Just as families are the foundation of our society, neighborhoods are the foundation of our county. If our neighborhoods are healthy then our community is healthy. In my most recent position as director of the Tampa Bay Area Transit Authority (TBARTA), I learned a lot about what other communities are doing to improve their neighborhoods.
Hillsborough Counties has a unique issue with neighborhoods. Of the top 30 counties in population in the United States Hillsborough County has the highest percent of its population living in an unincorporated area. Hillsborough County’s percent of the population living in the unincorporated is 68%, most of which live in an urban or suburban setting. That is 900,000 people making it the largest single governmental entity in Central Florida. Pinellas County has 24 cities while Hillsborough has 3.
This is why the neighborhood planning process that took place during my tenure at the Planning Commission was so important to help protect the unique character of our neighborhoods and should be periodically revisited as conditions change.
It is very difficult for a large government entity such as Unincorporated Hillsborough to be able to deal with neighborhood issues unless there is an effort to work with the citizens to identify the special things about different communities that need to be protected. There are areas of the community that need to be enhanced as growth pressures affect neighborhoods. These issues affect neighborhoods throughout our cities and county. A strong and dynamic neighborhood planning program built on what we have done in the past is critical to keep issues up to date and dealt with.
We have many needs that need to be addressed. We need to make our neighborhoods more attractive by encouraging street tree planting, code enforcement, completion of missing sidewalks, and other important improvements that contribute to the sustainability of communities. Public attention to neighborhoods encourages private investment, making neighborhoods improve over time if done in a strategic way. Our neighborhoods are the foundation of our community and need to be protected and enhanced.