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    Residents protest fields for soccer

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 13, 2003

    CLEARWATER -- From outside, it was impossible to hear the shouting.

    Wednesday night passed clear and cool at the David L. Martin soccer field, and practices went on as usual under the lights.

    But across the parking lot, inside the cafeteria at St. Cecelia Interparochial School, neighbors blasted city officials for making plans to move the field across the street and build a second one next to it in their quiet neighborhood.

    "Why did you come up with soccer fields?" Sarah Davis asked. "Put them in an industrial field where no one cares."

    Davis was among roughly 50 residents who complained the new soccer fields would bring too much traffic and too-bright lights.

    Many said the fields would attract vagrants.

    Ellen Schultz worried about strange men.

    "I have a reason to be afraid of anybody in my neighborhood that I'm not used to seeing," she said. "You cannot protect my pretty 6-year-old blond girl."

    The planned fields are part of a larger proposal to replace Glen Oaks Golf Course with a stormwater management site. The project would cost about $4.3-million and is aimed at reducing flooding and pollution along Stevenson Creek.

    But the soccer fields have drawn opposition from the beginning.

    Mostly, neighbors said they support the trail system, picnic area and playground planned along a 13-acre pond meant to serve as a drainage tool that would protect about 78 nearby apartments and homes.

    On Wednesday night, city staffers set up four stations in the school cafeteria to answer questions. Easels carried conceptual drawings showing the soccer fields on high ground at the northern edge of the 22-acre property. Residents crowded around, shouting questions and, in some cases, hurling insults.

    At one point, Schultz marched to the front of the cafeteria and seized a live microphone.

    "I've been to three different ones and heard three different things," she said. "I have a feeling that they don't want to hear what we have to say. They're telling us what they're going to do."

    City Manager Bill Horne, who attended the meeting along with Vice Mayor Whitney Gray and Commissioner Bill Jonson, said officials will consider neighborhood feedback before going forward.

    "The commission wanted to get your input," he said. "They will then decide if they want to continue with the design or amend the design."

    Outside, Francisco Tellez leaned against a pickup truck parked just off the field.

    He hadn't heard about the meeting or the city's plans to build new fields.

    "Wow," said Tellez, 45. "Is this for every player or just Americans?"

    Tellez, 45, who moved to Clearwater from Mexico, said he plays at the field often. On Wednesday, he was there with a group of friends, including Irving Rimolo, 30, of Largo.

    Rimolo, who moved to Clearwater from Costa Rica, said he understands neighbors' concerns about noise and traffic but still thinks the new fields should be built.

    "It sounds like a good idea," he said. "All we want to do is practice."

    -- Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrell@sptimes.com ">farrell@sptimes.com .

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