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Chamber backs city's brownfields proposal

Calling it a step in the right direction for Largo's redevelopment strategy, the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce is supporting the brownfields area designation being recommended by the city's community development department. The chamber is recommending that city commissioners do the same when they meet on Tuesday.

Brownfields are abandoned, idle or underused industrial or commercial properties where the expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be impacted by real or perceived contamination. When these sites are rehabilitated and reused, the premature development of farmland, open space and natural areas is prevented, and the public cost for installing new water, sewer and highway infrastructure is reduced.

As proposed, Largo's brownfields area would include the city's two redevelopment districts — West Bay Drive and Clearwater Largo Road — in addition to a portion of the Missouri Avenue corridor. If the City Commission approves the designation, Largo would be added to a list of communities participating in the Pinellas County Brownfields program, including unincorporated Pinellas County and the cities of Belleair, Dunedin and Oldsmar, Lealman and Tarpon Springs.

On May 22, about 30 business representatives attended a business roundtable program facilitated by the chamber to discuss the brownfields proposal. According to chamber president Tom Morrissette, all in attendance agreed that the benefits of the designation were significant. These include financial incentives for the property owners ranging from tax incentives to loan guarantees.

"A deciding factor in our group's support of the plan is that property owners have the right to opt out if they chose not to participate," Morrissette said. "While the program is clearly a win-win, the preservation of property owner rights is a prevailing factor within the chamber organization."

He adds that the City Commission's action on the brownfields designation Tuesday will demonstrate its commitment to Largo's redevelopment efforts. "The incentives this program offers to businesses and developers could spark a new interest in our redevelopment districts, something the chamber and city leaders have been anxiously awaiting for years," Morrissette said.

The Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce is accepting nominations for its Citizen of the Year and Mac Norcross Small-Business Person of the Year awards.

These presentations will take place at the chamber's 56th annual banquet on Monday, Sept. 15 at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort, 1160 Gulf Blvd, Clearwater.

Citizen of the Year nominees must be living individuals who have focused attention on the Largo/Mid-Pinellas region that has brought acclaim or public notice; have outstanding achievement in community service; have a place of business in the Largo/Mid-Pinellas region; and have performed volunteer services to the community. Positions in national, state and local civic and nonprofit organizations will be considered.

Mac Norcross Small-Business Person of the Year nominees must own a locally operated independent or franchised business with 50 or fewer full-time employees and be an active member of the chamber. A commitment to the community, as demonstrated by contributions of personal time or resources, and a proven commitment to local small business must be demonstrated.

Nomination deadline is Aug. 20. For nomination forms or for more information about award criteria, call the chamber at (727) 584-2321 or e-mail tom@largochamber.org.

Chamber backs city's brownfields proposal 06/28/08 [Last modified: Sunday, June 29, 2008 1:23pm]
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