The Narrows Business District in Indian Rocks Beach could get new sidewalks if a grant application is approved.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Golf carts are legal on the streets of Indian Rocks Beach, and they have been for some time.
All over the city, there are special parking spaces for the vehicles and they are allowed to cross Gulf Boulevard to get to the beach. What they cannot do is get to the Narrows Business District, where the majority of businesses, especially restaurants and bars, are located.
The problem is threefold; there is no way to get past the Nature Preserve on Gulf Boulevard. There is no way to get past the yacht basin. And, until recently, the state would not allow them to cross Walsingham Road.
At the Indian Rocks Beach City Commission meeting Feb. 12 City Manager Chuck Coward said the state just issued a memo saying it was legal for the carts to cross Walsingham.
“I don’t know if it was an old rule that they discovered or a new policy, but we found out about it this week,” said Coward. “I’m sure that should make some people happy.”
Later Coward explained that the issue of getting around the Nature Preserve would be a matter of buying some land, a matter of a few feet, so the golf carts can drive next to the sidewalk.
But he said getting around the yacht basin is a different matter. There would have to be some sort of bridge built along Gulf Boulevard to accommodate the golf carts, and he said a quantity of mangroves would have to be removed.
“It is an environmental and monetary issue and both will be difficult to overcome,” he said. “At least we solved one of the issues,” he said referring to the Walsingham crossing.
The trouble with that is the golf carts won’t be able to get to Walsingham until the other two obstacles are removed.
Special workshop for park proposals
Coward produced a document outlining what residents had to say at the recent open house to discuss planned changes to the Walsingham intersection and the theme of the “pocket park” to the West of that intersection. Coward was hoping that from the residents’ comments would arise a consensus that the Commissioners could adopt, but not so.
“I have given you a summary sheet with my very subjective breakdown of what the residents had to say,” he said to the commissioners. “Very few were a definite yes or no to any of the proposals and I suspect as you read through those comments you might interpret the resident comments differently that I did.”
Coward asked for and received the go-ahead to hold a special workshop on the issue. The meeting will be 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, prior to the 7 p.m. regular commission meeting. The city manager said the process was not a waste, however.
“We hit a very good nerve,” he said. “People were tickled that we gave them an opportunity to come and see the plans and have a say and give their opinions. We got the people’s attention and we will reach a consensus on this, it is just going to take a little time.”
Residents can still have a say on the issue. The plans and drawings are still on display at City Hall and anyone can drop by and have a look. Coward said he or a member of his staff would be available to explain the designs and to answer any questions. He said the display would be up for about another week.
City looking for sidewalk grant
Planning and Zoning Director Danny Taylor told the commission that he was planning to submit an application for a $300,000 grant from Pinellas County for new and improved sidewalks in the Narrows Business District.
Total cost of the project would be $500,000 and, if the $300,000 grant were approved, the city would kick in the other $200,000.
Taylor cautioned the commissioners that just applying for the grant doesn’t mean they are going to get it.
“We’ll be competing with other communities for that money,” he said.
Commissioner Cookie Kennedy said that since the city has not gotten such a grant from the county since sometime in the mid-’90s that improves the city’s chances this time.
The sidewalk project is part of an ongoing program to improve the business district and make it more pedestrian friendly.
Taylor said he expects to hear back from the county by August.
Election officially canceled
The Tuesday, March 12, municipal election has been officially canceled. Officials knew they would not be having an election back on Jan. 11 when only three people, all incumbents, filed papers for the three available seats.
Commissioners Terry Hamilton-Wollin and Phil Hanna have been re-elected for two-year terms and Commissioner Cookie Kennedy has been re-elected for a one-year term. In such a case, where there are no opponents, the candidates are all deemed to have voted for themselves, thus the term “re-elected” even without an election.
The fact that there is no election saves the city $6,500 in money that would have been paid to the county to run the election.
Homeowners to donate picnic shelter
Commissioners voted unanimously to accept a gift from the IRB Homeowners Association. The homeowners are actually getting involved in a joint venture with the city to build a new picnic shelter in the newly revamped Keegan Clair Park.
The HOA will donate just over $97,000 to the $13,000 project. Once built, the city will assume all maintenance responsibilities for the new shelter.
Kennedy also told the commission that her effort to get businesses to build an information kiosk in the park is under way. She said the business owners she talked to are enthusiastic about the idea.
Keegan Clair Park was recently completely made-over and is the site of the new floating docks on the Intracoastal Waterway. Adjacent to the Narrow Business District, it is hoped the docks and park will attract more people to the area.