Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

New Port Richey cites drug trial company in zoning dispute

NEW PORT RICHEY — The zoning battle over a clinical drug trial company may be heading to court.

A city code enforcement officer issued a $513 citation on Thursday morning to Advanced Research Institute for operating its facility without the proper zoning. Company owner Susan Randall received a July 26 county court date.

"We believe that there is probable cause to issue the citation and we are going to prosecute the case," said Assistant City Attorney Jim Lang.

The zoning controversy has been brewing for months. ARI signed a lease in January for the property at 6716 Congress St., which previously housed the Harbinger House, a residential facility for boys. ARI officials planned to conduct inpatient and outpatient drug trials. The building had private rooms that could accommodate the patients who needed overnight stays.

But the site was zoned for residential use. The city's attorneys said ARI was a clinical laboratory that needed office zoning.

ARI opened anyway.

Complicating matters, ARI employs City Council member Judy DeBella Thomas as its marketing and enrollment liaison. At one point she sent emails to city officials urging them to find a solution, but last week she declined to comment on the controversy: "I just work for them. I have no control over any day-to-day operations," she said.

On May 4 the city issued a written warning to the company. ARI representatives met with city officials on Tuesday, hoping to negotiate a resolution. ARI attorney Barbara Wilhite renewed her suggestion that the city create a new zoning category to cover the business at its current location.

"We have worked hard with your staff to try to fit this property/existing building and ARI's business into your existing plan and code to no avail," Wilhite wrote Wednesday in a follow-up email to City Manager John Schneiger.

Wilhite also proposed a $2,000 fee that ARI could pay to initiate the process, "in order to address the staff and attorney time that will be expended, as well as the noticing costs that will be incurred." Instead, code enforcement delivered the citation on Thursday.

The city will outline the probable cause for the citation at the July 26 arraignment, Lang said. If ARI pleads guilty, the city could begin fining the company $513 each day it remains open. If the firm pleads not guilty, another hearing would be scheduled for the judge to hear both sides and make a ruling on the case.

If the city prevails, it would seek a judge's order requiring ARI to come into compliance within 30 to 60 days, Lang said. If that order goes ignored, he said, the city could ask the judge to shut the business down.

On Thursday, Wilhite said she had not reviewed the citation so she could not comment on what stance the company will take.

"My clients are continuing to work with the city to resolve this issue," she said.

Comments
Stock up for hurricanes, Buckhorn warns, or ‘we may be coming for you in a body bag’

Stock up for hurricanes, Buckhorn warns, or ‘we may be coming for you in a body bag’

TAMPA — Stuff that hurricane kit full of batteries, pen that emergency plan and get as many gallons of water stored in that garage while the skies are blue and clouds are fluffy white. That was the message Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other city off...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Lakewood grad Bernard Reedy, who handled the Bucs' kickoff and punt returns for much of last season, is back with Tampa Bay again.Reedy, 26, was signed on Wednesday, one day after the Bucs began OTA workouts. Thomas Sperbeck, the former Boise State r...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

It’s been 50 years since John Fogerty wrote Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since. "Back in the ’80s, I had a couple o...
Updated: 9 minutes ago

Updated: 25 minutes ago
Ex-wife said heart attack, but court record says Hillsborough developer was strangled in North Carolina home

Ex-wife said heart attack, but court record says Hillsborough developer was strangled in North Carolina home

A prominent Hillsborough County developer who died last month in North Carolina was strangled and police are investigating his death as suspicious, court records show. William "Bill" Bishop died in a hospital three days after his 16-year-old son repo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Archer facing Price

For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Archer facing Price

The Rays are set to take on the Red Sox again tonight with a bit of a student-mentor framing as Chris Archer takes on former Tampa Bay ace David Price.The Rays announced they are putting RHP Jake Faria on the 10-day DL due to the oblique strain he su...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘I didn’t care if they cut my leg off or not’: Kilauea lava bomb survivor describes agony

‘I didn’t care if they cut my leg off or not’: Kilauea lava bomb survivor describes agony

The sheer force of the lava bomb was what Darryl Clinton remembered feeling first, more powerful than any waves he had ever encountered in the ocean surrounding Hawaii.It knocked him backward on the third-floor lanai of his neighbor’s home on the eas...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

TAMPA— A mother was killed Wednesday when she was struck by a vehicle while pushing a stroller on Bayshore Boulevard, according to the Tampa Police Department.The mother and 2-year-old girl were struck by a northbound car around 11:43 a.m. near W Kni...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State baseball: Carrollwood Day comes up a run short in semifinals

State baseball: Carrollwood Day comes up a run short in semifinals

FORT MYERS — One swing.That's all it took for Carrollwood Day's historic season to come to an end.With two outs and two runners on in the third inning of the Class 3A state semifinal against Tallahassee North Florida Christian, Patriots starter...
Updated: 2 hours ago
No. 2-seeded USF falls to Wichita State in AAC tourney opener

No. 2-seeded USF falls to Wichita State in AAC tourney opener

Second-seeded USF was greeted Wednesday morning at the American Athletic Conference tournament by a bright sky and bracket poised to burst.Yet on a day the Bulls (32-19-1) could've made real noise in this eight-team event, their bats elicited nary a ...
Updated: 2 hours ago