West Bay Owners Resist What They Suspect is Plan to Expand Medical Center
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Speculation, based on the maneuvering that is now going on with residents in the area and other interested parties, is that at least part of the West Bay Redevelopment is aimed at turning the area near the Largo Medical Center into a "medical" area.
One of the objections to anything going in that direction is that residents and some small businesses in the area would be restricted as to how they could sell their property if the time came for them to seek a buyer.
That is, there is an attempt being made in terms of land use for the area from 11th Street SW going west to 14th Street SW (which borders the Largo Medical Center property) south of West Bay Drive to be restricted to medical arts.
Thus, any property owners currently located in that area would be constrained to sell only to some entity concerned with medical arts and would of necessity limit their negotiations for a sale price.
In other words, "their way or the highway."
As a result of this looming prospect, those now living or having businesses in that area have created a petition directed to the City Commission to "deny all amendments and ordinances" in the West Bay Redevelopment area that would "have the effect of creating or otherwise enabling new land use designations, such and including, but not limited to Mixed Use Corridor and Medical Arts."
The petition opposes "increasing density and intensity of land use" in that area.
The crunch will come next Tuesday, July 21, when there is a public hearing scheduled at the City Commission's meeting. A turnout of interested parties - particularly those in the area affected - could guide any commission decision.
The fear is that a small group of what is regarded as wealthy owners in the area - number one among them being the Largo Medical Center and its interests - want the redevelopment plan, which has triggered strong opposition, to go forward which would obviously further their interests.
As LMC and any of its various clinics, physicians' offices and supporting medical technical offices develops east of its present locations, picking up property on restrictive terms would be highly favorable to them.
Current owners in the 11th Street SW to 14th Street SW neighborhood would be forced to sell to them only.
Density is a big consideration in the area. What city planners propose cannot be supported by the infrastructure. West Bay Drive cannot be widened and there is a daily traffic backup. Any more activity there would only worsen the situation.
The redevelopment plan was before the Largo City Commission June 16 and was turned down. The Planning Board has recommended against city planners' ideas, but the city staff has ignored that.
As a result of last month's meeting, which also flatly and totally rejected a plan for East Bay near the City Hall, the West Bay project was sent back for further revisions.
A wagon load of objections were raised on the plan including no height restrictions on buildings planned there, intrusions into residential areas, and a host of other issues have stalled the planning.
Many question why the city staff, persistent in a leaderless city that was recently upset with the actions of the city manager, Mac Craig, in regard to a police matter, continues to go against the recommendations of the Planning Board.
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