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County will start study of repairing or replacing Dunedin bridge

The Dunedin drawbridge leads to Honeymoon Island State Park.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2006)

The Dunedin drawbridge leads to Honeymoon Island State Park.

DUNEDIN — Pinellas County is gearing up to study options for repairing or replacing the drawbridge that leads to Honeymoon Island State Park.

The causeway reached its 50-year estimated useful life in 2013, so county officials in 2009 tried to get a head start by doing a routine feasibility study, which recommended a new bridge.

But to get federal funding for the project, the county has to hire consultants and embark on yet another study using federal guidelines.

The findings of the new report — which will examine things such as channel and alignment data, environmental factors and boat traffic plus cultural, community and historical features — will replace those of the previous study, said David Talhouk, an engineer with Pinellas County's Department of Environment & Infrastructure.

The goal, he said, is to preserve functions that the structure currently performs for Dunedin. For example, Talhouk said, the Dunedin Causeway is unique in that it's a state highway bordered on both sides by residences, businesses and miles of beach that effectively double as an extension of a major state park.

During a presentation Thursday before city commissioners and residents, Talhouk fielded questions and attempted to assuage fears about displaced recreation, aesthetics and more.

Ultimately, he said, the alternatives could range from continued repairs aimed at extending the bridge's useful life, to complete replacement with either another drawbridge or a fixed span.

"All things are on the table," Talhouk said, urging residents to get involved in the process, which will include a series of town hall meetings and could take three or more years.

"This is going to be an interactive process," he said. "It's all about formation and collaboration to come up with the best alternative we can all live with. That's what this process is about: public involvement and participation."

City commissioners will appoint residents to serve on a committee that will act as the "eyes and ears" for residents throughout the process.

Also on Thursday ...

• Commissioners gave the tentative green light to a "chronic nuisance" ordinance that would force banks and homeowners to either clean up neglected rental or homesteaded properties and those in long-term foreclosure, or risk losing the homes.

Right now, the city staff says, banks and owners tend to ignore local code enforcement liens, which are subordinate to the mortgage on a property and are unenforceable on homesteaded properties.

Under the proposed ordinance, a property with repeated code violations would be deemed a chronic nuisance and would be required to create a corrective action plan. If the city had to take action, city cleanup costs would be added to the home's tax bill.

The ordinance could also be used to crack down on residential and commercial properties that are the subject of multiple instances of criminal activity.

City commissioners applauded the measure, along with Alan Smith, a Michigan Boulevard resident who complained that he constantly has to call police and has poured thousands of dollars into home improvements to counteract blight and block out noise from rowdy neighbors.

A second public hearing and final vote is set for April 17.

• The commission unanimously approved rezoning and final design plans for Glenn Moor, a new subdivision of 23 single-family homes slated for Michigan Boulevard, just east of Pinehurst Road.

• The speed limit on Michigan Boulevard and Pinehurst Road will be lowered to 30 mph.

Amid complaints about speeding, city traffic engineers conducted studies which found that roughly 85 percent of motorists on both roads actually travel below the speed limit. However, city staff says lowering the limit will reduce passing and encourage everyone to travel the same speed.

Pinellas deputies will check for speeding.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or ksummers@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

County will start study of repairing or replacing Dunedin bridge 04/04/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 4, 2014 7:33pm]

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