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Neighborhood Report

Rezoning vote near on multifamily units

Neighbors are tired of houses coming down, townhomes going up.

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS
Published October 20, 2006


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For six years, neighbors rallied against townhouse construction in Palma Ceia.

On Thursday, the City Council will vote on a community-wide rezoning that would limit construction to single-family homes. Palma Ceia's current zoning allows multifamily home construction.

"This is the last step to end our struggle," said Palma Ceia Neighborhood Association president Lori Jennis.

Neighbors noticed the change in development in 2000 as developers tore down single-family homes and replaced them with townhouses, Jennis said. Traffic problems followed.

Neighbors worked with the city and county to change the land use for the 100-acre area bound by Himes Avenue, Neptune Street, the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway and San Luis Street.

Residents had the option of keeping their existing land use and zoning, therefore allowing townhouses on their lots in the future.

About half of the residents chose the status quo, Jennis said. For the others, the council voted last year to change their land use to limit density.

The final step comes Thursday, when council members vote to rezone those homes exclusively for single-family use.

"It's not 100 percent, which is what we would have loved to have seen," Jennis said. But "it gives us assurance that the entire neighborhood won't change."

That's the type of assurance John Weiss, president of the Virginia Park Residential Neighborhood Association, wants for his own neighborhood. He and his neighbors are following in the steps of nearby Palma Ceia.

After about two years of neighborhood discussion and watching Palma Ceia's progress, Weiss and his neighbors began meeting with the Planning Commission this summer to change Virginia Park's land use.

Virginia Park residents aren't concerned with townhouse development - they're already zoned for single-family use. But they don't like it when developers buy the neighborhood's large lots and split them in half. It yields the same result: more people, more cars, less green.

"People bought this area because kids could play in the yard," Weiss said. "There was just an open feel in the neighborhood."

Neighbors are trying to change the land use's density from 10 units per acre to six. Weiss says that of the 696 homes in the area, about 76 percent already adhere to that density. Changing the land use will just preserve that character.

The zone change would require a 7,250-square-foot lot minimum before developers can place a house in a yard, to discourage splitting lots.

The Virginia Park land use issue is slated to go before the council early next year. But Weiss will attend the Thursday hearing in support of his Palma Ceia neighbors.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 226-3354 or azayas@sptimes.com.

[Last modified October 19, 2006, 12:56:43]


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