Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooker Creek | Redefining preserve

Pinellas plan would tap Brooker Creek Preserve for water

A six-story industrial building on lands set aside for wildlife, nature appreciation and protection of well fields? Most people would say that's not their idea of a preserve. But changes the county is proposing, wrapped up in a new management plan for the Brooker Creek Preserve, would allow buildings up to 65 feet tall on 260 preserve acres north of Keystone Road. It would allow other well field development activities, such as installing pipes and pumps, over larger swaths of the preserve mostly south of Keystone Road. And preserve water could be pumped to reduce potable water demand, as the county once proposed to water golf courses in East Lake Woodlands.

The county says the use is consistent with its comprehensive plan, a plan that outlines the types of growth that can occur in the unincorporated areas of the county.

But there's another plan, the Countywide Future Land Use Plan, that also outlines what types of uses are appropriate where for the entire county. By law, the plans of local governments and the county's comprehensive plan must be consistent with the uses allowed in the countywide plan.

The county says a utility plant in the preserve is consistent with the countywide plan, too, which labels the entire preserve as "preservation" land.

Some say land use questions are open to interpretation.

But others say a half-dozen or so buildings already built in the preserve, such as a hydrogen sulfide removal facility and a chemical storage building, should not have been built on land designated as preservation, because the use is inconsistent with the Countywide Future Land Use Plan, rules and map.

The countywide plan is unique to Pinellas County.

After a building boom in the 1970s outpaced public services, the county had too much sewage and not enough potable water. So in 1973, the Florida Legislature mandated that the Pinellas Planning Council create a countywide plan to manage growth and control development.

The Countywide Future Land Use Plan was adopted in 1974, and a charter amendment of 1988 requires that the comprehensive plans of individual cities and county government be consistent with the countywide plan.

According to Pinellas County Historical Background, a book the county's planning staff published in 1995, the Brooker Creek Preserve was purchased for $41-million over 10 years "to preserve the Brooker Creek area as a rare example of Pinellas County wilderness."

In the new vision, county officials want to make sure they can build whatever they need to take care of future water needs. And they say that is consistent with their comprehensive plan as well as the preservation category of the countywide plan.

The Pinellas Planning Council advises county commissioners on land use decisions and reviews the comprehensive plans of local governments and the county.

In three letters and e-mails over the past two years, the planning council has told the county that its plan was inconsistent with the countywide plan in regard to the Brooker Creek Preserve.

Dave Healey, planning council executive director, met with the county's planning staff and County Administrator Fred Marquis on Monday and said Marquis agreed that an amendment to the countywide plan would be needed.

When told that the county planning staff, later that afternoon, had said amendments to the countywide plan are not really required, but were being done for clarification, Healey expressed surprise.

"They can say that, but their own actions say differently," he said. "And that's the reason that they have developed and they are pursuing a management plan that is clear as to its needs and objectives."

And that's all the planning council ever wanted, Healey said. "Let's be up front about what is proposed and allowed, and go through the proper process."

Marquis said, "The important thing is not actions that have been taken in the past, that's open to public opinion, but to protect the preserve in the future."

Land use law is not black and white but often gray and open to interpretation, said Clearwater lawyer Ed Armstrong.

But for environmental activist Mathew Poling of East Lake, 18, elected senior executive of the Friends of Brooker Creek at age 15, the issue is clear.

"It's like a blank check," he said, that the county can cash with whatever it wants in the preserve.

"It's a preserve. It should be left alone," he said. "If some utility project is needed, it should only be if absolutely necessary, and after the public has had a chance to comment."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

>>If you go

Meeting today

A proposed update to the Brooker Creek Preserve Management Plan is the second of two items in a commission work session from 9:30 a.m. to noon today. It would create two areas over large parts of the Brooker Creek Preserve that allow utility uses and it would allow pumping to reduce potable water demand. The commission could vote on the management plan at its Aug. 19 meeting, but the land use portion will require a series of public hearings. To see the plan, go to www.pinellascounty.org/Environment/pagesHTML/BCPmngmtWeb/bcpm500.html.

Is a water plant consistent?

Here's what the countywide rules say about the primary uses allowed on preservation land: "Open and undeveloped areas consistent with the following natural resource features and considerations: Tidal Wetlands including Saltwater Marsh, Saltwater Swamp, Estuary; Non-Tidal Wetlands including Freshwater Swamps, Freshwater Marsh, Lacustrine River and Stream; Undeveloped Barrier Islands and Spoil Islands; 25-year Floodplains; Natural Drainageways; Land Seaward of a seawall or revetment; Beach Areas; Dune Systems; Habitat for endangered or threatened species as designated on applicable local government comprehensive plans; and such additional areas determined to have environmental significance and recognized in the applicable local government comprehensive plan."

Pinellas plan would tap Brooker Creek Preserve for water 08/06/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2008 2:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say

    Crime

    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    Adeiny Hechavarria is quick to make his presence felt.
  3. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  4. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    UF’s Tyler Dyson delivers against LSU in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2. Go to tampabay.com/sports.
  5. Plant City police searching for drive-by shooter

    News

    PLANT CITY — Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in an early morning drive-by shooting outside a home.

    John J. Keeper, 49, was shot in the thigh in a drive-by shooting early Tuesday outside this home at 516 E Laura St. in Plant City. [Hillsborough County Property Appraiser]