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Dunedin citizens group wants Alt. U.S. 19 rerouted off Edgewater Drive

DUNEDIN — Alt. U.S. 19 would be rerouted and an "eyesore" of a mansion would be bulldozed to make way for waterfront parking under a citizen advisory group's long-term plan to improve Edgewater Drive.

The Edgewater Drive Advisory Committee's ideas also include trimming the mangroves that threaten to block the public's view of the waterfront, adding multiple beautification and safety features to the city's Edgewater Linear Park, and updating city codes to reinforce things like maximum building heights and how close to the street developers can build.

The plan calls for Dunedin to work with the state and Clearwater to remove the two-lane drive's Alt. U.S. 19 federal highway designation — a move they say would help alleviate hangups caused by through traffic mingling with locals.

The group's report also contains its longtime push for the city to purchase and raze a 12,000-square-foot unfinished shell of a home that they say blights the waterfront. However, Dunedin officials have repeatedly said they can't afford to purchase the property at 570 Edgewater Drive.

Group members say their goal is to preserve Edgewater Drive's scenic views of the St. Joseph Sound for future generations.

"In the last century, (Edgewater Drive) was always the anchor of Dunedin and people who would drive through would remember the city because of that beautiful scenic drive," said Charlotte Abington, chairwoman of the subcommittee that headed up the report. "We want to preserve and protect as much of it as we possibly can."

The report culminates six months of work by the panel, which evaluated a nearly 1-mile stretch of Edgewater between President and Union streets.

Members met Thursday evening with Dunedin planning and development officials to put finishing touches on the proposal. Next up, the city will schedule informal meetings, where the City Commission and neighborhoods can weigh in on the plan. Finally, following two public hearings, the proposal would then come back before the commission for final approval.

Under the citizen group's plan, crosswalks and no-parking signs on both sides of the road would be kept to a minimum to eliminate visual clutter. The group's members say pedestrians and drivers typically ignore them anyway.

Proposed code changes would reinforce the rule that homes along Edgewater Drive are limited to two stories, maximum building heights of 27 feet above sea level, and setbacks of at least 70 feet from the road.

Most of the committee's recommendations, however, focus on the west side of the road and the linear park.

To discourage motorists from attempting to park on the grassy right-of-way, the city wants to replace two driveways, which city vehicles currently use to access the park, with curbs.

Fifteen single benches currently line the waterfront, some of them blocked by mangroves. The advisory committee wants to reconfigure them into groups of two or three adorned by shrubbery and other plants. Placing decorative street lamps nearby would deter criminals from approaching nighttime walkers or bikers.

A retainer or seawall to protect the land and road is a top priority, Abington said, "because we don't know when the big storm will come."

The group also came up with a bimonthly vegetation maintenance plan and guidelines for replacement of the drive's 90-year-old Washington palms should they topple due to accident or old age. The group calls the tall palm trees "critical" to preserving the road's beauty.

Members want to reroute Alt. U.S. 19 along County Road 1, also known as Keene Road, between Court Street in Clearwater and either Tampa Road in Palm Harbor or State Road 580 in Dunedin.

Dunedin officials say they've had little success with that idea so far. At a minimum, group members want to ban truck traffic from Edgewater Drive.

"It's very dangerous because today everyone uses Mapquest or their smart phone navigators while driving, and these map systems funnel everyone who really have no intention of stopping downtown, and are just passing through, into the center of town and mixes them with local traffic who are trying to get to shops downtown," Abington said. "It's really an overload."

Funding would come from Dunedin's capital improvement project budget. To assist with that, the advisory group's report suggests exploring the sale of naming rights or dedicating the park to the memory of veterans to help secure grants.

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

Dunedin citizens group wants Alt. U.S. 19 rerouted off Edgewater Drive 02/23/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 23, 2012 8:59pm]
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