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Petition for crosswalk denied; here's a sign

A mobile home park seeks a safer path to Wal-Mart, but Zephyrhills opts for crosswalk signs.

By MINDY RUBENSTEIN
Published January 9, 2007


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ZEPHYRHILLS - Residents of Grand Horizons mobile home subdivision gathered more than 100 signatures for a petition requesting a crosswalk and signs so they can safely walk to the Wal-Mart shopping center across Green Slopes Drive.

They submitted the petition and a letter to City Council members Monday night.

But they didn't get their wish.

City Council members discussed the issue and decided that a crosswalk does not meet the design standards for the area because of the hill and limited sight distance.

"It gives people a false sense of security having a crosswalk," City Manager Steve Spina said.

Instead, the city will put up signs identifying pedestrians, and possibly a flashing light. "That's pretty much all we can do at this time," Mayor Cliff McDuffie said.

"Hopefully, it will help," said Robert Smoyer, 69, who was among a few representatives from Grand Horizons to attend the meeting. He added that his wife was recently almost hit by a car while crossing the street.

In a surprise to some, Mayor McDuffie asked Monday night to have a pay raise for council members, including himself. There has not been a raise in six years, he pointed out, and suggested changing the city charter. Council members seemed taken back by the suggestion, which they had not yet researched.

"I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea, but I don't agree with the formula used here," said council member Celia Graham. The council agreed to hold off on the issue, which was not listed on the meeting agenda.

After officials talked about the pay raise, they discussed a pending utility rate increase for water and sewer service.

It was the first reading for the issue. If passed, it will be the first increase to utility rates in 10 years. Following an in-depth study last year, the city plans to increase the service $3 a month, phased in over three years. Customers who use more water will pay more in order to curb usage.

Impact fees for new development also will increase in order to pay for expansion. Rate increases could go into effect after the second reading on Jan. 22, with impact fees imposed 90 days later to give developers enough warning, Spina said.

In other business

The City Council voted to spend $50,000 for consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers to provide a feasibility study for a new performing arts center. A committee appointed last month by the City Council to review and rank proposals for the performing arts center decided on its top three candidates for the job: Tampa-based PricewaterhouseCooper ranked first on the list, followed by Strategy 5 and Basile Baumann Prost and Associates. The study will be presented at a City Council meeting in the coming months.

A revised Zephyr Lakes Preliminary Development Plan was approved. The primary changes were the result of a new ordinance that requires a 26-acre floodplain mitigation area. Swiftmud required quite a bit more retention so it had to be altered, Spina said. The layout of the plan has also changed. The area includes the east side of Gore's Dairy, off Wire Road and Pretty Pond Road. The next step will be a final development plan, to be submitted at an upcoming meeting.

Council members voted to allow the division of certain existing lots in the downtown district. This was the second vote on the ordinance, which goes into effect immediately. Lots must be a minimum of 6,000 square feet and 50 feet wide. The minimum code had been 60 or 75 feet wide. Many homes in the core of the city were built on two smaller lots to meet that old code. The city thinks the smaller lot requirement will help support its efforts for economic development. The ordinance applies to properties located within North Avenue, C Avenue, First Street and 20th Street.

[Last modified January 9, 2007, 00:02:04]


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