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San Antonio officials, Saint Leo University near legal fight over use of city street

SAN ANTONIO — No one's sure if it will work, but city officials plan to try to stop Saint Leo University's proposed warehouse from going up along a residential street.

In a special meeting July 3, city commissioners proposed new weight restrictions on Pompanic Street, which the university wants to use to access a 16,000-square foot plant operations facility.

Since plans were introduced in February, city officials and the university have gone back and forth in meetings about whether the facility's truck traffic will make Pompanic unsafe. Touting an April traffic study, university engineers maintain the couple dozen deliveries a day are too few to pose a risk. City officials still don't buy it.

So next week the commission may vote on changes to an ordinance that would introduce new weight restrictions, prohibiting some of the facility's trucks from using Pompanic.

But how, if at all, would that affect plans for the facility's construction?

"I don't know," Mayor Tim Newlon said. Final say falls to the neighboring town of St. Leo, not San Antonio.

Pompanic Street serves as midline between St. Leo and the city, and the facility would stand in St. Leo limits. Its commission balked on the plan last month, citing the need for experts' input on the university's plan.

Even if San Antonio's commission restricts Pompanic, St. Leo could approve the facility, and its trucks would be left to contend with the San Antonio's code enforcement.

Newlon isn't sure who would fine them, maybe the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Still, he said, restricting traffic on Pompanic might pressure the university to change course.

"Hopefully that gives the university motivation to use existing roads to their plant operations facility," he said.

That's not going to happen, according to Joel Tew, a land use attorney representing the university. At last month's St. Leo commission meeting, Tew and university engineers said they don't want to build service roads through the 12-acre field overlooking Lake Jovita on which the facility would stand. The university bought the land for planned expansions, they said, and service roads would be an unwelcome complication.

As for using State Road 52, which borders the field's southern edge, Tew said that also isn't happening.

Rather, he made it clear in a letter to Newlon before the July 3 meeting that San Antonio's attempts to restrict Pompanic will only worsen the impasse and would be unlawful, unconstitutional and a general act of ill will. He went on to say that if the city restricts Pompanic, the university might pursue legal action.

"This caution is not intended to inflame the situation, but simply to put the City on fair notice that there are consequences for such intentional, discriminatory, bad faith conduct by public officials ..." he said.

Contact Gage Bentley at gbentley@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6250. Follow @gagebentley.

San Antonio officials, Saint Leo University near legal fight over use of city street 07/09/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 1:43pm]
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