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The would-be developer presents modifications aimed at appeasing neighbors who don't want a drugstore where a church now sits.
By MAUREEN BYRNE
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
SEMINOLE -- It's round two in a match between a church and some of its neighbors.
Attorneys representing CVS, the nation's second-largest drugstore chain, made their second appearance Monday in front of a Pinellas County planning and zoning panel that in July recommended against rezoning a 3-acre site at the southwest corner of Park Boulevard and 113th Street.
The owner of the land, Bay Pines Evangelical Lutheran Church, wants to sell its property to CVS and move about a mile west on Park Boulevard. For the company to build an 11,000-square-foot store there, the site would have to be rezoned from residential to commercial use, which some neighbors oppose.
In July, the County Commission turned down the church's initial request. Commissioners told church members that if the developer made some changes to the site plan, they would reconsider the request. So the company submitted its new request to the county's planning and zoning panel, which makes recommendations to the county commission.
In a packed room at the County Courthouse on Monday, Stephen Chumbris, representing CVS, told the panel the drugstore had done its best to appease neighbors and county officials. He said the company would agree to do the following:
Build an 8-foot wall along the entire western border of the property to act as a buffer to the neighborhood. Plants and bushes would line the outside of the wall.
Limit store deliveries from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and store hours from 9 a.m. to midnight daily.
Install light poles no higher than 30 feet with shields around the lights.
Keep the trash bin 100 feet from the western border of the property line.
Build entrances and exits only on 113th Street and Park Boulevard, both busy roads. An earlier site plan had an entrance on 74th Avenue and 113th Lane, which are residential streets. Chumbris said the church's entrances and exits are on 113th Lane.
Proponents of the rezoning, many of them church members, say the site on unincorporated land is suitable only for a commercial venture. The intersection's three other corners all have commercial property, including Seminole Mall, office buildings and stores.
"No one could stand on that property and say it is not intensely commercial," said Calvin VanAuken, a member of the church since 1984. VanAuken sends his three children to the church's school, which has an enrollment of 75 kindergarteners through eighth-graders.
Jane Hurst, a teacher at the school, brought 15 second- and third-graders with her to the hearing. The students, most of whom looked bored during the two-hour hearing, held up a large red banner with the students' signatures and the words We are for rezoning in large print.
Hurst said she is concerned about her students' safety when they are on the campus' playground. According to David Priebe, the church's pastor, there have been about three incidents a year during the past decade in which cars have skidded off Park Boulevard onto the church's property.
"We are a peace-loving congregation, but we are not passive," said Hurst, a church member.
Helen Ford, who lives near the church, said she is concerned about children, too. She said that if the drugstore is built, the students who walk to Seminole Elementary will have to dodge cars exiting and entering the store.
"CVS is building a death trap for them," she said.
Janet Taylor said she is against building a drugstore on the church's property, especially because there are plenty of other options. She showed the panel members about a dozen pictures of abandoned commercial properties within a 1-mile radius of the intersection.
"It just doesn't make any sense," she said. "There are so many abandoned properties in the immediate area that could meet their needs."
The controversy about the request for a zoning change arose last spring when the 500-member church was about to begin a renovation and expansion project. Then CVS approached with an offer it couldn't refuse.
If the sale of its property goes through, the church plans to buy 4.7 acres on the southwest corner of Park Boulevard and 125th Street, about a mile west of the current site. A new church and school would be built there.
The planning and zoning panel will issue a report at 4 p.m. Nov. 24. The County Commission will hear the case Dec. 19.