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The move to close 20th Street comes after protests of "temporary" barricades.
By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS, Times Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2007
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has submitted plans to the city to permanently close off 20th Street, between Palm Avenue and Eighth Avenue.
The request comes half a year after neighbors began protesting "temporary" barricades the Sheriff's Office set up after Sept. 11, 2001. The Sheriff's Office cited reasons of "homeland security" and a need to protect the 911 Communications Center at 2008 E Eighth Ave. against terrorist attacks, like truck bombs.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter says the department plans to expand into the old Environmental Protection Commission building next door, using it for needed office space. So with 20th Street closed off, she says, "It'll all be one big compound."
Historians say Ybor's granite curbs and street grid are as important to its character as its cigar factories. Closing 20th Street would interfere with that urban grid.
The city zoning department is concerned.
In a case file for the proposal, the zoning department included these comments: "Elimination of any part of this grid must be carefully scrutinized, as it may change not only the flow of traffic, but the future development pattern within this district, which is a key element of Tampa's heritage."
The water department objects to the closure, because it runs a major transmission main along 20th Street.
Neighbor Eric Schiller has protested, posting signs that say "Free 20th Street" and "Stop the lies."
He believes the Sheriff's Office lied about its security motives for closing off the street. He thinks residential and commercial development is what Ybor needs, not government compounds.
"It's selling Ybor on the cheap," he says. "And it's sickening. It's just sickening."
Along with the closure, the long-standing barricades issue is making the City Council question how long someone can have a temporary permit. The city attorney's office reported last week that the sheriff's permit to close 20th Street didn't have an end date when it was issued.
"It seems to me that the word 'temporary' is the punch line here," said council member Linda Saul-Sena. "To me, 'temporary' indicates of short duration because of the specific issue. Temporary doesn't have a dot, dot, dot after it."
Council member Mary Mulhern wondered whether the Sheriff's Office had outgrown its location. "They just have a lot of plans and seem to need a lot more than what's really there in that historic district."
Before the City Council decides on the sheriff's request, the Barrio Latino Commission will examine whether the plan fits in with the historic fabric of the district. The City Council will make the final decision later, but no date has been scheduled.
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or 226-3354.
If You Go
The Barrio Latino Commission will discuss the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office plan to close 20th Street on Dec. 18 at 9 a.m. in City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd.
[Last modified December 6, 2007, 07:39:25]