INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Whatever happens in this city’s municipal election March 14, none of the cities or towns around here can top Indian Rocks Beach voters for enthusiasm.
Last Thursday’s candidates night brought an overflow, standing room only crowd to the City Hall where the populace heard seven candidates for office outline their views.
One overriding issue, which will appear on the ballot in the form of a citizens’ initiative petition, is the question of allowing the rezoning and redevelopment of the 2500 block of Gulf Boulevard.
No debate was allowed on this at Thursday night’s gathering, but it got aired as in issue by candidates’ reference.
What was remarkable was the citizen turnout and the festive air in what may prove to be one of the livelier elections in terms of citizen enthusiasm.
Mayor Bill Ockunzzi and his three challengers along with the seven candidates, including incumbents R.B. Johnson and Jean Scott, for three commission seats gave their views and all were greeted by polite applause. There were no raucous demonstrations or outbursts.
Joanne “Cookie” Kennedy and Larry Sandefer, two of three three candidates opposing Ockunzzi, have prior experience both having served as commissioners. Kennedy is a local businesswoman and Sanderfer a practicing lawyer. The third challenger is Victor Woods, a retired Navy man, who has a beautiful speaking voice.
In the commission races, the two top vote getters will win seats for a full term of two years and the third finisher will have a one-year term.
This comes about because Bob DiNicola resigned as mayor last spring and Ockunzzi, as vice mayor, moved into the vacated slot. His empty seat, whose term is up next year, was filled by the selection of Scott, a former commissioner.
Jose Coppen, Ed Piniero, Patti Muneio, Dale Voss and David Pearson are also in the running for commission seats.
While Piniero is a former member of the commission and once served as mayor, Coppen has mounted a vigorous campaign and has been recognized by other candidates as working as hard if not harder than any other candidate in recent memory for a seat.
All the candidates have so flooded the city with campaign literature outlining their positions there is little doubt about where they stand.
The hot issue is the so-called “Publix” matter. The question in the initiative that voters will decide asks for approval to rezone the east side of the 2500 block of Gulf Boulevard to a planned unit development and grant variances and other approvals “necessary to construct a multi-use, three story building consisting of no more than a street level grocery . . . second level parking . . . and 24 condominium units on the third level.”
Another question on the ballot is a referendum on program for undergrounding utilities not on Gulf Boulevard.
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