CLEARWATER — Pinellas County commissioners unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding Oct. 20 that moves forward plans to improve a significant area of land within the central part of the county.

For years city and county staff have been working on a plan to improve what is referred to as the Gateway area, which is an area, bounded by Belleair Road to the north, 62nd Avenue North to the south, Starkey Road to the west and Tampa Bay to the east. It was one of three priority areas identified by Forward Pinellas in 2015.

Forward Pinellas, the county along with the cities of Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg and Largo then got together and funded an improvement project, which kicked off in 2018, that included hiring consultants to complete a Gateway Master Plan.

A memorandum of understanding was developed to encourage cooperation between the many jurisdictions as planning and investment continues. The next step is to establish a Gateway Partnership to create ongoing coordination, communication and collaboration.

Some of the goals include prioritizing capital improvement projects, as affordable housing and transportation needs.

Looking to the future

Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to subscribe to Duke Energy Florida’s Clean Energy Connection program.

The county wanted to purchase enough solar energy to offset 100% of its annual consumption; however, Duke reduced the subscription amount to about 40% of the total.

The program, which is still pending approval by the Florida Public Service Commission, would not begin until at least 2021. No fees are expected to be charged until 2022. The county can cancel at any time. If the county’s subscribes for 30 years, the cost would be just over $78.76 million with more than $88.57 million in bill credits, equaling a $9.83 million return on investment.

Jabil to stay in Pinellas

Commissioners approved with a vote of 5-1 an ordinance approving Jabil Inc. for an economic development ad valorem tax exemption. Commissioner Karen Seel voted no and Commissioner Kathleen Peters was absent.

Jabil is one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers for computers, smart phones and printers. Its international headquarters is in St. Petersburg. However, the company had determined it needed more space, and had considered relocating or expanding its current facilities.

According to Economic Development Director Mike Meidel, Jabil has since decided to stay in Pinellas and will be completing a three phase project. The capital investment for Phase 1 at 10900 Roosevelt Blvd., which was completed in March 2019, was $11.73 million. The estimated abatement of taxes on that project is $53,419.

Phase 2 consists of a new 170,000 square foot headquarters at the site of the former headquarters at 10800 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. to be completed in March 2021. Estimated cost of construction is $61 million.

Renaming of roads

Commissioners also approved an ordinance that should make it easier to rename county roads. Currently, the county’s code had two different sections that govern the renaming process. One is a section that dates back to a 1949 Special Act that requires newspaper notice that is not required by state statute. The second is a section that reflects more recent code that provide for several ways to rename a road.

Approval of the ordinance removes the provision in the 1949 special act.