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City to consider plans for high speed rail

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Florida's high speed rail system, approved by voters in the 2000 election, may be several decades away if it ever becomes reality, the Sun-Herald reported.

But Tuesday, the North Port City Commission will look at the first step to one day making the city a stop along the rail system. In two separate ordinances, commissioners will consider designating and zoning both sides of Interstate 75 from the Snover Waterway to the Charlotte County line as a utility/industrial corridor through which the the high speed rail system could one day run.

"It's the city's effort to kind of get in front of the planning that might come through from the state, maybe not in your lifetime or my lifetime, and get the city as a stop on the high speed rail," said Community Development Director Sam Jones.

If approved Tuesday, the ordinances will have to go through a second reading to take effect. The property owner and for the proposed corridor is Port Charlotte company Tropical Land Holdings, Inc., a partnership of investors James Duff, Gary Wapinski, Richard Halvorson and Patsy Bower.

Until any high speed rail comes zooming along, the corridor designation would permit land uses such as billboards, transmission lines for gas, liquid petroleum and water and high voltage electric transmission lines. According to the ordinance draft, billboard signs constructed in the corridor may be no more than 40 feet high, 400 square feet in size and spaced at least 2,000 feet apart.

In other issues, a coalition of local residents said they plan to attend the meeting and ask the commission's help in moving up the Florida Department of Transportation's schedule for construction of a traffic signal at the intersection of Salford Boulevard and U.S. 41. In a letter dated Oct. 25, Deborah Snyder, an operations engineer with FDOT, said design on the signal was about to commence and installation, funded in the 2003/04 fiscal year, would come in 12 to 15 months.

Commissioners are also scheduled to consider a resolution to donate $3,375, the remainder of the city's 40th Birthday Party Fund, to the North Port High School Drum and Bugle Corp. to help fund a trip to the 2003 Sugar Bowl Classic. The Drum and Bugle Corps has a goal of $60,000 to fund the trip.

In a discussion at the Oct. 28 commission meeting, when former Commissioner Tom Williamson proposed the donation, questions arose as to whether the money was already committed to go to the Marine Corps League's annual Fourth of July Parade. After the meeting, City Manager Mark Roath requested a records search to see if there were documents showing the money had been officially pledged to the Corps. Staff reported the search revealed no such records.

But in a memo dated Nov. 30, 2000 obtained by the Sun, the city's former finance director Ann Marie Ricardi stated that the commission had approved giving the balance of the 40th Birthday Fund, then $4,390.38, "to the Fourth of July Parade for this and future years."

Monday, November 11, 2002

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