Officials are hoping the proposed Largo Towne Center will not only be a place for citizens to shop and dine, but also to gather for city events.
But use of the space won't be free. According to a plan discussed at Tuesday's City Commission meeting, the city would pay $40,000 annually to hold events at the new shopping plaza.
And given the difficult financial times, that's making some people angry.
During a public hearing Tuesday, Largo resident Geoff Moakley said he doesn't understand why the city has to pay to use the gathering space.
"It's not the city's responsibility to provide public entertainment for a private organization," Moakley said. "Largo Towne Center should be paying the city of Largo for providing the entertainment."
Moakley said he also was concerned the city may hire a part-time worker to help run the entertainment events.
According to the proposed agreement between the city and the center's developers, K.B. Crossroads LLC and Weingarten Realty Investors, the city would pay $25,000 in operating expenses and spend $15,000 for an employee. The funds would come from the 2010 budget.
Commissioners said exact details are still being worked out. Largo City Manager Norton "Mac" Craig noted that there is a possibility the city's recreation, parks and art department, which will run events at the center, may use one of its existing staff members to handle events at the center instead of hiring someone new.
Despite the concerns, commissioners approved the operating and programming agreement for city-sponsored events held at the center, which will be located at Roosevelt Boulevard and U.S. 19.
Under the agreement, the center and the city will share responsibilities during city-sponsored events. The city will be responsible for any damages that occur during the events and will be expected to hold at least one public event each month.
The city also has been asked to follow a series of agreements, such as providing security when necessary to control public nuisances; not using any hazardous substances or explosives (including fireworks) during community-sponsored events; and not allowing any sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Commissioner Harriet Crozier said she had some concerns about the contract, saying it should include an exit strategy in case the city wants to rethink its position in the future.
"At some point, if we keep going the way we're going with the state limiting our funding sources," Crozier said, "we may find that we do need to consider that."