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Oldsmar okays code on growth

The City Council settled months of debate Tuesday night by quietly approving a new downtown development code.

There was, however, a hint of the disagreement that had stalled passage of the code since September.

Mayor Jerry Beverland cast a lone vote against the code, a protest against a provision that could allow gas stations and drive-through restaurants downtown. He fears such businesses, if built, would ruin the image of downtown.

"It's a matter of principle," Beverland said later. "I didn't want the gas stations in it."

The code will regulate growth in the commercial, residential and industrial area from just west of Bayview Boulevard, south to St. Petersburg Drive, east to Clarendon Street and across Tampa Road. It is part of an effort to create a pedestrian-friendly downtown with retail, commercial and residential development.

Gas stations and drive-through restaurants were the most contentious elements of the code. Early on, the mayor and council member Ed Richards wanted them prohibited. The other council members said they didn't want to see such tight regulations on land use.

The code, passed on first reading, strikes a balance. Gas stations and drive-throughs would be allowed only under certain circumstances with council approval.

The code also raised a conflict-of-interest question with council member Ed Manny. His Tampa real estate company is selling a commercial property that will be affected by the new code. Manny sought an opinion from the state Commission on Ethics after some wondered whether he should vote on the code. Last month, the commission released an opinion that Manny would not receive any special gain by voting on the code.

There are numerous changes in the new code. It allows for combining residential and commercial development in areas where residential development had been prohibited. The idea is to encourage the growth of shops with apartments overhead, town houses or apartment complexes.

Downtown buildings can reach up to six stories under the new code. And small shops, such as antique stores or art studios, and bed-and-breakfast inns will be allowed on the neighborhood boulevards.