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Largo scraps public art plan after minds change

City leaders scrapped a proposal Tuesday to make businesses invest in public art.

The measure failed 6-1, with some of the strongest proponents sharing a change of heart.

"We need to encourage development," said Commissioner Gigi Arntzen, a former proponent.

The city should be telling developers what it can do for them, she said, rather than saying, "Here's what it's going to cost you."

Her stance changed partly because of Commissioner Robert Murray's suggestion last month to implement incentives to encourage developers to support public art.

But Recreation, Parks and Arts Director Joan Byrne said she couldn't find a model ordinance in another municipality that relied chiefly on such incentives.

The proposed ordinance would have required developers of certain projects costing $2-million or more to create public art valued at 1 percent of their project cost or contribute half that amount to an art fund. It also would have required the city to set aside 1 percent of certain projects for public art.

Mayor Pat Gerard, another previous supporter, said she changed her mind after learning that several municipalities have public art ordinances that only require municipal support.

Commissioner Woody Brown, the lone holdout, said few developers would support public art if they don't have to.

"I don't think we should abandon public art in Largo," Brown said. "I think it's something we should embrace. Quite frankly, if it's 'do it if you like' it's not going to happen."

Last year, officials were enthusiastic about the idea. And the majority of the commission voted to support the legislation about a month ago. But support from city leaders and the community waned over the past few weeks.

Opposition also came from members of the business community, who extensively discussed the legislation, according to Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce president Tom Morrissette.

"We felt this was just an added burden to developers that are having a hard time as it is," Morrissette told commissioners.

>>Fast facts

Evolution of the public art proposal

Feb. 13, 2007: Largo city commissioners ask the city staff to draft a public art ordinance.

July 1, 2008: Commissioners vote 6-1 to approve the ordinance

July 15: Commissioners vote 3-3 to approve the ordinance

Tuesday: Commissioners vote 6-1 to reject the ordinance.

Largo scraps public art plan after minds change 08/05/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 5, 2008 9:59pm]

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