City will continue to trim mangroves along Bayshore Boulevard
To trim mangroves, or to not trim mangroves?
That’s the latest issue plaguing residents and officials of Safety Harbor.
The question as to whether the city should continue to trim mangroves along South Bayshore Boulevard or not came up during a commission meeting in early April.
But what turned out to be a seemingly innocuous inquiry once again blossomed into a contentiously debated topic, resulting in a long, drawn out series of discussions, with vocal supporters and detractors on both sides.
“I’m not comfortable spending tax dollars to trim mangroves which I think are really benefitting the property owners on either side of Bayshore,” Vice Mayor Zodrow said during the April 4 commission meeting when the consent agenda item came up.
“I’m not opposed to trimming mangroves, necessarily, but I’d rather give some kind of access agreement to property owners on the other side of Bayshore.”
City Manager Matt Spoor explained that the practice of trimming the mangroves from 7th Street South to the first private property to the south, plus the area in front of the Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center, dates back at least 20 years, mainly because the area is the largest linear footage area the city has, and clearing it provides a clear view of the bay entering the city.
“For the most part, we’ve been trimming the mangroves in this area every year during mangrove trimming season,” Spoor said.
“It keeps it beautiful out there,” Mayor Andy Steingold said. “Year in and year out, when it comes up before the commission, I’ve always voted for it.”
Despite the explanations, Zodrow voted against allocating $11,800 for the work.
But, as has been the case with many issues in the city over the last several years, that wasn’t the end of the discussion.
On April 18, resident Chip Thomas addressed the subject during the Public Comments portion of the commission meeting.
“I find it fiscally irresponsible for the city to spend over $10,000 a year of taxpayer money trimming mangroves for 760 feet of land,” Thomas said, “Since this practice started, over $200,000 has been spent trimming bushes.”
“When the city is cutting back services and can’t maintain what they have, I find it unacceptable to spend that kind of money trimming bushes.”
The protest prompted the commission to direct the Spoor to conduct further research on the subject, and on May 2, the topic was addressed for the third time.
After Spoor related the results of his research, revealing the city actually began maintaining the mangroves in question in 2004, the commissioners, and eventually a number of concerned residents, weighed in.
“The fundamental issue is the unfairness of everybody paying to increase the benefits of nine homes,” Zodrow said. “It’s fiscally irresponsible for the city to pay.”
“My concern was using taxpayer dollars to benefit some residents and not others,” Commissioner Janet Hooper added.
Commissioner Carlos Diaz argued there are many services the city provides that not every resident takes advantage of, and that it’s all part of living in a community.
“The city offers a variety and a big array of services, not everybody is going to take advantage of every service,” he said. “I don’t think it’s possible.”
“In this instance, I don’t think the city is purposely trimming the mangroves to benefit those prop owners, they’re trimming because it’s the entrance to the city.”
Nearly a dozen residents spoke out about the issue, with opinions split on the desire to see the trimming continue.
“I’m definitely for trimming, and I think more of the people here are,” Sharon Carulli said.
“It was a bad idea then, and it’s a bad idea now,” Sara Robinson said.
After hearing the resident’s input, the commissioners reiterated their positions, and once again, the item came to a vote.
This time, the Old Business item passed by a vote of 3-2, with Vice Mayor Zodrow and Commissioner Hooper casting the ‘nay’ votes.
Spoor said the trimming work would start next week.
“My concern was using taxpayer dollars to benefit some residents and not others,” Commissioner Janet Hooper added. – Janet Hooper is the single biggest hypocrite in the city of Safety Harbor. Janet Hooper receives nearly $100,000 every single year from tax payers for the Mattie Williams foundation she runs, and receives full time salary from; most of her organization serves residents in Oldsmar, Palm Harbor and several other cities in North Pinellas County – a VERY small percentage of Safety Harbor residents receive any benefits whatsoever from Janet Hooper’s organization, yet year after year she still pushes her agenda for taxpayers to pay for her organization. Politics at it’s finest. My family finds a 10,000 greater times value in enjoying the waterfront views when we go for our walks down South Bayshore than we ever will from the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars Janet Hooper hands outs to people all over Pinellas County. Wake up Safety Harbor – there are couple commissioners here specifically to further their personal agendas and not the will of the people. It’s pretty disgusting really. Sad and disgusting.
This strip of City property is as much a quality of life issue as any other park or recreational area in Safety Harbor.
In fact, rather than solely benefiting the property owners across the street, this particular strip and the view of the Bay it affords when properly trimmed and maintained–as it has been for the past two decades–is enjoyed by the entire community including thousands of residents, visitors, motorists, bicyclists, runners, and strollers throughout the year.
Much has been made by the Mayor and the Commissioners about how the completion of the trail linking Safety Harbor with Tampa will benefit the City. The picturesque and inviting view that is afforded by this strip, when trimmed, stands in stark contrast to the experience in Clearwater where there is no view whatsoever. It is, if you will, a postcard for Safety Harbor. If you want to encourage people coming from the south to enjoy and return to Safety Harbor, South Bayshore is where their first impressions are formed.
Safety Harbor first and foremost is about waterfront and is often referred to as “the Jewel of Tampa Bay” or “Mayberry by the Sea”. The cover page of the City Budget Message states one of the reasons to choose Safety Harbor is “ A scenic harbor with over 3.5 miles of unobstructed views of the bay”.
More people enter the City driving on South Bayshore than any other entrance into the downtown.
Commissioners Zodrow and Hooper must know this as they staged multiple campaign rallies on South Bayshore. Incredible they would take away the enjoyment of all users of the South Bayshore Linear Greenway based upon one complaint from a campaign supporter. Thanks to Commissioners Diaz, Merz and Mayor Steingold for keeping Safety Harbor scenic.
Sallie, our poodle, is worried about consent agenda item # 2 scheduled for the next Commission meeting. She hopes the Zodrow – Hooper gang does not have a dog in that fight.
Again some can’t see the forest for the trees. You allowed the complaint of ONE person in a city of 18,000 citizens to halt a project that was already in the budget and approved. This affects the entrance into our city which concerns all the citizens, not just ONE. Thank you for continuing the trimming of the mangroves and making our shoreline nice and neat for everyone to enjoy.