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    Building supplier overrun by homes

    For more than 50 years, a Clearwater lumberyard fed the growth of houses. Now surrounded by them, the yard may give way to townhomes.

    By BRIAN MOORE

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 3, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- There was a time when loud trucks pulling long trailers raced in and out of Hamrick's Lumber Yard, stirring up cyclones of dust behind them as they maneuvered between warehouses on a dirt road.

    Construction companies east and west of the bay called on Hamrick's for lumber, steel, concrete, sand, plaster -- just about anything they needed to erect houses and buildings. And Hamrick's, founded in 1947, met the demand of the growing region, according to Richard Kamensky, a part owner and former salesman for the company.

    "People would purchase two or three truckloads at a time," Kamensky said. "One time we delivered an entire house down to the north end of Lake Okeechobee. It was that simple. If somebody wanted a house and wanted it delivered, we loaded the truck and off it went."

    Those were the company's glory days. Now the lumberyard's four owners will soon sell their property to Sun Ketch Construction Inc. for redevelopment.

    Sun Ketch plans to spend $4.8-million to level Hamrick's 11 buildings and construct 16 townhouses, each with two units for single families, said Tom Quartetti, a Sun Ketch vice president.

    Erecting townhomes brings the property in line with the residential flavor of the neighborhood, Quartetti said. The property sits on the southeast corner of Lake Avenue and Druid Road.

    The area wasn't always a neighborhood. In fact, it was an ideal location for a lumberyard when it was built, Kamensky said. The dirt road that went through the 4.58-acre lot stopped at the property's south end, where a pasture began. There weren't any houses on the west side of Lake Avenue, and light traffic made access easy for trucks.

    Houses began springing up in the late 1960s, and it wasn't long before the yard was surrounded by homes.

    The lumberyard's owners have asked for $400,000 for the property, and their real estate agent said they will get close to that when the deal is final.

    Sun Ketch says the townhouses will reduce noise, eliminate truck movement in the neighborhood and remove a "non-conforming eyesore" by replacing the lumberyard with modern structures and elaborate landscaping, according to papers it filed with the Clearwater Planning Department.

    The 2,400-square-foot townhouses will sell for $150,000 to $170,000 and sit in a complex with a pool, the documents show.

    Some neighbors aren't happy with Sun Ketch's plans. Five homeowners near the lumberyard spoke in opposition to the townhouses at the April 17 Community Development Board meeting. All said that the two-story townhouses are too big for the neighborhood, which is typically made up of single-family homes.

    They also said they fear for their privacy, saying that at 28 feet tall, the townhomes will allow people to look into their homes and back yards.

    "It seems that this is kind of out of character for the neighborhood," said Paul Storm, who lives nearby on Druid Road.

    "The site is simply going to be overdeveloped," said Peter Scott, who lives nearby on Keystone Court. "Unlike most of the houses around here, these buildings just seem like they'll be a little sore thumb for this neighborhood."

    Sun Ketch hasn't aggressively marketed the development, but it already has gotten several messages from people who reviewed the development's plans on the company's Web site, Quartetti said.

    Construction could begin by year's end. But two issues still have to be resolved before the city awards permission to build:

    Most of the lumberyard's 4.58 acres sit in an unincorporated area. City commissioners unanimously approved annexing the land at a May 17 meeting. But that annexation won't be final until commissioners approve the annexation a second time. They will consider it June 7.

    And the lumberyard owners must prove to the city's Legal Department that they own the land before that second vote. The group has not provided a warranty deed, quitclaim deed or title insurance documentation. Any of the three would prove their ownership.

    Quartetti and Marshall Harris, the real estate agent handling the property, said there shouldn't be any problem completing the sale this summer.

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