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Guest column | Julie Scales

Planning will keep Dunedin on right track

Yogi Berra once said, "If you don't know where you're going, you might end up somewhere else."

Yogi's legendary fracturing of the English language may make us laugh, but it usually does get the point across. If we, as the city of Dunedin, don't know what we want to be, don't have a vision for this city, then, to edit Yogi a little bit, we don't know where we might end up.

That's why the city's vision statement, adopted in 2005 after public hearings and citizen input, is so important. It is a statement of what we want the city to be in the years to come.

Our citizens told us very strongly that they want Dunedin to retain its unique, small coastal town ambience. Three critical concepts in the vision statement should go a long way toward ensuring this result: innovative redevelopment, citizen satisfaction and sensitivity to our environment.

Innovative redevelopment

The city has identified several key areas for redevelopment. These include downtown, Causeway Boulevard, the Dunedin Causeway itself, S Douglas Avenue and Patricia Avenue.

Redevelopment in most of these areas will be guided by height restrictions adopted several years ago; architectural guidelines and standards adopted last year; and a revised building code, hopefully to be adopted within the next year to supplant a code more than 30 years old.

Downtown, the major event is the Gateway project, a proposed mixed use development at the eastern approach to downtown. The developer, Pizzuti Cos. of Columbus, Ohio, has agreed to purchase 4-plus acres and the city has obtained a $1.3-million economic development grant from the state for infrastructure improvements at the site.

Other recent developments are the renovation of the old Allen's Florist building on Main Street; improvements to newly named Purple Heart Park at Main and Broadway; the rezoning of the old Keller site on Douglas Avenue from industrial to mixed use (and the planned demolition of the building); initial site plan approval for a hotel on the old Honey House site on Douglas; and the proposed acquisition of the Dicus Building and old Sterling Hall properties for mixed use development.

The city is partnering with the Pinellas Planning Council on a study of the S Douglas Avenue corridor. We expect recommendations for possible zoning and land use changes that would complement the city's investment there and the long-term vision for this corridor.

In 2009, the city will conduct a similar study for Causeway Boulevard from Alt. U.S. 19 to the Intracoastal Waterway. A significant project — the new Marker 1 Marina dry storage facility — is already rising and we anticipate that other properties along this stretch will be looked at for potential redevelopment.

Regarding the causeway itself, both the city and Pinellas County (which owns most of the causeway property) are adopting resolutions designating the causeway as a Pinellas Greenway. These actions demonstrate our intergovernmental cooperation and should assist us in obtaining state grants for further improvements and beautification.

Patricia Avenue is also undergoing analysis. The results and implementation of this study, together with redevelopment of the former Nielsen property, will surely be major catalysts along Patricia.

High priority on citizen satisfaction

Recommendations of last year's Customer Task Force are being implemented. The new name for the Community Services Department, "Planning and Development," is an appropriate signal that change is under way. The newly created position of project development coordinator has already reaped positive results. And we are excited about the arrival of Greg Rice as the new director of this important department.

I mentioned revisions to our building codes, which should give us the flexibility to deal with a Dunedin that has changed substantially since the current codes were adopted. It is one of our goals that the updated codes provide for user-friendly processes while ensuring that the city maintains high standards.

Citizen satisfaction means access and accountability, and the city continues to give high priority to both. Substantial improvements have been made to the city's Web site, and video streaming of City Commission meetings makes government available to anyone with a computer.

Sensitivity to our environment

How many communities in Pinellas County can claim the following eco-friendly accomplishments: LEED (i.e., green building) certification for our new Community Center; silver level "Green Local Government" designation for the city; creation of the position of sustainability coordinator to help promote a culture of environmental sustainability; Clean Marina status for our municipal marina; and pursuit of "linear waterfront park" designation for our causeway?

In addition, the Dunedin Country Club, which manages the city-owned golf course, is considering becoming a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, with the goal of pursuing appropriate conservation and habitat enhancement practices.

In sum, Dunedin is changing even as it seeks to maintain its small-town ambience. As we pursue that vision, we will build a better future.

Julie Scales is a Dunedin city commissioner.

Planning will keep Dunedin on right track 08/14/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 16, 2008 3:14pm]
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