Breaking News: Pinellas County goes after local municipalities
A proposed Pinellas County ordinance (LPA 18-9-11) would amend the Land Development Code, giving Pinellas County authority to operate, maintain, develop and control certain County facilities and properties designated as "Properties of Countywide Importance". While the County Attorney revised the original ordinance on Thursday, September 22nd, the City of St. Petersburg and Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) are not satisified that our interests would be protected.
The cities of St. Petersburg, Largo, Clearwater, and others have expressed serious concerns with the proposed ordinance and the impact it will have on activities and development within their cites. A synopsis of these concerns is enumerated below:
First, the community has been provided with very little time to consider and study this proposal. The public only learned of this ordinance on August 23, 2011 when it went before the Board of County Commissioners for the purpose of setting a public hearing. In particular, the City of St. Petersburg was provided no advance notice and little opportunity to provide feedback prior to the ordinance appearing on the agenda before the Board of County Commissioners.
Second, exemption from all City ordinances including land development regulations would result in inconsistent or undesirable impacts within each City on County owned properties. For example, properties, including the Pinellas Trail, would no longer be subject to St. Petersburg ordinances that govern sleeping in public or panhandling. Therefore, individuals who were prohibited from sleeping or panhandling in public in every other area of St. Petersburg could now do so on the Pinellas Trail itself, adjacent to homes and businesses. The ordinance proposes to exempt certain county roads from municipal ordinances. In St. Petersburg this would mean that the highly successful prohibition against street solicitations to vehicles would not be enforceable on county roads. City sign ordinances that limit inappropriate signs would not be enforceable on County roadways.
Third, since City and County land development regulations are not identical, there is a concern that the use of County land development regulations will result in incompatible development or fail to place appropriate restrictions on development, which would be inconsistent with the land use and zoning of surrounding properties in the Cities. This ordinance would also exempt county owned properties from vital redevelopment plans and strategies in each municipality.
Fourth, there is the question of whether the County Charter even provides the authority for this preemption of all municipal ordinances. As noted in the materials provided to the LPA, the Charter was approved in 1980 and there is no deadline within the Charter itself to consider such a proposed ordinance. Cities from Largo to Tarpon Springs are questioning the County's right to prempt local ordinances.
In St. Petersburg, CONA has requested that this item, which has great significance to the City of St. Petersburg and other municipalities be denied or delayed to give citizens and local governments enough time to review the proposed ordinance, provide comments to, and have a dialogue concerning this issue with the County.
The County attorney is recommending that the County Commisison approve the ordinance after taking comments at the upcoming public hearing. Concerned citizens can let the Board of County Commissioners know how they feel about this attempted "Power Grab". Just click on the Take Action link. There will also be a public hearing at the Pinellas County Commission meeting on September 27th at 6:30pm (315 Court St, Clearwater) where you can voice your opinion.