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Cigar factory owners retain control

Historic landmark designations shouldn't be forced on the buildings, the City Council decides.

By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published November 18, 2005

TAMPA - The City Council on Thursday opted not to force restrictions on cigar factory owners who don't want their properties declared historic landmarks.

The designation would have prevented owners from tearing down the buildings or making major changes without approval of an architectural review board.

Council member Linda Saul-Sena argued in favor of forcing the owners to accept the designation, which, according to city law, doesn't require owner approval.

But other council members worried about infringing on property rights.

"Just because we can, doesn't mean we should," said council member Shawn Harrison.

Council member Rose Ferlita called it "legislating after the fact."

"These people have rights that were enumerated when they bought the property and it wasn't a historic site," she said.

If the city really wants to protect the cigar factories, "the city can write the owners a check and buy them," said council member Kevin White.

Nearly 200 cigar factories once peppered Tampa's urban landscape, creating an identity for the city and fueling its economy.

Only 26 of the buildings remain. Of those, one has local landmark status and 10 are regulated by inclusion in the Ybor City historic district.

The other 15 have no protection.

Almost two years ago, the city's Historic Preservation Commission recommended giving them local landmark status.

Five building owners objected to the designation, saying they didn't want government to regulate their buildings. They hired attorney John Grandoff to fight the designation. City officials postponed taking the matter to the City Council for a year while they tried to work out their differences with the property owners.

Last month, the City Council agreed that any of the 15 building owners who don't want their factories made local landmarks may opt out of the process, but asked the city's legal staff to try to negotiate a commitment from Grandoff's clients to not tear down their buildings.

Grandoff said none of the people he represents has plans to demolish the old factories, but they refused to discuss the issue with the city.

Talks have already been going on too long, he said.

"We have been steadfast in objecting to this process," he said.

City staff members will now go back to the 10 other factory owners to find out if they would also like to decline the designation.

A public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. at City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd.

[Last modified November 18, 2005, 01:27:15]

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