Safety Harbor wants a say in how it grows

Published May 16, 2007

A fast-moving fire that leveled downtown in the fledgling city of Safety Harbor in 1917 gave townsfolk the opportunity to envision a new downtown and start over. Now residents want to shape the growth that lies ahead.

Unlike those who incorporated Safety Harbor in 1917 and weeks later watched the downtown burn, the current residents and leaders of Safety Harbor don't have to start over. They have a great community that, perhaps better than any other city in North Pinellas, has held on to its small-town feel. They just want to know how to maintain that feel, while also keeping the city viable.

At a recent visioning session, city officials met with professional facilitators to talk about what Safety Harbor should look like just five years from now. The theory is that if they can picture it, and agree on it, they can work to make it happen.

In their first session - others are planned, and residents will be included - the city leaders used a variety of terms, but described a place they could all recognize.

They want a successful, busy downtown, full of people walking here and there to visit thriving shops and restaurants. The city has already made a good start on that goal.

In their vision of 2012, traffic flow will be well-managed throughout the city, neighborhoods will be safe, the city's shade canopy will be maintained and new development will be in character with the rest of the community, officials said.

However, development will not be brought to a halt in the Safety Harbor of the future, because city leaders there understand that a city that is not renewing itself can become an undesirable place to live. The trick is to successfully walk the line between desirable and undesirable growth.

Just determining where the line is can be difficult. Safety Harbor's visioning sessions are a good way to figure that out, with residents talking about it together. Residents should watch this newspaper for announcements about how they can be involved in creating a vision of Safety Harbor, circa 2012.