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Airstream Ranch violates county codes, Hillsborough officials say

Airstream Ranch is “emblematic of the nomadic nature of people who visit Florida” an art expert told code enforcement officials.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

Airstream Ranch is “emblematic of the nomadic nature of people who visit Florida” an art expert told code enforcement officials.

TAMPA — Airstream Ranch might be art, but it still doesn't comply with county codes, officials decided Friday.

The 71/2 Airstream trailers planted nose down along Interstate 4 in Dover violate zoning and sign restrictions, as well as rules against debris and improper storage, the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Board decided Friday.

"One man's trash is another man's treasure," board Chairman Thomas Jones said. "But the problem we have here, obviously, is the zoning for this property."

It's zoned for agriculture use.

The trailers are 1957 to 1994 vintage and range from 16 to 34 feet. They were placed to mimic Cadillac Ranch, a collection of half-buried cars in Texas.

Frank Bates, who owns a nearby recreational vehicle business, has 30 days to remove the display or face a fine of $100 a day. But board member Linda Pearson-Cox said that if Bates applied for rezoning within the month, the fines and other citations could be reconsidered.

Bates said he plans to keep the display. He's going to talk to his attorney about options, which might include filing a rezoning application and compromising with upset neighbors, he said.

At the hearing, art experts told board members that Airstream Ranch, like Cadillac Ranch, is a work of art.

"It's emblematic of the nomadic nature of people who visit Florida," said Wallace Wilson, director of the University of South Florida's art school.

But code enforcement officials backed away from interpreting art and focused instead on rules.

About 40 people attended the meeting to support Bates, many of them in "Save Airstream Ranch" T-shirts.

Others came in opposition. Four residents of Castlewood Road, which runs along Bates' property, spoke against the display. One said he was willing to compromise with Bates, but the others want the trailers removed.

"Traffic on our road has increased four times," Michael O'Connor said.

There are no sidewalks on Castlewood Road, and he said it's not safe for his children to bike or walk there anymore.

Bates hopes to reach a compromise with the neighbors. He plans to landscape around the trailers and build a wall that would block residents' views. But he said he's going to hold off on improvements until he's certain the trailers can stay.

"I don't want to fix it if I can't keep it," he said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Airstream Ranch violates county codes, Hillsborough officials say 03/15/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 4:56pm]
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