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    Letters to the Editors

    Commission turns its back on communities

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 20, 2001

    It is becoming more apparent every day that Clearwater city government has an agenda that does not care about the communities that make up our city. One community after another is cast off by its own fellow citizens, the City Commission.

    The residents of the Bayview community organized and stood united to show their appreciation for the quality of life they enjoy in their community. It is a community with such wonderful character. All they wanted to do was maintain their quality of life.

    They can organize and lobby against state government and change the path of the Bayside Bridge, but 1,300 petitions against one lawyer and three departing city commissioners mean nothing. Essentially, the deciding vote was cast by Commissioner David Hemerick, who was appointed, not elected. Mr. Hemerick will serve less than six months in city government and has no previous experience and has the power to alter the quality of life for an entire community against its will. It is horribly unfair.

    When a commercial developer seeks a zoning change for a project, the developer takes the risk that if opposition is strong enough from affected communities, he loses and moves on. The opposition means nothing if the citizens' own government will not be loyal to them.

    Mayor Brian Aungst and Commissioner Ed Hart were honorable; they listened to the citizens they were elected to represent.

    Another critical issue facing our communities is the proposed Phillies stadium. The Northwest Regional Clearwater Homeowners group has formed. I think this group represents a much broader group of citizens than realized.

    I think it is frightening that our tax dollars can be spent on professional baseball with no fair democratic process.
    -- Gregory Overcashier, Clearwater

    Don't harm historic neighborhood

    Re: Rezoning approved for office complex, Feb. 16 story.

    In a leaflet that was put in our January utility bill, we the citizens of Clearwater were encouraged to participate in the development of our city.

    Thursday night more than a dozen people spoke in front of the mayor and city commissioners, and close to 1,500 signatures have been collected opposing the rezoning.

    All Commissioner J.B. Johnson had to say was, "Whatever you think of me, whatever you think of the project, whether you agree or disagree, that's too bad. . . . I will approve."

    There are many empty lots and abandoned buildings in Clearwater. Why destroy one of the last old-growth hammocks in Pinellas? Why destroy this historic neighborhood that contains American Indian artifacts? Why not build the office building on the big empty lot by St. Vincent de Paul, or at the Turtle Club or at the Clearwater Mall.

    Let's get rid of the eyesores and keep the last green we have.

    Next are the county commissioners. This cannot be approved. We need our community to help. We need funding for a lawyer. For information, call the Historic Bayview Society at (727) 797-4210 or Environet at (727) 367-3592.
    -- Julia Wilkins, Clearwater

    BayWalk shows what Clearwater needs

    Re: Plan will reward focused growth, Feb. 12 story.

    I had not been to downtown St. Petersburg at night in over two years. So when BayWalk opened, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

    My wife and I and another couple dined at Gratzzi's (reviewed by restaurant critic Chris Sherman) at St. Petersburg's new BayWalk facility.

    What a beautiful job they did on that complex reminiscent of Cocowalk in Miami. We dined and shopped and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

    But all I could think about was that BayWalk could have been in downtown Clearwater if the shortsighted critics of former City Manager Mike Roberto's plan had really understood the plan. Instead, thousands of "baby steps" like the redevelopment plan outlined will need to be enacted to bring even a minor change to the area.

    You will see that I am not a resident of Clearwater. I reside in Safety Harbor, another sleepy town in need of some redevelopment plans of our own. I spend my entertainment dollars throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. I enjoy Clearwater Beach, but there is no reason to go to Clearwater or Clearwater Beach after sundown.

    All I can say is Clearwater missed out on a chance of a lifetime!
    -- Mark Reinheimer, Safety Harbor

    Let taxpayers vote on street extension

    I don't understand how County Commissioner Calvin Harris can bypass and not listen to the homeowners who will be affected by the extension of 119th Street near Largo. I was not notified of this plan, nor were several other persons I spoke with at our meeting on Feb. 1 at the Highland Recreation Center.

    If Harris recalls, Mike Knotts drew up an excellent plan that pleased other commissioners and citizens both in and out of the Ridgecrest area. I understand that Harris was the only commissioner who objected. I'm sure that if he took a second look, he would find that there are several alternatives he could take in this matter.

    I did not move into my home to be three doors from an expressway. If I wanted that, I would have purchased one on Ulmerton Road or U.S. 19.

    Also, I have to think of my health. I have many allergies as well as asthma. Adding more traffic would greatly multiply the exhaust fumes that all persons adjacent to or near 16th Avenue SW would have to breathe. I doubt that I am the only one with allergies or asthma.

    Sixteenth Avenue is not large enough to handle the projected volume of traffic. To begin with, a survey should have been taken of all homeowners this would or could affect before Harris spoke affirmatively about it. Is he not supposed to represent all people and not just a select few?

    This is supposed to be America, built on a foundation of liberty and justice for all. Taxpaying citizens should have the opportunity to vote on a change as large and as important as this. From what I understand, the Penny for Pinellas has been greatly overspent. Where is the money coming from that is going to pay for this new plan?

    In the homeowners' meeting, I'm sure everyone got the same impression as I -- that this was already a done deal. Is this democracy? Or is this just a very big political disaster in our area that is about to happen?
    -- Hazel Carter, Largo

    Bells on bikes needed for safety

    My wife and I are residents of Island Estates and we love to take our daily walks either to the beach or the mainland. We have been doing this since I retired and we moved here from New Jersey.

    We do not object to bike riders, but when they approach us from the rear and pass us without warning, it is very frightening. We have had some very close mishaps.

    To remedy this situation and protect our safety, all we need is a warning that they are coming and would like to pass us -- a bell warning, for example. You could ask them to install one, but I fear that this would go unheeded.

    A better solution is to ask our city managers to make it mandatory that bells be installed on bicycles to warn pedestrians that they are being approached from the rear. We would gladly make room so they could pass.
    -- Vilma and Lou Cerbone, Clearwater

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