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Belleair opposes Osborne property park
Military honored with town proclamation
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Col. James Turner, center, holds a Belleair proclamation honoring the military. With him, from left, are Commissioners Tom Shelly, Mayor Gary Katica, Commissioners Stephen Fowler, Kevin Piccarreto and Michael Wilkinson.
BELLEAIR – The Osborne property at 200 Ricker Road in Belleair will not become a neighborhood park. Commissioners discussed the fate of the property at their meeting April 2 and agreed that a park would not be the way to go.

Mayor Gary Katica explained why.

“With Morton Plant Hospital right next door and being a smoke free area we’d be inviting all their smokers to come to the park,” he said. “The moment we made that property a park we’d be making it a smokers’ park.”

The late John J. Osborne who also left $3.9 million to the community gave the property to the town. It had been suggested that the house be torn down and the property turned into a park in Osborne’s memory. That memory is something Katica wanted to protect.

“That would be no way to honor Mr. Osborne to have cigarette butts all over the place,” he said. “I realize the employees of the hospital have stressful jobs and many of them smoke and the park would be the first place they would head to. It would be next door to their parking lot.”

Katica then came up with an idea for the property, which he said is likely worth something in excess of $250,000.

“The Montessori school is for sale and we could perhaps suggest a property swap to them,” he said. “Their property is going to be hard to sell because there is no parking there, but if they were to do the swap then no doubt the Osborne property would be much easier to sell.”

The Montessori school on Ponce De Leon Boulevard is right in the middle of town property. It juts into the space of the Recreation center complex and it is no secret that the town would be happy to get the property to turn it into a parking lot.

Town Manager Micah Maxwell told the commissioners that the school is appraised at a high value of $375,000. The town’s finance board has suggested the town not offer that much for the property, which might make the idea of a swap something plausible.

That then left two issues up in the air. The idea of turning the Osborne property into a park was born in part because there are no parks in the north end of town. Maxwell said they were exploring turning a piece of land near Harold’s Lake into a park, thus solving that problem.

Then there was the issue of Osborne’s memory. Commissioner Stephen Fowler said he liked the idea of naming the potential park by Harold’s Lake, Osborne Park.

Katica suggested that perhaps a cornerstone at the Recreation Center could be named in his honor. That suggestion didn’t sit well with resident Lil Cromer.

“It is wonderful that we want to honor this man who gave us nearly $4 million with no strings attached,” she said. “He deserves more than a little plaque with his name on it. Because he spent so much time around the Building Department and Public Works I suggest that when the new Public Works building is built we name it after him.”

With no final decisions made on any of the items Maxwell said for the time being he would proceed with his budget assuming the property would be sold eventually, thus keeping it on the tax rolls.

Military honored

Several veterans from Belleair were at the meeting, having been invited by the town to be present when a proclamation was read proclaiming that April 17 would be Military Family and Community Covenant Day in Belleair. Included in the group was special guest Col. James F. Turner IV, an active duty Marine from Central Command in Tampa. Turner served several tours of duty in Afghanistan as a fighter pilot.

The proclamation encourages community partnerships with the Armed Forces to provide a better quality of life for servicemen and women and their families.

Brush left behind

Resident Nancy Hartshorne expressed concern over cut brush that was left behind along the bluff. She said she had noticed workers trimming trees in the area then left their cuttings in a pile just over the side of the bluff.

“I was worried about erosion and their cutting back trees before they start to grow in the warmer weather,” she said. “But now I realize we should be worried about fire. That brush is as dry as a bone and it is piled high.”

She said the way things stand it is only a matter of time before something bad happens.

“I have seen teenagers smoking in that area all the time,” she said. “It would only take one careless flick of a lighted butt to set it on fire. It is an accident waiting to happen. If a fire starts there the whole bluff will be burned out and if the winds are blowing toward shore all the houses will be gone too.”

Maxwell said he went and looked at the situation and agreed the brush had to be taken away. He said he is waiting for quotes from two companies about removing it. He alluded to the fact that when the original contract was let to trim the trees it was more expensive to have the clippings removed.

Parking on the Mall

The issue of providing angle parking on the Mall was discussed again, and more study is needed.

Recently, Fowler wondered if angle parking could be established, thus creating new parking spots in the area. In a report to the commission Maxwell said as things stand it would not be possible to provide angle parking.

Streets must be 29 feet wide to accommodate angle parking. The Mall streets are only 22 feet, so to angle the parking would mean cutting into the median by 7 feet. Maxwell said in a memo that would be a costly venture.

Fowler told the Commissioners that he did a study that showed an additional 22 parking spots would be created with angle parking. In fact the plans for the new Memorial at Hunter Park call for some angle parking to be established.

In the end Maxwell said he would continue to look further into the matter. He said that further study involving a drawing of the option of cutting into the median would cost $800.
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