Sunday, September 23, 2018
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa City Council kills controversial plan to fill in open waters in Tampa Bay

The Tampa City Council has buried a plan to fill in part of Tampa Bay to create land for expensive homes.

Now they're taking action to fill in gaps in the city's comprehensive plan so no one can revive a form of development that went out of style with bell bottoms and smoking in airplanes: dredge and fill.

The unanimous vote on a project that had riled the Rocky Point neighborhood near the Courtney Campbell Causeway came after nearly three hours of discussion late Thursday. Dozens of residents pleaded with council members not to allow a developer to fill in open water off North Rocky Point Drive, where they often see manatees and dolphins, to build town homes. A few hundred residents showed up, overflowing council chambers and crowding into the hallway.

"When I think about this filling, this outdated policy that was essentially outlawed in the 1970s, why are we going backwards? This is 2018," said council member Guido Maniscalco, who represents the area.

Immediately after the vote, council member Charlie Miranda made a motion to ask the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission to bring back an amendment that would explicitly ban dredge and fill projects for residential development. The city's comprehensive plan currently lacks that language.

Commission Planner David Hey said the change could be ready for council consideration in about six months.

Most of the meeting was dominated by Rocky Point residents, who lined up to register their concerns.

Speakers showed cellphone videos of dolphins and manatees that regularly visit the lagoon in the Rocky Point neighborhood adjacent to the Courtney Campbell Causeway. (The lagoon was declared a manatee protection zone in 2004.)

They voiced fears of a precedent being set that would spur similar projects to fill in Tampa Bay.

"The manatees were there before the land was bought," said Allison Roberts, president of the nearby Dana Shores Civic Association.

The submerged land was bought by a New York development group about a decade ago. The group said it only planned to build 16 town homes and that filling the water would improve water quality in the rest of the lagoon.

"It's a restoration project," said Michael D. Horner, a Tampa land-use consultant.

That statement elicited jeers from the crowd and a warning from Chairman Frank Reddick.

The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved the land-use change in May.

Horner asked the council to follow suit. The three acres were already zoned for residential use. The developers just wanted the city's comprehensive plan to align with its existing zoning.

"This is about changing the color on a map," Horner said.

David B. Dickey, one of the lagoon's owners, said he and his partners, even if the council approved the comprehensive plan, would have to get several more agencies to sign off on the permitting process before filling in a portion of the lagoon.

Dickey declined comment after the vote.

His group could always reapply or seek the land-use change through the courts, Hey said.

Earlier, city staff had lodged their protests, saying that the city's zoning code was never intended to allow filling open water. Instead, the code allows for structures to be built over the water or floating on top of it, said Cathy Coyle, planning and urban design manager.

But Assistant City Attorney Rebecca Kert acknowledged that nothing in the city's land-use rules specifically banned what the developers wanted to do.
Kent Bailey, chairman of the Tampa Bay group of the Sierra Club, said that was because no one anticipated that dredge and fill projects, which had been largely prohibited in the 1970s, would mount a comeback.

"Isn't it obvious water doesn't have a land use?" Bailey said. "That's what you should be amending."

Reddick, the council chairman, was a stern voice of order all night, repeatedly admonishing the crowd then they spoke out of turn or started to applaud. At one point, he threatened to adjourn the meeting without a vote.

But, once the council had made its decision, Reddick smiled and said: "Now you can cheer."

Comments
‘Strippers, Cigars and Gasparilla’: Topher Morrison wants to rebrand Tampa

‘Strippers, Cigars and Gasparilla’: Topher Morrison wants to rebrand Tampa

No one can accuse Topher Morrison of not having ideas.The branding consultant turned political candidate has lots of them. Make Tampa known for its rooftop scene? Yes, and: hold a contest to see who can build an elevator that wraps around a building ...
Published: 09/21/18
Updated: 09/22/18
Hillsborough commission candidates still dancing on sales tax for transportation

Hillsborough commission candidates still dancing on sales tax for transportation

In a Seminole Heights forum last week, only one of four county commission candidates, Kimberly Overman, responded directly to a question about whether they back a proposal for a one-cent sales tax increase for transportation improvements – she'...
Published: 09/21/18
Pinellas commission candidate Amy Kedron loses support from council member and commissioner

Pinellas commission candidate Amy Kedron loses support from council member and commissioner

Pinellas County Commission candidate Amy Kedron has lost a key endorsement from one of the few elected officials who publicly supported her campaign.St. Petersburg City Council member Gina Driscoll said she pulled her endorsement after Kedron told th...
Published: 09/20/18
Updated: 09/21/18
Capin on Buckhorn and Ulele: ‘If it was his bust, he’d light it up.’

Capin on Buckhorn and Ulele: ‘If it was his bust, he’d light it up.’

Tampa City Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin blasted Mayor Bob Buckhorn for his administration's decision to remove a bronze bust of Ulele, a mythical Indian princess, from the city's Riverwalk this week.Capin, who has clashed with the mayor over the...
Published: 09/20/18
Tampa City Council approves liquour and rezoning for Stovall House making it private club

Tampa City Council approves liquour and rezoning for Stovall House making it private club

It took nearly 13 hours over three weeks, but developer Blake Casper won City Council approval to convert the historic Stovall House on Bayshore Boulevard to a private club.On Thursday, council members listened to nearly six hours of testimony on the...
Published: 09/20/18
Buckhorn says Tampa City Council playing politics with budget

Buckhorn says Tampa City Council playing politics with budget

Mayor Bob Buckhorn's hot take from watching Monday's City Council budget hearing?"I think, unfortunately, reality met election year politics," said the mayor on Tuesday.The City Council voted unanimously to delay final approval of the city's more tha...
Published: 09/18/18
Updated: 09/19/18
DeSantis’s school visit is “not a campaign stop,” Hillsborough district says

DeSantis’s school visit is “not a campaign stop,” Hillsborough district says

Social media this morning was abuzz with questions about gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis's planned 2 p.m. visit to Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy, a public middle school in Hillsborough County.Educators are asking: Wouldn't this be a violatio...
Published: 09/18/18
Bronze bust of Princess Ulele hauled away before dawn from Tampa Riverwalk

Bronze bust of Princess Ulele hauled away before dawn from Tampa Riverwalk

TAMPA — With only a moving crew as witnesses, an 1,800 pound bronze bust of Native American Princess Ulele was hoisted up and hauled away before dawn Tuesday under orders from the city of Tampa.The sculpture was installed in December on ci...
Published: 09/18/18
Tampa City Council rejects Buckhorn budget over health care costs

Tampa City Council rejects Buckhorn budget over health care costs

TAMPA — The city's $1 billion-plus city budget was put on hold Monday evening by a City Council determined to strike a better deal for Tampa employees on health care costs.After a sometimes tense 2 ½ hour hearing, the City Council delayed ...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/18/18
Pinellas commission will let St. Petersburg use some tax dollars to develop Trop site

Pinellas commission will let St. Petersburg use some tax dollars to develop Trop site

The Pinellas County Commission agreed last week to let St. Petersburg direct about $115 million in tax dollars to help redevelop 86 acres around Tropicana Field, regardless if the Rays move to Tampa or not.With a 5-1 vote, the commission approved May...
Published: 09/17/18