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Environmental board okays church expansion

The project, approved by the Environmental Development Commission, will close part of Hampton Avenue.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003


ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite protests from several area residents, the Environmental Development Commission approved an expansion of the Faith Covenant Church in Northeast St. Petersburg.

The church sought the vacation and closing of Hampton Avenue N between First Street NE and Hobson Street NE to join the existing church site to four recently acquired properties on the south side of Hampton Avenue. The EDC also approved a special exception and site plan for the church site.

Faith Covenant Church was built in 1983. The church now wants to expand by building a new 800-seat worship center, a nursery/educational building and more available parking.

The redevelopment will occur in two phases. The 7,300-square-foot educational building, renovations to the existing building and new parking area will be completed first.

"Consolidation of the properties would create a campus-like atmosphere and provide a safe environment for pedestrians," City Planner John Hixenbaugh said.

Area residents argued, however, that a closing of Hampton Avenue would shift traffic to other streets and make it difficult for some to exit the neighborhood safely.

However, the church site plan does allow residents to cut through the parking lot to reach First Street NE.

Each month, the EDC meets to consider proposed development projects that require variances or site plan approval or requests for alley or right-of-way easements. If the requests are not too far out of line with city codes, the EDC will recommend their approval to the City Council -- providing the developer includes substantial greenspace and other changes to improve the appearance of the project.

Among other items considered Wednesday were:

PROJECT TIME EXTENSIONS: Several planned projects were granted extensions of up to one year to request needed vacations, variances and special exceptions or to submit site plans. Redevelopment of a "key block" bounded by Central Avenue, First Avenue N, and Second and Third streets N would require an alley vacation, but developer Tropicana Partners told the EDC that it had not yet identified the "right project" for the site. New owners of the Waterford Apartments at 10980 Oak St. NE requested more time to plan development of an additional 148 units. The "timing is not presently ripe" for a proposed 300-room hotel and several large office buildings planned at Carillon, developers told the EDC.

OFFICE BUILDING: A special exception, site plan and variance were approved by the EDC, paving the way for development of a 15,900-square-foot office building at 200 Park Circle S and Travelers Way. Five medical office buildings are planned for the site with parking located to the north along the Pinellas Trail with access from Park Circle. A 6-foot-tall fence will act as a buffer between the rear of the buildings and residences to the south. The EDC also approved a lot refacing to allow the building of two new single family homes on the eastern end of the tract. Area residents opposed the project because they thought it would increase traffic on a nearby alley. City officials said the project represented "low key development" that "blends in well" with the surrounding neighborhood.

CARLTON TOWERS: An overhanging parking deck for the Carlton Towers at 470 Third Street S was approved by the EDC as it granted air rights to developers. City Planner John Hixenbaugh said the project would allow the Carlton Towers to "remain competitive" with newer buildings in the downtown area. William Davenport, representing the owner, Golden Gate Partners LLC, said the expanded parking would allow the Towers to "be part of the renaissance in downtown St. Petersburg." (See story, page 3.) The parking deck would extend over the east side of Second Street S between Del Mar Terrace and Fifth Avenue S and over the south side of Del Mar Terrace west of Second Street S. The deck will encroach 5.5 feet into the right-of-way on Second Street S and 10.5 feet into the Del Mar Terrace right-of-way. When the Carlton Towers were developed in 1963, the building catered to an elderly population that required a minimum amount of parking. Since then, real estate demographics have changed, and more parking is needed to attract a "younger and automobile dependent" population. "Carlton Towers is a perfect example of a property that can remain viable if the opportunity is available to provide additional parking," said Hixenbaugh, who stressed that granting the air rights would not result in any change to sidewalks, streetscape, on-street parking or travel lanes.

What is the EDC?

The Environmental Development Commission is a citizens board that meets on the first Wednesday of each month to review large development projects. The board reviews and approves site plans and has the power to grant exceptions to city codes for elements of projects that do not conform. Decisions of the commission can be appealed within 10 days to the City Council. After approval, the petitioner has the city's permission to go forward, although further scrutiny may be required by other governing agencies.

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