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City to look at whether homes hem in MacDill

City planners are gearing up for a study to see whether too many homes are crowding against MacDill Air Force Base, and if so, what can be done about it.

It's not just an academic exercise: The issue of encroachment can be a major factor in determining whether military bases around the country, including MacDill, survive the next round of base closures in 2005.

Air Force bases don't want the increased safety risk and noise complaints that come when airplanes and neighborhoods mix, said Tampa businessman Al Austin, who serves on a state panel charged with protecting Florida bases from closure.

"We can't allow any further development" closer to MacDill, Austin said Tuesday. "Anything that would increase what we have now could be a problem."

The city could begin the $150,000 study next month, assuming it receives federal money to cover most of the cost, said Angela Hurley, a city planner working on the project. If federal help falls through, the city will probably pursue a scaled-down project.

A city representative on Tuesday described the proposed study to members of the Interbay Peninsula Partnership, which includes business and neighborhood leaders with interests south of Gandy Boulevard.

The study likely would result in recommendations on zoning and land use in some parts of Ballast Point, Gandy/Sun Bay South and Port Tampa, and in some areas south of Interbay Boulevard that are not represented by a neighborhood association.

Among the possibilities: new building height requirements; the barring of high-intensity uses such as schools; and lower densities to deter townhouses and other multifamily development.

"It's a temptation to replace single-family housing with multifamily," Austin said. But near MacDill, "that can't happen."

Both city and MacDill officials said any recommendations are not likely to affect existing homes, many of which have been there for decades.

The study, which is expected to take nine to 12 months, dovetails with growing concerns about new development south of Gandy.

Earlier this month, members of the Gandy Civic Association called for a moratorium on rezonings in their neighborhood, fearing the impact that scores of new townhouses are having on traffic and stormwater drainage.

"What we're experiencing now is helter-skelter development," said Gandy resident Kim Allen. "Our neighborhood is really, seriously torn right now."

_ Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matussptimes.com.

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