Votes won’t be cast on a controversial transit plan known as Greenlight Pinellas for another four months, but debates on the issue have been in full force all year.
The latest group to voice its collective opposition is the North Pinellas Regional Chamber of Commerce. The local organization serves Clearwater, Dunedin, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor and Tarpon Springs.
The chamber distributed a statement via email announcing its stance following a town hall meeting it hosted earlier this month in Oldsmar. Representatives from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority advocating for Greenlight Pinellas and opponents from the group No Tax for Tracks presented their positions during the meeting.
Following the presentations and question-and-answer session, the regional chamber decided to not support Greenlight Pinellas.
“It is the opinion of our board, based on a consensus of our members, those present at the Town Hall meeting and a polling of our local small business owners, that Greenlight Pinellas is not in the best interests of the small businesses in the communities that we serve,” wrote Tory Perfetti, chairman of the NPRCC Governmental Affairs Committee.
“Many of our citizens have expressed that an increase in the local sales tax to pay for the light rail system is not in their best interests,” according to Steve Fiske, the NPRCC chairman of the board. “While many of the people we spoke with feel the PSTA is in dire need of improving their various routes, frequency and services, the net sum gain to our area businesses as it is presented is not significant enough to warrant an increase in our local sales tax.”
Funding for Greenlight Pinellas would be generated by swapping out PSTA’s three-quarter mill property tax with a 1-percent sales tax.
The envisioned plan would be implemented over a span of 30 years and projects to increase overall bus service by 65 percent, according to Greenlight Pinellas.com. A portion of that service increase would be realized by extending hours and modernizing the system with Bus Rapid Transit lines. The plan calls for a doubling of service specific to North Pinellas.
A future passenger rail line from St. Petersburg to Clearwater is also featured.