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Stovalls' Landing plan still a hot topic

By ANDREW MEACHAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- The red-lettered signs along Monterey Boulevard NE read "NO RESORT." Some residents of Snell Isle voiced that same sentiment at a meeting last week that was called in hopes of resolving differences between them and the British company that has bought Stovalls' Landing.

The air didn't clear.

"I'm not sure many minds were changed," said Barbara Heck, president of the Snell Isle Property Owners Association.

The British company, Holiday Property Bond, bought Stovalls' Landing with plans to fill the L-shaped apartment complex with vacationing clients who would stay two or three weeks at a time.

Neighbors had known the property at 616 Monterey Blvd. NE was going to be sold since being informed in 1998 by George Stovall, a physician and son of the original owner. What they didn't realize was that the new residents would be tourists who, to their way of thinking, would not care for the property as if it were their own.

Not true, chief executive officer Jeffrey Baber told residents. Upscale "bond holders" own all of HPB's properties jointly -- albeit through a bank, which holds the title -- and will make excellent neighbors.

Baber then answered repeated challenges over whether HPB's investment structure amounts to time sharing, to the evident satisfaction of no one. (A show of hands produced only one resident in support of the project.)

He also swapped calculations with neighborhood activist Richard Gahn, a computer software developer, over whether the planned use of property will bring in more or fewer visitors and traffic than would condominiums.

The 21-unit apartment complex was built in 1951 by George Stovall Sr. When all of Snell Isle was zoned for single-family housing, city officials "grandfathered in" Stovalls' Landing.

One resident at the meeting called the complex an "eyesore," but it once had been the site of numerous outdoor parties, where women in long dresses danced with men in white dinner jackets.

"That was before the mansions were built," said Heck, the Snell Isle Property Owners Association president. "Back when everybody knew everybody else."

HPB representatives point to a 1998 letter from the city granting permission to use the property as they had proposed. The ensuing conflict could result in a code change affecting future developments, said chief assistant city attorney Mark Winn, who did not attend the meeting. City codes currently do not specify how many owners a property can have or how long they can stay at the property, Winn said.

Game room opens on M.L. King Street

Eric Atwater, 25-year-old entrepreneur of the Atwater's Cafeteria family, has opened a game room at 2215 Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. S

Honey's Game Room opened unofficially June 20 with free food and video games. Atwater hosted the promotion all week and counted 500 young people as guests, including a Girl Scout troop and a group of Y2K Raiders, another youth organization.

On opening day, some 20 youths milled about the small room behind a CD shop the Atwaters also own, playing pool and dodging video opponents in basketball, football, Ms. Pac-Man and others. The free ride ended at 3 p.m., when the price of video games opened at a quarter. Atwater adjusted the machines down from their programed asking price of 50 cents. Behind the counter, a young woman waited to sell jerseys and sodas.

"Kids should have fun," Atwater said. "I want to show them that you can work hard and have nice things."

While some may question video games as a wholesome diversion for youth, it beats stealing cars, said Quanda King, 20. With friends Monique Parrish, 22, and Tameika Lanier, 20, she leaned against an old sedan in the shade and assessed the impact of the new game room.

"It's like, the first thing in the morning, (neighborhood children) are coming here," Lanier said. "Their parents know where they are."

Meeting

HISTORIC KENWOOD: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Albright United Methodist Church, 2750 Fifth Ave. N. Open forum

Neighborhood Newsline

If you have a Neighborhood Notebook item or a news tip, call Andrew Meacham at 865-3885 or reach him by e-mail at ameacham@mindspring.com.

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