County tidies land use rules

The rules shield St. Petersburg's single-family areas and urbanize others.

Published April 4, 2007

The Pinellas County Commission on Tuesday approved sweeping changes to land use rules that will help determine what is built where in St. Petersburg.

The changes, sought by the city and effective June 1, affect 37,000 property owners across 7,789 acres, or roughly a quarter of the city's total area. They were adopted without debate or opposition from the public.

The rules are meant to protect the character of single-family neighborhoods and to urbanize other areas by promoting a mix of land uses, such as retail, residential and commercial.

County commissioners serve as Pinellas' highest land use authority. The changes they approved stem from St. Petersburg's Vision 2020 plan, which the city adopted in 2002 after seeking advice from citizens and the business community.

The land use changes were supported by the Tampa Bay Builders Association, the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and the city's Council of Neighborhood Associations.

Under the new land use plan that would take effect June 1, building apartments or duplexes in many older residential neighborhoods would be prohibited, although allowances would be made for existing garage apartments and mother-in-law units.

In certain retail corridors, including Fourth, Ninth, 16th and 34th streets, and parts of Central Avenue and Gandy Boulevard, builders and developers will have greater flexibility when it comes to using their lots. They would be allowed to put apartments on top of stores, for instance.

For similar reasons, residential land use will now be permitted in largely commercial areas that are home to the city's major shopping centers.

Bob Jeffrey, the city's assistant development services director, said St. Petersburg's land use rules had failed to take into account how built out the city has become.

Jeffrey said the new plan marks an effort to promote the kind of mixed uses common in the early 1900s.