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High-rise to replace high fly balls at Al Lang?

Published April 11, 2007


A high-rise on the property where Al Lang Field now stands?

That is one of the concerns veteran neighborhood activists are raising about the city's pending revision of land development regulations.

Such a thing isn't likely on the city-owned property at 230 First St. S, officials are quick to say.

But the possibility raises one concern among several that neighborhood leaders want to see addressed as the LDRs near the home stretch for adoption.

"My position is, it's been recreational space for at least 50 years. I want it to stay that way," said Tim Baker, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

Primarily a baseball stadium - its formal name is Al Lang Field at Progress Energy Park - the site has been host for numerous sports and civic events since 1947, including Major League Baseball spring training.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays will leave in 2009 for a new spring training site in Charlotte County, leaving questions about Al Lang's future.

A sale or lease of the property would require a referendum, pointed out Bob Jeffrey, the city's assistant director of development services.

He said if the city itself were to develop the property, it could in theory do what it wanted, subject to rules.

Among many residents, tall condominiums often come to mind, either favorably or negatively, when downtown development of any kind is discussed.

"I don't think the city would be in that (condominium) business," Jeffrey said.

Peter Belmont is an environmental lawyer who serves on the Downtown Neighborhood Association's board.

During creation of the new land use, or zoning districts, the group urged officials to create a downtown park category that would include height limits, Belmont said.

The neighborhood association wanted the park zoning for Al Lang "so that when Al Lang disappears, we are confident something big will not take its place," Belmont said in an e-mail.

But a height restrictions map in the proposed land use changes shows Al Lang as having the same designation as tall buildings such as Parkshore Plaza on the west side of Beach Drive.

On Thursday, the City Council postponed the public hearing about the LDRs for several weeks after procedural questions emerged.

In the postponement's aftermath, some neighborhood leaders are raising questions about other aspects of the proposed LDRs.

Their concerns include the process of appealing decisions by city development boards and the composition of the boards.

The neighborhood spokesmen also want more public scrutiny of new procedural rules before they are adopted and have questioned the proposed length of time between a project's approval and its actual startup.

[Last modified April 10, 2007, 20:13:43]

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