BELLEAIR — A group of residents is petitioning the Town Commission to permanently close one of the main roads in the community.
Resident Neil Palenzuela appeared before the commission March 3 with a petition signed by 130 residents asking that it consider permanently closing Poinsettia Road to through traffic. Poinsettia is currently closed where it meets the Pinellas Trail because of construction on the Largo side of the line and the upcoming LPGA Tournament in May. Closure of the road is part of a new traffic configuration during the tournament when thousands of people are expected to flood into Belleair for the tournament.
Palenzuela made it clear the petition is mainly to get the commission’s attention and for them to consider putting the items on the agenda in a future meeting. He did say he was serious about the closure, however.
“It is a matter of public safety,” he said. “Too many people are using the road as a shortcut through our community.
“To be fair to the other side of the issue, I have received as many negative comments to the idea as there are people who signed the petition,” he said.
Of concern to some residents is the large apartment complex under construction on the other side of the trail along Rosery Road, which is also under construction and closed. The project, dubbed The Rosery, will feature 224 units.
“There is bound to be a large influx of traffic through here once the development is finished,” Palenzuela said.
Palenzuela said that speeding is also a concern along the road.
“There is an issue for sure and only the police can deal with that,” he said. “The best traffic calming method is to close the road.”
Not everyone at the meeting came to support the petition, however. Resident Dick Williams, a retired veteran and former director of Safety Services in Pinellas County, said there would be consequences to closing the road.
“I was amazed when I heard that there was a chance the road could be closed,” he said. “It will greatly inconvenience a lot of people in the area and any change would affect public safety.
“Largo has invested a lot into their side of the road right up to where it meets Clearwater Largo Road. I will get the neighbors to speak out against this.”
Resident Dan Hartshorne is also against the closure.
“It will have an effect on the fire trucks that might need to get through there and it will have an impact on businesses,” he said. “The town would be overreaching in every possible way if it closed the road.”
Resident Janet Sourbeer wondered if there might be a compromise solution to the issue.
“Not everybody uses the road as a cut-through,” she said. “I wonder if some sort of traffic calming method could be used, perhaps making the street one-way for example.”
Donna Harper, a real estate professional, noted that closing the road would help property values in Belleair.
“Those new apartments are going to have a negative impact on values,” she said.
The discussion continued with people speaking from both sides of the issue. One man from the Pelican Place development said those residents would like to see it closed, while another man, William Henry, said he wanted it to remain open.
“I want to see a traffic study and until then I will fight against it,” he said.
Mayor Gary Katica said it was obvious that there were many people on both sides of the issue and he said the town officials would look into the matter.
Town Manager J.P. Murphy said the town staff would study the issue, talk to Largo officials, determine what other streets would have to be reconfigured and bring it all back to the commission sometime in April.
Clearing the way for golf
The upcoming LPGA tournament was also under discussion March 3, as commissioners were called upon to approve changes to special relief permits or the Pelican Women’s Championship would not be able to be held.
Under current law, the permits can only be granted to events that last for 72 hours or less. The LPGA will be held all week from May 11-17 and will affect parking, road closures, alcohol sales and more.
Commissioners unanimously approved the creation of a temporary relief permit for events that attract more than 1,000 people and last more than 72 hours, which means the LPGA tournament can go ahead.
In other news:
• Parks Director Ricky Allison got approval from the commission to proceed with negotiations with the city of Clearwater for the use of its “super” mower to mow the Bluff.
Allison played a video that showed the machine cutting the grass and other growth along the top of the bluff and 12 feet down the sides of the bluff. Until now it has been difficult doing the cutting because of the danger to the workers. In some cases, they had to rappel down the side of the bluff using ropes and in at least two cases contractors turned down the work because of the danger.
Allison said the machine is able to do the work safely and keep the cut even between 18 inches and 2 feet.
Several residents were concerned about the machine cutting small trees and not giving them a chance to grow. Murphy said that would be considered and discussed at a later meeting.
• Residents of Belleair Forest Drive are getting new pavement on their street later in March. Construction Supervisor Keith Bodeker said for two days during the week of March 23, workers will be milling off the cracked surface asphalt and then paving over it with new asphalt. The cost of the project is just less than $79,000.
• Management Analyst Cathy DeKarz presented the town’s annual communications summary. Two years ago, the town developed a communications team comprised of members from all the town’s departments, the idea being improvement of communications between the town and its residents.
DeKarz said the challenge in the past year was bringing all the town’s communications efforts into ADA compliance.
She also pointed out the highlights of the events during the year, including production of the employee handbook, the resident information guide and helping the police department get the word out about scams in the community.
The communications team will remain in place and continue to provide information to the town’s residents using a variety of methods including social media.