Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lots of familiar faces in this deal

Pinellas County has almost 1-million people, but in some ways it's still a small town. Nobody knows that better than the folks who live just west of the southern end of the Bayside Bridge.

The residents of the single-family neighborhoods there have been fighting a proposed 23-acre development of 209 apartments and heights of up to five stories.

They organized. They signed petitions. Last Tuesday night, more than 100 of them attended a meeting of the Pinellas County Commission.

But they lost, at least for now. There are more rounds to go.

There are a couple of interesting angles that separate this from your average case.

The lawyer for the developers is from the firm of Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns. If you know a bit about Pinellas affairs, you know it as "Ed Armstrong's firm." Armstrong, a well-known land-use lawyer, is the president.

Nothing unusual about that. Lots of people hire Ed Armstrong's firm. If I wanted a land-use ruling from the county, I'd hire him too.

Here is an extra angle: The development, called Bayside Reserves, might be financed by a public agency called the Pinellas Housing Finance Authority.

And the lawyer for the Housing Finance Authority is from the firm of …

Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns.

To be sure, Armstrong told me Monday, his firm made sure everything was proper. It got letters of approval from both the developers and the Housing Finance Authority.

And since the County Commission is a separate outfit, which has nothing to do with the financing, it was not a matter of the law firm "representing both sides of the case."

The firm will not represent the developer in front of the housing outfit, either.

Still, this does not make the residents happy. "Maybe Armstrong won't have any more conflicts at that time," an opponent named David Waddell told the County Commission, "and I can retain him."

Here's another angle.

The stated reason that the county approved Bayside Reserves, despite objections about traffic, neighborhood character and such, was that it includes "work force housing."

Again, this is a Good Idea. The county has been working to expand affordable housing for working folks. The county even lets developers have extra density if they include it.

But here, the county's own desire for work force housing was the decisive thumb on the scale. The decisionmaking body was an advocate for the thing being decided.

Not coincidentally, another representative for the developer out in the audience was Jake Stowers, a retired assistant county administrator.

So all in all, this is what the opponents see: A politically active, well-connected law firm represents both the developer and the government financing agency. The county itself is pushing workplace housing, and a former assistant county administrator is working on the deal too.

The Bayside Reserves case should set off warning bells, both as to the inside nature of Pinellas decisionmaking and as to whether "affordable housing" becomes another justification for letting developers build whatever they want, where they want.

• • •

If it's Tuesday, it's live chat day on Troxblog. Join the talk about current events from noon to 1 p.m. today at blogs.tampabay.com/troxler.

Lots of familiar faces in this deal 07/28/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 2:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Taco and Beer Fiesta set for St. Pete, followed by the Ooze and Booze Fest

    Food & Dining

    The Gulf to Bay Food Truck association recently announced a trio of events for mobile comfort food lovers.

    The big a-- nachos are tortilla chips topped with pulled pork, chili, cheese sauce, salsa, chopped jalenpenos, feta cheese and cilantro sour cream from Maggie on the Move. [Gulf to Bay Food Truck Association]
  2. After monument vote, Confederate activist named to Hillsborough County diversity council

    Blogs

    TAMPA — Moments after Hillsborough County commissioners made uncertain a previous decision to move Tampa's Confederate monument, they voted to put the area's most vocal advocate of Confederate causes on a citizen committee to promote diversity. 

    David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.
  3. Prisoner escapes from Hernando County landfill

    Criminal

    BROOKSVILLE — An inmate has escaped from a Hernando County landfill where he and two other inmates were assigned to a work detail, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

    Joshua Holmes, 35, escaped while working at a Hernando landfill. [Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Mayor of historic African-American city endorses Chris King for governor

    Blogs

    The mayor of Eatonville, a town near Orlando that was incorporated in 1887 as one of America's first all-black cities, today endorsed Winter Park businessman Chris King for governor. Mayor Eddie Cole said he has seen King's character first hand:

    Eddie Cole
  5. For starters: Rays at Jays, looking for some carryover

    Blogs

    The six runs and 13 hits the Rays posted on Tuesday were a positive, but the true test if they are out of their historically bad hitting slump will come tonight and in the coming days as they try to build on their success.

    "Hopefully,'' manager Kevin Cash said after Tuesday's 6-4 win, "there is a …

    Daniel Robertson is expected to make a third straight start tonight, likely at shortstop.