EAST LAKE — Scenic neighborhoods. Small businesses. Ample places to boat and fish.
Those are some of the features East Lake residents want to preserve in their unincorporated community.
This week, neighborhood leaders showcased two key efforts to keep those features and to maintain the community's borders.
"We all have the same idea of why we moved here, and we want to preserve it," said John Little, a resident who attended the meeting held by the Council of North County Neighborhoods.
One of the efforts is a proposed state bill modeled after the "all or nothing" legislation passed in 2009 for Tierra Verde. It would require a city to annex all of East Lake, with voter approval, or none of it.
An attempt to pass a similar bill for East Lake, which has about 33,000 residents, failed in the state Legislature last year. But bill sponsor Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, said it has a better chance of passing this time because it allows voluntary annexation by property owners and includes a 10-year expiration provision.
Another effort spearheaded by neighborhood leaders is called a community overlay. It would define the East Lake Tarpon community's boundaries, which generally match the fire district boundaries, and outline policies to keep the community much the way it is today.
Council president Don Ewing said the overlay would help guide county leaders.
"It's your way of communicating and saying these are the parameters we want you to consider when you make decisions about our area," Ewing told more than 50 residents who attended Monday's meeting at Fire Station 57.
John Miolla, the council's first vice president, said the overlay has had strong community support. But he wants more feedback to make sure it encompasses the vision of the whole community.
The overlay basically summarizes the community's vision as a chiefly family-oriented residential area and some of its core values, such as preserving Brooker Creek Preserve and Lake Tarpon.
Little said he liked the idea of the overlay, but he questioned why it wasn't more specific.
Brian Smith, the county's planning director, Tuesday said framing objectives more broadly helps make overlays more inclusive.
"If you get it real detailed, everybody may not buy into it," Smith said.
There are a number community overlays throughout the county and so far three have been approved in unincorporated Pinellas, including Tierra Verde, Ozona and an area near Alderman and Belcher roads.
Smith said the purpose of overlays varies from community to community. For example, he said, parts of Ozona's overlay recognize the community's heritage, while Alderman's expresses the community's desire to stay mostly rural.
Neighborhood leaders plan to submit East Lake's overlay to the county planning department in April. After that, it will go to county commissioners and, if approved, it would be adopted into the comprehensive plan.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155.