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Family donates land for park in Dunedin

DUNEDIN — Residents will gain more green space, courtesy of the City Commission's approval of a local family's donation of land for a neighborhood pocket park.

In a 5-0 vote Thursday, commissioners accepted ownership of the half-acre tract of land at 538 and 540 Skinner Blvd., located just north of Mease Dunedin Hospital. In exchange for the donation, the city will finance the remaining tax, utility and closing costs, demolish three dilapidated structures on the property, provide the family with an appraisal for their tax records, and eventually create a park.

The space will be named the "Gavin R. and Margaret M. Douglas Memorial Park" in honor of the donors' parents, who were active, lifelong residents of Dunedin.

In addition to gaining a "waterfront" park by extending a nearby lake onto the property, the city plans to use the land to improvement stormwater retention in the surrounding neighborhood. Officials also hope the stormwater improvements will provide a selling point for several pieces of city-owned property.

"I just want to thank the family for a wonderful donation that they've chosen to give to the city," said Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski. "We really appreciate what they're doing and the neighborhood around it in the future, I think, will really appreciate it."

There's no time frame on when the land must be converted to a park. However, staffers said they plan to set aside $45,000 in the 2013 parks department budget.

Meanwhile, officials will pull $20,000 from the stormwater utility fund and another $20,000 in Community Redevelopment Agency money to bankroll title possession, asbestos removal and demolition, all slated for early next year.

Officials anticipate using existing staff to maintain the property at a cost of about $2,500 a year.

In other action

New Year's Eve revelers will have extra time to party this holiday season.

Commissioners voted 5-0 Thursday to loosen noise restrictions between 11 p.m. Dec. 31 and 12:30 a.m. Jan. 1, to the dismay of at least one resident who rushed over to the meeting after the vote.

The citywide extension, which will allow Dunedin merchants to continue with outdoor music and other noise of up to 65 decibels through 12: 30 a.m., is aimed at encouraging local New Year's Eve festivities, said Wendy Barmore, president of the Downtown Dunedin Merchants Association.

"Our intentions were not to have our residents and people who come in for New Year's Eve parties and celebrations to have to go to other cities," Barmore said. "You can hit that midnight, get a kiss, have a little dance and say goodbye. The bars and restaurants can go on, but the music has got to stop at 12:30 to be sensitive to residents."

Minutes after the vote, Bill Leo, who went to City Hall after seeing the discussion on live television, approached the lectern to voice his opposition.

Leo, who lives next door to Island Outpost Restaurant on the Dunedin Causeway, said 65 decibels is too loud for a residential area. He said he is fed up with the constant noise over the last year and accused the city and Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies of ignoring the problem.

Mayor Dave Eggers said the city's current code measures noise from the property line, not the complainant's location, so "when you're next door to it, unfortunately the noise ordinance we have doesn't work."

Commissioners have acknowledged in past meetings — and mentioned again during their vote Thursday — their ongoing efforts to quell resident complaints about noise from businesses. Eggers told Leo that the city plans to send plainclothes code enforcement officers more frequently to establishments at night.

"We're going to try to go a little bit undercover with our own folks to make sure codes are being followed," Eggers said.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153.

Family donates land for park in Dunedin 12/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2011 9:00pm]
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