Tenants may pull up stakes
By MAUREEN BYRNE
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001
SEMINOLE -- The rumors started when surveyors came on the property in December.
They were confirmed two months later when two small signs posted at the entrance of Holiday Campground advertised what the tenants feared: a public hearing for a zoning change that may mean an end to their bucolic lifestyle there.
The signs, which have gone unnoticed by many of the tenants, say the campground at 10000 Park Blvd. has requested a change in its zoning and land-use designations. A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 19 at Seminole Community Library.
The approximately 75 year-round and 375 seasonal tenants fear their fate will be similar to the former tenants of Lake Seminole Campsite. In 1997, Home Depot announced plans to build one of its stores on the campsite's property at 10550 Park Blvd., home to more than 60 year-round residents.
A year later, the campsite closed and the tenants had to leave.
"That's what alarms us," said Dorothy Bosko, 73, who has lived year-round at Holiday Campground with her husband, John, for 13 years. "It could happen to us."
The Baynard family of St. Petersburg, owners of the Holiday Campground's waterfront property since 1946, is asking the city to change the land-use designation from the current residential low-medium to residential planned development.
The 101-acre parcel is across Park Boulevard from the entrance to Lake Seminole Park. Only 50 acres are usable since the land borders Long Bayou and a wetlands system that is environmentally fragile.
Although the property's existing land-use designation allows for the development of single-family homes, the request would permit a mixture of 400 to 500 upscale single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums.
"It means you can be a little more creative with respect to how you develop the property," said Mitch Bobowski, the city's general services director.
The proposed development symbolizes the changing face of Florida. Expensive homes and condominiums are replacing old cottages, apartments and, in this case, a trailer park.
"It's fairly typical when you have an urban county like Pinellas," said Ed Armstrong, a local attorney representing the Baynard family. "You've got that tension and that struggle between uses that have been there over a number of years but are often not the highest and best use."
If the zoning and land-use requests are approved, tenants of the campground would have to find new homes.
"We want to stay here," John Bosko, 77, said. "We're happy with it the way it is."
Bosko and his wife said that they had no idea about the public hearing until neighbors told them. They said there has been no formal announcement from campground employees, and the only advertisement for the hearing is the tiny signs at the park entrance.
"I think it's very underhanded the way they're doing this," said Bosko, a retired factory worker from Albany, N.Y.
Armstrong said campground tenants have no cause for alarm. "This is not a quick-moving process," he said.
The owners will be "fair and reasonable in dealing with the tenants if or when they have to leave," Armstrong said.
The city's land development review board will hear the case March 19. In addition to the changes in zoning and land-use designations, the board also will hear requests for height and setback variances, Bobowski said.
The Baynards have asked for permission to build structures up to 96 feet tall. The maximum height for the requested zoning is 65 feet. The owners also have asked for setback variances for several lots.
The City Council is scheduled to hear the board's recommendations April 10. If council members approve the requests, the state also must approve any land-use change; the process could take four to six months, Bobowski said.
The sale of the property to LaPerla Development Group is contingent upon the approval of the land-use and zoning changes, Armstrong said.
Although the use of the land as a campground was grandfathered in when the city annexed the property in 1985, the official land-use designation for the tract is low- to medium-density residential.
In 1991, Bill Baynard applied for a zoning change to allow commercial construction on the land. The council voted 7-0 against the request.
Peter and Joyce Tarajos were heartbroken when they heard about the proposed development. The couple from Barker, N.Y., are spending their fifth winter at a waterfront site in the campground.
"We love the area. We love the location," Mrs. Tarajos, 60, said.
The Tarajoses and others in the park hope for a large turnout at the public hearing in March. They said they are working on recruiting some tenants who will serve as speakers at the hearing.
"We have nothing to say. We're not property owners," Mrs. Tarajos said. "But if we don't say something, it will just happen."
- Staff writer Maureen Byrne can be reached at 445-4163 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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