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Mayor envisions planning Dunedin's future
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Mayor Dave Eggers, left, and City Manager Rob DiSpirito address the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce Jan. 25.
DUNEDIN – Mayor Dave Eggers expects to start a visioning process in the next couple of years to get input from citizens for direction on the future of the community.

Dunedin officials had a similar process in 2005 with workshops attended by many residents.

Eggers said at a Dunedin Chamber of Commerce luncheon Jan. 25 that he asked City Manager Rob DiSpirito to begin the visioning process in 2014 or 2015.

“That’s 10 years. How many things have changed in 10 years?” Eggers said.

During the last visioning process, a national planning firm compiled and analyzed various data that was obtained from these work sessions. In addition an analysis, a visual preference survey was given and a mission statement completed.

“I think it’s time to sit back down as a community and re-embrace things from the last plan that are good, and maybe amend or change some of those things. That’s something I think is really critical and it will be a major task pulling it together. But I know this community loves its city and will pull together and make it a success,” Eggers said.

Eggers and DiSpirito discussed the state of the city during the luncheon meeting, which was held at Bon Appetit Restaurant, 150 Marina Plaza.

One of the most important issues that the city will be focusing on is maintaining a lease with the Toronto Blue Jays, Eggers said. The team has been playing spring games in Dunedin since 1977. The lease comes up for renewal in 2017.

“They obviously are a huge part of the landscape in the city. We’re very proud to have them as a member of our community,” Eggers said.

City officials will bring up its approach to a new lease to the commission in a couple of months, he said.

“We are talking about having an advisory group made up of folks in the community, and clearly we will be talking to the chamber about being a part of that so we can start putting together the ideas and plans that meet the Blue Jays dreams,” Eggers said.

Eggers said City Manager Rob DiSpirito has “navigated us through really troubled economic waters. I don’t want to keep harping on that. But it’s really been a tough time.”

“Rob has done a good job. He’s maintained the services in the city, pretty much the levels we have always had, minimizing tax increases … and having a good open door policy for residents to come talk to him,” he said.

Looking ahead, Eggers said that city officials will begin planning for a new city hall that was approved recently by the City Commission “in principle.”

Stormwater retention projects will be implemented this year, he said.

“We are going to have a big push on stormwater,” Eggers said. “It’s really critical.”

Regarding public safety, Eggers said the city is meshing its fire and emergency medical services with the eventual outcome of a countywide study.

“We have said we are not going to cut back on our delivery of services,” Eggers said. “We think it’s important for the residents. We’ll see how that falls out.”

DiSpirito said the budget was balanced in 2012 for the sixth consecutive year by cutting spending and streamlining the organization rather than relying on millage increases.

“We also didn’t excessively tap reserve funds or reduce services to the public, and we continued to reorganize the departments for efficiency,” he said. “The credit for this goes to the front line troops, the folks actually delivering the services.”

Planning and development had seven projects go through the formal design process in front of the City Commission, receiving final commission approval on an average of 11 months faster than before the city’s 2010 code changes.

“That’s been one of our goals … our hopes, our aspirations was to streamline, speed up the process. Because we know your time is also your money,” DiSpirito said.

DiSpirito said 39 external groups attended the city’s staff development review committee sessions.

“This is another reason why I think things are moving a little bit more quickly,” DiSpirito said.

Applicants for projects meet with representatives of every department on the “front end” to get questions answered quickly, whether they are trying to get a permit or development plans are just a possibility.
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