ST. PETE BEACH – City officials expect to get plenty of public input as they work with consultants to begin nailing down specific improvements for the Corey Avenue district in St. Pete Beach.
City commissioners voted 5-0 Sept. 18 to approve a $279,630 contract with Michael Baker Jr. Inc. to provide planning services for the Corey Avenue District.
Bonfield said the city recently had been under contract with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to do some “preliminary summarizing” of the city’s efforts over the years to reconfirm areas of community concern involving the district.
“Now what we are doing is really another level of planning,” Bonfield said. “This is more of a fine-grade level where we will actually end up with details that would be ready for us to move into a construction design phase. … This is certainly much more detailed than we have had in the past.”
Jerry Dabkowski, assistant project manager, and Susan Harden, the project manager, described work that Michael Baker Jr. has done across the country including several cities in Florida. The firm has provided services to Dunedin for about 25 years.
“We watched tumbleweeds roll down that Main Street in Dunedin a long time ago. And now they are begging for parking garages. Those are success stories that are awesome to have,” Dabkowski said.
The consultants hope to have a community workshop in the next couple of months that would focus on confirming some of the concepts for the Corey Avenue District and getting stakeholders’ preferences for design.
Harden said the company finds that it “works really well when we immerse ourselves” in the community.
“For five or six days our team will be here, hosting workshops, walking the streets, taking photos, really delving into the community so we can truly understand what the values of the community are and how we can make sure they are translated into the vision plan,” she said.
The process is expected to take seven to nine months. The team will develop concepts pertaining to traffic circulation and mobility, streetscaping, urban design and parking. They also will look at land use and development.
The commission gave the go-ahead for consultants to use a sophisticated mapping technology called LiDAR – Light Detection and Ranging.
Through mobile LiDAR, high-speed lasers are mounted on a truck that is driven down a road recording detailed information in a three-dimensional form. The technology will help provide a massive database of the infrastructure and can be used to show what a building would look like on a vacant piece of land.
“It would take probably somebody to survey that about a month, and we can survey that in probably 15 minutes by this truck driving down the road,” Dabkowski said.
Without the use of the technology, the cost of the contract would have been $219,820.
“To me this is the most exciting part of the whole presentation,” Commissioner Marvin Shavlan said.
Only a few people attended the meeting.
Tom Rogers, president of the Corey Area Business Association, said he was impressed with the comprehensiveness of the proposal and appreciated that merchants, landlords and other stakeholders will be involved in the planning process.
“I think it’s exactly what we need,” he said.
Responding to a citizen’s concerns about the poor turnout at the meeting that night, Commissioner Jim Parent said he knows a lot of people watch the meetings at home because he gets a lot of comments right after the meetings.
“That’s encouraging to me,” he said.
He also said he wants people to be involved “because we need to have guidance on what the community wants.”
“This is a hot topic. It is something we have thought about, dreamed about, hoped about for a very long time. Now that the city has made a commitment, we’ll keep you in touch,” said Commissioner Lorraine Huhn.
Mayor Steve McFarlin said he wants to get the word out that the city is making an investment and moving forward.
“We need the property owners here,” McFarlin said. “It’s going to take a commitment from them to make this thing work.”
Bonfield said the city would have a strategy for reaching out to people. He envisioned several days of public meetings and having five or six professionals on site, such as a landscape architect.
“It’s not just hanging up a flier,” he said.
In other matters, commissioners:
• Gave final approval to the budget and tax millage for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
The operating budget is expected to decrease from $15.7 million to $14.7 million or approximately 5.9 percent. The tax rate of 2.8 mills is .425 mills lower than the current tax rate.
The savings in the budget have been attributed to the city abolishing its police department and contracting with the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services.
• Voted 4-1 to give final approval to an ordinance allowing the operation of golf carts on city owned streets.
Parent was the lone dissenter, reiterating his concerns about safety issues. He said he didn’t think the benefits were worth the risks.
“Governments are not always for telling people what they can’t do,” McFarlin said.