INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – City commissioners gave the green light to Forward Pinellas, Pinellas County’s planning agency, to begin the process of studying the future of the Gulf Boulevard corridor. The go-ahead came at the regular commission meeting Dec. 11.
Whit Blanton, the executive director of Forward Pinellas, told commissioners that the study would begin with an assessment of Gulf Boulevard and develop a profile of what businesses will look like in the future.
In 2004-05, USF did a study of IRB and produced a lengthy report. However, nothing in the report was ever implemented in the city. That is something Blanton said his group would try to avoid this time around.
“We will look at what has changed since that time and identify any barriers that might be in place,” he said. “Those barriers could be costs for example. We will try to find ways to implement any recommendations and to keep up with any trends that are going on in the whole region”
Part of the visioning plan will be to engage the residents of IRB. Blanton said that would take the form of one on one interviews and two workshops involving the public. He said the first workshop would be to gather information from the residents and the second one would be to explore ways to put that information into solid plans.
“We don’t want to develop a plan that will sit on a shelf for the next 10 years,” he said.
Blanton said whatever is developed through the visioning process must be consistent with countywide plans and projections.
City Manager Gregg Mims was asked why the city could not carry out the visioning on its own without the need for outside help.
“They provide a fresh set of eyes,” he said. “Our staff is not equipped to carry out such a project.”
Resident Kelly Cisarek wondered if it might be prudent to have a look at the other work the organization has done in Tarpon Springs and South Pasadena before spending money for the local study.
“It might be helpful to look at that and make sure we like what we see,” she said.
Former Commissioner Bert Valery reminded the commissioners of the lack of action following the USF report.
“We pushed hard for that USF study and we were excited with the report, but it didn’t get put into any of our regulations,” he said. “I don’t understand; I don’t see any new recommendations being any different from the old study. It seems to me we dropped the ball back then; I hope we follow through this time.”
Julie Hoofnagle, a resident, suggested that the USF study wasn’t all that practical when it was written.
“I read the USF study and it was never adopted because it was unrealistic stuff,” she said. “It was done at the time of the downturn in the economy, and it put too much of a burden on local business. This time perhaps we can take the best of that study and consider adopting it.”
With that the commissioners gave the nod to Blanton to begin the process. He said the project will begin toward the end of January and will take three or four months to complete. The cost of the study is just over $18,000.
Commissioner not running again
Commissioner Phil Wrobel will not be running for re-election in the March election. The deadline for candidate registration was on Dec. 11, and although three people qualified to run for the two available seats, Wrobel was not one of them.
“I just don’t have enough time to give the job the effort it deserves,” he said. “My family and my business take up so much of my time and I can’t do the sorts of things I should do to properly fulfill my obligations.”
Wrobel said he and his wife have been talking about making this decision for the past couple of months. He said he hopes he isn’t letting anybody down.
“I apologize if I am but there isn’t anything I can do about it.”
Wrobel is finishing up his first term in office.
“I guess I’m a one-timer,” he said.
Incumbent Phil Hanna will be running again to hold onto the seat he’s held for the past 10 years. First time candidates are Diane Flagg and John Pfanstiehl. Both are well known community activists and are involved in various local organizations.
Local residents recognized
Mayor Cookie Kennedy recognized two members of the community for their outstanding achievements.
Pat Marzulli was recognized for his swimming record. This past summer, he swam the Catalina Channel in California and was the oldest person ever to complete the swim.
Marzulli was 69 years and 311 days old when he did the swim in 15 hours and 29 minutes. He turned 70 on Nov. 13.
Also recognized was Kathy MacKinnon for her efforts in running the annual toy drive for charity. MacKinnon has been organizing the event for more than a decade and annually she collects over 200 bicycles for needy children.
“We have to get to know the special people in our community,” said Kennedy as she presented gift bags to each of the recipients.
Then she recognized City Manager Gregg Mims, who recently received an award from FEMA for his efforts working with them during the various storms that hit the city.
“And he didn’t even tell me about this,” said Kennedy, holding a plaque from FEMA that Mims had just hung on a wall in his office.
Several residents have been appointed to vacancies on two city boards.
David Watt and Jim Labadie have been appointed to the Board of Adjustments and Appeals. They become regular board members with terms that expire in June of 2022.
Beth Smith and Adrienne Dauses have been appointed first and second alternates on the Planning and Zoning Board. They and resident Debra Esposito indicated a willingness to serve. Only two vacancies existed so Esposito was not needed.
“It is wonderful to have more applicants than we have space,” said Commissioner Ed Hoofnagle.