Public Hearing July 23 at 6 p.m.

pinellas county development hearing

There are changes on the horizon regarding development in Pinellas County that are likely to affect quality of life for county residents. Residents are all too familiar with the issues of overcrowding, high traffic volumes, evacuation routes, water resources, flooding and loss of green space that unchecked growth has brought to our county over the years. We now have another reason for concern: Pinellas County is currently going through the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan.

The Pinellas County Comprehensive Plan is a tool developed and used by the county as a basis for making decisions regarding the future of the county.  According to the county’s web site, this document “acts as a guide by which a community’s development and preservation decisions are made”…..”all intended to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors”.

traffic development

The current process with regard to revision of this document has already moved toward allowing even more density in new developments.  On June 13, county commissioners voted unanimously to amend the Comprehensive Plan with two related ordinances. One allows changes to previously established future land uses, removing limits on densities in certain land use categories. Another reduces developer impact fees when obtaining permits for the development of higher density projects, effectively incentivizing such projects. Both decisions on the part of our elected officials will likely help open the door to further overdevelopment.

This high-density development theme is being pushed forward by the county in several locations, including property adjacent to the Feather Sound Country Club, neighbor to the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. On June 17, a meeting was held at the Feather Sound Country Club by representatives from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport and Pinellas County, addressing new development/expansion of the airport onto the adjacent land that was once the Airco golf course and which provides a buffer from the effects of the airport for residents. The meeting was intended to allow for concerned residents and other citizens to express concerns regarding a planned sizable reduction and development of the buffer/green space that the closed golf course currently provides. The county will be announcing a future meeting specific to Feather Sound regarding changes to the Comprehensive Plan and how they may affect the site.

Other sites within the county which should take note of these and other changes in the Comprehensive Plan include Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club, The Tides and numerous others. Because these privately-owned recreational/open space properties represent what minimal amount of such land is left in Pinellas County, they are being targeted by developers and the county in its efforts to push forward with its Gateway/Mid-county Area plan, which emphasizes growth in an already built-out county. Once these sites are gone, they will never return.

Regardless of the site being targeted for development, the theme on the part of the county with regard to economic growth is similar: build, and they will come. Any mention of revitalization/redevelopment of existing neighborhoods has been generally absent.

 

The Board of County Commissioners will be holding a public hearing on July 23 at 6:00pm and has advised that there will be a hearing regarding general changes to the Comprehensive Plan (not site-specific) on that date. All parties who are concerned with the direction the county is moving are urged to attend and make their voices heard.