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Seceding from Clearwater is an issue needing more discussion

A white-tailed deer, camouflaged in a maple swamp in the Brooker Creek Preserve, has a wary gaze for the intruder.

Douglas R. Clifford | Times (2002)

A white-tailed deer, camouflaged in a maple swamp in the Brooker Creek Preserve, has a wary gaze for the intruder.

Re: Trying to secede from Clearwater is bad idea | editorial, April 26

More analysis, discussion on issue needed

I am responding on behalf of the Islands Independence Initiative (III) to your editorial concerning our exploration of secession from the city of Clearwater.

We believe the St. Petersburg Times made two assumptions which are very likely incorrect: first, that Florida Statute Chapter 171 is the exclusive method for contraction or secession from a city; and, second, that there would necessarily be a time gap between any possible contraction and the subsequent reincorporation of a city comprising Island Estates, Clearwater Beach and Sand Key.

We agree with the Times that this is a very serious issue. That is why III and its supporters are committed to a deeper, more thorough analysis of both the legal and practical aspects of this matter rather than drawing spontaneous and premature conclusions.

The exploration of self-governance by III is a response to not one specific challenge, but an accumulation of many — for example, the city's refusal to fund underground utilities for Island Estates from Penny for Pinellas funds; to timely rezone the Shoppes on Sand Key, resulting in a loss of commercial zoning; to enforce short-term rental code violations on Clearwater Beach; and to refuse for more than 20 years to build a parking garage while it earmarks more than $10 million for the downtown marina.

III carefully examined alternatives to self-governance. For instance, more than 300 islanders appeared at multiple public hearings, engaged in discussions with the city, sent numerous e-mails and more than 5,000 petitions, funded a lawsuit that the city just lost, explored a citizens' initiative and referendum, investigated conservation overlay districts and discussed potential code revisions. These solutions narrowly focused on symptoms and not the cause, which we concluded to be a difference of philosophy in establishing priorities.

We will consider this exploration about self-governance to be a success if we ultimately have closure on the issue of whether or not the island communities can self-govern by de-annexing from the city of Clearwater and reincorporating. We are not presuming a specific outcome. However, III is passionate in its desire to implement a responsible investigation process and to have intellectually honest discussions based upon a thorough analysis of the facts and legal issues.

JoEllen Farnham, spokeswoman, Islands Independence Initiative, Sand Key

Re: Brooker Creek Preserve's deal 'with the devil,' story, April 24

Commission divided and conquered

Staff writer Theresa Blackwell's article in the St. Petersburg Times was desperately needed at this time to inform the public that another section of our beloved Brooker Creek Preserve is going to be systematically raped at the hands of the Pinellas County Commission and the special interests that they really represent.

I was deeply shocked to read that the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve and the Environmental Science Forum caved in and actually fell for it and agreed to the compromise of their endorsement for less acreage by the county. They must be burned out from all the years of haggling with the commission to save the preserve and the commission was just biding their time until they could divide and conquer them, the oldest trick in the book. It worked.

How long are we, the public, going to put up with their empty promises? Does anyone actually believe that they won't violate the public trust again in the future and take more and more land until nothing is left but the dead carcasses of animals we are supposed to protect?

At one time the Pinellas Planning Council had clout. They voted 8-4 to oppose the land use change that would allow five-story industrial buildings or a reservoir on nearly 900 acres of the preserve, but now it is nothing more than a token gesture because the County Commission's vote trumps theirs.

Commissioner Susan Latvala's comment says it all. When asked if the Planning Council's vote will affect the commission vote, after letting out a short laugh she said, "Not at all."

I thank Mathew Poling and Commissioner Neil Brickfield, who are nearly alone in fighting this onslaught of destruction to our nature preserve, since most of the environmental groups and others have copped out and compromised and believed the serpents with forked tongues. This is what happens when you make a deal with the devil and lose your soul.

Karen Weibel Burton, Dunedin

Re: Brooker Creek Preserve's deal 'with the devil,' story, April 24

We, the people, need to get involved

I have been voicing my personal opposition to land use changes in the Brooker Creek Preserve for some time now. I am a citizen in the area that would be affected. These changes aren't good for the wildlife or the people of Pinellas County.

The Pinellas Planning Council's recent vote is a good representation of how the public feels and I think the Pinellas County Commission should take the vote seriously. If the Pinellas Planning Council is unable to affect the commission, then it is up to our two favorite people. No, not County Commissioner Neil Brickfield and university student Mathew Poling, although I thank them both, but me and you.

I hope everyone will find time to attend the County Commission meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Clearwater Courthouse. If you are unable to attend, please write the commissioners and let them know you oppose the proposed land use changes in the Brooker Creek Preserve.

Also, please e-mail or call Tarpon Springs Mayor Beverley Billiris, chairwoman of the Planning Council (, and the Planning Council members and thank them for being representative of the will of the people on this issue.

Here are the e-mail addresses for County Commissioners Ken Welch, Susan Latvala, John Morroni, Karen Seel, Neil Brickfield and Nancy Bostock, and County Administrator Robert LaSala:

Barb Walker, Palm Harbor

Help preserve our precious Preserve

Help! Save our Brooker Creek Preserve! Cinco de Mayo may not be a joyful day in Pinellas County. Why? Tuesday is the day that some Pinellas County commissioners may continue to "laugh" at the majority of our Brooker Creek Preserve folk who want to save the preserve.

Student Mathew Poling and County Commissioner Neil Brickfield are fighting to keep the area. They are supported by the important Pinellas Planning Council. As Commissioner Brickfield says, "A preserve is a preserve."

Dr. J. David O'Dea, Dunedin

Your voice counts

You may submit a letter to the editor for possible publication through our Web site at, or by faxing it to (727) 445-4119, or by mailing it to Letters, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. You must include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length.

Seceding from Clearwater is an issue needing more discussion 05/02/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 2, 2009 10:51am]
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