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Tennis court upsets neighbors

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2001


TAMPA -- At 130 feet long and 70 feet wide, with eight lights towering over it, the tennis court under construction at 3319 Wallcraft Ave. strikes some neighbors as an incongruous element on the block.

No one denies it's a magnificent court, and its extravagance has neighbors speculating about what it cost. The court and the house going up alongside it take up three lots on this upscale block.

"They've got some money to burn," said Don Adcock, 45, who lives across the street.

But the court makes Adcock, like many others in the neighborhood, uneasy. They worry about the thwack of tennis balls echoing into their homes, the flood of lights through their windows at night.

"This is a residential neighborhood, it's not a sports area," Adcock said. "There's a YMCA just down the street."

So, who's putting it there?

Records list the property owner as 50-year-old Tammis Day, who also owns a sprawling Bayshore Boulevard home nearby. A December 1999 Baltimore Sun article described Day as a playwright who divided her time between Tampa and Stockbridge, Mass.

When a Times reporter went to the Bayshore home to question Day about the controversy, a worker there referred the reporter to her agent, Thomas Brown.

"I don't think Ms. Day needs to be involved in it," Brown said in a telephone interview.

Brown, who was hired by Day to oversee the building of the courts, added: "If there had been a problem, I would hope that during the permitting process the city would have brought it to our attention."

He said construction began on the court late last year, but none of the neighbors have approached him with complaints. "It's going to certainly add to the property values in the neighborhood," Brown said, adding that the court was for Day's private use. "She's an avid tennis player."

But some neighbors are so unhappy they've gathered signatures for a petition challenging the project.

"I'll be listening all day to the hullabaloo (on the court)," said Lydia Fernandez, 71, who added her name to the petition. She has lived in the neighborhood since 1974 and likes the quiet.

Lawyer Mark Bentley, another neighbor, asked the city to look into whether the court met code.

"This is really just a place to put their private recreational facility in the heart of our neighborhood," Bentley said, noting that Day already has a house on Bayshore.

The city's response: The court may be unusual, but it meets code.

"I did not see any zoning violations," said city zoning coordinator Gloria Moreda. The lots, she said, are approved for a single-family residence with accessory uses. "The tennis court is permitted as an accessory of the property."

"It is one nice tennis court, let me tell you," Moreda added.

Bentley sounded optimistic.

"Hopefully we can work something out with the property owner and representative," he said.

- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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