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Middle ground is goal in zoning arbitration

An attorney will try to reconcile neighbors' desire to limit residential growth with a developer who wants a 367 unit complex.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2002


The developer wants an apartment complex. Residents want an office building.

Now an attorney will try to work out a compromise.

The owner and the prospective developer of vacant land near West Shore Plaza has asked the city to take another look at a zoning proposal that would allow a new residential complex on Kennedy Boulevard.

The companies want to plead their case to an independent adviser, in the hopes City Council will change its position.

After protests from Beach Park neighbors, the council in December rejected a request to rezone the site for 367 units. In a 5-2 vote, officials said the complex would generate too much traffic and put a strain on the area.

The developer, Gables Residential Services, argues the council was unfair and unreasonable. In a letter to the city Jan. 11, Gables said the project got the go-ahead from city and regional planners.

Gables proposed an 11-story, 312-unit apartment complex and 55 townhouses on the land between Kennedy, Cleveland Street, O'Brien Street and Sherrill Street.

The 6-acre site, owned by Travelers Casualty and Surety Co., is zoned for an office building.

The city has appointed land-use attorney Rick Davis to mediate the case. If a compromise can't be reached, he will tell council members whether they acted appropriately. Ultimately, the council will have the final say.

The request marks only the second time in recent years that a developer has asked for a review of a zoning rejection, as allowed by state law. In 1997, the council denied Tampa Catholic High School's request to build a football stadium, but later accepted a compromise to add noise buffers and reduce the lighting.

Members of the Beach Park Homeowners Association vow to continue fighting the apartment plan.

They say the addition of 700 people to the neighborhood would reduce the already low water pressure and destroy their peaceful community.

They want the city to keep the site zoned for office space.

"We would like the office building, where people are gone by 5 or 6 p.m. and not around on weekends," said board member Margaret Vizzi, a Beach Park resident since 1963.

The independent attorney will hear the case in the next two months. If the council upholds the ruling, the issue could end up in court.

- Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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