Saturday, February 17, 2018
Editorials

Beach city at crossroad

To see just how complicated and unmanageable land planning by referendum is even in a small city, look no further than St. Pete Beach.

Voters there have been fighting for years in City Hall, the courts and in the streets over where and how development can take place. Now they have another referendum Tuesday, featuring a half-dozen questions with enormous implications that are impossible to fully explain on the ballot, on yard signs or in short conversations.

St. Pete Beach is an eclectic mix of strong-willed residents who want to preserve the small-town feel and avoid high-rise canyons — and of tourists who drive the area economy. It features a popular old movie theater, a landmark pink resort and a stagnant hotel strip that hasn't seen a new hotel in decades and has watched more than a dozen close in recent years. Regardless of Tuesday's vote, the beach is not going to stay the same. The trend toward condominiums over hotels will continue when the economy revives, and those motels and hotels that do survive will continue to age without significant improvement. Or reasonable planning and development changes will be approved that encourage redevelopment and new hotels while protecting the character of the beach.

The last attempt to move St. Pete Beach in a positive direction backfired, in part because the city failed to seek common ground with opponents. Voters in 2006 did not just narrowly repeal a master development plan that would have allowed hotels along one beachfront stretch to grow from five stories to 15. They revolted and made St. Pete Beach the first city in Florida to embrace the Hometown Democracy concept that threatens to go statewide, approving city charter amendments giving voters control over other plan or major land use changes in the future.

Since then, the pendulum has started to swing back toward the middle. In March, three candidates backed by the local antidevelopment activist group Citizens for Responsible Growth lost in mayoral and city commission races. The new majority voted last week to fight a prominent CRG supporter's effort to have the courts knock four of six referendum questions off the ballot, and a judge ruled this week they can stay on the ballot. It is time to bring this fight to an end.

The four ballot questions were put on the ballot by petitions circulated by the political action group Save Our Little Village. The group has developed a broader coalition of supporters than previous efforts to change the city's comprehensive plan and land development code. In that spirit, they are pitching the proposals as a compromise. For example, they lower both the proposed density and the height restrictions from the previous failed effort. This one calls for the building height to be limited to 12 stories on nine parcels along about a mile stretch of the Gulf Boulevard beachfront. They also lower density and height limits downtown.

The referendum questions include other forward-looking provisions aimed at raising money for improvements such as sidewalks and landscaping, providing green building standards and requiring resorts to provide public beach access. It's a lot for voters to digest, and it's not the most efficient way to overhaul comp plans and land development codes. But the proposed changes are generally steps in the right direction for a beach community that desperately needs to move forward. St. Pete Beach voters should consider them carefully — and consider the fallout if they fail. The status quo is not a viable option for the long term.

Comments
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18