypress Palms Tuesday discussing the city situation at a meeting requiring paid admission.
“Why isn’t this done for the general public?” a former official, who asked not to be identified in close-knit Largo where resentments can linger for years.
One citizen, Pat Howard, plainly wanted to be identified as against the Highland Avenue project. She called the plan for a rotary or roundabout at the intersection of Rosery Road “a ridiculous notion.”
She may have a point. Roundabouts most often are used where more than two or three roads converge and is used to sort out traffic. It is quite ineffective in a cross roads.
“There is not that much traffic at that point except for Sunday,” another observer noted. This is just the tip of the iceberg with all the wonderment over this project being expressed.
“What can they be thinking of?” Jackson asked rhetorically.
Howard, in a letter to the city, said that she attended the dog and pony show at Largo Library March 25 about the project and said that from all appearances most of those in attendance agreed with her. “Look at this plan with a practical eye, not an artist’s eye,” she said.
Another citizen, Carol Ansel, called the city fiscally irresponsible by putting the Highland plan on the table.
She pointed out that residents on Donegan Road are still waiting for “the city to honor the promise to repave our road.”
That voice joins that of Harry Ploger who is pleading and begging for sidewalks on 8th Avenue NW not for aesthetic reasons but for safety. His begging has not elicited anything more than sympathy.
The project on Highland includes adding curbs, broad sidewalks, a median and elaborated crossovers. The big question being bruited about is why? And especially why the big expense in these belt-tightening times.
A main reason for the Highland extravaganza the city says is to “reconnect the community” which sounds like something out of fairyland to many ears.
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