The Pinellas County Commission plans a meeting Aug. 5 on a charter change to protect sensitive preserves.
Published July 23, 2008|Updated July 23, 2008

Pinellas County commissioners moved closer Tuesday to giving voters the authority to kill any future sales of the county's environmental lands.

The commission voted to hold a public hearing Aug. 5 on a proposed charter amendment that would be on the ballot in November.

If voters approve, it would require a referendum any time county officials wanted to sell, convey or transfer more than 1 acre of the county's environmental lands.

On Aug. 5, commissioners could decide whether to go forward with the amendment.

"Hopefully, this will pass and this conversation can be put to rest once and for all," Commissioner Susan Latvala said.

Latvala first proposed an ordinance to protect park and environmental lands after an uproar from environmentalists about projects the county had proposed in the Brooker Creek Preserve. But last year the commission scrapped the ordinance in favor of a charter amendment.

If the amendment is passed as now written, county commissioners would have to ask the voters for approval before disposing of more than an acre of any environmental land the county owns in the Brooker Creek, Mobbly Bayou, Shell Key and Weedon Island preserves and in 15 other management areas throughout the county.

But the Friends of Brooker Creek, a nonprofit group organized to advocate for and support the Brooker Creek Preserve, say the charter amendment doesn't go far enough.

The reason: Voter approval would not be needed before leasing preserve lands, as commissioners did when they leased 38.5 preserve acres on Old Keystone Road to the East Lake Youth Sports Association.