LARGO -- The Largo City Commission took its workshop session Tuesday evening to Belcher Elementary School and heard directly from citizens.
Pursuing a program of bringing meetings to the people, the commission heard presentations on possible future uses for the present library building when it is vacated next summer on "new urbanism," also called "smart growth," and development strategies for the downtown renewal district.
The commission allowed citizens to air their views on the subjects during the meeting, after hearing from several in a citizens comment at the outset of the meeting.
One citizen, Curtis Holmes, urged the commission to allow time on the city's television outlet, Channel 15, for citizen viewpoints. He also suggested that citizen comments be posted on the city's Internet web site.
Other citizens concentrated mostly on praising the city staff for responsive services they encountered.
On the library's future use, Ginger Corles of the Herbert-Halback, Inc., consultants who were engaged to do a study on the matter, gave a thorough and far reaching presentation.
In the proposed schedule set out by Corles at Tuesday's meeting, market potential, architectural considerations and urban design will be reviewed during February.
Public meeetings are slated late in February, along with a market study and the consultant plans to present a preliminary report to the commission in early March.
That will include the planning process, public involvement, reuse scenarios and the next steps to be taken.
A final report to the commission is scheduled late in April.
Some criticism has been leveled at the city staff's insistence on engaging a consultant at a cost of $30,000. Critics have said that a study of the subsequent use of the present library building could have been done "in-house," that is, using resources within the city.
While some commissioners seem firm on exactly what they want occupying the building, others are open and the public in general has yet to express any strong feelings.
One citizen source suggested putting a "for sale" sign on the property, not necessarily to sell it, but to ascertain what kind of response such an offer would get and thus perhaps generate ideas on what the building could be used for.
The commission also heard a presentation Tuesday on "new urbanism" from a nationally connected planner. New urbanism is a concept not readily familiar to the commission (and few others).
City officials say it is a planning approach that promotes the "creation and restoration of diverse, walkable, compact, vibrant, mixed use communities."
A memo from Mike Staffopoulos, the city's Community Development Director, said that the concept relates to the type of development envisioned in the city's Strategic Plan.
The plan is a vast and thoroughgoing approach to totally changing Largo from a railroad whistle stop where they used to load citrus on the trains to a modern, nifty cities with jeweled parks, buildings and accommodations.
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