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St. Petersburg panel sides with homeowners in Eden Isle boat slip debate

ST. PETERSBURG — In Wednesday's latest round of a recurring battle between homeowners and renters, the homeowners won.

Facing a room filled with protesting homeowners, the city Development Review Commission rejected a developer's request to build 50 boat slips for Snell Isle Apartments at 1515 Eden Isle Blvd. NE.

"When I looked at the report and listened to the testimony, I concur that Dock D just goes out too far," said DRC chairman David Punzak. "Common sense says that would be a problem."

The proposal from the apartment complex owners, the Laramar Group of Chicago, called for construction of 50 boat slips for the sole use of residents of the 272-unit rental apartment complex.

The slips were to be distributed among six dock structures. One of the planned docks included slips for 24 boats and extended 203 feet out into Smacks Bayou.

The city's planning and zoning staff recommended against the dock proposal, primarily because of concerns over the length of the larger dock, Dock D.

Commissioner Charles Canerday said, however, that having docks at the apartment complex would result in "less parking problems on the street with boats and trailers."

He pointed out that the amount of waterfront, if it contained single-family homes, would allow only 22 docks, not the 50 that the developers were seeking.

Virtually every neighborhood association in the area, including the umbrella group, the Council of Neighborhood Associations, opposed the plan.

"A marina is totally out of character for the neighborhood and would be a visual blight," said Christopher Dailey, president of the Shore Acres Civic Association.

The homeowners on Eden Isle have invested in their homes for their retirement and "will be here much longer than the Laramar Group," he added.

The Eden Isle Civic Association, which represents the closest neighbors to the apartment complex, voted overwhelmingly against the docks, citing concerns about safety, pollution of the waterway, property values and increased noise.

However, one group, the Northeast Park Neighborhood Association, supported the dock proposal, arguing that the new docks would divert boat traffic from public ramps at Crisp Park and Coffee Pot Park.

Doug Manson, the attorney for the Laramar Group, countered that the "rule of law," not emotions, should dictate the outcome of the boat dock request.

"There seems to be two standards — people who are homeowners can have docks and people who rent can't have docks," he said.

But after hours of testimony, the commission sided with the room full of property owners opposing the dock proposal.

The decision could be appealed in court, a substantially revised plan could be submitted or the developers could wait 18 months to resubmit the same plan.

Even if the city eventually approves a dock plan, further approvals from the county, the state and the federal government are required before any docks can be built.

A spokesperson for the Laramar Group said the company has not decided what step to take next.

"Our community members are very upset. Some very hurtful and offensive things were said in the meeting," Laramar spokesperson Honey Rand said.

She said her company is focused first on assuring renters that they are not second-class citizens.

"Some of the neighborhood homeowners were trying to create the illusion our people are criminals, that somehow they are less than people living in million-dollar homes," Rand said. "They are not. We have doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses and police officers who live here."

St. Petersburg panel sides with homeowners in Eden Isle boat slip debate 08/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 8, 2009 4:31am]
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