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Condo foes: Not in my front yard

Some Hyde Park residents are concerned that a change in the city of Tampa's definition of front yards could allow a developer to build a 24-story condo tower at Bayshore Boulevard and DeSoto Avenue.

Zoning officials, however, say the amendment could make it easier for homeowners throughout the city to build and remodel on corner lots. Front yard setbacks are generally deeper than side yard setbacks.

"This can help the thousands of other residential lots across the city that haven't been buildable because of the definition," said city zoning coordinator Gloria Moreda.

The City Council decided last week to study the issue further and delayed a vote for about a month.

Currently, city code defines front yards on corner lots as the land along the most narrow side of the property. It further states that if it's along a major road, the yard along that thoroughfare must also be considered the front, regardless of size.

In the case of the proposed tower, the front yard would be along Bayshore and DeSoto, even though site plans submitted by the developer in August showed the front yard just along DeSoto.

Under the proposed change, city officials would eliminate the part of the code pertaining to corner lots on major roads. That would mean the tower would be in compliance with the code and could have its front yard solely on DeSoto, avoiding a deeper setback on Bayshore.

Historic Hyde Park residents have fought the plans of Citivest Corp. to build on the corner of Bayshore and DeSoto for about a year. They have argued the high-rise is too large for the 1.1-acre site and would create too much traffic.

Some residents said they had not heard about the front yard change until a few weeks ago after the City Council gave it preliminary approval Jan. 8.

"We think the ramifications of the amendment are further reaching than what's now known," said Jeanne Holton Carufel, president of the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association. "We want a prudent decision to be made, and we want it to be looked at. The public was not involved in the discussion."

The Citivest Corp. case highlighted the conflict in the code, Moreda said, but the amendment offers no guarantees for the proposed condo project.

"It won't necessarily benefit this development because it still has to go through (the Architectural Review Commission), which is a completely different committee and has different rules for review," Moreda said.

John Grandoff, an attorney representing Citivest, did not return calls for comment.

The council vote on the front yard change is scheduled for Feb. 26.

_ Denise Watson Batts can be reached at 226-3401 or dbattssptimes.com.

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