For those concerned about how Pinellas County will use the 8,000 acres of the Brooker Creek Preserve or the 878 acres of the adjoining Wilde property in the future, this is a big week.
Tuesday, six proposals related to the use of those properties will come before the County Commission. The public will have a chance to comment on land use and zoning changes that could dramatically affect the future of those properties and any others with water resources.
But the proposals to be presented to the commission and the public are already in flux.
The staff of the Pinellas Planning Council, guardians of a voter-approved countywide plan for land use, says the proposals have a basic structural problem.
The Planning Council staff says the proposals are inconsistent with the countywide plan. That means the proposals violate a Florida law that says the way land is used and any changes in use must agree with the countywide rules and land use map.
Even so, county government has decided to move ahead with the proposals as written and resolve the problems later, while the proposals are out for comment to half a dozen state and regional agencies.
Chris Mettler, a staff program planner, analyzed the county's proposals for consistency with the countywide plan. In an Oct. 14 letter to the county, he used the words "inconsistent" or "not consistent" to describe the county's proposals 13 times.
"It's a big thing," Mettler said. "It's a structural problem."
Mettler has suggested another way to provide for utility uses that is consistent with the countywide plan: a new land use category called "Resource Management Overlay" that would add utility uses to land with other underlying land use designations.
In the Brooker Creek Preserve, for example, the RMO category could be superimposed on preservation land to allow building whatever is needed to provide residents with potable water.
As in the county's proposal, the category would be further subdivided based on whether development would be limited to wellheads and associated structures or allow tall buildings like the proposed water blending plant.
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The county staff has worked with the Environmental Science Forum, the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve and others on land use changes that would allow utility uses over much of the preserve. At the request of the Friends group, the county staff recently dropped the option to pump preserve water to "reduce potable water demand," as was once proposed to water golf courses.
But one voice has consistently stood against the county's plan for changing the preserve's land use categories. As a 15-year-old, Mathew Poling was senior executive of the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve. He's now a freshman at the University of Florida.
"As I have stated numerous times, these amendments are NOT going to protect the Preserve, but rather allow its use in ways which are not currently permitted and were never intended," Poling wrote to county staff recently.
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Another Tuesday agenda item has drawn much opposition.
Residents of Old Keystone Road are livid about the county's proposal to change the land use designation on 100 acres of the Wilde wellfield to Recreation/Open Space so more recreation fields can be built on their rural road.
David Walker, the county's planning section manager, is also on the county's Local Planning Agency board, a group that advises the County Commission. He voted against the county's request for the land use change to allow recreation.
"It's meant to be preservation in that area, that was the intent," he said Friday. "The intensity of the recreation that was speculated in that vicinity was not appropriate given the proximity to the existing residential uses."
On Friday, David Healey, executive director of the Planning Council, said he had just met with the county's planning staff and he was satisfied that the county will do what is needed so its land use changes are consistent with the countywide rules and land use map.
"It's all going to get worked out," he said.
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.