Seminole site clears another rezoning hurdle
By ANNE LINDBERG
Published November 27, 2005
SEMINOLE - A proposed zoning change has barely cleared the second hurdle on its way to turning a vacant industrial site in the 4900 block of Park Street into a shopping center.
The Pinellas Planning Council voted 5-4 earlier this month to recommend the change.
Concerns of increased traffic and the disappearance of industrial properties across Pinellas worked against the proposal. But after hearing evidence from an economic expert, council members narrowly sent the matter to the next step in the process.
Now the proposal is scheduled to go before the Pinellas County Commission at its Dec. 6 meeting. If that board approves the change, the issue will go before the state, then the Seminole City Council, which makes the final decision.
If the County Commission turns down the change, however, the proposal would die, said Mark Ely, a Seminole city planner.
The move to change zoning for the 19.3 acres began in November 2004 when the Sembler Co., the St. Petersburg group that created BayWalk, approached the city to discuss redeveloping the area.
"My understanding is it will be a major department store as the anchor tenant," Ely said.
The land is owned by Silor Optical of Florida, a division of Essilor. Essilor, based in France, makes optical products and supplies, especially corrective lenses.
The property has been vacant for about two years and had been on the market for about 18 months. Because there are no rail lines, airports or major highways nearby, industries did not want to buy the property. The only interested buyers wanted to build commercial projects, which would require changing the zoning from industrial to commercial.
Sembler decided to try for the change. In July, the Seminole City Council gave preliminary approval.
But staff members from the Pinellas Planning Council recommended that the board deny the zoning change. They cited a traffic increase of about 4,500 trips a day and the loss of industrial land in the county.
Clearwater attorney Tim Johnson, who represents both Sembler and Essilor, told council members that Park Street is slated to be widened to six lanes in the next few years so the traffic increase would not be so drastic.
Hank Fishkind, an Orlando economic expert, said the data do not support the concern that Pinellas is running out of industrial land. He also pointed out the unlikelihood that any industry would buy the property.
"Without conversion, this site will likely sit vacant for some time," Fishkind said during the meeting. "It'll just sit."
[Last modified November 27, 2005, 01:18:21]
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