LARGO — Pinellas County commissioners listened to updates during an April 22 work session about what has been going on in unincorporated areas since employees had been assigned to oversee their needs.

In April 2019, County Administrator Barry Burton announced that former county planner Chris Moore had been promoted to an assistant county administrator with the responsibility of serving as a government liaison for Lealman residents. It was the first such position created in response to encouragement from the commission, in particular Commissioner Charlie Justice, to do more to work with the county’s only Community Redevelopment Area.

In late June 2019, Burton announced two more assistant county administrator positions. Nancy McKibben was assigned to unincorporated north county and Brian Lowack was assigned to mid and south county.

The April 22 presentations were the first formal reports by all three to the Commission.

Nancy McKibben began with her report on north county, which includes unincorporated areas in East Lake, Palm Harbor, Highland Lakes, Crystal Beach, Ozona, Greenbriar and Top of the World.

She provided an overview of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency. She pointed out that the PHCSA offered additional benefits beyond recreation and library services.

She also talked about the revitalization of downtown Palm Harbor and the importance of the advisory board made up of community and business stakeholders. The goal is to “establish a framework for the sustainable redevelopment of downtown Palm Harbor,” she said. Projects include creation of a sustainable master streetscape and parking plan; creation of a regional stormwater facility; and branding and wayfinding for downtown.

Brian Lowack reported on mid and south county, which includes Highpoint, Harbor Bluffs, Ridgecrest, Feather Sound, Seminole, Bardmoor, Gandy, Bay Pines, Bear Creek and Tierra Verde.

Goals for Highpoint include improving community connectivity, enhancing economic opportunities and expanding service delivery. Plans to achieve those goals focus on identifying strategies and priority projects, followed by getting agreement from the community and then finally finding funding sources.

Lowack said part of the problem in Highpoint is that there was nothing established; however, working with High Point Neighborhood Family Center an advisory committee had been created, which is meeting monthly on a draft plan. Design and engineering is in progress for a new Highpoint recreation facility with construction expected to begin in October of 2022.

Enhancing connectivity also is a goal for the Ridgecrest and Dansville areas. Others are preserving and enhancing natural systems, encouraging retail and mixed uses in the area while working on redevelopment and streamlining delivery of services.

Next steps include implementing strategies and finding funding sources.

One project is to create a sign so people will know when they enter the Dansville area.

“Residents are proud and they want people to know when they enter their community,” Lowack said.

Dansville has a rich history centered on Dan Henry, one of the community’s founders. Dan and his brother Lloyd came to the area from Georgia in the early 1920s. Dan lived in a log cabin provided by his employer, J.A. Walsingham, the owner of an orange grove. In 1928, Dan began buying property for $5 to $100 plus back taxes. He became the community’s first developer.

A historical marker honoring Dan Henry’s legacy will be unveiled on May 22, Lowack said.

Other projects in the works for mid and south county include a community center for Tierra Verde. Design and engineering is expected to begin in 2022 with construction in 2023.

Chris Moore provided the updates for Lealman. The County Commission established the Lealman CRA in 2015. It is the first and only CRA in an unincorporated area. Moore said Lealman had a number of things going for it, such as its mid-county location and affordable land on high ground.

The same as the other unincorporated areas it has goals, including establishing a community identity and branding, which involves improving aesthetics and beautification. Other goals center on redevelopment of residential and commercial areas, as well as holistic community development using public and private partnerships.

Some of the proposed projects include a new mural program, enhancements at Lealman and Raymond H. Neri parks, along with revitalization of Joe’s Creek and Trail.

Commissioners have a separate Municipal Services Taxing Unit Fund dedicated to the needs in unincorporated Pinellas. Projects funded during fiscal year 2020-2021 include such things as Largo for Youth Football equipment and enhancements for Tierra Verde tennis and pickleball courts, East Lake Recreation Meadow Fields, East Lake Community Library, Community Services Agency Palm Harbor facility and Palm Harbor Library.

MSTU dollars also purchased an electric entrance gate for Pop Stansel Park in Palm Harbor, an outreach vehicle for Palm Harbor Library and equipment for the Florida Dream Center.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.