TAMPA — Stroll into the lobby of the Plaza Harbour Island and ask to use the restroom.
Chances are the doorman will apologize. Residents at the luxury condominium tower say they've had more than their share of sharing.
Several times a week for more than a year, visitors trekked from a dirt lot across the street where they left their cars while they went on cruises from Tampa's port. A website directed them to the exact address of the Plaza and touted: "Why pay $15 at the port when you can pay $7.99 with Capital Parking?"
Once there, they want to use the restroom, or get a drink or wait in an air conditioned lobby.
Many of the 189 residents at the Plaza wrote letters and piled onto a bus to protest the parking lot next door last week at a city hearing to address the owner's request to allow it.
The request was denied. Officials from the Development Review Committee found it inconsistent with the land development code. A stream of unwelcome guests at the Plaza will end April 3.
"We felt very gratified," said Lou Bernucca, a condominium owner.
Before the hearing, he and two dozen of his neighbors had met to plan their protest. They rattled off 15 points of contention with their parking lot neighbor, including early arrivals and late departures, increased traffic and, of course, the restroom issue. Dr. Ismail Kazem, who was among the group's organizers, focused in on pivotal issues, things that couldn't be simply altered by the land owner, and a dozen neighbors presented them at the hearing.
• • •
Their message: The parking lot doesn't belong here.
The property is 0.84 acres surrounded by a 6-foot-tall wood fence, with an entrance on Harbour Post Drive, across from the Plaza entrance. There is no restroom or refuge from the sun.
Cruise passengers who parked their cars there were shuttled by van a little more than a mile to the port. Capital Parking's website also offers auto detailing so guests could "come back to a clean vehicle."
The owner's rezoning request would have allowed for 91 parking spaces.
According to the property appraiser's website, the land is valued at $628,000 and is owned by Knights Harbour LLC, with an address for the company in Avila. Knights Harbour bought the property in 2011 for $935,000.
A call to the property owner was not returned.
The property is zoned for residential, hotel, retail, office, conference, athletic center and marina.
The property owner had requested the addition of long-term cruise ship and special event parking.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.