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Watercraft rules are studied

BELLEAIR BLUFFS - City officials are considering creating rules to control the use of Jet Skis and similar watercraft off the Belleair Causeway. Prompted by residents' complaints about noise and safety concerns in recent weeks, the City Commission on Monday decided to start looking into ordinances that would control the water scooters on the Intracoastal Waterway. Belleair Bluffs Police Chief James Mangum expressed doubts about whether such an ordinance could be enforced, because it would require a police officer to be anchored on the beach waiting for the offender to return. The ordinance also would beineffective without the participation of Belleair Beach, which is on the other side of the causeway, he said. City Attorney John Hubbard, who also worried about enforcement, said the noise problem could be solved with an ordinance banning Jet Skis with modified mufflers.

Hubbard will meet with Mangum and Belleair Beach Police Chief Frank Anderson to discuss what kinds of ordinances would be effective. The issue will be discussed again at next month's meeting.

Wal-Mart gets okay to build PALM HARBOR - After months of discussion about trees and retaining walls, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has received final approval for its plan to build Palm Harbor's first major discount department store. Wal-Mart plans to open the store late this year, a company spokeswoman said Monday. It would be Pinellas County's second Wal-Mart; another store is under construction on U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park and is scheduled to open in May. County environmental officials objected to initial plans for the Wal-Mart because several live oak and laurel oak trees were scheduled for removal. The site presented other problems to Wal-Mart's representatives, county records show. The property slopes dramatically in places, meaning retaining walls of up to 20 feet from the road to the parking lot are planned. Fences or guardrails are planned to keep

people and cars from sliding over the wall. Wal-Mart's engineers reduced the size of the building to 86,707 square feet to save some 30-foot and 54-foot trees on the 22-acre parcel. Also, the engineers altered the route of a delivery truck access and the design of the parking lot to save other vegetation and open space.