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Lealman will hand over pride plan

On Monday, county commissioners will see on paper an incorporated effort to improve an unincorporated area suffering from neglect.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001

LEALMAN -- Since late last year, a group of residents has been dreaming about the unincorporated area's future.

This week, they bring that vision to the Pinellas County Commission with the hope that the members will like their proposed plan enough to pay for it.

"We know that the commissioners want to do this for us. They've all voiced that individually," said Ray Neri, head of the Lealman Community Association. "We're looking forward to future projects with the county to get this area (improved)."

Momentum for revitalizing Lealman began gaining ground last November during a community meeting with county representatives. Neighbors complained about too few fire hydrants and street lights and high crime rates.

The county sent members of its planning department to work with residents to create a plan to improve Lealman.

This portion of unincorporated Pinellas County is located roughly between Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg. Its eastern boundary begins around Interstate 275 and extends west as far as Park Street. Kenneth City splits the larger Lealman area into east Lealman and west Lealman.

Revitalization efforts will focus on the eastern side, particularly the area bounded on the north by 62nd Avenue N and on the south by 40th Avenue N. The eastern boundary is 49th Street N. The western edge is split between 55th and 58th streets N.

That's the neediest area, said Frank Bowman of the Pinellas County Community Development Department.

To better inform their judgments, residents walked the area talking to people and taking notes on what they saw. They also visited other cities and communities to take pictures of things they would want to emulate in Lealman.

The proposal is still in draft form.

"It's basically a framework on which we'll do things," Bowman said.

The point of Monday's meeting is to give commissioners a chance to see the proposal and talk among themselves about the plan. The next step will be to finalize the proposal, which is scheduled to come before the commission for approval on July 17, Bowman said.

Then comes the real work of setting priorities and developing programs. Those programs likely will be in the county's 2002 budget, Bowman said.

Among the plan's goals:

Develop and publish a historical pamphlet for use in the schools and to distribute at restaurants and businesses

Identify and mark all homes and other structures erected before 1920.

Work with the Post Office to change the community's mailing address to "Lealman" -- rather than using the nearest city -- while retaining the same ZIP code.

Help property owners find low-cost loans or grants to improve the appearance of homes and rental property.

Focus code enforcement on substandard rental property to force investor owners to maintain it.

Encourage owners to improve properties by educating them, helping those who need it and rewarding those who keep their homes in good condition.

Promote youth activities, parks and recreation in the area. Hold festivals and other events that celebrate Lealman and its residents.

Find ways to use the land along Joe's Creek and the former Frontier Recycling property for trails, paths and green space.

When the new fire station is built, think about using the existing building as offices for social service providers. Those providers should include such programs as Social Security, Neighborly Senior Services, the Lealman Family Center and a medical clinic.

Work with the county to have the Mobile Dental and Health units make regular calls in the Lealman area.

Work on getting sidewalks.

Ask the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to put a substation in Lealman.

Strengthen the local Crime Watch program.

Work with the county and the city of St. Petersburg to get more fire hydrants where they're needed.

Continue collecting signatures on petitions for street lights.

If you go

Pinellas County commissioners are scheduled this week to consider two issues facing Lealman. They'll get their first look at a draft of the Lealman revitalization plan during a workshop at 9:30 a.m. Monday. The next day, at a 9:45 a.m. meeting, they'll consider a petition to install street lights in one section of Lealman. Both meetings will be held in the commission chambers at the courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.

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