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Critics call city's results elusive

The city is embarking on another redevelopment plan for the North Greenwood area, but some residents there say the city never finished what it set out to accomplish with its last plan.

The people critical of the city say they did not notice any significant changes in the area during the year-and-a-half the city spent working on a plan developed by a group of residents.

Out of more than 25 projects, the city did finish a majority of them. But many of the projects involved studying a proposal and not actually completing it.

About eight of the projects, including some of the larger ones, did not get done. Those included developing a streetscape plan for N Greenwood Avenue and opening the police station 24 hours a day.

"It did not turn out the way I thought it would. I don't think anyone is pleased with the way it turned out," said Mayme Hodges, a member of the North Greenwood Community Task Team, which was formed to come up with the list of projects. "I thought (the city) was really going into it in good faith, but nothing was done. It hasn't been done and you can't keep going back and justifying not doing it."

Hodges said she thinks the city expected to work on the plan but then got distracted with other projects around Clearwater.

The city handpicked residents to serve on the task team in late 1996 and disbanded the group last month. Some residents were upset when the city formed its own group because they say the city ignored many existing organizations.

The team was composed of 12 residents although several stopped attending the meetings after a few months.

Deputy City Manager Kathy Rice, who worked with the group, said the group was disbanded because the city accomplished what the group asked it to do.

"I think we can declare it a success," Rice said. "I think we've done everything we said we were going to do."

Rice said the only projects that were not completed were either too costly and impractical or would not be beneficial to the neighborhood.

Task team members say the group did what it was supposed to _ give the city a list of projects to complete with a timetable _ but that the city did not follow through.

"We went into it thinking we were really going to move the world," said David Grice, a task team member. "But what they did was noticeable for only a short period of time. They did not do anything that would change the face of North Greenwood."

Some residents say the problem was that many of the projects the city did complete were not as important as some of the ones it didn't get done.

The city studied a number of proposals, such as a curfew for children, concerns at Stevenson's Creek and a landscape plan for the reclaimed water tank.

But some completed projects can be seen when they walk out their doors _ a new a job training center, the removal of Brazilian peppers and more trash cans on North Greenwood Avenue.

"They did a few things. I have to give them credit for that," Grice said. "But they left out some very important things."

Grice said the city should have concentrated on projects such as landscaping N Greenwood Avenue and keeping the substation open around the clock. He also said he wanted the city to include the neighborhood in the Community Redevelopment Area so that some property taxes would be spent in the neighborhood.

Residents who were not involved with the group also say they have not noticed any changes in the neighborhood. That may be part of the problem.

Whether the city did anything or not, residents say the perception is that the city once again failed to do what it said it was going to do.

Jonathan Wade, president of the North Greenwood Association, called the team "ineffective" and said he was not surprised he had not seen any results.

"Some of those things have been talked about for years," Wade said. "The city's been saying it's going to do this stuff for a long time and never does."

But Bilal Habeeb-ullah, who is involved in several North Greenwood groups, said even though the team disbanded he thinks the city is still working to finish the projects.

"They're still working on all those issues," Habeeb-ullah said. "I think they made an honest effort, and they're still trying to get things done."

But the task team's eight-page list set a deadline for every project. Almost every one of the dates has passed.

Aseelah Babalola, executive director of Ervin's All-American Youth Club, said the city is not the only one to blame. She said the team members and residents should have fought City Hall and forced officials to do something.

"You can't just come up with a plan and expect any government to carry it out," Babalola said. "Let's face it. Nothing is going to happen unless you are committed and do your part."

Rice said merely having the task team in place helped City Manager Mike Roberto realize North Greenwood needed to be included in the new citywide "One City. One Future" redevelopment plan.

Earlier this year, Roberto hired a consulting company to help create the new plan. The city expects to have the plan completed within 45 days.

But Grice said the city needs to finish the task team projects first before starting another plan.

"It was kind of an insult to hear that the city is going to start all over again," he said.

NORTH GREENWOOD ACTION PLAN

A look at the progress of the North Greenwood Community Task Team action plan.

Done

Open a job training center by April 1997. The city opened the center four months late.

Review water flow and environmental concerns at Stevenson's Creek.

Complete a landscaping plan for reclaimed water tank by Oct. 1, 1997.

Involve the community in environmental projects, like asbestos removal.

Remove Brazilian peppers by June 1997. The city did but several months late.

Design and fund construction of a parking lot for the Greenwood Panthers. The city will finish building the lot in the fall.

Include Jack Russell Stadium in the area's redevelopment plan.

Include a recreation center/swimming pool complex in the budget for the next decade of Penny for Pinellas.

Establish a Weed and Seed steering committee by Dec. 1, 1996.

Develop a police plan to eradicate major drug dealers.

Increase the number of community police officers in the area.

Create a program to address truancy.

Cultural diversity training for police officers.

Review the need for a citywide curfew.

Assign a caseworker to the substation.

Create a police hot line for citizen complaints.

Design a crime prevention brochure for residents.

Increase number of trash cans on N Greenwood Avenue.

Not done

Expand the Community Redevelopment Area to include North Greenwood. The city said doing so would not bring extra tax money into the area as intended.

Develop a streetscape plan for North Greenwood Avenue. The city said the plan will be included in the "One City. One Future" redevelopment plan.

Establish two special events in the area by Oct. 1, 1997. The city has only worked on one new event, a music festival.

Establish a fund to be given to the Greenwood Panthers annually.

Develop a traffic flow plan.

Operate the police substation on a 24-hour basis. The city said the plan was too costly.

Establish a civilian review board. The city said it was not practical.

Identify a passive park to be developed along the business district by Jan. 1, 1998.

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