Pinellas County voters approved a county charter amendment on environmental lands Tuesday, with about 70 percent favoring the measure.
The amendment requires a voter referendum before the County Commission can sell land in county-owned preserves or management areas, remove the environmental lands designation from those properties or lease them for more than 10 years.
After the county proposed projects like ballfields in the Brooker Creek Preserve, St. Petersburg activist Lorraine Margeson led the call for a charter amendment.
"We hope that this change in the law is a model for the state of Florida," Margeson said. "Although it's not perfection, it's a paradigm shift in terms of voter purview in decisionmaking on preserving the environment."
Critics say the measure does not limit how the county itself uses environmental lands. They point to how the county is pursuing land use changes that will allow utility uses over much of the Brooker Creek Preserve, even though the changes are not consistent with the countywide land use plan and land use map. Consistency is required by Florida law.
The charter amendment applies to 19 county environmental properties: the Brooker Creek, Shell Key, Weedon Island and Mobbly Bayou preserves and the Allen's Creek, Alligator Lake, Anclote Islands, Cabbage Key, Cow Branch, East Lake, Joe's Creek, King Islands, Lake Seminole, Lake Tarpon, Lake Tarpon West, Long Branch, Mariner's Point, Ozona and Travatine Island management areas.
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.