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    Houses to replace tennis court

    Neighbors in South Tampa plan to drop their appeal if three single-family homes are built there.

    By LINDA GIBSON

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published August 4, 2001


    TAMPA -- The most talked-about private tennis court in South Tampa might be destroyed without anyone ever having played a single point.

    The 130-foot-long court on W Wallcraft Avenue will be replaced by three single-family houses, according to a rezoning application filed by a developer who has a contract to buy the property.

    Gone, also, will be the eight light fixtures that towered over the court, and that brought the wrath of neighbors in the upscale neighborhood.

    "It was those big lights that got people upset," said neighbor Helen Neil.

    So upset that some of them hired a lawyer to protest a city zoning decision that allowed the court to be built. Plopped in the middle of a residential block, surrounded by houses on all sides, the massive court and its huge lights really stood out.

    Neighbors worried about the thwack-thwacking of tennis balls on this quiet street, and about the glare of the lights in their windows and porches at night.

    Owner Tammis Day, 50, has signed a contract to sell the tennis court property to Gary Brown, president of Sterling Bay Homes. Brown said Friday he didn't want to comment on the deal until after the closing, scheduled for Aug. 20.

    The sales price listed on the rezoning application was $408,000, said Catherine Coyle, a planner in the city's zoning department.

    The application asks for the lot widths to be reduced from 60 feet to 50 feet. Coyle said the smaller width was consistent with other lots in the neighborhood and would allow Brown to get lots for three houses out of the property.

    "It's terrific," said lawyer John Grandoff, representing the unhappy neighbors. "It's exactly what should be there."

    Grandoff said as long as the closing takes place and the tennis court comes out, he and his clients would drop their appeal. Work on the court and a house that would have been built in front of the court stopped when the appeal was filed.

    The court has not been used, said neighbors, and only the foundation of the house has been built.

    Mike Quinto, whose house is on the west side of the property, worries that he might be better off with a tennis court next door than with a two-story house looming over his single-story house.

    "My opinion has changed over time," he said. Day's builder constructed a 6-foot, cement block wall along the boundary with Quinto's property and offered to paint it any color Quinto wanted.

    He has gotten to like that wall, painted dark green and heavily landscaped with new palm trees and shrubs.

    "I have more privacy now," he said.

    Quinto and other neighbors will be able to tell the City Council what they think of Brown's rezoning application at a public hearing Sept. 27.

    Day, who also owns a house at Bayshore Boulevard and Chapin Street, could not be reached for comment.

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