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Rezoning is unfair to homeowners near Beckett Lake

(ran LA edition of LT)

Re: Townhomes proposed for Beckett land, June 27 story.

We are Beckett Lake Estates homeowners. Our property backs up on a narrow strip of land zoned preservation and is only about 100 feet from Beckett Lake. It is a beautiful, pristine area _ so rare in north Pinellas County.

We bought this property because the area behind our house is zoned preservation. Of the 10.6 acres at issue, part is zoned preservation, part is zoned agriculture/estate and the rest is the bottom of the lake. We believed that if someone ever built on the land, only a couple of houses at the most would be built, and those toward Montclair Road because of potential drainage problems and the current zoning requirements.

The developer said in the story that it is the property owners' right to build on this land. The only right they have is to build within current zoning standards. They do not have the right to a zoning change so that our street could have six- or seven-story condos, trash bins, or a road a few feet from our back yards, especially in an area currently zoned preservation.

I have talked to many people concerning the negative impact that a change in zoning will have on the community. They have mentioned increased traffic, the increased need for water, the destruction of old oak trees and of a beautiful and rare habitat for animals and birds, and the devaluation of homes in a family-oriented neighborhood. We have spent a lot of time and money turning this house into our home. The only people who will benefit from this development will be the late owner's heirs, who do not live in this area, and the developers.

This community should have the right to be protected from needless zoning changes and excessive development. The county commissioners are the only ones in a position to protect us from this. When will the overdevelopment of Pinellas County end?

Amy and Joseph Ricker


Students' successes

often ignored by Times

After reading the letter regarding media coverage of Pinellas County teens who serve as positive role models, I feel compelled to express my own feelings on the matter.

Largo High School is an outstanding school and I know many excellent teachers who work there. I know student Jaime Chambron to be an excellent speaker who well deserves the positive coverage given to her in at least two recent articles in the Times.

However, the school at which I am employed, Tarpon Springs High, was also honored last year in Washington, D.C., as a drug-free school, and Greg Hillson, who was co-valedictorian at Tarpon High, was chosen as a key student speaker, as Miss Chambron was this year. If there was any mention of Hillson's part in this event in the Times, it was so small everyone at my high school missed it.

My main purpose for writing concerns a different matter, however. This year Tarpon Springs High School produced two superior speakers in oratory and debate. The first, junior Stephen Jensen, won first place in Florida in the VFW Voice of Democracy Oratory contest and went on to finish fourth in the entire nation. There were well over 400,000 entries in this competition worldwide, as some entries come from American schools outside the 50 states. Jensen and other national finalists were invited to the White House, and met and were honored by the president and first lady and other dignitaries in Washington.

Another student, senior Nick Zissimopulos, went to national finals in congressional debate this spring. In Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, he went up against 200 state finalists from all over the country, finishing second in the nation.

Columnist Pat Scarberry ran a very short piece on each of these students before they competed at the national level, but despite numerous press releases sent to various offices of the Times after their national successes, there was no follow-up.

These two students worked very hard to achieve this level of success and put this county on the map in the areas of speech and debate. For a newspaper with such a fine editorial reputation, your selective choice of newsworthy stories disappoints me.

Carol Puniska

Palm Harbor

Columnist set a good example against racism

Re: In a single outburst, a small battle against racism is won, Kristin Harmel's June 27 guest column.

I am glad that someone besides me is concerned with the problem of discrimination in our schools. I'm proud of Kristin for standing up for what is right, and even though I'm just 11, I've seen unkind actions and words in my school. All young people need to think hard about what she wrote.

My grandfather was a civil rights activist who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. I'm glad he did it, and from his example I will take strength and do the right thing.

I will go to middle school in August and I accept all people, regardless of race, with kindness. If what Kristin Harmel observed in her school experience becomes a part of my experience, I'll be brave and speak up, too.

Laura C. Fausch


Lake would drown city's first skating rink

It's as historic as it is bucolic.

Not gone or forgotten, Clearwater's first roller-skating rink at 909 Park St. was one of my favorite places to go when I was growing up here. Now being used as a warehouse, it is one of the buildings slated to be destroyed (drowned) if the proposed lake is built in downtown Clearwater.

Tax and spend! Tax, spend and inundate _ that's all the current officials seem to know. I say, why not renovate, rebuild and reopen the unreplaceable skating rink? Discard the profligate downtown lake project immediately!

Robert Snow