Protest doesn't make us snobs

Letters to the Editor
Published February 22, 2007

The recent letters to the editor and the hard-line column by the St. Petersburg Times editor calling the residents of Wesley Chapel, specifically Lexington Oaks, a bunch of snobs and bigots is unwarranted name-calling. Belittling residents, who have the God-given right to protest the construction of a 23,300-square-foot, corrugated steel building with bright red lettering reading Salvation Army Retail Store, is a tribute to their courage.

The proposed building would be embedded into a number of residential communities including Lexington Oaks. The corrugated steel building surrounded by a chain link fence (Nebraska Avenue store in Tampa has barb wire on top of its fence.) does not blend with the other businesses or homes in our area. The right to protect one's property ranks up there with the right to self-defense by any means. Residents would welcome modern commercial business, however, an establishment that does not enhance our community, begs one to question the wisdom of the Salvation Army at this location.

Salvation Army representatives stated that those who complete the rehabilitation program likely will be employed. That is an understandable major concern to mothers with children.

The Salvation Army needs to explain how a tax-exempt church, which the Salvation Army is, can afford a prime parcel of land, at the cost of more than $2-million. The current tax on this parcel according to public records is $27,369.00; that will be removed from the tax rolls, as the Salvation Army will likely request an exemption. In fact, the Pasco County Property Appraiser records indicate that the Salvation Army owns at least sixteen parcels of property, which are tax-exempt.

In response to pricing, on a recent trip to the Holiday and the Nebraska Avenue store, to my surprise, I saw coffee tables priced around $150, a sofa for $800 and even one over $1800. Bargains?

The hardworking and culturally diverse families of Lexington Oaks are not snobs or bigots, nor are they uncaring. In fact just the opposite, we do care. We are all ordinary people who just want to protect our property rights, protect our children from real and perceived threats, and hope to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Peter Hanzel, Wesley Chapel

Spend smart - spend on artists

Spending has run amok in New Port Richey City Hall. The Suncoast News recently reported on the city council's self-congratulations regarding its vote to move forward with construction of a new $4.8-million public works facility at Pine Hill Road. This decision is a grave mistake. City Council members have lost sight of the economic realities facing our city.

Since 2000, a population increase of only 15 percent is supporting a tax increase of 40 percent. Residents want to see fiscal restraint and projects that improve our economic base. The Pine Hill Road project does neither.

Stop spending on projects that do not generate income for our city or engender sound growth. Main Street Landing and the Hacienda Hotel testify to the poor fiscal priorities of the city.

When the Main Street Landing project began experiencing cost overruns, the builder requested a review of ways the city could help defray those costs.

The reported fee for this review cost thousands of dollars and would offer no guarantee of help. Since the builder requested help due to lack of funds, the exorbitant fee killed the builder's incentive. Now the project is dormant. When will this site generate income for the city again?

Regarding the Hacienda building, City Council is flirting with an investor who is looking to acquire this site for a hotel and conference center. This idea is laughable since the demographics of the city and infrastructure cannot support this as a viable business plan.

The city should immediately stop contemplating a new public works facility and review its plans for New Port Richey's economic growth.

Invest in the Hacienda Hotel by creating an artist's cooperative. Offer low-cost space to artists and use the rent to cover the present costs to the city. The historical value of the structure will be preserved, and artists will attract a demographic group that will spend in downtown businesses.

Save our residents' $4.8-million dollars. Do not build an unnecessary building. Instead, increase business activity downtown with minimal investment - what a novel idea. With that kind of savings, you can even drop the $5-a-day charge the city plans to impose on kids to use the skate park. They can save too, and you might see some kids using the facility.

Rolando A. Otero, New Port Richey

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