Editorials

Palmetto dares to embrace change

The new look of Fifth Street West in Palmetto is something the city hopes to spread into the historic downtown's Old Main Street when a $10 million project begins in 2021 to construct a multi-modal trail from Riverside Park West to Old Main Street and beyond. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald
The new look of Fifth Street West in Palmetto is something the city hopes to spread into the historic downtown's Old Main Street when a $10 million project begins in 2021 to construct a multi-modal trail from Riverside Park West to Old Main Street and beyond. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald ttompkins@bradenton.com

Come August, Palmetto will be the scene of the start of a promising partnership with the University of South Florida. The city was selected to be part of the school’s inaugural Community Sustainability Partnership Program.

Graduate students and professors will engage residents to begin assessing various city needs. The agenda includes the linear park and multi-modal trails as part of improving the transportation system, historic preservation, water-sensitive urban design and many other community priorities. One endeavor involves an architectural survey of the downtown core, now a mishmash of styles that lack cohesion.

Once important, sustainable projects are identified, students and faculty with correlating expertise will help the city complete those priorities. The city and its Community Redevelopment Agency will pay for the program.

This is not just an academic exercise but a constructive one for Palmetto. Students gain experience in their fields and bring a fresh, outside perspective as well as their creativity and enthusiasm to each project. The city gets propelled into the future with unique improvements focused on sustainability.

Is Palmetto prepared for a possibly innovative and dramatic transformation? The city’s CRA director, Jeff Burton, commented on that in an interview with Herald urban affairs reporter Mark Young by first noting the city’s lack of millennials: “We are going to have some very bright and young minds here. These are true millennials, but the best and brightest of them. That can be hard for some of us, but they are here to help us into the future. Change is not easy, but this is the perfect time to bring in these young minds, when things are tipping between the new and old ways.”

Harold Wilson, who served as the prime minister of the United Kingdom, uttered these profound words quite relevant here: “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”

Cheers to Palmetto for daring to embrace major change. Cheers, too, to USF-Tampa for selecting Palmetto for the launch of Community Sustainability Partnership Program.

Bradenton should be so fortunate. Hopefully, USF will focus some sort of project on the Friendly City.

The costly perils of ignoring the rules

Here’s why “just say no” is not sound public policy when it comes to developers seeking approval for a project and governments deny the request based solely on public opposition: Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Walter Schafer Jr. ruled this week that Pinellas County commissioners wrongly rejected an apartment complex venture for Safety Harbor in 2013 because the decision was based “on a desire to appease the Safety Harbor residents” rather than county policy.

The judge awarded the developers $16.5 million in damages and interest for that county decision, the Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday. Taxpayers are on the hook for that bill should the county appeal and lose.

The developer sought a zoning amendment from industrial to residential for the site, a request approved by the city. Commissioners overruled that decision, citing an industrial lands preservation policy. But that only applied to unincorporated zones. The county attorney had warned the commission that a rezoning rejection would open the door to a lawsuit. In his ruling, Schafer cited one commissioner’s remark that referred to public opposition to the development proposal in his decision to deny the request.

Manatee County commissioners and city leaders are obligated to follow the law despite public opinion. That’s worth remembering when development requests are brought before officials.

Quote of the week

“Back during the (heroin) epidemic, we had two (overdose) deaths, but that was over several months. This is pretty alarming to us.” — Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler, commenting on the three overdose deaths since June 7 with heroin the suspected cause.

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