Largo Commission Rejects Development Plans; West Bay Idea Goes Back to Square One
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Redevelopment plans being pushed avidly by the administrative staff crashed and burned at Tuesday night's City Commission meeting.
The commission outright rejected, unanimously, an ordinance that would have amended the future land use map for development in the area east of 4th Street NE and Highland Avenue.
A goal of the city's plan is to have a district that is balanced in terms of living, working, shopping and recreation.
Overwhelming protests from citizens persuaded the commission that the idea - at least for now - was a non-starter.
Plans for the West Bay Redevelopment Plan were upended and went back to square one for re-working.
In a classic case of "haste makes waste," the staff's approach of let's-hurry-up-and-get-it-done failed as Marty Shelby, a former member of the commission, pointed out numerous flaws and mistakes in the plan.
Shelby's analysis of the problems with the plan were so on target that Mayor Pat Gerard expressed a modicum of gratitude for Shelby's opposition.
In one key point, the area for redeveloping West Bay was radically changed with a dramatic expansion of the area from the original concept.
There are no clear-cut definitions in the plan for building heights, because of loopholes in the language.
For example, there is no height restriction on each level. The eight-story limit could be pushed up by multi-level parking underneath on any given building.
Another, seemingly complicated allowance of "swapping" by contractors could lead to all kinds of undesirable construction.
Comments by others joined Shelby in criticism of the plan.
In a sense, the failure of the plan before the commission highlighted what a resident, Curtis Holmes, had said during citizen comments at the beginning of the meeting.
Holmes pointed out that commission members very often were not well enough informed on subject that came before them, mainly because of time constraints.
"You get a packet on Friday and then you are supposed to make an informed decision four days later," he said, pointing out that very often subjects needed sophisticated information beyond what any commissioner would be expected to know.
The development plans - particularly that involving West Bay Drive - has had a rocky history.
The Planning Board reviewed a draft of the plan in early May. A meeting of residents brought some opposition to aspects of the plan and the board recommended denial of some aspects of the plan.
Clearly, the city staff, obviously eager to have things done in a hurry, ignored the Planning Board's recommendations and forged ahead.
The lack of leadership in the city is becoming more clear and the failure of the development plans - which are of high priority with the city staff - underscore the problems besetting the city.
In other action, the commission overlooked one possible trouble spot - danger spot, actually - in the multi-million dollar new community center.
Planned is a kiln, within the building, that would be used for ceramic work.
This kind of kiln produces temperatures that exceed 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That kind of danger spot might be of interest to Chief Mike Wallace of the fire department (and to Kim Adams when he sees the electric bill to produce such power).
From all indications, Wallace is unaware of the plans for such a dangerous device.
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