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Treasure Island eyes beach trail
Former mayor fashions his proposal after a community in South Florida
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TREASURE ISLAND – If former Treasure Island Mayor Julian Fant and the current mayor and commissioners get their way, the areas between the beach hotels and the beach itself could have a far different look in some areas.

Fant had recently taken a trip to Bal Harbour, Fla., which has similar waterfront areas as does Treasure Island with its beach ringed with hotels.

But between the hotels and the beach is a beach trail that is surrounded by green, lush natural foliage, the Bal Harbour Scenic Trail.

The trail meanders through the area with dwarf sea grapes, sea oats and other plant life. The trail itself is not a concrete sidewalk. Rather, it’s a trail of sand, gravel and crushed shells. The only concrete is the lining of the trail.

Fant is convinced that, since the trail is erected with natural elements, the cost of such a project is on the low end. Additionally, a trail used on Treasure Island would enrich the city’s scenic value which also would make the hotels more attractive to tourists.

“It would enhance the value of (hotel) properties and also add to the attractiveness of the beach to our tourism,” Fant said. Hotel operators “would do their part in raising that money” as a result.

The trail also has low lumen lighting which would make the area safe for turtles.

“The use of natural sand, crushed shell and natural foliage would make it a lot more feasible and it would be done in stages,” Fant said.

Fant came armed with photos and easily won over the commission.

“The sooner we start on this, the better,” said Commissioner Ed Gayton, who has long been a proponent of a like-minded project.

Commissioner Bob Minning noted Fant had already turned information about this project to the city’s beach stewardship committee and, Minning said, the ball is already rolling on the project. Minning said a member of the beach stewardship committee has already been in contact with the city of Bal Harbour about the project and is trying to reach the contractor who developed the project.

“The beach stewardship committee will follow up on this with a meeting soon to take a further look,” Minning said.

“A foliage wall would block sand just as well as a concrete seawall,” Fant added.

Property taxes for law enforcement

The commission was leery of a resolution that would support a possible new special property tax assessment to raise additional funds for law enforcement. The proposed special assessment property tax is an idea floated by the Suncoast League of Cities and would be forwarded to the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation.

The proposed law would allow municipalities to tax properties previously exempt from taxes, such as government buildings, churches and nonprofit organizations, to raise money solely for law enforcement needs.

If passed, part of the law would state that for the first year of the new law, a municipality could raise, say, $3 million from the previously exempt properties, but in turn the city would have to cut its general revenue budget by the same amount.

If put into effect, this stipulation would only last one year.

“The advantage is that there are some properties within a community that do not pay property taxes,” Treasure Island City Manager Reid Silverboard said. “All would pay for the benefit of having a police department.”

But the proposal, which is in its embryonic stages, wasn’t met very favorably by the commission.

“A tax is a tax no matter how you dress it up,” Minning said.

“Until we see a better explanation, we shouldn’t even move it forward,” Gayton said. “If government buildings are taxed, who ultimately pays for that?”

Election canceled

Treasure Island's 2009 municipal election has been canceled because all incumbent candidates are unopposed. Mayor Bob Minning, along with City Commissioners Carol Coward and Phil Collins will be sworn in March 17.
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