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Safety Harbor zoning change to reduce density

When William Turkali bought his house on the city's waterfront in 1983, he was thinking retirement.

But the 69-year-old didn't plan to live out his days sitting on the porch watching sailboats glide across the bay.

Rather, he intended to sell out to developers one day and make big money.

Those hopes were dashed Monday night when the City Commission approved an updated Community Redevelopment Agency plan that changed the zoning in an area fronted by Bayshore Boulevard from commercial/retail/office/service to residential.

The move reduced the allowed density, which previously had been unlimited, to four units per acre.

Adopted in 1992, the community redevelopment plan covered 125 acres in the downtown core. On Monday night, commissioners approved a plan to expand that area by 50 acres. The new boundaries are 11th Avenue to Old Tampa Bay, and from Third Avenue N to Third Avenue S.

The new boundaries include a 1 1/2-acre swath of land that extends from the new Harbour Pointe development to the Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History.

"I am shocked," Turkali said of the vote. "We're in the middle of a commercial enclave . . . right next to a six-story building with a roof. That is less than 50 feet from my neighbor's house."

Turkali's neighbor, Patrick Pendola, lives next door to the museum in an older 1,800-square-foot house given to him and his wife by his mother-in-law. He said he was also surprised at the commission's decision.

"It was always our understanding that someone could buy it and develop it," Pendola said of his home. "We were thinking one day we could sell it to a developer."

City Commissioner Nadine Nickeson said she believes residents shouldn't panic because the plan "still has to go through several steps," including getting county approval and more public hearings.

She said she voted to approve the new CRA because she was following the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning board and because "prior to 1992, it was zoned residential," Nickeson said.

The land consists of seven properties owned by six people. Some homes front Bayshore Boulevard. Others front Iron Age Street.

City Commissioner Kara Bauer said she is confident she did what the residents of Safety Harbor wanted her to do.

"I can see without any doubt that the residents of this community do not want to see Bayshore Boulevard turn into Clearwater Beach," she said.

Commissioner Andy Steingold also voted for the new boundaries.

"Based upon my continuous contact with the citizens of Safety Harbor it is my belief their vision of their city is not multifamily housing along their (waterfront)," Steingold said.

Turkali said he's "never giving up the fight" to sell his property to developers.

"It's going to take a new administration and a lot of money, but it's definitely going to happen," he said.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com.

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