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    Tampa city council expands historic Ybor lines

    Tampa decides to enlarge the district, despite protests from businesses.

    By DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 6, 2002


    TAMPA -- Industrial warehouses line East Adamo Drive near the Tampa shipyards and the roar of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

    Michael Messina owns a car lot and a shipping supply business there. Neither, he says, are remotely historic.

    But that's not what the City Council told him Thursday.

    Despite objections from business owners, the council included the area in an expansion of the Ybor City historic district.

    The designation means property owners must meet tougher architectural standards and appear before the Barrio Latino Commission to make major changes to their land.

    The council expanded the Ybor historic district east of 22nd Street by about eight blocks, taking in a swath of older homes. The expansion also swallowed up five blocks south to Adamo Drive, an area that includes numerous industrial yards.

    Preservationists said the expansion will protect Ybor City's character and heritage. They said the new boundaries reflect Ybor's history as a working-class neighborhood, where cigar workers lived near factories.

    But business owners said warehouses with chain-link fences, metal roofs and yards full of scrap metal don't deserve the historic designation, which brings with it a considerable amount of red tape.

    Warehouses can't be historic, they said, because they are ugly and often run-down. Preservationists said the buildings merit special protection because they represent part of a community's past, even if it wasn't quaint or traditional.

    Fran Williams, chairman of the board of Kimmins Corp., pleaded with council members to leave his contracting company on E Second Avenue out of the historic district.

    "We have been a good neighbor. We have cleaned up the property," Williams said. "And today you come before us and say you are taking away our property rights."

    He raised the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the city. Then he scolded council members Linda Saul-Sena and Gwen Miller, who he said mistakenly believed the designation would not hurt his business.

    "It is a de facto down-zoning of property," Williams said. "You are going about it through the back door."

    Only council member Bob Buckhorn supported Kimmins, by voting no. Council members Rose Ferlita and Mary Alvarez joined Saul-Sena and Miller in supporting the expansion. Council members Charlie Miranda and Shawn Harrison were absent.

    Buckhorn said he considered the expansion "arbitrary."

    "I am concerned that this council not overreach," Buckhorn said. "We don't need to kill mosquitoes with sledgehammers."

    Preservationists assured Buckhorn that they spent years studying the historic value of the area and meeting with neighbors. They said including the area was the "professional judgment call" of a review panel that included architects and historians.

    The industrial part of Ybor City once served as the "gateway" into Seventh Avenue, the community's center. Most people also consider Adamo Drive the southern boundary of Ybor City, because it separates the area from the shipyard.

    But lawyers for business owners pointed out inconsistencies. Preservationists included all property owners along Adamo Drive, except for those on two blocks. No one could clearly explain why the blocks weren't considered historic.

    Lawyer David Mechanik, who represented Kimmins, argued that the industrial landscape on Adamo wasn't the traditional entrance to Ybor City.

    "That would be a peculiar gateway," Mechanik said. "That is like inviting over a guest to your house and saying, "I would like you to enter through the garage.' "

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