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Relocated culinary festival has surprisingly slim turnout

By MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2000


UNIVERSITY NORTH -- This year's Taste of New Tampa received a dose of old wisdom about fixing something that isn't broken.

After last year's event outgrew the site at Arbor Greene, organizers decided to move the annual culinary festival indoors to University Mall, about the only location with enough parking to handle the expected crowd.

But shifting out of the heart of New Tampa seemingly backfired as fewer than 2,500 people showed up at Sunday's event, about half the 5,000 estimated to have attended last year's gathering.

"I think there was some resistance to that," one of the festival's organizers, Todd Wiener, said of the new location. "Also we moved the time from Saturday morning to Sunday evening. I think people need to get used to that, or we will evaluate that."

Wiener said despite the smaller showing, the festival raised nearly $10,000 to be divided among six New Tampa public schools, two scholarships and the university area community center.

The mall closed early Sunday to accommodate the festival.

HARTline offered free shuttle buses up and down Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, but Wiener said few people took advantage of the service. HARTline did not have the estimated number of riders available.

"I think there were few" riders, Wiener said. "Probably have to publicize the stops a little more and organize party groups."

Those who made the trip had fun despite the new time and location.

"When people run out of food, that's when you know they had a lot of people there," said Lori Andino, marketing director of University Mall. "There was food to the end, but some of the restaurants did run out. People did come and enjoy themselves."

-- Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472 or sandler@sptimes.com. @0987$temp$

$STPT$ ID: +

Paper: Date: 5/12/00 +

Page: 9 Section: NORTH OF TAMPA +

Byline: JACKIE RIPLEY

Notes:

KEYSTONE -- Opponents of a controversial proposal to sell open county land to a developer were again out-voted by supporters who like the deal because an equestrian center would be part of the bargain

But the nays were definitively vocal.

"It's a pure and simple railroad," said Keystone resident Warren Nelms as he walked out of the Keystone Park center where about 80 had gathered for Monday's meeting between residents and county officials. The meeting might be opponents last chance to speak out against the deal. Their talk was hastily arranged at the urging of County Commissioner Jim Norman, who persuaded his fellow commissioners last month to postpone a decision on the land deal until May 17 so they could hear from residents.

Local developer Bill Bishop wants to buy 112 acres of vacant county land for a subdivision east of Race Track Road and south of Mobley Road. He would pay the county $1,412,500 and throw in 22 acres to the south on which he would build an equestrian center to house the county-run Bakus Center. The program for disabled riders would move from its current location at Lake Park in Lutz.

Because of the land-swap component, officials say the county is allowed to negotiate directly with Bishop instead of putting the land out for bid, the normal process for selling public land.

The deal has languished for months. Some area residents oppose it because the property Bishop wants is part of about 1,500 acres county commissioners two years ago declared would be set aside for public use and a buffer against development in the northwest

However, a show of hands near the end of Monday night's meeting indicated most favored the deal.

"A group of people in Keystone don't represent me," said Robert Watkins, who lives on Davis Islands but owns property in Keystone. He was referring to Keystone Civic Association leaders.

Assistant County Administrator Pat Bean was directed by the commission to hold a meeting to gather more community input about the deal, which has never been the subject of a fully noticed public hearing before the full commission.

The county's water, real estate and parks departments recommend the deal. County commissioners will have the final say.

Keystone resident Jim Swain, a critic of the proposal, said those in favor of the deal are "making us out to be ogres" by suggesting opponents have no sympathy for disabled children.

Keystone resident Tom Aderhold called the riding center element "kind of like a Trojan horse," a way of getting the land swap loophole and making the deal appear to be primarily about helping children.

Aderhold also suggested that the land Bishop would give up is otherwise almost worthless to him. The 22-acre property, of which 11 acres is a pond and several are in a Florida Power right-of-way, abuts a county sewage treatment plant. But backers keep citing the value of a larger county-subsidized horseback riding program for disabled children.

"My son can't wave bye-bye. He'll never drive a car. He'll never date," said Pasco County resident Dave Heflin. "This is a public use of this land."


-- Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 226-3468 or ripley@sptimes.com.

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