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Redevelopment plan tops agenda

The city's controversial downtown redevelopment plan is on the line tonight. Opponents of the plan _ chiefly residents who live downtown _ are expected to turn out in large numbers to hear the city's Planning and Zoning Board debate whether to accept the document prepared by consultants.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Largo City Hall, 225 First Ave. SW.

The plan, designed by Land Design Research International of Maryland, calls for a widened West Bay Drive with a 15- to 20-foot-wide median. The median would be planted with trees and flowers. There would be a series of small parks at most of the major intersections. Two-or three-story buildings with pitched roofs would replace the single-story, flat-roofed buildings that now line West Bay Drive.

Parking would no longer be allowed on West Bay Drive. Stores along the corridor would have front and back entrances with parking in back. Pedestrian crossings would be improved where West Bay intersects with Missouri, Clearwater/Largo Road and Fourth Street.

The plan calls for additional city parks near the Largo Medical Center Hospital and at West Bay Drive and Sixth Street; several retirement homes in the downtown area; and a hotel/conference center on the northwest side of the intersection of West Bay Drive and Missouri Avenue.

Public money would be used only for the parks and for road improvements.

Opponents, led by former commission candidate Jim Abel, object to redevelopment mainly because the plan calls for small homes in some parts of the downtown area to be replaced with apartment and condominium buildings.

"You're saying we're not wealthy and affluent enough to live here," Abel told commissioners recently.

If the Planning and Zoning Board accepts the plan tonight, the board will make a recommendation to the City Commission, which acts as the Community Redevelopment Agency, whether the plan should be adopted.

If the agency recommends adoption, the plan would then go to the commission for approval.