BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Fire stations do not belong in residential and recreational areas. That’s the message a group of Belleair Bluffs residents hope to convey to city officials when they present a petition signed by neighbors of a proposed new station to be located on city property across from city hall.
The property also sits in a residential neighborhood and is close to the city park where children play, said resident Lori Spence, who is heading the petition drive. Spence said a number of residents whose homes are close to the fire station are “very concerned.”
“We are opposed to this. It is not the right location for a Largo fire station,” she said in a recent interview. Spence said the residents are concerned about a decrease in their property values due to the station’s presence, as well as the noise of sirens and fire trucks going back and forth, and the potential danger to children playing in the nearby playground.
A number of retirees and elderly people live in the neighborhood surrounding the station site, Spence said. “This is not going to be very pleasant for them” with the noise and the threat of lower property values, she said.
“A lot of the neighbors didn’t agree (with putting the station there), and the petition gives them a needed voice,” she said. As she has been circulating the petition opposing the station, Spence said she has found a significant backlash among the residents.
Spence believes the fire station belongs on Indian Rocks Road where the existing station sits. She wonders why the current station cannot just be renovated.
That would be more cost effective, she said, and solve the problems associated with the proposed site across from city hall.
Bluffs Mayor Chris Arbutine addressed some of the concerns being cited by Spence at a city commission meeting last month. The proposed station site was chosen, he said, because it is the best location to assure that emergency response times are met.
As to noise concerns, Arbutine said a concrete wall to buffer the sounds “has been included in every discussion we’ve had on the station and will be part of the plans.” The sirens would not be turned on until the fire trucks reach West Bay Drive, according to the fire chief.
Arbutine said the station plans have been known to residents for the past five years.
Spence was asked why the residents did not protest the proposed station’s location earlier. She said there was a long period of inaction after the initial talk of building a new station, “and we thought that, hopefully, it was a dead deal.”
Spence said the whole idea of putting the station in Belleair Bluffs on the property next to city hall had been “pushed along by Largo” after rejecting previous sites further south on Indian Rocks Road in Largo.
“Putting the fire station here would be a disaster,” Spence said. “We’ve looked at this very closely,” she said. “It is not a good place.”
Spence urged concerned residents to turn out at the April 14 commission workshop meeting when the petition opposing the fire station, which she said will contain more than 80 signatures, will be presented.