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Site of Jessie's Landing okay'd for townhomes

Land Development board members approve the 60-home project unanimously. Council will vote next month.

By MAUREEN BYRNE AHERN
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 18, 2002


photo SEMINOLE -- The waterfront property where the popular restaurant Jesse's Landing once stood is one step closer to becoming an upscale residential development.

The city's Land Development Review Board on Monday unanimously approved the rezoning of the 8-acre property on Park Boulevard so developers can build more than 60 two-story townhomes. Board chairwoman Lisa Pezone was absent from the meeting.

The board's recommendation will go before the City Council at its Oct. 8 meeting.

The main concern among the four board members was traffic. They wanted to be sure the city would require the development to have a safe entrance and exit.

"I think that is definitely a major consideration," said board member Ken Swartz.

City Planner Mark Ely assured the board that staff would follow the project step by step. "One of the paramount considerations is going to be safety," he said.

A slew of automobile accidents on Park Boulevard in front of Home Depot, next to the proposed development, eventually forced the installation of a signal light in front of the store.

No one spoke in opposition to the project, and after the board made its decision, there were handshakes and words of congratulations in the audience. Nicholas and Mindy Bickey, who want to develop the property, were visibly excited that the project got approval from the board.

"We're real excited," Mindy Bickey said Tuesday, adding that if all goes well, workers would break ground on the project in March.

During the public hearing Monday, Ely told board members a residential development would generate less traffic than a commercial building. He said although the townhomes would use about 2,000 more gallons of water than a commercial property, the infrastructure could handle the demand.

"In summary, we think it is consistent with the city's comprehensive land use plan," Ely said.

Joseph DiVito, an attorney representing the Bickeys, said the Bickeys plan to preserve as much of the property's natural environment as possible. They also plan to use environmentally safe products to build the community.

Contractor Wayne Ismark showed a preliminary site plan to the board members. The drawing showed landscaped grounds, two ponds and 13 buildings, which would be just under 45 feet high. The sketch was titled "Lofts on the Park."

The 400-seat Jesse's Landing, later Jesse's Seafood House, closed in 1998 and was torn down two years later. Johnson Ezell Corp. owns the property.

The 14,400-square-foot wooden building was named after Seminole pioneer Jesse Johnson and is owned by his descendants. The establishment was considered an homage to Johnson, dubbed the original "Mr. Seminole" in 1965 by the Chamber of Commerce.

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