By ANDREW MEACHAM
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 9, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- A contentious meeting Wednesday pitted Old Southeast board members against next-door neighborhood Tropical Shores. The question was what, if anything, is there to do with Lassing Park? The neighbors' hour and 15 minutes together resulted in one agreement -- to meet again.
Tropical Shores members want to consider adding sidewalks, lighting, historical markers and other amenities to the park, which borders both neighborhoods along Tampa Bay from 15th Avenue SE to 22nd Avenue SE. The northwest corner of Tropical Shores, a peninsula, touches Lassing Park at 22nd Avenue SE.
Members of the Old Southeast, which sits due west of the park to Fourth Street, and from Salt Creek on the north end to 25th Avenue S, overwhelmingly oppose the changes, according to preliminary results from an informal survey distributed by association president Donald Bartlett. A landscape architect, acting on Tropical Shores' request to show some of the possible alterations, never showed up at the meeting.
A judge donated Lassing Park to the city in 1924. The gift included an understanding that the city of St. Petersburg would erect "no buildings other than necessary for park purposes," according to a citation included in the survey. Some Old Southeast board members argued that modifying the park with sidewalks or lighting would betray that agreement.
But more than anything, they wished that somebody from Tropical Shores would have consulted them first before making plans to improve the park.
"The way I felt was as if my neighbors had decided my sister's face could be improved by plastic surgery," said J. Ortega-Rand of 1361/2 17th Ave. SE. "I didn't know my sister's face needed improvement."
Ortega-Rand said board members were not told of the Tropical Shores plans until March.
"At our last board meeting, jaws dropped," he said. "They didn't know some architect was going to be drawing plans."
The meeting ended with an agreement to resume discussions.
At Lassing Park, Anthony Pirolo, 28, said he could do with a few more amenities.
"I'm not saying build houses on it," said Pirolo, a two-year homeowner at the Old Southeast address of 1817 Beach Drive. "But maybe a snack stand and some sidewalks for people to walk on -- even a little parking lot so people could park and go to the beach -- would make it a little more pleasant, definitely."
Jim Youmans, 74, of 2324 Sunrise Drive SE in Tropical Shores, said he sees no need for sidewalks or lighting in a park that closes half an hour after sundown.
"I do see a reason to enforce the dog leash law," he said, a Schnauzer tugging at the leash in his own hand. "You can't come down here without dogs being loose. They ought to do that rather than worry about the other things."