Mayor Ayoub aims to define, preserve Safety Harbor’s ‘small-town charm’

For many, Safety Harbor has long been synonymous with the phrase 'small-town charm'; recently elected Mayor Joe Ayoub has asked city officials and civic board members to help define and preserve that image.

Safety Harbor has long been synonymous with the phrase ‘small-town charm’, and recently elected Mayor Joe Ayoub has asked city officials and Planning & Zoning Board members to help define and preserve that image.

The City of Safety Harbor has been described as having ‘small-town charm’ for so long, it wouldn’t be surprising if the phrase was part of the original city charter drawn up 100 years ago.

Although, despite the many times it’s been uttered over the past century—by city leaders and residents, business owners and visitors—the saying, which typically evokes memories of ‘kinder, gentler times’ and ‘living back home,’ has never truly been defined.

Now, recently elected Mayor Joe Ayoub wants to change that.

During Monday night’s city commission meeting, Ayoub said he wants to define and preserve Safety Harbor’s small-town charm, long a hot button topic and a key point of his campaign as well as a recent goal setting session, and he tasked the Planning and Zoning Board and city staff with defining the parameters of the popular term.

“What I would like to propose is that we have the Planning and Zoning board come up with some ideas on how to do that, working with city staff,” Ayoub said during his Commission Report.

“I don’t have a mission statement,” he continued. “I thought we would actually kick it to them and tell them that our goal is to take additional measures to look after the small-town charm and make sure future homes that are being built are more compatible with existing homes and neighborhoods and to…come up with their thoughts on what zoning districts should be addressed.”

Safety Harbor City Commissioner Scott Long.

Safety Harbor City Commissioner Scott Long.

When the mayor asked if his idea had the support of his fellow commissioners, his question was first met with silence, and then with questions.

“My only concern is timing,” Commissioner Scott Long, a longtime P&Z board member prior to his election to Seat 1 in March, said, noting the board as well as city staff currently have a lot on their plate.

“There are a couple of times a year when they don’t have a meeting…but are you suggesting additional meetings?”

Ayoub responded by saying the process could be spread out over several months.

He added that after the board came up with a mission statement, it would be presented to the commission for approval, and further direction would be provided at that time.

“We could do a whole workshop trying to define the scope of the project, and that’s vague— ‘protect our small-town charm’,” Ayoub said. “The idea is to give it to the (P&Z) board and let them start off with it.”

Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub.

Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub.

After all four commissioners agreed to have staff initiate the process, the mayor spoke about the motivation behind his idea.

“One of my campaign promises was to protect the small-town charm, to make sure the issue of building new homes that aren’t compatible with existing homes and neighborhoods is addressed,” Ayoub said following the meeting.

“We have tools that we can use, such as offering incentives and setting architectural standards, so my idea is to let the P&Z board and city staff make recommendations and we’ll take it from there.”

When asked if he had a timeframe in mind, Ayoub said he understands it could take a while, but, staying true to another campaign promise, he added that he wants to make sure the process doesn’t drag out.

“It’s probably a few months down the road, maybe three months, maybe eight months, I don’t know,” he said.

“I don’t know how long it will take, but I know I want us to get started on it as soon as possible.”

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