A design concept of what the intersection of Indian Rocks Road and Ponce De Leon Boulevard could look like with a roundabout.
BELLEAIR – Town commissioners heard a new plan for revamping the intersection of Indian Rocks Road and Ponce De Leon Boulevard and they apparently liked what they saw.
A presentation was made at the Dec. 4 commission meeting, and the focal point of the new design will be a roundabout at the Belleair intersection.
Actually a modified version of the plan was presented to the commission several weeks ago but it involved turning Country Club Road into a cul-de-sac. That upset the residents who in turn convinced the commissioners that it was a bad idea so the consultants were sent back to the drawing board.
“If everybody on Country Club Road is against the cul-de-sac then we have to find another way,” said Mayor Gary Katica.
The new plan involves taking Country Club Road, which now comes right out into Indian Rocks Road, and turning it to the south and onto Ponce De Leon, west of the proposed roundabout. Residents coming from Country Club wanting to go north on Indian Rocks would have to turn south and make a U-turn on Palmview.
During the discussion of the plan Commissioner Kevin Piccarreto wondered if a series of four-way stop signs along Indian Rocks Road might have the desired effect of slowing traffic and discouraging motorists from cutting through Belleair as they come from Clearwater heading to the south and west. Jamie Sweeney, of the DKS Consulting firm, replied that it would be illegal to put up four-way stop signs without a complete study proving the need.
“We have found in the past that if you put up too many four-way stops people will just ignore them and drive right through, and that’s dangerous,” he said.
Mayor Gary Katica agreed.
“Our own analysis shows that the intersection in town which has the most accidents is the one where we have the four-way stop.”
Police Chief Tom Edwards confirmed that the intersection of Indian Rocks Road and Poinsettia has had the most accidents over the last three years.
Resident Bob Carrone was livid with the proposed plan and berated commissioners for even considering it.
“I use Ponce and Indian Rocks every day and the four-way works,” he said. “Why spend so much money on this. Why not spend the money where it is needed on repairing the roads in our town. This is ridiculous; this is a waste.”
But others disagreed. Karen Hagan Mench said she and her family like the plan.
“We have no objection to the roundabout,” she said. “Our main argument was turning Country Club into a Cul De Sac.”
Resident Judy Ginger also liked the plan.
“You did good,” she said.
Shannon Ware agreed.
“The roundabout is an excellent solution,” she said. “This will provide traffic calming and it will be better for pedestrians.”
Town Manager Micah Maxwell said the project, if approved, would cost in excess of $300,000. Commissioners indicated they liked the proposal so now the consultants will proceed to develop a permanent design for final approval before any work can begin.
Another plan of proposed changes to the intersection of Indian Rocks and The Mall was delayed for more study. That plan could be back before the Commission before the end of the year.
Hunter Park proposal gets support
Two months ago Belleair resident and former Commissioner Karla Rettstatt approached the commission about rebuilding and renaming Hunter Park, which is located in the center of town and is the site of several community activities. She was back again Dec. 4 with more advanced plans and specific costs.
Rettstatt represents the Belleair Community Foundation, which proposes to build a large fountain in the park to honor military personnel. To that end they have asked the town to rename it Hunter Memorial Park.
Rettstatt said the idea of having a memorial park was important to her.
“First of all, my father served for 26 years in the military,” she said. “And I can remember during my time on the commission the highlight was when several young Belleair residents came back safely from overseas.”
The proposed fountain will be 26 feet in diameter and will be in the shape of a pentagon representing all five branches of the service. Seen from above the protrusions are in the form of a star and on the end of each will be a flag also representing each branch of the service.
The total cost of the project will be just over $422,000 of which the foundation will pay $313,525. The town would pay the rest. Mayor Katica was obviously pleased with what he heard.
“It is a great thing,” he said. “I was in the Air Force in Korea and there was so little fanfare when we got back home. I’m so happy to see how people recognize our soldiers today.”
Piccarreto remarked that it was time for Hunter Park to be upgraded.
“It is a sandlot with weeds,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Commissioners gave tacit approval for the proposal but they want more financial information before they give it their complete blessing. Rettstatt, who has promised all the money will be in hand before anything begins, said she has faith that the commission will approve the plan and she is going to move forward. She hopes construction of the fountain will begin in March or April.
“As long as we’re finished before hurricane season,” she said.
Homestead exemption for some seniors to be increased
The commission gave approval of first reading of an ordinance increasing the homestead exemption for low-income seniors from $25,000 to $50,000. Town Manager Maxwell told the commissioners that a change in the Florida Constitution allows for the increase. The ordinance must be approved by Jan. 11 if the increase is to kick in for next year. He said the financial impact on the town is minimal..
Golf course sale proceeding
Maxwell told commissioners that the deal to purchase the Belleview Biltmore Golf Course is proceeding.
“We signed the deal on Nov. 26, we have their check of $50,000 and now we’re in the middle of our due diligence,” he said. “We have 75 days from the 26th to get it done and finalize the deal but I hope we can be finished sooner than later.”
He said he hoped Assistant Town Manager J.P. Murphy could finish the work by the end of the year or at least early in January.
Private meeting requested
Town Attorney David Ottinger asked that the commission schedule a private meeting, this time to deal with potential legal action by Morton Plant Hospital. Recently the commission unanimously denied the hospital the right to tear down several houses it owns in Belleair adjacent to the hospital parking lot. The intent was to expand the parking lot.
Ottinger said the hospital has initiated legal action and is asking the court to overturn the commission’s ruling and allow the demolition of the houses and the expansion of the parking lot. He said the private meeting would allow the commission to develop a legal strategy without tipping off the hospital.
Commissioners agreed to hold the private meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 just prior to their regular commission meeting at 6:30. Maxwell commented that it was possible that whatever they decided in the private meeting could be made public at the next meeting.