Home / Government / Latest topic to rankle Safety Harbor residents? Sidewalks

Latest topic to rankle Safety Harbor residents? Sidewalks

Preliminary discussions between city officials about obtaining sidewalk easements on North Bayshore Drive has quickly turned into the latest hot-button topic to hit Safety Harbor.

Over the past year, Safety Harbor has seen a number of disagreements arise over a variety of issues affecting the community.

At times, trees, signs, parking and the recent smart growth movement have all led to acrimonious city meetings and spiteful social media commentary, although many of those once simmering situations have either been resolved or have abated of late.

However, another hot-button topic sprung up recently that has rankled some Safety Harbor residents, and it has the potential to be the next hot-button topic in town: sidewalks.

The latest controversy began at the September 6 city commission meeting during discussions about sidewalk waivers on North Bayshore Drive.

While considering a waiver request for three properties located along Hamilton Avenue and North Bayshore, Mayor Andy Steingold said he would like to see the city begin to acquire more sidewalk space on the east side of North Bayshore in order to create additional biking and walking space along the scenic waterfront drive.

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.
Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.

“It would seem appropriate that if there are no sidewalks on the west side of North Bayshore, that when residents seek a vacancy, the city ought to actively seek to get a little more right of way on the existing sidewalk on the east side so we can make it a little wider in the future,” Steingold said.

“I’d like to have some sort of condition that would allow the city to try to get a little more right of way on the east side so in the future whether it be five years, 10 years, whatever, the city wants to expand the sidewalks, that we have the ability to expand the road. I think we out to actively be going out to try and expand the right of way.”

Later in the meeting, during a discussion on amending the city’s sidewalk waiver policy, Vice-Mayor Andy Zodrow said he was in favor of a proposal that would allow property owners to grant the city an easement on the east side of Bayshore in lieu of installing a sidewalk in front of their property on the west side.

“I support that,” Zodrow said. 

Commissioner Janet Hooper recommended speaking to the residents before making any decisions, and sure enough, as soon as the floor was opened to the public, the dissenting opinions began to pour in.

North Bayshore Boulevard resident Patty Kent speaks to the Safety Harbor City Commission about potential sidewalk easements on her street on Sept. 6, 2016.
Patty Kent speaks to the Safety Harbor City Commission on Sept. 6, 2016.

“I have a real problem with what you’re proposing here,” North Bayshore resident Patty Kent said.

“I really do think that you do need to talk to all the neighbors, because for months now and for years, all I’ve been hearing is (about) personal property rights. But basically what you’re all now proposing, if I’m hearing you correctly, is taking our personal property on North Bayshore and expanding it for a sidewalk.”

“So before you pursue this, I promise you that this will be a problem if you do not open it up and talk to all the neighbors.”

Ironically, Jim Barge, an outspoken businessman and longtime Steingold sparring partner, sided with the city on this issue.

“I’m actually for widening that sidewalk, believe it or not,” Barge, who recently dismissed a lawsuit he had filed against the mayor, said.

Safety Harbor resident Jim Barge.
Jim Barge.

“I knew when I…built the home there, the tradeoff was that essentially, North Bayshore is like a public park, is essentially what it is. It’s essentially a public park.”

“Do I like the fact that people are just walking essentially in my living room? No. But that was a tradeoff when I built the home.”

The discussion pretty much wrapped up after that, but that didn’t mean the issue was dead.

During the most recent commission meeting on Monday night, Patty Kent’s husband, Chris, appeared during the audience to be heard portion of the agenda, carrying copies of a signed petition with him, and he let it be known in no uncertain terms how the North Bayshore residents feel about their property rights being potentially violated.

Screenshot of Chris Kent speaking at the Safety Harbor City Commission meeting on Sept. 19, 2016.
Screenshot of Chris Kent speaking at the Safety Harbor City Commission meeting on Sept. 19, 2016.

“The people we spoke to on North Bayshore are angry and upset that the city would even begin this discussion without notifying the residents and talking to them,” Kent read from a letter penned by his wife, who was unable to attend due to a family emergency.

“Not only are my husband and I upset for that reason, but a disturbing trend seems to be occurring, in which property owners impacted by potential decisions of the city commission are not notified until after the fact.”

“When is the city going to learn that transparency is not only necessary, but is expected by the residents?” Kent continued reading. “This type of action, or inaction, creates an environment of anger, frustration and distrust. The North Bayshore residents are asking to be included in the discussions going forward not told what city intends to do after decision has been made.”

Kent then used his own three-minute allotment to call out Barge, who was not present at the time.

After the meeting, the mayor spoke to Safety Harbor Connect, and he attempted to quell residents’ concerns about the sidewalk subject before it blew up into a bigger issue.

North Bayshore Drive.
North Bayshore Drive in Safety Harbor.

“This all started during a discussion because someone asked for a sidewalk waiver,” Steingold said. “There wasn’t going to be any adverse taking of the property. I do understand people being upset if that were the case. But it was a discussion only.”

“On that street, there are some areas with no sidewalks, and some with sidewalks to nowhere,” he continued. “So it may become an issue with foot and bike traffic where it would behoove us to install a sidewalk on that side of Bayshore. But it would be by permission only. We’re not saying we’re taking your yard or land. If they said no, obviously it wouldn’t happen.”

Stay with Safety Harbor Connect for any additional coverage of this issue.

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  1. I’ve lived in this area approx 20 years and the sidewalks seem sufficient to me. If you really want to spend money in that area, then put in some speed tables to keep the traffic calmer and the people enjoying the area safer.

    I don’t think widening the sidewalk would have that big of an impact. Concentrate on keeping the traffic slow going through there.

  2. I agree that the city should notify the homeowners this will affect just as they should have notified the homeowners in the R-2 district and double lots regarding proposed code changes. Both if approved would drastically reduce their property values. That being said, I do not believe an additional foot or two to the east sidewalk would reduce property value or damage trees.

  3. Like a lot of people, I like to bike, walk and run along North Bayshore. It’s a beautiful route from Philippe Park to the marina to the South Bayshore trail. Would it be nice if there was a wide sidewalk trail there similar to the one on South Bayshore trail? Sure, I suppose. However, all the times I’ve been along that way, there’s been so little automobile traffic on the road that bikers, walkers and runners could use the road without any safety issues. So I don’t see the need to expand the existing sidewalk.

  4. We need sidewalks on both sides of city streets. We are a city. Sidewalks can be crowded with people walking, on bikes, in strollers, in wheelchairs, and with dogs. Facing traffic while walking is advisable as the N Bayshore sidewalk is mere inches from cars on the street (a narrow one at that) and where our neighbors drive well above the 25 mph speed limit in their rush to get home. Also, the end of my street turns into a lake after it rains, making it impossible to get to the single sidewalk without getting my shoes soaked. That’s been the case for 20 years on my watch. I feel for the residents with seasonal ‘lakefront’ properties. Pretty sure an engineering solution could fix the flooding plus the sidewalk deficiency within the existing public right-of-way.

  5. I thought this resident’s response (OCD sidewalk cleaner, not you Troy) to the article was respectful and thoughtful. I don’t live anywhere near downtown so I don’t have a personal stake in this. I have walked down that way and thought the sidewalk area was adequate.

  6. I have lived on North Bayshore for seven years- I can honestly say it is the best community that I have ever lived in. Nearly every house on North Bayshore does an excellent job of maintaining the property on both sides of the street and we do it without an HOA telling us we have to- we do it because we deeply appreciate living in this beautiful section of Safety Harbor. Most of us invest big bucks to properly maintain the mangroves according to state and county regulations for the sole purpose of being able to enjoy the beautiful bay. I personally blow off the sidewalks in front of my house every day and many times after a storm I will clean up the sidewalks starting at the bridge and continue to Bailey Street in an effort to keep our community looking and feeling great. Another component of maintaining this community is that all of us on the street either personally maintain or pay to maintain the city owned property which is located at the end of every cross street- we do this because the city does not have the resources to properly maintain North Bayshore apparently. Additionally the city seems to not have the resources to properly clean up after major events like the Fourth of July or any of the never ending 5K runs. Once again I see the residence of North Bayshore taking pride in their community and cleaning up on the city’s behalf. For me based upon this history of neglect I cannot imagine that the city would have the bandwidth available to properly maintain a new trail- and it is for that reason that I’m opposed to this item. The current sidewalks are plenty sufficient for foot traffic. As a cyclist myself I know that many of us never ride on a trail located in a highly residential area because is just simply too dangerous to pedal bike at 20mph dodging pedestrians,children and dogs. I see this as a huge waste of resources that could be used to addressed much bigger issues like stormwater flooding, mosquito control and downtown parking. I’m very proud call Safety Harbor home and we already have some of the nicest parks and public spaces city could hope for- let’s utilize these resources to keep those parks in excellent condition.
    I think it would be prudent for our elected city officials to measure the usage and ROI of the Waterfront Park Expansion for a period of at least 18 months before making any additional infrastructure investments in the North Bayshore neighborhood. Anyone that has ever walked up and down North Bayshore at dusk or dawn knows that there’s a fairly good chance that you will be carried away by mosquitoes and no-see-ums  (Leptoconops torrens)- I believe that these little insects will deter many people from using the new expansion- and this would be the exactly the same issue on this new trail.
    One final thought- how would the city address the protected oak and pine trees that live less than 12” from the current sidewalk- certainly we would not kill and cut down these beautiful trees that our city has work so hard to protect.

    • The 1% speaks. Thank goodness you work so hard to all that work for us, and soy big bucks. We need side walks. You are not exempt.

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