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East Lake activists to unite as group

"I think we have to look out for ourselves," says Jim McDonald, one of the organizers.

By THERESA BLACKWELL
Published May 18, 2007


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EAST LAKE - Frustrated by what they see as a lack of response to their concerns, East Lake civic activists Tuesday announced an effort to form a Council of North County Neighborhoods.

Crescent Oaks homeowners association president John Miolla and vice president Jim McDonald say they are using St. Petersburg's influential Council of Neighborhood Associations as their model.

Karl Nurse, CONA's immediate past president, said he will help the group draw on CONA's decades of experience.

"You don't need to reinvent the wheel, " he said. "We made lots of mistakes. They can make different ones."

Miolla, McDonald and others hope their new group will provide an equally effective new voice for North Pinellas neighborhoods.

"We have lots of interest so far, " said McDonald, 53, vice president and general manager of a health care courier company. "We're in the process today of contacting leaders of subdivisions."

He said political activism is something new for him, but events in the last year have led residents to action:

- Pinellas County commissioners approved a traffic signal for the Crescent Oaks subdivision but did not provide funding to pay for it.

- Projects proposed for the Brooker Creek Preserve alarmed the neighborhood, which borders on the preserve north of Keystone Road.

- Residents worry that a proposal to allow the county utilities department to use some of the preserve land it owns north of Keystone Road could bring unwelcome uses to those acres.

- And residents were particularly concerned about a proposal to change the land use designation for part of the preserve where ballfields have been proposed. No one, organizers said, seemed to be listening to Crescent Oaks residents as they spoke up at public hearings.

Maybe a united East Lake could do better.

"That's why we're stepping up to be that voice for our community, " McDonald said. "I think we have to look out for ourselves."

McDonald said the group's main goal is to protect the Brooker Creek Preserve and East Lake. They would also like to foster a sense of community in East Lake.

"We're not just trying to be annoying; we're really concerned about what they are doing, " said Miolla, 69, a retired air traffic controller and Federal Aviation Administration manager.

"Too many of us were complacent and allowed this to happen, " he said. "We will remain vigilant as this community and this group goes forward."

County Commissioner Susan Latvala, who represents North Pinellas, welcomed the creation of the group.

"I think the concept is fabulous, and I'm thrilled they are doing it, " she said. "CONA has been so effective."

Latvala said she would love to be able to provide the same accurate information at the same time to one group.

"There needs to be a way for information to flow, " she said. "You can't just use the newspaper - with all due respect - as your source of information."

Fast Facts:

Find out more

The Council of North County Neighborhoods is in the process of organizing. Individuals, groups and homeowners associations are welcome to join. For more information, contact the group at cncnpc@hotmail.com or call John Miolla at 727 944-2060 or Jim McDonald at (727) 942-4440.

[Last modified May 18, 2007, 00:16:46]


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