Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa limits Jewish Community Center's use of Vila Brothers Park for overflow parking

TAMPA — Three more.

That's how many times City Hall is letting the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center use Vila Brothers Park for overflow parking.

City chief of staff Dennis Rogero sent a letter dated Thursday to the JCC saying it could use the open field at the West Tampa park "for one event per month between now and June 30."

After that, he said, "the City expects you to make alternative plans for overflow parking."

Also this week, city officials say the JCC has been cited for several code enforcement violations for putting up a large and unauthorized event tent on the grounds outside the its new $30 million facility at the old Fort Homer Hesterly Armory.

Officials said the 70,000-square foot tent, which is air-conditioned and wired for electricity:

• Was put up without a city permit.

• Increased the capacity of the JCC beyond what the City Council allowed when it rezoned the armory as a place of assembly.

• Is not allowed under the historic designation for the armory, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rogero told the City Council this week that the tent must be removed by April 18 or the city would proceed with further action. JCC chief operating officer of programs and services Heidi Shimberg said the JCC plans to continue use the tent for a "few" events previously scheduled, but will take it down in June, after which "it will never go back up again."

The JCC doesn't use the tent to increase the size of the crowds it can handle, Shimberg said, but has it so that event sponsors can, for example, have a bigger dance floor than the JCC can offer inside.

The JCC's attorney is working with the city on the code enforcement case, she said.

"It's been our desire from the beginning to be neighborly and to work with the city on solutions and we strive to continue to do so," Shimberg said.

The JCC opened on N Howard Avenue in December, and since March it has used Vila Brothers Park repeatedly for overflow parking during events, most of them charity fund-raisers. City officials had informally given the center permission to use the park for overflow parking, but have said they had no idea it would be needed so often.

"I love the facility," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in an email Thursday to a JCC supporter. "That being said, it is important that they not book events that surpass their availability to accommodate the parking. The adjoining park was never contemplated by the city to an overflow parking lot. … The park will remain a park, not a parking lot."

This week, neighbors in green T-shirts packed the City Council's chambers to demand action.

"This is a total dishonor to the Vila brothers — there's only three of us left — and to the community around that park," said Tony Vila, one of the seven brothers for whom the park was named in honor of their wide-ranging military service since World War II.

In 2013, the City Council approved a rezoning for the JCC's redevelopment of the armory and required the center to have only 229 parking spaces — less than half the 476 spaces the city code normally would have required.

At the time, JCC representatives told the council that the center would hold its big events at night, well after daytime users had gone home, and that crowds wouldn't be larger than 600. Moreover, they said they expected many of the attendees to arrive together in carpools and said they were making arrangements to provide valet parking.

Instead, partly because the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Town 'N Country has closed, the JCC has had a bigger demand for events than anyone expected. Events also have been held during the day and have drawn crowds of 700 or more.

"This has become a huge mess," City Council member Mike Suarez said. "No one has come to this with any clean hands. I mean, we had our role on City Council. … I don't think any of us that were here thought it was going to be this big of an impact on the neighborhood. I think we really need to work hard on trying to solve this."

At this point, the JCC has 27 more events for groups of 100 to 600 scheduled through the end of June. Shimberg said the JCC will keep its commitments to the nonprofits that have booked events there this spring and already is using privately owned parking lots to handle some of the overflow. That already has reduced the need for to send cars to Vila Brothers Park.

In the long run, Shimberg said, the JCC needs to continue to look for other solutions, because the owners of the private lots want to build on them.

For neighbors, the city's three-event limit is a compromise.

"If they're going to stop, I think we can live with that," said Sandy deDiego Sanchez, the president of the Armory Gardens Civic Association, which represents 600 families.

Of at least equal importance to the neighborhood, she said, is getting some improvements made at the bare-bones park, which now has a playground and basketball courts, but no bathrooms or running water.

Bathrooms should be a priority, council member Guido Maniscalco told city staff this week. A landscape architect with the parks and recreation department this week sent Sanchez a letter saying city officials plan to ask next year for funds to complete a master plan for the park, which would take a year. Construction funds would be requested in 2020 and 2022.

Residents want to see neighborhood improvements sooner than that.

"We want some clarity," Sanchez said. "Does that mean we wait another four years for running water and bathrooms? … Our main point right now is to get that park renovated so that more families can use it."

Contact Richard Danielson at (813) 226-3403 or [email protected] Follow @Danielson_Times

Comments
Another reason the Bucs took defensive tackle Vita Vea at No. 12

Another reason the Bucs took defensive tackle Vita Vea at No. 12

TAMPA — The selection of Vita Vea is a move the Bucs made for the present and the future. While Gerald McCoy remains a dominant defensive tackle, he turned 30 in February and is due to make $12.3 million this season and $13 million in...
Updated: 1 minute ago
Bucs trade down with Bills, take strongman DT Vita Vea No. 12

Bucs trade down with Bills, take strongman DT Vita Vea No. 12

TAMPA — Vita Vea loves to tell the story about the trip he took to French Polynesia with some University of Washington students and the group coming upon some enormous rocks."So over there, their strongman competition is they have a tradition w...
Updated: 2 minutes ago

Softball: Freedom wins first Class 8A, District 4 title

PLANT CITY — Freedom went on a charmed run to reach the state semifinals in 2013.It was the last time the Patriots made the playoffs.On Thursday, they returned to the postseason, this time by taking their first district title.Better still,...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
After 9-5 win, Rays head back to Boston a different team: Hereís why

After 9-5 win, Rays head back to Boston a different team: Hereís why

BALTIMORE — When the Rays last saw Boston, they were trudging out of Fenway Park after a sweep by the Red Sox that left them with a 1-8 record that marked a very low point in their young season.They'll be back at Fenway Friday night, and riding...
Updated: 15 minutes ago

High school scoreboard for April 26

Thursdayís scoreboardBaseballPCAC Championship: Northeast 6, Dunedin 5SoftballClass 3A, District 5 Semifinal: Admiral Farragut 10, Indian Rocks Chr. 0Boys TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Final: Osceola 4, Braden River 2Girls TennisClass 3A, District 9-...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
NFL draft: Florida Gatorsí Taven Bryan goes to Jaguars at No. 29

NFL draft: Florida Gatorsí Taven Bryan goes to Jaguars at No. 29

Former Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan gave the Gators a first-round pick for the sixth consecutive year, after being drafted by the Jaguars at No. 29 overall.The 6-foot-4, 291-pound Wyoming native was one of the most talented players in the dr...
Updated: 1 hour ago
So many kind words on Raysí Jonny Venters, Matt Duffy close

So many kind words on Raysí Jonny Venters, Matt Duffy close

BALTIMORE — LHP Jonny Venters ran through some pretty good emotions Wednesday night when after battling through a series of elbow injuries, he made it back into a major-league game for the first since 2012 — with a four-pitch out and a ga...
Updated: 1 hour ago
NFL draft: Patriots pick Lakewood alum Isaiah Wynn at No. 23

NFL draft: Patriots pick Lakewood alum Isaiah Wynn at No. 23

Lakewood High alumnus and former Georgia offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn was drafted No. 23 overall Thursday by the Patriots.Wynn becomes one of the highest drafted offensive linemen in Tampa Bay history and the first Pinellas County player to go in th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs GM Jason Licht has assembled enough talent to win

Bucs GM Jason Licht has assembled enough talent to win

TAMPA — Another busy offseason. Another first round of the NFL draft. Another interesting night.And, through it all, Bucs general manager Jason Licht has looked pretty darn good.He spent the past couple of months patching his offensive line, sp...
Updated: 1 hour ago
NFL draft: Chargers take FSUís Derwin James with No. 17 pick

NFL draft: Chargers take FSUís Derwin James with No. 17 pick

Former Florida State safety Derwin James fell farther than expected Thursday in the first night of the NFL draft before being chosen by the Chargers with the No. 17 overall pick.James became the fifth former Seminoles defensive back ever drafted in t...
Updated: 1 hour ago