TAMPA — The City Council on Thursday directed City Attorney Chip Fletcher to ask Florida's attorney general if Hillsborough Community College and other governmental agencies must adhere to city design rules for construction in Ybor City.
The question is: Will Fletcher do it?
"I'm still evaluating it," Fletcher said after the meeting. "We've got a conflict between the mayor and the City Council on this issue."
The struggle arose because Hillsborough Community College is building a student services center that historic preservation advocates say is too contemporary for the neighborhood.
Construction in the area generally needs approval of the Barrio Latino Commission, a volunteer board that regulates architectural issues.
But HCC officials argue that state rules exempt them from regulation by the commission, and the school went forward with its building plans without going to the Barrio Latino Commission.
That raised the hackles of one-time Ybor City property owners who say HCC's building compromises the integrity of the historic district and took their complaints to the mayor and City Council.
In January, Fletcher said he would ask the attorney general for an opinion to resolve the dispute.
But last month, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and HCC president Gwen Stephenson agreed on some changes to the building's design and that in the future the school's new buildings on its Ybor campus would be subject to review by the staff in the city's historic preservation department, but not approval of the Barrio Latino Commission.
With a compromise in hand, Iorio nixed the idea of going to the attorney general.
But the City Council still wants to take the matter to the state's top attorney.
Council member Linda Saul-Sena made the motion to ask for the attorney general's opinion, saying she knows its risky because the answer may not favor the city. But she said she wants to do everything possible to support the Barrio Latino Commission's jurisdiction.
Council chairman Tom Scott seconded the motion, saying it's the only way to resolve the conflict.
Council member John Dingfelder said the council would ask another attorney to request the opinion if Fletcher would not.
Only council member Charlie Miranda voted against requesting the opinion, saying as he understands it the attorney general will only consider it if both the city and HCC make the request.
"If the other agency doesn't do it then we're wasting our time," Miranda said.
Fletcher said he will examine the city charter, which gives the mayor the right to negotiate with other governments, to see if the council has the authority to ask for the opinion.
Janet Zink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3401.