Appeals court ruling favors Bayshore tower

The developers want the city to pay at least $1-million in legal fees and any lost profits.

By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published September 5, 2007

TAMPA - A controversial condominium tower on Bayshore Boulevard is one step closer to construction thanks to an appeals court decision late last week.

And the developers who won in court now say they want the city to pay at least $1-million for their trouble.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal denied the city's request for a rehearing on an earlier ruling in favor of Citivest Construction Corp., which wants to build a high-rise condominium at DeSoto Street in the Hyde Park Historic District.

Neighbors object to the building, saying it is not appropriate for the 1.1-acre lot in the historic district.

An attorney for Citivest says his client now wants the City Council to consider approval of the project as soon as possible and will attempt to collect at least $1-million in legal fees and possibly lost profits.

"Obviously we've missed the market," said attorney Scott McLaren. "The reason we missed the market is because the city unlawfully denied our permits."

City Attorney David Smith said the city will consider taking the case to the Florida Supreme Court, but "the odds are not in our favor."

The city's Architectural Review Commission in 2004 denied the proposal, saying the 19-story building was too tall.

Citivest appealed the decision to the City Council, which upheld the denial. Citivest took the matter to court, saying zoning rules allowed the building.

In September 2005, Smith encouraged the council to settle the case. More than 200 people packed city hall to object to the settlement, and the council voted to go back to court. The crowd cheered the unanimous decision.

But the city lost the case in district court three months later when a judge concluded the city's zoning laws regulate height, and not the Architectural Review Commission.

An appeals court upheld the decision earlier this year.

Council member John Dingfelder said the council made the right decision to keep fighting the condo tower.

"The bottom line is the decision was made on the basis of historic preservation," he said. "Most citizens, especially residents of Hyde Park, if given the opportunity to vote, would have voted the same way City Council did."

Council member Linda Saul-Sena said she, too, is not sorry about her earlier vote.

"I'm sorry we lost," she said. "And I feel very badly for the neighborhood."

Neighborhood leaders and city officials are now working to develop zoning rules for all of Bayshore Boulevard that would restrict condo development.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.