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County to update its comprehensive plan for first time in 13 years

Mark Parker

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Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners will vote on the update to the county's comprehensive plan in early 2022. (Photo credit: Pinellas County)

Pinellas County has recently announced webinars to offer the public an inside look at the first major update to the county’s comprehensive plan since 2008.

Every county in Florida is required by state law to maintain a comprehensive plan to manage growth and ensure long-term sustainability. PLANPinellas will update the county’s 2008 comprehensive plan, and county staff will discuss the direction of the plan during two topic-focused webinars Sept. 21 and 22. Residents can view the proposed plan online and sign up for the webinars at https://plan.pinellas.gov.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 12 p.m., future land use, economic prosperity, housing and transportation will be discussed. On Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 12 p.m., natural resources and conservation, coastal management, surface water, and recreation, open space and culture will be reviewed. Draft chapters of the plan that do not appear to be part of the webinars include solid waste and recovery, lifelong learning, and governance.

Josh Boatwright, Marketing Project Coordinator for Pinellas County, told the Catalyst that the proposed plan is the result of a multi-year process in which the planning department worked with the county’s 24 municipalities, agency partners and conducted broader community outreach.

“The result of that outreach was to shape the general vision of the plan,” said Boatwright. “What are the aspects of our community that people care about the most, and how can we manage our growth in a way that fits the vision of maintaining our quality of life here.”

Boatwright said the more specific policy issues are a result of taking the 2008 plan and working with various county departments to “try and consolidate what was a really lengthy plan to make it more digestible and readable.”

“It’s updated to account for where things are headed in terms of our population, environmental changes, land use, changes in housing, transportation, and the number of different elements that go into long-term planning,” said Boatwright.

Boatwright said it is important to note that the comprehensive plan is not codified policy. It is “guidance-based research” the Board of County Commissioners can refer to as it makes policy decisions.

“It doesn’t have the force of law or county code – it’s really meant to help elected officials make prudent decisions based on what the community’s bigger vision and goals are for the future,” said Boatwright.

Boatwright said that in addition to the two upcoming public webinars, he also anticipates two more public hearings on the updated comprehensive plan before it is ultimately voted on and adopted by the county commission in the first quarter of 2022. The county website offers residents the opportunity to review the draft plan and also provide feedback.

Here are some examples of how the updated plan looks to address some of the key challenges and opportunities for the county’s future:

Mobility

  • Introduces policies to enhance safety as more people use alternative transportation.
  • Promotes a multimodal network with expanded alternatives to car travel – such as trails, sidewalks, bike facilities, and public transit stations.

Land Use

  • Updates policies to promote targeted redevelopment instead of new development to make the most of limited land that is available.
  • Promotes redevelopment in urban centers and corridors, specifically multi-use, multifamily housing.

Public Health

  • The Health in All Policies guidelines aims for equitable access to countywide medical, mental health and nutritional resources.

Sustainability

  • Accounts for sea-level rise and increased flood vulnerability in development and public safety decision-making.
  • Continues to preserve the county’s green spaces.

Economic Strength

  • Expands opportunities to maintain and build affordable housing to sustain the local workforce.
  • Supports small businesses and companies that seek to relocate and bring new jobs to Pinellas County.

The Catalyst will provide more updates on the county’s new comprehensive plan as they become available.

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