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City officials want to corral steakhouse's roadside cows

By ANDREW MEACHAM

Revised March 7, 2001

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 4, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The three fiberglass cows huddled in front of Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse could be pondering their fate. Acting on the complaints of neighbors, the city has taken action for a code violation against the restaurant, which opened in January.

Officials say the cows, considered a trademark by the chain's owners, violate ordinances against "three-dimensional objects used as signs."

"If it was not somewhere that sold steaks but, say, a hat store, it might be considered art," said Julie Weston, director for the city's Development Services. "But because it is closely related to their business, it is a sign."

The restaurant could still apply for a variance from the Environmental Development Commission, she said.

Harold Seltzer is the grandson of the late Sam Seltzer. His cousin, Michael Seltzer, founded a smiliar steakhouse chain in Canada under the name Le Biftheque. Seltzer has said that the cows are as much as part of the restaurant as the Golden Arches are to McDonald's. Seltzer faced a similar complaint in 1997 when the city of Clearwater levied a complaint about three-dimensional signs. The restaurant settled by agreeing to plant shrubs designed to hide the cows from passing motorists.

"We have bent over backwards to accommodate every one of their concerns," Seltzer said of the restaurant at 3500 Tyrone Blvd. and its dealings with Jungle Terrace neighbors. At the neighbors' request, Seltzer's earlier agreed not to place any signs along the 34th Avenue side of the business.

Jungle Terrace president Steve Plice said the ordinance should be followed, despite having posed with the cows Wednesday in a Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Discussion of the matter on the association's e-mail chat board has ranged from silly to sacrilegious. One resident suggested dressing the cows up for Halloween and other holidays. Others have lobbied to make them honorary members of the association.

But seriously, said Julie Martin, the Jungle Terrace resident who lodged the complaint: The floodgates would open if the city allowed Sam Seltzer's to get away with decorative objects as signs.

"I for one would not like to see Tyrone Boulevard clogged with cows," she said, "or with waving gorillas, or 20-foot-tall Paul Bunyans holding tires. Sam Seltzer's is a steak house, not a cattle ranch."

Retail manager and Jungle Terrace resident Jim Echols, 29, said the cows should stay.

"Those cows aren't hurting anybody," he said. "That's the guy's business."

Cellular tower pulled from agenda

ST. PETERSBURG -- A cellular phone tower in the shape of a cross has been pulled from consideration on Wednesday's agenda of the city's Environmental Development Commission.

The 120-foot tower, to be erected at Faith Lutheran Church, 2601 49th St. N, upset residents in the Disston Heights neighborhood who said they had never heard of the proposal or the neighborhood association's unanimous vote to approve it.

Faith Lutheran would receive payment from Nextel for hosting the tower, but neither side has disclosed the amount.

With more and more residents proclaiming their opposition to the tower, Nextel asked that the item be pulled until it can meet with the neighbors.

City officials said the item likely won't appear before the EDC again until at least May.

Pet Parade

Uptown pets are stepping out this afternoon. The neighborhood, along with surrounding residents of North Shore, Euclid-St. Paul, Crescent Lake, Crescent Heights and Woodlawn, are bringing their animals out for a pet parade. Gift certificates and prizes from the Pet Planet will go to animals with the scariest costume, as well as the "cutest," the "strangest," the "best vintage," or the au naturel "plain Jane." The event starts at 2 p.m. at Round Lake Park, at Seventh Avenue N and Fifth Street.

Roser Park gazebo

A gazebo meant to herald the southern entrance to downtown and commemorate Historic Roser Park has been completed. The structure stands at Eight Street S and the Eighth Avenue connector bridge. It was funded with a $3,000 Neighborhood Partnership grant.

Meetings

BIG BAYOU: 7 p.m. Monday. Trinity United Methodist Church, 2401 Fifth St. S.

MEADOWLAWN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Bethel Lutheran Church, 1801 62nd Ave. N. City council candidates.

OLD SOUTHEAST: 7 p.m. Thursday. Society of Friends Hall, 136 19th Ave. SE. Animal control.

WILDWOOD HEIGHTS: 7 p.m. Thursday. Juvenile Justice Building, 955 26th St. S. Neighborhood plan.

- Staff writer Sharon Wynne contributed to this report.

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