Residents from the Southside neighborhood meet to talk with city officials and staff about their concerns and visions.
DUNEDIN – Southside residents met with city officials and staff Jan. 11 to help form a plan and vision for the neighborhood and to voice some of their concerns.
The residents were invited to become a part of the official Southside Dunedin Neighborhood Advisory Board that is to meet each month through April to come up with a bound neighborhood plan to bring before the Dunedin City Commission. The board is to develop recommended courses of action, suggest a financially feasible funding mechanism, and lay out a timeline.
The board divided itself into groups to discuss stormwater, traffic, sidewalks, an east-west trail connection, law enforcement, code enforcement, housing, overlay districts, and connecting the Hale Center, the library and the Dunedin Stadium as a campus.
At one table, residents bounced around ideas about how to make Douglas Avenue more walkable and agreed that sold-out games causes parking problems, but some people did not believe the parking area should all be redone just for a few busy days of spring training.
The group also discussed how to get more use out of the stadium. Some people suggested using the stadium for community sports such as kickball or flag football or for movies, concerts or other entertainment be held in the stadium. Parks and Recreation Director Vince Gizzi responded that the city is looking at doing some minor entertainment after minor league games, but standalone shows would be difficult because they would be expensive due to the production, equipment, tickets, and finding someone willing to take the risk of performing in an outdoor location with no stage or shelter.
Citizens took that opportunity to note that the noise level in the area from Douglas Avenue to Edgewater Drive is a problem during games because the noise from the speakers comes from center field and is not buffered by anything. One resident suggested mounting speakers from the overhang of the stadium to direct the sound right to the audience and help block it from the neighbors. Gizzi said the department could try to work with an engineer to remedy the problem.
Residents also requested more bike racks at the stadium and throughout the city. Additionally, they said there needs to be an easier way to walk or ride a bike from the stadium to the library.
At another table, Southside neighbors said they wanted to stress rental rehabilitation. This would include painting houses, doors and windows; landscaping; fencing; fixing roofs; and seeking grants or loans. Their vision included getting painting projects and streetscaping done, planting natural vegetation that would use reclaimed water, and educating the neighborhood about areas of concern.
Residents in this group were angered that in certain areas it is common for people to park their vehicles in their yards. They agreed that these rules should be enforced more to help ensure a more aesthetically pleasing neighborhood for all.
Citizens also were concerned with rising permit fees. They said that sometimes it is hard to get things up to code once they fall behind because permit fees are expensive and difficult to even get. They asked if there could be an overlay to reduce some of these costs or to fast-track permitting. City staff agreed to look into this.
This group also talked about law enforcement issues. One citizen suggested having speed limits posted more frequently or even on the road itself to ensure people don’t get confused about what the speed limit is from road to road. They also discussed the need for better outdoor lighting in certain areas at night to help deter crime.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Spencer Gross, assigned to Dunedin, addressed a citizen’s concern about whether Southside gets an equal amount of patrolling as the other parts of Dunedin. Gross said that the city is divided into zones and there is a specific deputy assigned to each zone, giving it equal amounts of attention. He and Angela Montgomery, assistant to the city manager, assured residents that speeding patrols have been increased in the trouble spots identified at the previous Southside meeting, such as on Douglas Avenue, Union Street, and Milwaukee Avenue.
Gross also added that there are directed patrols, so when deputies have down time, they are directed toward problem areas that have been identified through citizen input. Therefore, he urged the residents to contact the Sheriff’s Office about problems so it can be addressed quickly.
The last group discussed traffic sidewalk issues. The residents said they would like sidewalk placement to be based on safety, not just a majority-rules 51 percent vote.
A few citizens also complained about the water quality throughout the city, saying it tastes bad and are disturbed by how much cleaner it looks after run through a filter. Staff said that the water is safe and clean, and another resident said Florida water in general isn’t the greatest.
Dunedin resident Deborah Scott said she has lived in Southside for 12 years and came to the meeting because she cares about the neighborhood. She said her concerns are to slow down traffic on Douglas Avenue, address some crime issues on Union Street and Milwaukee Avenue, and get more opportunities for youth.
“I think I like the fact that (Southside) is eclectic and diverse,” Scott said. “I think I’d just like to see a little more utilization of the resources and beautification, really. But I don’t think it’s the city’s job, either. I think it needs to be a community effort.”
Scott also said she hopes to get some of the absentee landlords more involved and help show them that if they help, they can add to their property values and their rent spaces will go up when they help improve the neighborhood.
Meggan Rose came to the meeting to help with the planning of sidewalks and to address code enforcement
“There are some problems that I’ve seen going on, and if you’re not part of the solution, then you can’t complain about the problem.”
She said code enforcement is one of her main concerns, such as people parking in yards and lack of home maintenance, such as painting and keeping windows in tact. She also would like to see more active policing patrols. Her overall vision is mainly to have a safe, aesthetically pleasing neighborhood.