DUNEDIN — Residents will get to sound off on a controversial proposal to install bicycle lanes along Pinehurst Road during a public workshop next month.
The workshop, to be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 10 at City Hall, will allow the City Commission to gauge the public's interest in redirecting federal grant money that was initially earmarked for a multi-use sidewalk trail. In July, residents along Pinehurst angrily shot down a proposal to widen sidewalks to install a trail for bicyclists and pedestrians, saying the project would mean messy construction and traffic woes.
But the Florida Department of Transportation recently said that Dunedin can't transfer the grant to another part of the city, so officials have two options: Widen the road to install bike lanes, or return the money.
Dunedin's public works director, Doug Hutchens, reported during Thursday night's commission meeting that FDOT will give the city until Dec. 5 to decide.
Most commissioners were hesitant to return the grant without exploring other uses for it. They told City Manager Rob DiSpirito to move up a planned workshop on a citywide master bicycle connectivity plan from February to Nov. 10, to show how bike lanes on Pinehurst might fit in with others that are proposed across Dunedin.
Hutchens estimated it would cost a half-million dollars for a one-mile stretch of bike lanes from Michigan Boulevard to San Christopher Road. Using the grant and $180,000 set aside for the abandoned trail project, the city would still have to raise $53,000 — possibly from Penny for Pinellas reserves or money left over from other construction projects.
Commission David Carson, however, called the workshop a "bad idea."
"To spend $500,000 on a miles' worth of bike lanes on a dangerous road, I would prefer just to shut it down just like we did the other idea ... even if half of it is free money from the state," he said amid applause from about a dozen Pinehurst residents who turned out Thursday to oppose the potential project.
Mayor Dave Eggers said he's also not a fan of accepting federal dollars or the dangers of biking alongside fast-moving vehicles. But he noted that the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, on which he's the city's liaison, is pushing for bike lanes across the county, including along busy State Road 580.
"I just want to see if this (Pinehurst Road bike lane proposal) fits into that holistic plan" for Dunedin, Eggers said. "If it doesn't, at least we've done our homework."
In other action
• In a 5-0 vote, the commission preliminarily approved an ordinance that would require license agreements for private businesses operating on city property. Officials say the measure is aimed at regulating competitive business and protecting the city from potential liability by requiring vendors to have insurance, background checks and a profit-sharing deal with the city.
Several commissioners expressed concern Thursday that the ordinance's wording was too broad and confusing, including Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski who worried that the measure would bar private tutors from meeting students at the library.
City attorney Tom Trask said people like tutors or photographers wouldn't be affected. He said he'll rework the language to reflect the city's focus on commercial activities that occur regularly, involve a "significant" number of people and pose risk of injury.
A second public hearing and final vote is set for Oct. 20.
• The commission voted 5-0 to retain Trask's firm for the next five years. Trask's law partner John Hubbard served as Dunedin city attorney for 37 years before retiring in April 1.
Commissioners voted this summer to explore pricing options for legal services and possibly seek a fresh perspective. But after interviewing four contenders, officials on Thursday said they couldn't beat the firm's low price, proximity and proven track record.
• One citizen, eco-activist Bree Cheatham, attended Thursday's meeting to encourage Dunedin commissioners to follow Pinellas County's lead in eliminating fluoride from the water supply this week. Officials said they are eyeing late November for their second workshop on the matter. They expect to decide on a firm date at their next meeting.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4153.