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Growth defines District 2 race

The three candidates in the city’s developing northern edge emphasize managing growth, as well as water issues.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2001

A closer look at the candidates for City Council and mayor in St. Petersburg.
ST. PETERSBURG -- While candidates in other parts of the city talk about encouraging redevelopment, candidates for City Council District 2 on the city's northern, still-developing edge are debating how fast the area should grow.

All three candidates are emphasizing growth management, as well as water and more general quality-of-life issues.

Candidates John Bryan, William J. Griswold and Craig Patrick sometimes offer specific ideas about dealing with these interrelated, often murky subjects, but more frequently approach them with a general philosophy.

As Tuesday's primary election approaches, the contenders have drawn some distinctions among themselves about growth, particularly as it affects their district in far north St. Petersburg.

The city consistently has expanded its boundaries in that area by annexing small chunks of land during the past 15 to 20 years.

The district also includes the flourishing Gateway and Carillon business areas.

Bryan, a former builder, prefers what he calls annual "quality growth" of perhaps one-half of 1 percent of the city's population to increase the tax base.

He said there are "hundreds of ways" to encourage such growth but does not go far into specifics. He does suggest that making the city a better place to live through such things as improved parks and better advertising would attract new residents.

"We're not built out," Bryan said. He would encourage building in an area just south of downtown between Tampa Bay and Tropicana Field. It could be accomplished by building on existing vacant land and by replacing old housing with new, he said.

Reinvestment in historical buildings is also a way to make the tax base grow, said Bryan. If elected, he would make the permitting process easier for property owners.

"I want to ask the mayor to form a blue-ribbon panel to look at all the city construction services and report back," Bryan said.

Griswold and Patrick are less enthusiastic about growth, but neither characterizes himself as a no-growth proponent.

"Ninety percent of the people in District 2 want neighborhood improvements," Patrick said. "They don't want a mass influx of people coming in. They want to maintain the high quality of life they have."

A public relations executive, Patrick said he wants "resource-efficient growth" based on attracting clean industry in the fields of technology, marine science and bio-medicine. As a council member, he said he would push for a marketing campaign to bring in such businesses.

"As eager as we are to grow . . . you also have to be very careful," Patrick said, saying the city should have been more cautious before putting up for sale a 122-acre parcel in north St. Petersburg known as the sod farm. He also is concerned that the state "seems to be in the process of deconstructing the growth-management plan."

Griswold, a retired Air Force sergeant who has served on City Council, says growth is inevitable.

"But I don't think it has to be outlandish, and it has to be managed properly," he said. He isn't specific about how that should be done, but he, too, worries about the Legislature dismantling the state's growth-management laws. He would encourage city government to lobby against the possibility.

Griswold supports "some kind of tax incentives" for business growth and says redevelopment of the downtown retail core will help relieve other taxpayers' burdens.

As a council member, he says he also would vote for keeping as much open space as possible, citing Clam Bayou near 37th Street S and Weedon Island in far northeast St. Petersburg as examples of good preservation areas.

On other issues:

Water. All three candidates support regional water management. Patrick has called for a graduated fee so bigger water users would get higher bills. Griswold believes desalinization is "the bottom line" in solving shortage problems. Bryan favors using reclaimed water every other day to enable more residents to use it.

Quality of life. Increased traffic has been a result of District 2 growth, Griswold said, and he favors trolleys and better bus service. He would like to be appointed to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority so he could help oversee transportation policy.

Patrick said the city's biggest challenge is an economic and racial divide. He said he would work to bridge that gap by supporting incentives for businesses offering jobs and training, by working with colleges to improve educational opportunities and by offering city-owned buildings for training.

Bryan has said he will push for dog parks and sidewalks set aside for joggers and cyclists, in-ground skate parks and other enhancements to make parks more attractive to youngsters.

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