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Dunedin right to focus on affordable housing

Published May 30, 2007


Dunedin City Manager Rob DiSpirito may be new in town, but it didn't take him long to recognize that he had an under-utilized talent on his staff. So DiSpirito told city commissioners he wanted to give 12-year city employee Bob Ironsmith a promotion, a new title and a raise, a step applauded by a City Commission that then lavished praise on Ironsmith.

DiSpirito told commissioners that Ironsmith was one of the most professional individuals he had worked with in his career. His move to elevate Ironsmith not only recognizes his talent, but hopefully will keep the talented staffer in Dunedin.

Ironsmith rightfully gets much credit for keeping Dunedin's downtown delightful and successful. Ironsmith's energy is contagious and his business savvy serves the city well.

Ironsmith was previously the assistant director of the city's Department of Community Services, but he was primarily the city's economic development specialist. He stayed in touch with local businesses to understand their needs, and he helped recruit new businesses. Ironsmith was especially good at identifying business trends and positioning the city to respond to them.

DiSpirito, who has been city manager of Dunedin since January, promoted Ironsmith to head the newly created Department of Economic and Housing Development. DiSpirito's pairing of economic development and housing recognizes the important role that availability of work force housing plays in recruiting new businesses to a community. It is an especially important issue in Pinellas, where affordable housing for workers has been in such short supply that local governments have created incentives to encourage developers to provide such housing.

Give Highland Lakes golf cart plan scrutiny

County officials are right to be worried about the safety of golf carts on the streets of Highland Lakes in Palm Harbor.

The sprawling retirement community has asked for permission to join Ozona and Crystal Beach as a designated golf cart community where golf carts can be driven on local streets. Normally, golf carts are not street legal.

The County Commission is scheduled to consider Highland Lakes' request Tuesday.

Highland Lakes is a sprawling retirement community of 2, 000 homes just east of U.S. 19 and north of Tampa Road. Unlike the relatively self-contained communities of Ozona and Crystal Beach, which hug the Gulf of Mexico, Highland Lakes has a major road through it, Highlands Boulevard, that attracts cut-through traffic and speeders. Residents often have complained about the speed and volume of traffic through their neighborhood.

Also, Ozona and Crystal Beach do not border golf courses and the number of golf carts in use there is relatively small. Highland Lakes has lots of golfing residents and 800 registered golf carts.

Under a proposal the neighborhood has negotiated with the county staff, golf carts would be allowed and could even be driven on Highlands Boulevard. The county would put up signs warning motorists of the presence of the carts, and the golf carts would have to carry an orange warning flag and a "slow-moving vehicle" sign.

Highlands Boulevard is a winding road. The county staff should review sight corridors along the boulevard to determine whether a fast-moving vehicle would be able to see a slow-moving golf cart in time to slow down and prevent a tragedy.

[Last modified May 29, 2007, 22:23:26]

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