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    Letters to the Editors

    Clearwater has opportunity to preserve property for park

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2000

    In Clearwater we have an opportunity to "improve our environmental habits," as Dale Twachtman, former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Regulation, was so fond of saying: "The way to protect the environment is for each of us to improve our environmental habits."

    On Dec. 12, the Clearwater City Commission will be asked to vote on the future of a property that is for sale and for which the developer has requested rezoning and land use changes. The property is part of the area considered a gateway to Clearwater. Located in a community called Bayview, off Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard east of U.S. 19, the parcel is locally known as the Conley property.

    The Conley property is an undeveloped, relatively pristine 4.5-acre parcel. Located on the property, according to Florida Archaeological Report No. 8P17 dated April 15, 1999, are prehistoric Indian artifacts, burial mounds and middens dating from 1700 A.D. to 5000 B.C., as well as homes dating before the bayfront hamlet was founded in 1872 by Capt. James McMullen. There are more than 100 mature oak trees with more than a few trees going back more than 200 years. These oaks constitute the last remnants of the great tree canopy that once existed in Clearwater.

    The developer is, after having been rejected once before, again requesting a rezoning and land use change from residential to commercial to allow the construction of a seven-story office tower now estimated at 78,000 square feet with parking for more than 385 cars.

    The development plan intends for the great majority of these beautiful oaks to be destroyed. Along with these trees, gone forever, would be the prehistoric Indian artifacts, burial mounds and middens, as well as historic buildings. The footprint of the building would cover about 2.5 acres, parking an additional 1.5 acres, leaving only one-half acre for setbacks and legally required buffer zones.

    The homeowners are deeply concerned about preserving the natural resources, aesthetic character and social and economic integrity of their neighborhood. Such rezoning does not advance the health, safety and welfare of our community. It would be perceived as an arbitrary rezoning decision that merely provides for individual benefit without a relationship to public benefit.

    There are those who recognize this and it is to their credit. The Planning and Zoning Board turned down such a rezoning in 1999. Several city committees (Beautification, Parks and Recreation, and Environmental Advisory) voted unanimously in 1999 to retain the land as a park with the possibility of an environmental learning center.

    Please, elected officials and city staff, help us enhance the quality of our lives and manage well what remaining natural resources we have. Let us stop redundant development and unnecessary land conversions; help us preserve our neighborhoods and conserve our dwindling natural resources. Please vote no on the rezoning and land use changes for Bayview.
    -- B. Thomason, Largo

    Stadium deal outweighs strikes against it

    Let us get this straight.

    The vast majority of Clearwater residents want to keep their longstanding relationship with the Phillies. We need a new stadium because the old field, Jack Russell Stadium, while quaint, is getting to the point where it needs major renovations and could be dangerous. Plus, the Phillies desire a more visible location and access to major highways.

    Our city leaders negotiate a deal that gives us, essentially, a more than $20-million stadium for only about $3-million in city funds. The rest will be paid from state funds and by tourists who visit us. Pretty good deal.

    But there's one catch.

    The site for the stadium (which is free, by the way, saving taxpayers anywhere from $3-million to $5-million in land purchase costs) happens to be near (not on top of, but separated from by a large parking lot and a line of trees) a neighborhood that is, by its own account, in turmoil.

    They don't like people cutting through their neighborhood in cars. Okay, that can be fixed. But mainly, they are afraid of sinkholes -- naturally occurring sinkholes. Not much can be done about them, frankly, but could city officials pull some strings with state officials to help residents get better insurance against sinkholes? Then it would be a win-win situation for everyone.

    And that is why we should scrap a new stadium for the Phillies?
    -- David and Sheri Schneider, Clearwater

    Take away their sand toys

    Re: Agency envisions Super sculpture, Nov. 22 story.

    Because of the election chaos, our friends and neighbors can't seem to agree about anything -- at least not until the super sand sculpture for Sand Key Park in Clearwater was announced.

    We can't imagine how our county tourism bureau, in good conscience, can appropriate $623,000 for a super sand sculpture that will exist for five days and then be destroyed. We think it is fiscally irresponsible to spend so much money for such a short-lived attraction that 99 percent of us will never see.
    -- Herbert G. Sendall, Palm Harbor

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