LARGO — More than a year of effort has paid off for a neighborhood that hoped to lower its speed limits.
On Oct. 6, the El De Oro neighborhood off Belcher Road became the first to take advantage of a new city policy that allows areas to lower the posted limits from 30 to 25 mph.
City commissioners voted 6-0 to approve modifications to the city’s code of ordinances and establish the new speed limit zones for the residential streets within the subdivision.
In May 2019, commissioners rejected a proposal to lower residential speed limits citywide to 25 mph in favor of a new policy addressing concerns on a case-by-case basis.
The city already had a traffic calming application process in place that allowed residents to request the addition of speed tables in their neighborhoods. The updated policy included an option to request a reduced speed limit for any of the city’s 696 streets that are eligible, but 60% of the affected property owners had to sign a citizen-led petition first.
The El De Oro subdivision is the first to hit that mark.
“I congratulate them for wanting to do this and protect their community,” Commissioner Michael Smith said.
State statute requires a new speed limit to be posted, city engineer Megan Dion said, but since the neighborhood is isolated, only one 25 mph sign is needed at the entrance.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes said he was familiar with the subdivision and would’ve requested the limit to be lowered more to 20 or 15 mph.
For that to happen, Dion said, the city would’ve had to conduct an individual speed study in that area, because a citywide study conducted last year showed it could only reduce limits to 25 mph.
Holmes also wondered about enforcement.
“I still want to know who’s going to enforce that because I don’t believe the police department patrols in there,” he said.
Dion also gave updates on other speed limit reduction requests.
Two neighborhoods are in the petition phase. The Brookside neighborhood off Belcher Road has gotten 43% of residents to sign on, and the Harbor Lake Drive area including Overlook Road and Mitchell Drive off Indian Rocks Road has 48%.
The Ridge Road Southwest area between Eighth Avenue Southwest and West Bay Drive has attained the required votes and is moving forward, Dion said.
Mayor Woody Brown, who lives in that area, cast one of those votes.
“I’m fully in support of it because we have a speeding problem on our road. Not that I think this is going to solve all of those problems, but it’s a step in the right direction,” he said, adding that he hopes the city can approve the requests more frequently.