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TBARTA Asks Tampa Bay Residents To Help Plan For Future

Beginning Thursday, April 14, residents in the seven counties that comprise the Tampa Bay region will be able to participate in shaping the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority's (TBARTA) master plan, the update of which will include the addition of freight and road networks, airports and seaports as well as the impact of new federal air quality regulations.

Residents of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Citrus, Sarasota, Manatee, Pasco and Hernando counties will be able to participate in six telephone "Town Hall" meetings by dialing a toll-free number that will be posted online at www.tbarta.com. The dates are as follow:

Thursday, April 14 - Sarasota County
Tuesday, April 19 - Hillsborough County
Thursday, April 21 - Pasco County
Monday, April 25 - Citrus and Hernando counties
Tuesday, April 26 - Manatee County
Wednesday, April 27 - Pinellas County

TBARTA spokesperson Amy Ellis cautions that the expanded plans will not overhaul what is already in place.

"With the master plan update, we are not 'recreating the wheel,' " says Ellis. "What we are doing is bringing all of the plans in the region together in one place. This way, we can ensure that all areas are covered and we can more easily identify the most important priorities. This includes the transit network, the roadways, freight network, airports and seaports.

"It isn't necessarily an expansion of these facilities, although there are some projects underway or in the works. The I-4 Connector, for example, is under construction and will connect the Port of Tampa to I-4, making it much easier for trucks carrying freight to travel to and from the Port. A similar project has been identified as needed in the Manatee area -- a better roadway connection to Port Manatee."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Amy Ellis, Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority

Complexities Of Amendment 4 Challenge Florida Voters

The choice between Alex Sink and Rick Scott for Florida's next governor is a simple decision -- albeit one with huge potential ramifications -- compared to sorting through the proposed constitutional amendments and local referenda.

Among the most complex decisions voters face on November 2: Yay or nay on Amendment 4, which proposes that any plan that affects growth and development must receive voter approval before proceeding. In order to pass, the amendment needs at least 60 percent of the total vote.

Proponents contend it will place more control over how communities develop in the hands of voters. Opponents warn that passage would mean a considerably slowed process for new land use and building projects at a time when Florida's economy needs such investments to get moving again.

"It's probably the most complicated of the amendments," says Tom Arthur, news information director for the Collins Center of Public Policy. "It's basically going to give the public final say on the growth opportunities of their communities. There is some thought out there that local governments -- and builders in particular -- have the power to make the changes they want whether the public is with those changes or not. This measure gives people a say.

"The opponents argue it's the wrong solution," continues Arthur. "That it's a flawed proposal that will lead to a multitude of referendums that will be difficult to understand, make chaos of the ballot and delay development."

Arthur says that while there is no definitive way to know what the consequences will be of either the amendment passing or not passing, there will most likely be further debate if the amendment does pass.

"When it's all said and done, there will probably be some legal issues. Is there a study that says what the consequences will be? No. It's impossible to know what consequences will be for any referendum placed on the ballot and the delays it would cause. But we do know that there are many, many layers to this one."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Tom Arthur, Collins Center of Public Policy

One Bay, One Vision: Mega-Meeting To Connect Tampa Bay Leaders

On April 16, leaders from across Tampa Bay will meet to discuss sustainable growth. One Bay, the group hosting the meeting, has deemed the event the Congress of Regional Leaders.

The One Bay Liveable Communities Initiative is a "regional visional process" that grew from the Tampa Bay Partnership Regional Research and Education Foundation. It is committed to long-term thinking and planning to make the seven counties that comprise the Tampa Bay region a thriving and sustainable mega region by the year 2050. The counties included in the initiative are Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota.

The April 16 meeting is a culmination of polls, surveys and workshops that resulted from the Reality Check of 2007. The data collected indicates a need and desire for a more proactive and deliberate approach to planning.

"When we looked at the data, it was interesting because there were common guiding principles across transit, water and environmental areas," explains Betty Carlin, a spokesperson for the Tampa Bay Partnership. "It's telling us these are the things that people think are important. People really don't want to see growth happen as it has in the past. We want to do it differently. So now we have to put community leaders together to share the vision and make it happen."

Dan Mahurin, chairman of SunTrust Bank and chair of One Bay, sees the meeting as a celebrated outcome as well as an exciting launch.

"This event is a celebration of several years of great input and hard work from across the community to develop a shared vision for Tampa Bay. It is also a turning point for us to bring leaders back together to begin planning how we can implement this vision."

The meeting will take place at the Tampa Convention Center from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Betty Carlin, Tampa Bay Partnership; Dan Mahurin, SunTrust
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