Largo Signs off on new Speed Limit Policy

LARGO — City leaders last month rejected a proposal to lower residential speed limits citywide to 25 mph in favor of a new policy addressing concerns on a case-by-case basis.

Engineers presented that new traffic calming and speed limit reduction policy to a pleased group of commissioners June 11 during a work session at City Hall.

And if the past few weeks are any indication, plenty of residents plan to take advantage of it.

“Prior to the commission meeting (on May 21), we had 16 requests come through — six of them we actually received applications for,” said Megan Dion, an engineer and chairwoman of the city’s traffic and transportation committee. “Since the meeting, that number has doubled. So we’ve received 15 to 16 more.”

The city already had a traffic calming application process in place that allowed residents to request the addition of speed tables in their neighborhoods. The updated policy, according to Program Engineer Ann Rocke, includes an option to request a reduced speed limit for any of the city’s 696 streets that are eligible.

How it works

Rocke said the process starts when a request for either speed tables or speed limit reduction is made by a resident, who will then receive an application form.

“Staff will look at the problem area and determine, is it really just one street that needs to be dropped to 25 or is it in an isolated neighborhood where the adjoining streets should also be dropped to create a contiguous speed zone?” Rocke said.

Engineering staff would then provide the applicant with a recommendation for speed limit reduction and a petition that 60 percent of the affected property owners must sign. A map highlighting properties that need to be petitioned also will be offered.

If the applicant fails to get enough signatures after a year, the application will be closed.

If the 60 percent threshold is met, engineering will provide the commission with an ordinance to vote on.

The process doesn’t end there, however.

If speeding isn’t reported six months after the 25 mph signs are installed, the service request would be closed.

If speeding is still reported, then traffic calming policy measures, such as speed tables, could be requested.

That process is more stringent, though, requiring a speed study, public meeting, petition process and administration approval.

Mayor Woody Brown said the two-pronged approach makes a lot of sense.

“Until recently, we’ve never really installed traffic calming measures,” he said. “I think in some neighborhoods, unfortunately, that’s probably going to be the real answer at the end of all this.”

After years of receiving phone calls from concerned residents, Brown said he is happy to know they will finally have a course of action to take.

“For a long time, the drum that I was kind of beating was, ‘We’ve never done this last one.’ So I’m glad to see that we’re actually considering and actually installing things that make people slow down. Because signs don’t always make people slow down — unless you lay them across the road,” he joked.

In other news

Commissioner Michael Smith requested the LGBTQ pride flag be flown over City Hall in honor of national pride month.

Smith said the St. Pete Pride Parade on June 22 draws about 250,000 people to the area, so he would like to see it raised before the commission’s next regular meeting June 18.

“I think it would be kind of symbolic to raise it at that time,” said Smith, who served as a grand marshal of the parade in 2017.

Brown and commissioners Jamie Robinson, John Carroll and Samantha Fenger didn’t raise any objections, but Commissioner Curtis Holmes said he wasn’t sure if it was setting a bad precedent.

“The only flags I’ve ever seen flown at City Hall is the American flag, the Florida state flag and the POW flag,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything else.”

He recommended that the city should come up with a policy about flag requests moving forward, so the community will be clear about what is and is not allowed.

Commissioners agreed, and City Manager Henry Schubert said staff will find a spot on one of City Hall’s three flagpoles for the pride flag.