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Dunedin reconsiders plan for Edgewater Park

What began as a proposed facelift for Edgewater Park, then became a full-on reconstruction project with complications, has again been scaled down to facelift.

Since October, residents and city officials have agreed that the 4-acre spread at Dunedin Marina, where cabbage palms dot waterfront views, was a downtown treasure with several flaws that needed correcting:

Landscaping was neglected, the gazebo railings were rusty and the restrooms were concrete, unkempt and ugly.

But when city planners unveiled three conceptual designs, including two that suggested cutting down trees so people could, say, toss a Frisbee, a public outcry ensued.

At a special meeting of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency earlier this month, city commissioners reached a consensus.

"It's not a Frisbee park," Mayor John Doglione said. "It's a park for people to sit in the shade and relax."

"To take what folks have said and make the appropriate adjustments is the right thing to do," Commissioner Dave Eggers said.

The CRA originally budgeted $450,000 for the project. As plans got bigger, so did the estimated costs. Proposals to build a new gazebo within a brick plaza and to relocate the Veterans of Foreign Wars monument pushed the budget past $700,000.

Dunedin economic development director Bob Ironsmith, who had expressed excitement at the idea of a Frisbee-friendly space, said officials received a petition from concerned residents Feb. 15. The restrooms were an eyesore that needed to be changed, the petitioners agreed. But don't cut the trees.

"People want a passive park," Ironsmith said. " "Don't take out green space of park' - that's what we've been hearing."

The consensus plan would stick close to the original budget, he said. Bungalow-style restrooms near the park's center would cost $175,000. Renovating the historic gazebo and adding a new roof means another $50,000. Then there are costs for new picnic benches, lighting, irrigation and sod, Ironsmith said.

The revamping is expected to start in August and be completed by early December.

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Sure, Main Street is quaint, cute and the ideal spot for nearly every downtown event in Dunedin. And there are plenty.

Almost too many, city leaders said earlier this month.

Take the Gear Link Cup Cycling Festival, a professional bike race through downtown that would have raised money for the American Cancer Society. The City Commission approved the event in January. Problem: The Dunedin Historical Society's Bungalow Tour, scheduled every other year, was slated for the same day in March.

Routes and times conflicted. Gear Link organizers scrambled to reroute the race and suggested a later start time. Commissioners seemed sympathetic, but it wasn't enough.

"What we're seeing here is a collision of so many events," said acting City Manager Maureen Freaney, who recommended commissioners postpone the bike race until next year.

Leisure services director Harry Gross, who said the city has reached its saturation point, called for a public airing before the city approves more special events.

After a lengthy discussion, the commission agreed 5-0 to cancel the bike race.

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At its meeting Feb. 16 night, the City Commission also inched closer to sealing a $3.9-million deal with the First Baptist Church of Dunedin, a downtown institution for 95 years.

Commissioners took less than three minutes to approve an agreement that allows the congregation to stay at 500 Wood St. for two years. The deal now includes a church-owned parking lot behind Bellini Restaurant. City Attorney John Hubbard said the added space would not change the purchase price.

The church congregation, about 250 members, agreed to the sale in October. Pastor Greg Varndell said they have not found a new location but had looked at several properties in Dunedin.

The search becomes their next big project after the sale is made final March 1, Varndell said.

Vanessa de la Torre can be reached at 445-4167 or vdelatorre@sptimes.com.

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