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Sprinkling residents keep water police busy

Of the 25 streets in the city with the most watering violations, 10 are in New Tampa, records show.

By DAVID PEDREIRA

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000


NEW TAMPA -- If you're a vice cop looking for strippers performing illegal lap dances, Dale Mabry Highway or Adamo Drive might be a good place to start.

If you're a meter reader trying to hand out parking tickets, try downtown Tampa.

But if you're a hired gun looking for people who violate lawn-watering restrictions, you can't find richer climes than New Tampa.

Of the 25 streets in the city with the most watering violations since Tampa imposed tougher rules last month, 10 are in New Tampa, city records show.

From Ashworth Drive in Hunter's Green to Hammett Road in Tampa Palms, inspectors are having a field day writing up residents who don't want their yards looking like recently cultivated wheat fields.

City inspectors ticketed at least 64 homeowners in Tampa Palms and Hunter's Green from March 16 to April 3, city records show. Each citation carries a $35 fine, plus $7 in administrative and court costs. They also cited the Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club, the Tampa Palms Community Development District and three apartment complexes along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Residents of Ashworth Drive in Hunter's Green led the way in New Tampa, receiving nine tickets during the two-week period.

Only Bayshore Boulevard, Swann Avenue, Westshore Boulevard and Kennedy Boulevard received more citations during that period, records show.

Does this mean New Tampa residents are some of the biggest scofflaws in the city?

Not necessarily.

Since New Tampa has one of the largest underground sprinkler systems in Tampa, inspectors have focused on the area, said David Tippin, director of the city's water department.

In fact, contractors hired by the city are mostly cruising affluent neighborhoods because they have the highest potential for violations, Tippin said.

"There's no use targeting areas that don't have irrigation systems," Tippin said.

Some New Tampa residents don't think it's fair that the "water police" are descending on their neighborhoods in force.

"They're targeting us to give the program some teeth," said George Faugl, president of the New Tampa Community Council. "If they just went around at random, they might not get the statistics they want."

Formerly lax about watering restriction enforcement, Tampa has beefed up patrols because of the ongoing drought. The Hillsborough River, one of the city's main supplies of water, is at its lowest level in recorded history, Tippin said.

The new rules restrict watering to once a week and limit the hours when it is allowed. The rules also prohibit residents from washing their cars or pressure washing their house, unless they receive a variance.

"I abide by the rules and I'm not happy about it," Tippin said. "It's something we have to do."

Faugl had one other theory on why New Tampa residents may be watering more than they are supposed to: deed restrictions.

Most communities in New Tampa force homeowners to keep lawns looking nice, Faugl said.

"If your lawn is in bad shape, many of these deed restricted communities will come in and have your lawn replaced, and give you the bill for it," Faugl said.

-- David Pedreira can be reached at (813) 226-3463 or pedreira@sptimes.com.

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