TAMPA — Neighbors and advocates stood before the city Variance Board Tuesday night trying to make an important point in case anyone missed it: Derek Jeter is a pretty big deal.
The board agreed.
Its members voted unanimously to grant the baseball star permission to build a 6-foot fence around a home he is building across three lots on Bahama Circle, a once quiet street on Davis Islands.
Most of the baseball star's immediate neighbors came out in support of his fence, noting an uptick in media and fan traffic.
"I've seen people drive up in a cab, get out in a Jeter baseball shirt and take photos in front of the property," said neighbor David Lurie. "We would love it if the wall was even higher to stop the gawking and onlooking."
"I think there is some ground for hardship," said board member Gennaro Di Nola. "With every case you have to look at the facts of what's going on here and who's living here."
The board allowed construction of a concrete fence 3 feet tall, topped by 3 feet of wrought iron.
Ever since the New York Yankee shortstop decided to build himself a new home on Davis Islands there has been nonstop attention from the media and fans, said Jonathan Koch, speaking for Jeter's Kered Connors LLC.
"As you can see, even though my client is playing in New York against the Toronto Blue Jays, I'm being stared in the face by three TV cameras," Koch said.
Jeter wanted permission to build a fence higher than the 4-foot limit allowed by city ordinance, arguing that it was needed for privacy and security and to hide the 5-foot electric transformer needed to power 33,000-square-foot home.
Koch said though most properties in the neighborhood are not fenced, there were a few — including Tampa Bay Lightning star Vinny Lecavalier — that had fences taller than the ordinance allowed.
"It's very hard to measure the scope of one's celebrity. To my knowledge Mr. Lecavalier lives peaceably in the neighborhood with no complaints of privacy or security issues," Koch said. "But I have reports that two tour buses have rode past Mr. Jeter's property in the past week, and he doesn't even live there."
None of that mattered to the Davis Islands Civic Association, which has opposed the fence. The association's zoning chair, Kris Kral, noted their objection at the meeting, but offered no further comment.
The board expressed concerns about how the fence will comply with all the safety and transportation standards, but they unanimously agreed with Koch about the need.
"The intended resident is a famous individual and he has to be famous every day of his life, everywhere he goes," Koch said.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.