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Members of the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador group pose with the 2017 Chamber of the Year Award (L-R): Chris Heinisch, Tracey Arehart, Bill Vear, Rebecca Avrin, Nicole, Fielder, Gerald Jacobs, Manny Parad, Jerry Peruzzi, John Benincasa, Zack Koczanski, Sharon Edwards and Amy Chirinos.

Council approves townhome development on St. Pete Drive

The Oldsmar City Council voted 4-1 last month in favor of approving a development agreement that will see a 50-unit townhome community constructed on a 4-acre parcel on St. Petersburg Drive. According to the terms of the agreement, Oldsmar Towns LLC will construct a maximum of 50 single-family townhomes on 3.79 acres next to the Oldsmar Public Library.

The complex will be comprised of three-story buildings of four and six units with two-car garages, plus an amenity area featuring grills, benches and greenspace on the south side of the property. The development will be bisected by School Street, which will be partially blocked at the south end to allow emergency vehicle access only. A cobblestone vinyl fence will serve as a buffer between the new complex and the existing residential area on Arlington Avenue East.

While the proposal was universally praised by all five council members during the Nov. 7 meeting, one objected to the agreement based on the previously agreed upon sale price of the property. “There’s a possibility that we are losing a quarter of a million dollars in the land sale,” Council member Jerry Beverland said of the October deal that saw the city sell the parcel to the Palm Harbor developer for $877,182; the land had recently been valued at roughly $1.2 million by a city-hired consultant. “The inconsistency of this is startling to me.”

However, Beverland’s fellow lawmakers said the estimate was just a guideline, and that the proposed deal was poised to bring more residents, revenue and development to the city’s burgeoning downtown district.

“I’ve made my opinion well known when it comes to the price. But we already sold the property, a deal was made, and it would be wrong to change it,” said Council member Eric Seidel, who originally proposed conducting the new appraisal. “I speak in favor of the approval. It’s a good-looking project.”

The council ultimately voted 4-1 in favor of the agreement, with Beverland casting the nay vote.

Sheffield Park Public Art Project receives final approval

A new public art project will soon adorn the entrance to Oldsmar’s Sheffield Park after the City Council approved the recommended artist, Noelle Stillman, on Nov. 21.

Stillman of Palm Harbor was chosen from a pool of candidates by representatives of the North Pinellas Cultural Alliance and city staff, who said her proposed colorful butterfly mural and impressive résumé stood out among the contenders.

“Her résumé is amazing,” NPCA board member and former Oldsmar City Council member Linda Foley Norris said of Stillman, an itinerant art teacher at Leila G. Davis Elementary who owns a master’s degree in art education and has worked on projects in Clearwater, St. Pete and New Hampshire.

“We liked the artistry involved in this one, and the vibrant colors.” Norris said the mural “is going to be quite large,” encompassing an area of roughly 750 square feet near the entrance to the pedestrian trail at the north end of the park. “It might not take up the entire 750 square feet, but it is going to be prominent,” she said.

After unanimously approving the $2,000 project, which will be paid from the NPCA’s startup funding, Council member Eric Seidel gave his former colleague praise for being instrumental in bringing the city’s its second public art installation less than 18 months after she ushered in the first.

“I’ve got to give Linda some credit here where credit’s due,” he said, “because, I think this is the second time that there’s been artwork in front of the council, and it actually passed unanimous. That’s never happened.”

Norris said Stillman hopes to start work on the project on Feb. 1.

“She has a few other commissions to complete,” Norris explained. “But we will be meeting soon to go over the Artist Agreement and map out the area.”

When asked about future public art projects in Oldsmar, Norris said, “I’m working with (City Manager) Al (Braithwaite) to see how much money is left in the public art fund so we can start planning our next project,” she said. “As I said at the meeting, you haven’t seen the last of me!”

Upper Tampa Bay Chamber named 2017 Chamber of the Year by state organization

The Upper Tampa Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce was recently named the Chamber of the Year with an annual budget of less than $500,000 by the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals. The awards were presented at the organization’s annual conference Nov. 14-16 in Atlantic Beach, where FACP President Tammy Bracewell praised the winners.

“Both 2017 chamber of the year recipients have much to be proud of and have demonstrated a high caliber of service to their communities and the members that they represent,” she said.

The FACP also recognized the Kissimmee-Osceola County Chamber of Commerce in the category of chambers with an annual budget between $500,000-$1 million.

According to its website, FACP is a statewide organization whose mission is “Advancing excellence in chamber management” and whose vision is “Enhancing Florida’s business communities by cultivating successful chamber professionals.”

The organization annually recognizes up to three chambers of commerce within the state that have excelled in a variety of areas over the past three years, including financial stability, membership recruitment and retention, governmental relations, innovation and accomplishments.

After receiving the prestigious award, UTBCC President and CEO Jerry Peruzzi shared his thoughts on the honor.

“We are very proud of this award from the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals,” Peruzzi said via email. “It was an honor to be nominated and a bigger honor to have won the Award as the FACP Chamber of the Year in the State of Florida. We consider our members’ family, and we certainly could not have achieved this award without their support.”

Council-Manager Award given to exemplary Oldsmar residents

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LJ Tucker and family members accept the Oldsmar Council-Manager Award of Recognition for November 2017 from City Manager Al Braithwaite on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

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Quyen Trujillo accepts the Oldsmar Council-Manager Award of Recognition for November 2017 from Vice-Mayor Dan Saracki on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

The Oldsmar City Council presented its Council-Manager Award of Recognition to LJ Tucker for the month of November and Quyen Trujillo for December.

The award is typically given to city employees or residents who commit their time and effort for the betterment of the community.

In presenting the award to Tucker on Nov. 21, City Manager Al Braithwaite praised the founder and president of Tucker Enterprise Tree Services for his efforts to help the community recover from the effects of Hurricane Irma.

“This is called the Council-Manager Award, but I think for this particular time only I’d like to call it the ‘save the day’ award,” Braithwaite said.

He then explained how Tucker used his claw truck to help the city swiftly remove Irma debris.

“LJ agreed to put some of his other business aside to help us get the debris cleared citywide,” he said. “So, LJ saved the day for the city.”

Upon accepting the award, Tucker thanked his family, the council and the community.

“I learned a long time ago it’s not about the money, it’s about building relationships and the allies,” he said. “We try to stay as economical as possible and do a good job. Because that’s what’s most important to us. Doing a good job.”

On Dec. 5, Trujillo, a real estate agent and active member of the community, was presented with the Council-Manager Award by Vice-Mayor Dan Saracki, who got to know Trujillo through her volunteer work on the city’s centennial committee.

“I met Quyen and her husband, Tony, at a task force event and I said wow, she’s going somewhere,” Saracki said of the HGTV regular known as a diminutive dynamo for her stature and personality. “She’s won awards and she is taking off as a superstar, and I want to thank you for your leadership and your desire to help others in the community, and I look forward to seeing what you are going to do in the future for the city of Oldsmar.”

In her remarks, Trujillo said she was very honored to accept the award because she has tried to be an active member of the community since she moved to Oldsmar six years ago.

“Right away I became involved, with Code Enforcement, and it seems like every year I add something to the list,” she said. “So, I thank you so much for adding the centennial onto that list as well. It was so much fun and I was able just to feel like really a part of the city.”