Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa looks at fining landlords when UT students' off-campus house parties get wild

TAMPA — For two years, West Riverfront and North Hyde Park homeowners have complained about young renters trashing their neighborhoods with out-of-control house parties.

While police and University of Tampa administrators have focused on the party hosts, some of whom are UT students, the City Council wants to hold the landlords accountable, too.

So on Thursday, the council voted to ask city attorneys to draft an ordinance, based partly on a local law in Winter Park, authorizing the city to fine landlords when their tenants have a track record of throwing wild parties.

Winter Park's ordinance defines an "illegal open house party" as a gathering of three or more people unrelated by blood or marriage at a home that generates a noise disturbance complaint or is the scene of under-age drinking or illegal drug use.

After the first violation, the property owner gets a written warning. Violations after that are punishable by civil fines that start at $1,000 and go up another $1,000 with each subsequent violation.

Tampa would have to tweak that ordinance because, for example, its fines are not the same as Winter Park's. Rebecca Kert, senior assistant city attorney, said Tampa officials are looking at a couple of additional ideas to help address the problem.

But officials said the Winter Park model could help.

"This community needs some peace and quiet," said police Capt. Rocky Ratliff, who supervises the officers who patrol the neighborhoods in question.

The latest big party took place in late April on the 100 block of S Willow Avenue, though things seem to have quieted down since council member Frank Reddick sent a letter to the landlord of the house in question.

A draft of a house party ordinance is scheduled to come back to the council on July 31.

Council: Don't delay Cuscaden pool work

Several council members urged Mayor Bob Buckhorn's administration to reconsider its plans not to budget money this year or next for repairs to the historic above-ground swimming pool at Cuscaden Park.

That means the pool, closed since 2009, would remain closed at least two more summers. Buckhorn's staff says a wide range of projects — from a small splash park to a new 50-meter pool — could make the park more active, but the ideas need to be vetted.

The money isn't available to act sooner, officials say. Because some revenues have been lower than expected, the city might have to spend $1.1 million more in reserves than it expected to balance its budget this year. And officials say they are looking at a revenue shortfall of up to $15 million as they get ready to create the city's budget for 2015.

But V.M. Ybor residents and some council members say the neighborhood has waited long enough for repairs at Cuscaden.

Reopening the historic pool would cost an estimated $1.5 million. Operating it year-round would cost an additional $455,000 annually.

The council voted to ask for a staff report on what money could be available in the city's capital improvements program or from Community Investment Tax revenues to do at least the $1 million splash park at Cuscaden, and what effect moving that money would have on other projects.

Council member Mary Mulhern suggested the city should be looking at doing more sooner.

"What the neighborhood wants is a pool back," she said. "They used to have a pool that kids could swim in. You can't learn to swim in a splash pad."

And council member Yvonne Yolie Capin said the city also should be looking at a more ambitious project, like an Olympic-sized competition pool, to make Cuscaden a major draw.

Floods beyond normal or the new normal?

The May 2 storm that dumped more than 9 inches of rain in northeast Tampa was a 100-year storm, city public works director Irvin Lee told the council.

The result was streets underwater, flooding on the campus of the University of South Florida and water lapping at the front doors of homes near Busch Gardens.

It likely would have been worse if the city had not spent $15 million, with $12.2 million more coming from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, to improve the Duck/Donut Pond drainage system, council member Lisa Montelione said.

Several council members said the city needs to consider that extreme weather is likely to become more of a problem.

"The historical averages aren't going to be right anymore because of climate change, and we need to look at that," Mulhern said.

Montelione said the prospect of similar storms means "we have to start planning now."

"With climate change, these storms are going to hit us when we least expect it," she said. "They're going to not come during hurricane season."

Council members scheduled a workshop on the issue for Oct. 23.

In other business, the council voted to:

• Pay $68,970 to Laeqali and Associates of Tampa for repairs to replace a 9-ton, 25-foot-long concrete panel that fell off the third floor of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 12. The city owns the Straz Center's building.

• Offer up to $187,200 in development incentives to a company considering opening its corporate headquarters in Tampa. It expects to spend $6 million on facilities and create 130 new jobs that pay an average of $48,813 a year by the end of 2018.

Under a business development exemption to Florida's public records law, the name of the company was not disclosed to the council before the vote.

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