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    Commission: Look for another area to stop bus

    Clearwater officials aren't ready to okay a stop near proposed townhomes.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 14, 2000


    CLEARWATER -- Because city planners object to a bus terminal being built near proposed townhomes off Laura Street downtown, city commissioners asked the city staff on Monday to suggest alternative sites.

    Sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, which oversees downtown redevelopment projects, commissioners asked city planners to report back in January about possible bus station sites. They postponed making any decisions about the terminal until then.

    The issue was debated Monday because the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has asked commissioners to amend a 1995 downtown plan that designates the Laura Street area for future residential development.

    The plan has to be amended to allow a new bus terminal to be built anywhere downtown.

    The city's planning board, the Community Development Board, previously recommended against PSTA's bus terminal proposal off Laura Street and Greenwood Avenue.

    The PSTA already has filed a legal appeal of that board's recommendation with an administrative law judge. Then the agency went before the commission to seek its help Monday.

    "We don't understand how improving a public transportation system can adversely affect residents in your area," County Commissioner Calvin Harris, who leads the PSTA's board, told commissioners.

    Other witnesses for the PSTA said the proposed bus site had been the location of six failed housing proposals -- demonstrating the land was more suited to the suggested terminal.

    On the other side, city planners and an attorney for nearby property owners, including City Commissioner Bob Clark, argued the terminal would trash nearby property values and inhibit efforts to redevelop downtown. Clark has recused himself from any decisions on the issue. However, city planners backed away from the argument that the PSTA bus station would create more police problems than other public places downtown.

    Planning Director Ralph Stone said his staff still thinks the PSTA should improve its existing site off Park Street and Garden Avenue.

    Faced with both arguments, commissioners asked city staff members again to try to work with PSTA to resolve the long-festering dispute.

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