Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough Commission rejects plans for a tent city

TAMPA — In a 4-3 vote Tuesday, Hillsborough County commissioners rejected plans for a tent city in the eastern part of the county.

The Catholic Charities proposal would have created temporary housing for up to 250 people at 12 acres near east Hillsborough Avenue and Harney Road.

Called Hillsborough Cares, the tent city would have been modeled after Pinellas Hope, a Catholic Charities-sponsored tent city near Pinellas Park. The Pinellas shelter, in an industrial area on a dead-end road, has been deemed a success. The Hillsborough project encountered lots of opposition from nearby business owners and residents fearful of increased crime and a drop in property values.

"Common sense prevailed," said Hal Hart, a resident who lives in East Lake Park. The subdivision is located across Hillsborough Avenue from the proposed tent city site.

"I hope our commissioners will work … for a real solution," he said. "We will not accept tents."

The crowded meeting was attended by about 100 people, including some who were warned they'd be thrown out if they didn't keep their emotions in check. The room erupted into cheers when commissioners delivered their vote against the project.

"I support the mission of Catholic Charities and want to find a solution to the homeless problem," said Commissioner Ken Hagan, who voted to deny the rezoning, "but it is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan, and I do not believe it is an appropriate location."

Commissioners Kevin Becker, Rose Ferlita and Jim Norman voted for the rezoning. Along with Hagan, commissioners Mark Sharpe and Kevin White supported Al Higginbotham's motion for denial.

Though not in a perfect location, Ferlita said the Hillsborough Cares project was much needed during these economic times.

"The decision is not an easy one; nor will it be popular with residents," Ferlita said. "It's about the homeless. … It's the right thing to do, and it's the only thing I can do."

Catholic Charities leaders had hoped to create emergency housing for homeless residents for up to 90 days at a time in Hillsborough, which has the largest homeless population in the state.

Advocates contended that the dwellings are desperately needed and said the camp would provide food, a safe place to sleep and access to services for about 1,000 people a year.

Residents against the tents said they would support permanent housing, such as Catholic Charities' original plan to build affordable apartments on the site. But that plan fell through when the housing market crashed.

And beyond those residents in East Lake Park, many communities throughout Hillsborough were watching the vote, as pending land development code changes could have paved the way for similar projects.

Though denied, this isn't the end of Hillsborough Cares, said Frank Murphy, spokesman and president of Catholic Charities. The group will take a look at what worked with the project and what didn't, he said.

"We're disappointed," Murphy said. "There are 10,000 street homeless, and we'll have to come up with another plan to help them. This isn't the end of it."

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at or (813) 661-2454.

Hillsborough Commission rejects plans for a tent city 10/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cap on number of taxicabs on the road may survive abolition of PTC


    State lawmakers made no secret that their decision to abolish the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission was partly becasue they believed its excessive regulations protected the taxicab and limo-rental industries from competition.

    Taxi cab drivers wait at an offsite area for fares at Tampa International Airport
  2. Judge denies bail for woman accused in Selmon crash that killed three


    TAMPA — A judge denied bail for 29-year-old Amber Nicole Perera in connection with a Thursday collision on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway that killed three members of a Tampa family.

    Amber Perera, the driver that caused a crash on the Selmon Expressway last week that killed a couple and their daughter, leaves the courtroom after being denied bail on Aug. 16, 2017, at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
  3. A long-awaited vision for Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — More than a decade after plans to develop a vacant waterfront tract were first announced, a new rendering finally gives a hint of what Westshore Marina District will ultimately look like.

    Rendering of Marina Pointe, a condo project overlooking Tampa Bay as part of the Westshore Marina District. [Courtesy of Masterfile Corp.}
  4. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location


    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International Airport.

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  5. What you might have missed in the second episode of the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'


    We're back for another episode of The Annotated Hard Knocks, trying to find behind-the-scenes insights and things you might have missed in Tuesday's second episode of "Hard Knocks," following the Bucs in …

    As the crowd recognized him and got loud, Jameis Winston jumped up and down in celebration. [GREG AUMAN | Times]