‘Anything can happen in an election year.’ Tampa City Council sued over zoning denial

Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda said his quip about an election year wasn't meant to seek votes by rejecting a zoning request. (2015)
Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda said his quip about an election year wasn't meant to seek votes by rejecting a zoning request. (2015)
Published August 31 2018
Updated August 31 2018

An executive at a West Tampa window company has sued the city of Tampa for rejecting his attempt to turn a residential property into a parking lot.

Spencer Kass, a 44-year-old Weather Tite Windows vice-president, claims that council members rejected his plan to appease angry neighbors in an election year.

Council member Charlie Miranda noted it was an "election year" before ultimately casting his vote against the zoning change at a July 19 council meeting.

On Friday, after the suit was filed, Miranda didn't mean to indicate he was trying to ingratiate himself with voters. He was just making an observation.

"I didn't mean it any way that people could be swayed  by it, but that anything can happen in an election year," Miranda said Friday.

Voters will choose a new member and members of the City Council in March.

Kass bought the parcel at 3006 N. Albany Ave in West Tampa for $70,000 in 2015, planning to turn it into a parking lot for the window company's employees, according to the lawsuit filed earlier this month in Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

The parcel at the corner of Albany and West Kathleen Street contains a single-family home and making the change required rezoning to commercial-intensive use, the lawsuit says.

Kass said Friday he planned to rent the property to Weather Tite.

A group of Bowman Heights residents appeared before the City Council to oppose the project. Miranda made the "election year" comment before the rezoning came up for a vote.

Council member Harry Cohen, a candidate for mayor, made the motion to approve the change but it failed 4-2.

Council member Mike Suarez, also running for mayor, argued that the commercial zoning Kass sought should be limited to commercial thoroughfares and the council voted again on the measure  this time to deny the request. The vote was unanimous.

The council's decision ran counter to the recommendation of the city staff, which found the request consistent with the city's zoning code.

A court should overturn the council's decision, Kass contends.

"To appease voters in an election year, City Council arbitrarily denied Petitioner's rezoning based on unsupported and illegitimate considerations," the lawsuit states.

Cohen and Suarez declined comment, citing a policy of refraining from comment on pending litigation.

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