TEMPLE TERRACE — A sampling of city residents and employees identified the stalled Downtown Temple Terrace project as the biggest worry for this town of 25,000.
Traffic problems and compliance with housing codes were also top concerns voiced in feedback sessions with 357 citizens and municipal employees, who also came up with a set of goals for improving the city over the next five years.
Top goals, they decided, should be to establish a marketing plan to attract residents and businesses, which is already under way, enhance the methods of communication with residents and within government, and boost citizens' use of the city's recreation department.
"It's a very important step in setting forth our city's priorities for the future,'' said City Manager Gerald Seeber, telling council members last week that the results will be reflected in work the staff does daily and in agenda items the council will consider for years to come.
Council members voted to adopt the five-year plan and are expected to start acting on it as soon as Tuesday in a special meeting to consider the budget. The meeting kicks off at 12:30 p.m.
Under each goal, the plan assigns "critical tasks'' and sets time limits for accomplishing them. For example, in an effort to enhance communication with residents and within government, the plan calls for public information officer Michael Dunn and department heads in the next two years to improve the city's television production, set up an intranet for in-government communications, train staff, create a digital city newsletter — which has been done — and more.
Council members praised Fire Rescue Chief Keith Chapman, who headed the effort to translate feedback from the citizens and workers into the five-year plan.
"This is a very well-thought-out document,'' said member Alison Fernandez. She noted, however, that the 156-page report is a lot to digest and suggested that the city offer a printed summary of it as a handout available at the library, the recreation center and other public places around town. The entire document is available via a link on the front page of the city's website, templeterrace.com.
Member Grant Rimbey said he hoped in the future to have some way to ask more targeted questions of the citizens regarding issues the council may be grappling with, such as a proper fire assessment fee, and "get their feedback so that we can actually make some rational decisions that are based on what the citizens actually want rather than just kind of trying to pin the tail on the donkey in the dark.''
The biggest concern listed among survey takers, 149 responses, is the lack of progress on the Downtown Temple Terrace project, a $150 million office-retail-residential-cultural complex on the east side of 56th Street from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River.
The city and the developer, Vlass Temple Terrace, have disputed the details of the plan for more than two years and have filed lawsuits against each other. The two sides go before a court-appointed mediator Monday in an attempt to reach a settlement.
Speeders, pedestrian safety, congestion and red light cameras were listed by 90 participants as areas of concern. Public awareness and compliance with housing codes were major concerns of 72 survey takers.
While the report is deemed a "living document'' that could be altered because of unexpected changes and obstacles, Chapman's committee underlined its importance as a road map of future action: "The content of this document must remain operationally useful and should be used to guide decisionmaking at both policy and management levels.''
Contact Philip Morgan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.