Forward Pinellas OKs grant recommendations

Whit Blanton, Forward Pinellas executive director, explains how projects are picked for Complete Streets grants during a March 14 meeting.

CLEARWATER – Forward Pinellas Board members approved staff’s recommendations for grant awards for two separate programs March 14.

Planning Manager Chelsea Favero presented information about Complete Streets applicants. In its second year, the program awards $100,000 for concept planning projects and puts construction projects for up to $1 million on a priority list for funding by the Florida Department of Transportation.

Favero said staff was recommending that the city of Dunedin received $100,000 for its concept-planning project for Skinner Boulevard from Alt. 19 to Bass Boulevard. The city will provide a 50 percent match.

The only other applicant was the city of St. Petersburg for an East-West Transportation Plan. Favero said St. Petersburg received a grant last year and staff wanted to ensure equity in funding. In addition, Dunedin’s plan had a greater potential for land use transformation and for economic development.

Forward Pinellas Board member Michael Smith, who also is a Largo Commissioner, objected to staff’s pick for the construction project to add to the FDOT priority list. Largo and the city of Oldsmar both applied and staff chose the Oldsmar project to construct 1/2 mile of roadway from St. Petersburg Drive from Dartmouth Avenue to Bayview Boulevard within the city’s redevelopment area.

Largo had applied for money for a 1.25 mile, two-lane roadway on Rosery Road from Missouri Avenue to Eagle Lake Park, which would connect to the Pinellas Trail. The $1 million request, with a matching $5 million from the city, also would pay for improvements to sidewalks and bicycle accommodations.

Smith argued that Largo’s project would provide “more bang for the buck” than the one in Oldsmar. He said it was a life-safety project due to the number of crashes in the area and pedestrian and bicyclists’ deaths.

Staff had recommended the Oldsmar project because it had a higher ability for “transformational impact,” and the roadway has a greater mix of land uses than Largo’s, which is primarily single family residential. Oldsmar’s targeted roadway also has been identified as a multimodal corridor on the Future Land Use Map. Staff questioned whether Largo would be able to bring a regional trail connection through the corridor or just bike lanes.

Smith asked why Forward Pinellas couldn’t recommend both projects for FDOT’s priority list.

In the end, the Board agreed to recommend both projects with a higher ranking for the Oldsmar project.

Board member Sandra Bradbury, who is also Pinellas Park Mayor, asked what criteria staff used to rank projects for grants and other recommendations, giving the example of a points system.

Whit Blanton, Forward Pinellas executive director, said staff looks for projects that are most creative and flexible for Complete Streets funding.

“We didn’t want to be overly restrictive using a point based system to inhibit creativity,” he said.

Board members also discussed giving priority to projects that provide matching grants; however, Board member Dave Eggers, who also serves on the County Commission, said that could disadvantage smaller municipalities.

Blanton said staff would evaluate the situation and make recommendations for the future.

Concept Planning funding will be available July 1, and construction projects will be added to the priority list in September.

Planning and Place-Making grants

Rodney Chatman, Planning Division manager, said when the application period ended for the Planning and Place-Making Grant pilot program, staff had received four applications vying for a share of $50,000 in money allocated by the Pinellas Planning Council.

The main requirement for applications was that projects had to be related to the implementation of Planning and Urban Design Principles.

Pinellas County requested $50,000 to help pay for a project estimated to cost $141,000 to implement form-based code for downtown Palm Harbor.

According to the Form-Based Code Institute, “Form-based code is a land development regulation that fosters predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. A form-based code is a regulation, not a mere guideline, adopted into city, town, or county law. A form-based code offers a powerful alternative to conventional zoning regulation.”

Staff recommended that the county receive a $25,000 grant.

The city of St. Petersburg submitted an application asking for $50,000 for two projects of $25,000, which was the total cost of the projects. The first part was to develop graphic illustrations of nine “missing middle” housing typologies and the second part was an analysis of current lending practices for “missing middle” housing project financing.

According to information on missingmiddlehousing.com, “Missing Middle is a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types compatible in scale with single-family homes that help meet the growing demand for walkable urban living.”

Staff recommended that the city receive a $25,000 grant.

St. Pete Beach had requested $37,500 for design, fabrication and installation of three wayfinding signs, and Tarpon Springs put in an application for $50,000 to conduct a market analysis, highest and best use redevelopment scenario exercises, business retention/recruitment strategy and charrettes.

The board unanimously approved staff’s recommendations.

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

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