Commission Candidates Voice Opinions on Key Issues, Part 2

There are a number of important issues affecting Safety Harbor as we approach Election Day. Hear what the commission candidates had to say about some of the key topics at last month's public forum.

With Election Day fast approaching on Tuesday, November 6th, issues that affect the country as well as the community are on the minds of voters in Safety Harbor.

The three candidates for the open City Commission Seat 1, Ray R. IrvinBobby Saltzman and Richard Blake, all participated in a public forum on October 24th and answered questions from residents on topics ranging from downtown development to library cards.

In order to help voters know where the candidates stand on these key issues, Safety Harbor Patch broke down their responses to a few of questions raised at the forum.

What are your thoughts about our library? Do you have a library card, and are you in favor of expanding library services?

Irvin - I do have a library card. I spoke before about retirees, and one of the things that retirees have very high on their list is continuing education. There's no better place in this country than our libraries to find continuing education. A library plays a role of (not) just a place to put books. It has literally a life of its own in our community and should be promoted. 

Saltzman - The library here is my favorite. I do have a library card. And that's where I stood and got most of my petitions signed when I decided I wanted to run for office. And I met so many people coming in there from out of town, people from Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Clearwater, just to use our library because it is a world class library. I support the library and everything that comes along with it.

Blake - I do favor expanding library hours and services. I tried going there a couple of days ago and it was, it doesn't open til 9:30 and it must have been 8:00 when I was trying to get in....so I do favor that. I do not have a library card currently. But when we first moved here I did go to the library and checked it out and I was very impressed. The facility here is phenomenal...and it has a phenomenal children's section as well. It's not something I use on a daily basis because I go to work every day...so it's a time thing for me. But I think the library is a great thing and I definitely support it.

How would you address the issue of illegal drug use and sales in Safety Harbor?

Saltzman - Well we all know that's a problem in every city in the country and of course it's addressed by the police. We need to be proactive, we need to get to the children. The children are the key because if they don't start, they'll never start. I didn't realize it was that much of a problem here, I haven't seen it...but I'm sure it goes on in every city and every town. The police are the ones that have to handle that and we have to support the police.

Blake - Security is huge issue in any city. Some Planning & Zoning members suggested putting together more of a formal homeowners association, or a formal organization within neighborhoods that don't have homeowners associations near the downtown area. I think that's a phenomenal idea...and I think that would help position us to have more of a neighborhood watch type of atmosphere to help reduce the crime.

Irvin - That is an enforcement issue with the police and we need to make the police aware of any problems that we see like that developing or hear of that developing in our community. We also need to communicate those issues in the community with each other...start making everybody aware of the problems and start addressing them as a community as a whole. Let's look around the country at what other communities are doing to address these very same issues. This isn't a new issue just for Safety Harbor.

Closing statements

Irvin - I don't believe there's anything more important for us to look at...as the quality of life that we have here, and continuing to improve that quality of life and securing it well into the future for all of us. I believe as a commission and as a city we need to maintain our infrastructure and look at it constantly and make sure it's in a state that will continue to encourage people to invest in their properties, their homes and will continue to bring new citizens and businesses into our community. We have an environment here that is absolutely magnificent and it needs to be maintained.

Saltzman - Safety Harbor has such a rich history. Safety Harbor's low density development gives us an oasis like quality. We live in a wonderful, quaint and special city...and it can remain the place we all know and love. I am a resident same as you. I realize the decisions I will make as your commissioner will affect every one that lives here. I will work for a better Safety Harbor, wanting only good things for our community as a whole. I will try my best never to disappoint you.

Blake - The quaint character and small town charm that Safety Harbor has is what we all know and love...and it's something that we all want to continue to see in the future. We're getting to a point where we're really going to be battling the economy, the budget situation that we're in with pulling from reserves all the time, we've really got to start putting a plan together to create revenue for this city. In order to do that...we need to be saying yes to this outside money and then at the appropriate time...changing the particular projects so that they fit our quaint character and our small town charm.

For the complete transcript of the candidate forum, visit the City of Safety Harbor website. 

Marie November 04, 2012 at 09:47 PM
What I have learned after a little research on the Firmenich site: -The majority of the site is currently zoned industrial. -Current zoning allows 300,000+ square feet of additional buildable area. That’s the size of three Home Depots!!! -The zoning change seems like a perfect opportunity for some much needed charm as you enter the backside of the Harbor! -The Richman group are also green builders and prior developments are beautiful. -Also mentioned the rentals are set to start at $1000. mo. http://www.therichmangroup.com/search-results.html?show=new In conclusion, do the residents of Safety Harbor seriously believe that the potential of three Home Depot size buildings is quaint? Don’t you realize the City, boards and commissioners have codes and rules they have to follow in regards to traffic flow??It sounds to me like no one was listening to what Mr Blake said! Here is his quote: The recommendation that the board is making is that the zoning should be amended to a higher Residential use, rather than the current Industrial use.  By amending the current zoning it will help protect the surrounding residential areas from industrial uses in the future, such as huge distribution centers or noisy manufacturing plants. http://www.voterichardblake.com/click-on-the-candidate-comparison-chart-richard-blake-for-safety-harbor-commission-seat-1/
Harborite November 04, 2012 at 10:54 PM
A large scale development including a 4-story, 55 ft., 296-unit apartment building plus commercial and retail development is hardly a charming entrance for Safety Harbor. Unlike your claims, this is no perfect opportunity for the residents of Safety Harbor, especially those who will be living near this project. The projected rents of $1,000 per month for a one bedroom and one bathroom apartment is completely unrealistic. When the management company learns that they cannot find people to pay these high rents, they will be forced to greatly reduce the rents. This will eventually attract lower income renters. There will be financial costs to the taxpayers including busing and educating the children living there and hiring additional policemen, firemen, and teachers. I am not against having residential use there. I'm just against this high density 4-story, 296-unit residential apartment building there. It is false to claim that the only possible developments for this site are this proposed large scale apartment and retail/commercial site or having huge distribution centers or noisy manufacturing plants. This is the first proposal brought before the City for the redevelopment of the Firmenich Property. Safety Harbor is a great city that is always attracting new people and businesses. If this proposal is turned down by the City, I'm sure that better proposals will follow that will integrate better into our quaint community.
Jeffrey Rosenfield November 05, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Thank you, Marie and Joe C., for your well thought out comments.
Marie November 05, 2012 at 01:46 AM
If we are ok with multi-family then shouldn't we be ok with the density assigned to it? This project is over 30% less dense that was is allowed in multi family (proposed 10 units per acre, allowed 15 units per acre) How is this an impact on taxes for safety harbor residents? (According to Pinellas County and City of Safety Harbor all current infrastructure can easily handle this development (see concurrency plan provided by city)). In fact, Safety Harbor will have a significant increase in revenue. Don't we have a budget shortfall? Isn't the City already trying to cut expenses and find new ways to increase revenue? Do you really think The Richman Group can get millions of dollars to develop without being comfortable with rental market pricing? I do agree with the height concern. 4 stories seems very tall. My understanding is that 4 stories will mean less buildings and more green space and offer more buffers to neighbors. I also think that privacy must be considered through keeping mature trees and making sure buffers are adequate. I guess the tradeoff is height over trees? At first I did not think this development was right for Safety Harbor. Not only is it a large development it will also involve a large change. I was initially concerned about height, traffic studies, density, green space, compatibility etc. The city can provide all information above and the city commission I heard is having a workshop with the developer that is open to public.
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