Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Largo favors more breaks for developers over park impact fees

LARGO — The idea behind the city's parkland impact fee is this: Developers should pay Largo money to provide parks for the residents who will be living in their new apartment complexes, condos and subdivisions.

But for the past two years, Largo has had a moratorium on its parkland impact fee in the interest of spurring development.

Next month, the city's elected officials will be asked to extend the moratorium for another two years. Once again, this would be a move to foster development. The market for new multifamily housing appears to be heating up, and Largo hopes to woo apartment developers.

City commissioners are signaling that they're in favor of waiving the fee for two more years. Make no mistake, they're all for jobs and growth.

Parks advocates are crying foul.

"We understand the desire to attract business development to the city of Largo, and we understand the attraction of fee elimination or reduction to accomplish that. But we also believe that development in Largo needs to be balanced with green space," said Pat Edmond, president of the Friends of Largo Nature Parks.

Officials can cite several reasons why waiving the fee is no big deal. However, they also acknowledge an awkward reality.

Through annexations, Largo has been steadily expanding its boundaries east of U.S. 19. Commissioners are well aware that the city hasn't been able to follow through on promises to expand parkland in eastern Largo.

Mayor Pat Gerard is receptive to the idea of another temporary moratorium, but she wouldn't want to cancel the parks impact fee for good.

"As time goes on, it's going to get more and more difficult to find pieces of land," the mayor said at a commission meeting held last week. "We've already made a commitment to the east side that we need to have more parkland out there."

"The real need for parks is east," Vice Mayor Woody Brown added.

It's true that the last park that Largo created was on the east side. Seven years ago, the city spent nearly $900,000 to create 11-acre Datsko Park at the eastern end of Whitney Road. Nearly half the land was donated.

Earlier this year, the city tried to buy 1.4 acres on Roosevelt Boulevard east of U.S. 19 for a small park and trailhead for the Progress Energy Trail. Commissioners voted to spend $349,000 on the property, which is owned by the Walker Ford vehicle dealership. But the city backed out of the deal because of a power company easement that restricts the use of the land.

Joan Byrne, Largo's recreation, parks and arts director, said that one goal of Largo's strategic plan is to purchase a 20-acre parcel east of U.S. 19 for park development.

"That costs money," she said.

All of this is going on at the same time that bulldozers have started clearing land for a 342-unit apartment complex in Largo east of U.S. 19.

Still, officials are inclined to keep skipping the parks impact fee for the following reasons:

• Largo has nearly $2.2 million in impact fees sitting in the bank, available to buy parkland.

• A number of apartment developers are asking the city to waive the fee.

• Largo already has plenty of parkland compared with neighboring cities. It currently has about 8.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, according to city estimates.

• The city can barely afford to properly maintain the parkland it has now.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.

Comments
St. Pete says discharge never reached the bay. Its own report says otherwise.

St. Pete says discharge never reached the bay. Its own report says otherwise.

ST. PETERSBURG — The city said not one of the 266,000 gallons of reclaimed water released on Jan. 18 reached Tampa Bay.There was no mention of the waste released from the Northeast Water Reclamation Facility ever reaching the bay in the city’s notice...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

TAMPA — Deputies are searching for a woman accused of blocking a special needs school bus with her car, getting out and banging and kicking on the bus door until she broke the glass.And there were four children inside, deputies said, as she shouted a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

BRANDON – Devils top defenseman Sami Vatanen had not traveled to Tampa as of Friday afternoon, according to coach John Hynes, and his availability for Game 5 Saturday against the Lightning is in doubt.Hynes, however, did not rule out Vatan...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Plan to entice developers to help pay for Rays ballpark hits speed bump

Plan to entice developers to help pay for Rays ballpark hits speed bump

TAMPA — Private developers would bear much of the cost of a new Rays stadium in Ybor City under a plan Hillsborough County officials are putting together.Developers would benefit by cashing in on commercial, retail and other construction around a ne...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

ST. PETERSBURG — Officers are searching for a 20-year-old woman who they believe to be missing and who could be in danger.Kayla Brandi Boone was last seen at about 11 p.m. Thursday in the 2700 block of Fourth Street S, according to St. Petersburg pol...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Woman says Hernando County commissioner kept her as a ‘sex slave’

Woman says Hernando County commissioner kept her as a ‘sex slave’

SPRING HILL — A woman who answered the door Friday at the home of Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson said she served for months as a “sex slave” to the elected official. Valerie Surette, who called herself a 30-year-old st...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Deputies: 19-month-old child found in New Port Richey pond has died

NEW PORT RICHEY — The 19-month-old child that was found in a pond on Thursday afternoon has died, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.The incident took place at about 12:31 p.m. Deputies and firefighters were called out to a home in the 47...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Racing schedules for 2018-19 parimutuel seasons released

OLDSMAR — Eight is not enough at Tampa Bay Downs, at least when the thoroughbred racing facility on Race Track Road opens its 93rd season July 1.The final card of what will be the Downs' sixth annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing will featu...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rowdies prepared to press on without defender David Najem

Rowdies prepared to press on without defender David Najem

SAINT PETERSBURG — When describing the loss of defender David Najem, Rowdies head coach Stuart Campbell and the player who will replace Najem chose the same word.Gutted.That settled over the Rowdies last weekend, one that was bad enough based o...
Updated: 3 hours ago