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Redevelopment plan going before voters

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 19, 2000

CLEARWATER -- The City Commission voted 4-to-1 late Thursday to put a sweeping downtown redevelopment plan valued at $200-million to $300-million to a public vote this summer.

The proposed downtown plan -- now to be decided in a July 11 referendum -- would create 1,200 new dwelling units, a multiplex cinema, more retail shops, more park space, new restaurants, a hotel with meeting space and at least three new downtown parking garages. The package would require the city to lease some of its waterfront land to developers George de Guardiola and David Frisbie of West Palm Beach for $1 a year for up to 99 years.

Under the tentative terms of a deal with the developers, property taxes created from new development would help fund a host of public improvements, such as an expanded bayfront park.

The developers would build many public projects and promise to maintain public areas of the city's bayfront. The developers would be reimbursed by property taxes from downtown redevelopment.

Broward educator is Teacher of the Year

ORLANDO -- Joseph Balchunus, a fourth-grade teacher at Fairway Elementary in Broward County, was honored Thursday as the 2001 Florida Teacher of the Year.

Balchunus was chosen from among more than 130,000 teachers statewide. Among the finalists were two Tampa Bay area teachers, James Manos of Lecanto Middle School in Citrus County and Anete Vasquez of Palm Harbor University High School.

The award brings a $10,000 check courtesy of Burdines. Balchunus' school will receive $1,000. The finalists each received $5,000.

Manos, 50, is the technology teacher at Lecanto Middle. Vasquez, 32, began her teaching career at Lecanto Middle School. She now teaches English.

Two hospitalized after flash fire

CLEARWATER -- Two women remained hospitalized Thursday with burns sustained when butane in a table-side stove ignited at a Clearwater restaurant.

Seven people were injured in the flash fire at the Melting Pot at 225822 U.S. 19 N. Betty Preston and Diane Wisniewski, whose ages and addresses were unavailable, were in good condition in the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital. The other diners were treated for minor injuries.

Clearwater Fire Marshal Randy Hinder said a portable butane stove was being used at a table seating 18 people because an electric one was not working.

The flame on the stove went out and could not be reignited. The butane cylinder was turned off, but some butane was apparently trapped in the stove. The trapped gas exploded, he said. The butane cylinder was dislodged, and vented gas ignited in a flash fire, Hinder said.

Art raffle to benefit Bayflite victims' families

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Thomas Kinkade Beach Drive Gallery will raffle off a lithograph to benefit the families of three people killed last month in the crash of a Bayflite helicopter. The gallery is donating "A Peaceful Time," a framed canvas by Thomas Kinkade that depicts a cottage in Ireland and a winding road. Tickets are $5 each, or five for $20. The proceeds will be given to the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation to benefit the families of those killed.

Killed in the April 25 crash were pilot Mark Wallace, flight nurse Alicia Betita-Collins and paramedic Erik Hangartner.

Raffle tickets are available at the gallery, at 202 Beach Drive NE in St. Petersburg.

Description of car used in shooting released

TAMPA -- Police have released a description of a car driven by two suspects in a shooting May 12 that left one man dead.

Police are looking for a red, two-door, compact car, possibly a Nissan or Datsun, with substantial damage to the front end and right side, police spokesman Joseph Durkin said. The driver is suspected of ramming another car, a Cadillac, from behind until it pulled over to the side of Memorial Highway near Tampa International Airport about 10 p.m. After the occupants of the two vehicles got out of their cars, someone pulled a gun and chased the husband and wife who had been in the Cadillac into some woods bordering an airport office park. A wig was found next to the body, and police think it belonged to the killer. The victim, 37-year-old Michael L. Sanders, was found in some bushes near a parking lot.

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