Oldsmar officials balk on Rays survey again, but it might not matter

A conceptual rendering . of the proposed develpment of 120 acres across from Tampa Bay Downs includes a 30,000-seat baseball stadium as well as office, entertainment, residential and hotel space. Graphic courtesy FSA, Inc.

A conceptual rendering . of the proposed develpment of 120 acres across from Tampa Bay Downs includes a 30,000-seat baseball stadium as well as office, entertainment, residential and hotel space. Graphic courtesy FSA, Inc.

For the second consecutive Oldsmar City Council meeting, Mayor Doug Bevis was asked to conduct a survey to collect feedback on the possibility of the Tampa Bay Rays’ moving to town, and for the second consecutive meeting, he balked.

Despite calls by former council member Linda Norris and current member Jerry Beverland to seek input from the public on the hot-button issue, Bevis said it would be premature to do so until staff has completed an information packet of frequently asked questions that will address every aspect of the proposal, which also includes a multi-purpose shopping, business and entertainment complex to be built on 120 acres of land across from Tampa Bay Downs.

But with the recent news that the team has pushed back its decision until the end of this year, and the fact that St. Pete just went all-in with a proposal to keep the team in town, a survey of Oldsmar residents might be pointless at this time.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

“A lot has transpired in the last few weeks, including the Rays pushing the date back to the end of the year,” Bevis told Oldsmar Connect after the meeting, adding, “We have always supported St. Pete, but we also think we are a good alternative to keep them in the area.”

“As far as keeping residents informed, we have had probably 36 open forum council meetings since this issue went public, and no one has ever come to ask about the Rays.”

“We know, given the horse trails, zipline and Little League baseball, that they will come out if they have an issue,” he continued.”

“As always, I will speak to anyone about anything. But not one association or community organization in Oldsmar has asked me to come speak on this issue, or any issue, in the 4+ years I’ve been mayor.”

While that may be true, what’s also undeniable is the fact that some people are clamoring to be heard on the issue.

During the meeting on March 21, Council member Eric Seidel said he would like the city to conduct a basic, inexpensive survey, “just to get the feedback from the citizens.”

Linda Norris speaks to the Oldsmar City Council on Tuesday, Apr. 4, 2017.

Linda Norris speaks to the Oldsmar City Council on Tuesday, Apr. 4, 2017.

But after being rebuffed in his efforts, Norris, who termed out last year, said she shared an article about the situation on her Facebook page, and after receiving numerous responses, she decided to attend Tuesday’s meeting seeking answers.

“I reposted the article, and all the feedback I got, most people said yes, they would like some sort of survey or town hall,” Norris, who is currently working with the NPCA on the painted crosswalk project, said. “All we really know is what we see on the news, if we watch the news.”

“It was overwhelming,” she added. “The citizens really want to be able to learn more about it.”

But Bevis said to conduct a survey that asks, ‘do you want the Rays, yes or no?’ would be counterproductive.

“The thought is to do a web page,” he said, “so that people can get some information on a website that maybe answers some of the things that they want, transportation issues, what’s going to go on there, things like that.”

Council member Jerry Beverland.

Council member Jerry Beverland.

Later in the evening during the Council Comments, Beverland chimed in, and he let everyone know how he felt about the matter in his own inimitable style

“If we’re going to continue with this, we need to give the people of this town answers,” he said, noting he’s not a fan of surveys.

“Let’s meet eyeball-to-eyeball with them and let them ask their questions…and educate this whole community about the Rays.”

After the mayor reiterated his plan to start a website and complete the FAQ packet, and Seidel and Council member Gabby McGee concurred with him, Beverland became incensed.

“All I’m saying is, I’d like to give the citizens of Oldsmar questions, or input,” he said.

“I don’t care about Westchase, I don’t care about Tampa. I don’t care about St. Petersburg. I care about the residents of Oldsmar having their input into what we’re talking about!”

An conceptual rendering of the overview of the Rays stadium and surrounding residential, entertainment and office complex, which would be located on 120 acres of vacant land on Race Track Road across from Tampa Bay Downs.

An conceptual rendering of the overview of the Rays stadium and surrounding residential, entertainment and office complex, which would be located on 120 acres of vacant land on Race Track Road across from Tampa Bay Downs.

But in light of the recent developments a survey might not be necessary, now, or at any time.

“We will continue to keep everyone up to date about the Rays,” Bevis said afterwards.

“Clearly, the Rays know about Oldsmar and how great we are, but at this point, the ball is in their field.”

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