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Street closing goes to council

beach park Not everyone wants Ward Street closed should a retail building come.

By Brendan Watson Times Staff Writer
Published October 19, 2007


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It's a conflict between convenience and safety, according to homeowners association president Emmy Purcell Reynolds.

Less Porter approached the Beach Park association's board last year. The developer wants to build a three-story retail building, including a grocery store, on the west corner of S Ward Street and W Kennedy Boulevard, as well as a parking garage across Ward.

The board told Porter that if he wanted its support, he would have to petition the City Council to close Ward, preventing traffic from the grocery store entering their neighborhood.

"The way of life, the tranquillity of the neighborhood, safety - that's all going to be impacted if the street isn't closed,"Reynolds said.

Not everyone in Beach Park agrees with the board's stance. Some don't want Ward closed off, saying they're becoming prisoners in their own neighborhood as access continues to get restricted.

It's not uncommon for the city to close rights of way, most frequently unimproved alleyways that get little use or attract criminal activity. But more than 500 cars use Ward daily, according to a traffic study by the city's transportation department, which is objecting to the street's closure.

"We all want one or two cars driving down our street. But there are no private streets," said Calvin Thorton, a senior development review engineer with the transportation department.

Longtime resident Margaret Vizzi, who is the planning and zoning chairwoman for the homeowners association, said that a competing traffic study by the developer showed that more than three-fourths of the traffic on Ward is cutting through the area to avoid the busy intersection at Kennedy and West Shore Boulevard. The situation will only get worse with the addition of a grocery store at Ward, Vizzi said.

The city promised to divert heavy traffic from Beach Park to appease residents when it approved dense commercial zoning for the area in the 1970s over their objections, she said.

"We've depended on that promise," Vizzi said.

Over the years, the city has closed off four Beach Park streets at Cleveland: S Occident Street, Gardenia Avenue, S Sherrill Street and S O'Brien Street.

Today, S Hoover Boulevard and Ward are the only two streets west of West Shore that are open and give residents access to Kennedy.

Further limiting access to the neighborhood, the city also restricts left turns during peak traffic hours going northbound on West Shore. That means residents have to make a U-turn at Kennedy and make a right turn into the neighborhood, or drive around the block.

"If Ward Street is closed at Cleveland, there's a tremendous negative impact on Beach Park's ... traffic flow," resident Lucia Keenen told City Council members during a recent meeting.

Porter's plan could have moved forward with the development under current zoning, without closing Ward.

But he knew it was important to court the neighborhood association, which has aggressively fought other developments.

He agreed to limit the height of the parking garage to 45 feet, to increase the setback on the south side of his development, and is only developing 25 percent of what he could have under the parcels' original zoning.

The modifications are incorporated into Porter's development plan, which City Council members approved contingent on their decision to close off Ward.

The City Council is slated to vote on the issue again Thursday.

The council has twice voted on the issue but deadlocked because of absent members. So far, John Dingfelder, Charlie Miranda, Gwen Miller and Joseph Caetano have voted in favor of closing Ward, while Linda Saul-Sena, Tom Scott and Mary Mulhern have opposed it.

Porter says if the ordinance is passed, work could begin in the first quarter of 2008, with the grocery store opening in 2009.

Brendan Watson can be reached at bwatson@sptimes.com or 813 226-3302.

 

. If you go:

Thursday meeting

The council will discuss the proposal at 6 p.m. Thursdayin City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd. There is no public comment period for the issue.

 

[Last modified October 18, 2007, 06:41:25]


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