CLEARWATER – When Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni died May 20, he not only left a void on the County Commission, he also left a leadership role unfilled on the Forward Pinellas Board, where he had served as chairman.
Forward Pinellas began its June 13 meeting with a moment of silence in memory of Morroni. Later in the meeting, members discussed recommendations from the Nominating Committee on how to fill his position.
Vice-chair Doreen Caudell, who is Vice-Mayor of Clearwater, served as chair while Morroni was in the hospital fighting cancer. Board members agreed that she should continue as chair. They also approved a recommendation that Board Member Dave Eggers, a Pinellas County Commissioner, serve as vice-chair.
Joanne “Cookie” Kennedy, Mayor of Indian Rocks Beach, will retain her job as treasurer. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch declined the nomination for secretary, instead recommending St. Petersburg Councilmember Darden Rice. Board members agreed.
CEO gets pay raise
Caudell presented Executive Director Whit Blanton with a certificate marking completion of his third year of service. Later in the meeting, results of his annual performance review were announced with a recommendation for a 3 percent pay raise. Blanton received an average score of 3.5 out of 4.0.
He averaged a 3.6 in the area of partnerships and external communications/messaging. He averaged 3.5 for his leadership effectiveness, for fiscal management and internal communications and reporting.
Acting as the metropolitan planning agency, the Board approved three amendments to the 2021-2022 Transportation Improvement Program proposed by Florida Department of Transportation.
The first amendment adds $1 million in funding for 2017-2018 to PSTA’s allocation for capital funding to purchase two electric buses and related equipment. The second adds nearly $1.8 million to PSTA’s grant funding to replace, rehabilitate and purchase buses and/or related equipment and facilities. The third is an allocation of $7,276 in grant funds to PSTA to replace and/or rehabilitate bus-related equipment to maintain a state of good repair.
Adoption of five-year TIP
Still acting as the MPO, the Board unanimously adopted the five-year Transportation Improvement Program that details state and federal funding for planned transportation projects. The adopted program runs from fiscal year 2018-2019 through FY 2022-2023.
The program contains project descriptions, schedules and funding allocations for scheduled transportation projects for 25 of the county’s local governments, PSTA, local airports and the Port of St. Petersburg.
Countywide plan map amendment
After a lengthy discussion, acting as the Pinellas Planning Council, the Board approved, 7-5, a subthreshold countywide plan map amendment submitted by the city of Clearwater for a 2.8-acre parcel located at 300 South Duncan Avenue. The existing use of the property is an office building.
The applicant applied to change the category from office to retail & services. Staff recommended approval. However, residents of a nearby neighborhood objected to the owner’s proposed use of the land as a self-storage facility.
The owner of the property cites an inability to lease space in the property due to its condition. Space is currently being rented at prices below the market price. The Board heard testimony from an expert who said that office space wasn’t the highest and best use of the property.
After a lengthy discussion during which the Board was reminded that the final use of the property was not part of the decision to be made and they were only to consider whether an amendment met countywide rules, the matter was approved.
Long Range Transportation Plan
Forward Pinellas staff is working on the 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan, which is scheduled to be adopted in November 2019. Staff presented a demographic analysis of county residents, as well as a plan to involve the public in the planning process.
Demographic information showed that the number of low-income residents is growing with the highest number of low-income residents age 18 and younger. And residents are older with the median age increasing from 43.6 in 2000 to 47.1 in 2015.
In 2015, 10.5 percent of the population was black of African American, a 0.2 percent increase from 2010. The median income was 30,695 with 30 percent of incomes below the poverty line. The Hispanic or Latino population is growing the most with an 89 percent increase since 2000. The median income of that demographic group is 36,664 with 22.6 percent living below the poverty line. Asian population grew from 3 percent in 2010 to 3.2 percent in 2015. The median income was 57,230 with 12 percent of incomes below the poverty line.
Part of staff’s work is to project population growth for the future. The trend shows growth exceeding projections. For example, the population of the county was 916,854 in 2010 and was projected to reach 924,042 by 2015. The actual population in 2015 was 936,325. In 2017, the county’s population had grown to 962,003. Projections call for the county’s population to reach to 1,030,000 by 2045, a 9.9 percent increase.
Forward Pinellas is launching a new website, www.itstimetampbay.org, in July to gather feedback from residents about their priorities and allow the public to rate different options. The site is scheduled to be live from July-Sept. 30.
Forward Pinellas has partnered with the city of St. Petersburg to explore ways to allow and encourage urban agriculture throughout the county. Forward Pinellas is proposing amendments to the countywide rules and has created a technical assistance package that local governments can use to allow urban agriculture. Staff presented a draft of the Urban Agriculture reference guide. More information is available at forwardpinellas.org/blog/serving-a-growing-local-need-with-urban-agriculture.
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.