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Gate issue blocks developer's request

A developer wants to build more homes in Heritage Isles, but the city says it can't until resolving problems at two gates that bar entry to the community.

By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002


HERITAGE ISLES -- The city of Tampa is objecting to a developer's request to build additional houses in Heritage Isles because of gates that the city says are impeding traffic on a public road.

U.S. Home Corporation has petitioned for a rezoning to build an additional 433 homes on almost 683 acres of property.

But two gates -- one unmanned gate on Sandy Pointe Drive and a manned gate at the main entrance off Cross Creek Boulevard -- are in question.

Although Heritage Isles falls within city limits, the guard houses were built before the city passed its own rules on gated access. Therefore, the county rules apply. Those rules prohibit unmanned gates on public roads.

The City Council approved a first-draft of the rezoning proposal Thursday night on the condition that the gate issue be resolved. A final hearing will take place next month.

The Sandy Pointe Drive gate has 24-hour surveillance cameras and an electronic fence that residents can open by punching in a code.

"They're in effect using this roadway as a private entrance and exit, which it was never intended to be," said Nina Mabilleau, project manager with the city's Transportation Division.

At the main entrance, guards are stopping cars, asking for drivers' names and writing down license plate numbers, which is also forbidden, Mabilleau said.

The developer built the gates three years ago, said Donna Feldman, an attorney representing Heritage Isles.

Feldman acknowledged that the unmanned gate violates the law and said: "We are going to solve it."

Heritage Isles and the city could consider four options for the unmanned Sandy Pointe gate: putting a guard at the gate; converting the road into an exit-only path; removing the gate; or turning the road into a private road, which the development would be responsible for maintaining.

Thursday morning, the City Council approved a request by residents of Westover in Tampa Palms to transfer ownership of a public road to their private homeowners association.

Heritage Isles residents say removing the gate is the least attractive option, Feldman said. And City Council member Bob Buckhorn said the city is unlikely to want to convert Sandy Pointe into an exit-only path.

-- John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at balz@sptimes.com .

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