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City leaders check out rules for historic inns

While Tampa looks at how other cities make it work, some are skeptical of allowing homes to be run as bed and breakfasts

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 10, 2002

When a friend of Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena came to town for the Super Bowl in 2001, she asked for the phone number of a good bed and breakfast.

"I told her we didn't have any," said Saul-Sena, who has stayed at ones in Europe, North Carolina and California.

Then she got to thinking. Why not?

"Sophisticated cities offer bed and breakfasts," she said. "Why can't historic Tampa offer them, too?"

The council member has spent the past year studying how other cities have developed bed and breakfasts. The city has drafted rules that would allow certain types of inns in residential areas, but not everyone likes the idea.

"It's a business in a residential neighborhood," said Sue Lyon, vice president of the Tampa Homeowners Association of Neighborhoods, a group representing 30 neighborhood groups.

The City Council was scheduled to vote on the proposed ordinance April 25 but postponed it until May 23 because of neighborhood objections. Residents can voice their concerns at a May 20 public workshop at City Hall.

Thom Snelling, Tampa's manager of land development, said the city looked at several ordinances and included as many protections for neighborhoods as possible. Although most business-related decisions are made administratively, zonings for bed and breakfasts require council approval.

"They will be approved on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Under the proposal, the inns must be 1,000 feet apart and restricted to three bedrooms for guests. Each room and the live-in manager must have an off-street parking space. Only one 2- by 2-foot sign would be allowed outside.

The rules also limit the location. Any bed and breakfast must be in a designated historic district, or have direct access to a heavily trafficked street, or have a view of the Hillsborough River, Tampa Bay, McKay Bay, or Hillsborough Bay or a lake.

"That's anywhere in the city," said Lyon, who is also president of the Bayshore Beautiful neighborhood association.

Steve Gluckman, chairman of the Seminole Heights preservation committee, said neighborhood concerns should take priority. He suggested creating a board of community members from both sides to address any grievances.

"I think bed and breakfasts are a good idea as long as there are reasonable controls," he said. "If you're going to allow this next to my house, then you have to first be concerned about me."

The controversy over bed and breakfasts isn't unique to Tampa.

Across the bay in St. Petersburg, owners are battling with city officials and neighbors over the issue of wedding receptions, business conferences and other social events currently prohibited.

The city selected a six-person committee of innkeepers and members of the Council of Neighborhood Associations to hash out changes to its nearly 20-year old ordinance. After several meetings, the group came up with a compromise that would allow private parties in residential areas at certain times, says Dave Kelly, president of the Tampa Bay Bed and Breakfast Association, who owns the Bayboro House in St. Petersburg.

Whether Tampa would face the same issue remains to be seen. Saul-Sena says the proposal protects against catered wedding receptions by limiting the food served for a fee to overnight guests.

Kelly says that may not be foolproof. At his bed and breakfast, wedding parties can rent the entire place and bring in their own caterers.

He also questions the feasibility of limiting the inns to three rooms.

"It's very expensive to renovate these old houses," he said.

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