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CHANGE WOULD REQUIRE VOTER REFERENDUM ON ENVIRONMENTAL LAND ACTIONS

Pinellas County voters will decide Nov. 4 whether they want veto power when the County Commission considers selling or redesignating its environmental lands.

A proposed charter amendment would require a voter referendum when county-owned preserves or management areas are for sale or up for a change in designation.

The proposal would also prohibit the commission from leasing the lands for periods of longer than 10 years. The change would apply to 19 different properties in Pinellas County, the most urbanized county in Florida.

Years of lobbying by local environmentalists is the backstory to the proposed amendment, which commissioners approved for the ballot in August. But some environmentalists believe the ballot measure doesn't go far enough.

The measure, for example, wouldn't keep the county from leasing environmental lands for less than 10 years for uses such as ballfields. Friction between the commission and environmentalists has been building for years in North Pinellas, where residents have sought county help to address a demand for more youth sports facilities.

Nineteen properties would be protected under the proposed charter change: the Brooker Creek, Shell Key, Weedon Island and Mobbly Bayou preserves; and the Allen's Creek, Alligator Lake, Anclote Islands, Cabbage Key, Cow Branch, East Lake, Joe's Creek, King Islands, Lake Seminole, Lake Tarpon, Lake Tarpon West, Long Branch, Mariner's Point, Ozona and Travatine Island management areas.

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Amendment language

Shall the Pinellas County Charter be amended to designate certain County-owned lands as environmental lands, and to require approval by a majority vote of the electors to remove the environmental lands designation, or to convey any fee simple interest in designated County-owned environmental lands, or to lease or license any interest in designated County-owned environmental lands for a period longer than ten years?

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