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Pinellas commission delays permit proposal after criticism from city officials

CLEARWATER — Blasted by residents and city officials, Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday delayed a proposal to exempt county properties from cities' regulations.

Commissioners said they wanted time to iron out fears in St. Petersburg, Largo and Pinellas Park that the measure goes too far.

"This is like a marriage between the county and the cities," Commissioner Ken Welch said.

"Divorce," Commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala cracked.

The board voted 6-1 to delay action until Oct. 25. Commissioner Norm Roche opposed, saying, "This isn't a power grab, this is existing authority."

This month, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster warned of homeless people migrating to panhandle on the Pinellas Trail because the city's ban could be upended, and floated the idea of a digital billboard going up atop a downtown county building. County officials say the examples are impossible under the proposal.

But residents carried those examples to Tuesday's meeting, leading Latvala and other commissioners to try to explain they were unfounded, sometimes in sharp exchanges.

"I've watched you, Ms. Latvala. Patronizing wouldn't be too much," said Cathy Wilson of St. Petersburg.

The dispute erupted last month over the county's costs for permits to build an $81 million public safety complex in Largo. The city's building fees are more than $200,000 above what Pinellas charges.

Unable to negotiate lower city fees, County Administrator Bob LaSala and county attorneys decided to push a broader ordinance pre-empting county projects from city rules.

The County Charter gives Pinellas authority over various services, such as public safety, without cities having oversight.

But the action alarmed officials and attorneys in cities.

It was "too much, too soon," St. Petersburg urban planning chief Rick MacAuley said.

A toned-down version released last week limited exemptions to development issues, but it didn't quell their opposition.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/decamptimes

Other Pinellas County Commission actions

Incentives: The commission voted 7-0 to pay $275,000 into a $1.3 million incentive package with state and local support for an undisclosed company to move to St. Petersburg. The biotech firm would create 283 jobs over six years averaging $120,000 in annual pay. The county wouldn't identify the firm, but a staff report indicated the business would invest $9.8 million in the project. If the company's proposal succeeds, then county money would be repaid, economic development director Mike Meidel said.

Pinellas commission delays permit proposal after criticism from city officials 09/27/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 1:13am]

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