A referendum on the November ballot will ask voters in Clearwater to decide whether the Landings Golf Course should be redeveloped into a light industrial manufacturing complex and leased to a developer to build roughly 710,000 square feet of industrial facilities on approximately 58 acres of the property, along with 8 acres of parkland and a 12-acre driving range, adjacent to several residential neighborhoods.
There were limited opportunities for public input before the City Council voted to move this project forward to referendum, and there has been insufficient study of traffic, noise, and the environmental impact of industrial redevelopment despite the prerequisite for “Investigation of the long term feasibility” (prior to commercial conversion) noted in the city’s 2011 Economic Development Strategic Plan. Further, the projected jobs and corresponding salaries provided as rationale for this project are speculative and arguable.
The nearby neighborhoods, understandably concerned at the prospect of losing the tranquil greenspace that made their neighborhoods so unique, created the grassroots effort “Keep Keene Green” to fight for their neighborhood, and against this referendum. Living next to an industrial development was not something they expected when they purchased their homes, and studies show that both losing adjacent greenspace and having new adjacent industrial development poses a provable threat to residential property values, not to mention quality of life, often for several blocks out.
The neighborhoods reached out to the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition, the North Pinellas League of Women Voters, and the Suncoast Sierra Club. The Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition sponsored a webinar and invited the developer to an open public meeting to present the project and respond to questions by the community. Each organization did additional separate analyses. Each group drew the same conclusion: the redevelopment of this city-owned greenspace into industrial property under these circumstances is not in the best interest of the community and citizens of Clearwater.
No other community needs such as housing, park space or athletic fields appear to have been considered by the City Council. The League of Women Voters’ study in fact discovered a previously identified shortage of multi-purpose playing fields (in the 2013 City Parks and Recreation Master Plan Update), which would be ideal on this parcel. And even for commercial use, the city did not open this process to competitive bids or any public requests for proposal.
The analysis by the League of Women Voters included careful examination of Clearwater’s Comprehensive Plan — the city’s master planning document — and the Greenprint Sustainability framework. These documents are intended to be guideposts for future growth and are largely based on already-identified challenges that need to be considered in land-use decisions. The League uncovered numerous conflicts with oft-cited goals of preserving greenspace as well as the character of neighborhoods. These plans were drafted many years ago and these needs for preservation have only grown more necessary.
And let’s not ignore the “elephant in the room”: the unique risk Clearwater/Pinellas residents face from the parallel and ever-worsening threats of climate disruption and species loss, which is being driven primarily by land-use decisions. If there was ever a time and place to think globally and act locally, this is it. Once greenspace is gone, it’s gone forever. If we’re to heed the science, Clearwater would benefit far more from the very real “green services” this open space provides (like flood & stormwater control, water filtration, wind and erosion control, wildlife habitat, CO2 sequestration and recreation) than it would from additional industrial manufacturing space.
We the undersigned organizations strongly urge Clearwater voters to vote no on this referendum.