Environmentalists and commissioners all but danced with glee at Tuesday's County Commission meeting over a pending charter amendment that will give voters more control over environmental lands.
"Looking forward to putting this one to bed," said Commissioner Susan Latvala, who first proposed an ordinance to protect environmental lands. "We can all be very proud that this has been accomplished."
But it's not quite to bed yet, because the commission couldn't vote Tuesday.
First, the county will have to advertise the amendment with changes proposed by the Friends of Brooker Creek, supported by county staff and now supported by commissioners. Then the commission can vote on it at the Aug. 19 meeting. And the amendment would be on the November ballot.
The charter amendment will require voter approval before county officials can sell environmental land in the Brooker Creek, Mobbly Bayou, Shell Key and Weedon Island preserves and in 15 other management areas throughout the county. As the Friends of Brooker Creek requested, the restrictions will also require a referendum before the county can lease or license environmental lands for more than 10 years.
Representatives of the county's Environmental Science Forum, the Friends of Brooker Creek, as well as St. Petersburg environmental activist Lorraine Margeson, who suggested a charter amendment, spoke in favor of the amendment.
"I thank you truly, from my heart, for listening to the citizens of this great county," Margeson said to the commissioners. "Let's get it done."
Commissioner Bob Stewart had asked staff to clarify the language voters will read on the ballot and he liked the new ballot language.
"Even I understand this question now," Stewart said to Dennis Long, the county attorney who worked on the amendment.
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.