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Seminole considers dangling carrot to developers

Published Feb. 26, 2006

Council members will consider a proposal Tuesday that could make it easier to ensure affordable housing for Seminole residents.

If finally adopted, the ordinance would allow city officials to negotiate an agreement with developers to provide affordable housing.

In exchange for affordable housing units, the city would allow a residential developer to build up to 33 percent more units on parcels than would normally be allowed.

Currently, Seminole officials can't negotiate such deals.

The proposal comes at a time when mobile home parks across the county are being snapped up by developers. At least two of those, Harbor Lights and Bay Pines, are within Seminole's city limits.

The problem for the people who own mobile homes but rent spaces in a park is that they are unable to relocate most of the units. That means they stand to lose their homes and their investments. And with parks being gobbled up and apartment complexes being converted to condominiums, it's becoming harder for people to find an affordable place to live.

The county has passed one ordinance that would provide rental assistance for two years to some of the displaced mobile home owners. Pinellas Park is considering adopting a similar ordinance.

The Seminole ordinance is different. It would simply provide a way for the city to urge developers to provide housing in exchange for some type of reward.

Neither the county ordinance nor the Seminole ordinance wins the full support of Charles Plancon, a member of FAIR, a group formed to support mobile home owners' rights.

The problem, Plancon said, is that such ordinances are a mechanism that makes it easier for developers to throw people out of their mobile homes because city officials think they are providing so-called affordable housing.

But if those ordinances did not exist, Plancon said, the cities and county would have to acknowledge that Pinellas has no "adequate and suitable" housing, which state law requires before mobile homes are rezoned and destroyed.

The first reading for tentative approval is scheduled for Tuesday's council meeting, 7 p.m. at City Hall, 9199 113th Street. Final approval will likely be at the end of March rather than at the March 7 meeting as would usually happen.

That's because most of the March 7 meeting will be devoted to a presentation by the Renaissance Planning Group. The city recently agreed to pay the Orlando firm up to $92,310 to help give Seminole an identity that will make it stand apart from other municipalities.

The first folks to see Renaissance's ideas will be the Seminole Chamber of Commerce. Members are scheduled to hear a presentation from Renaissance on Wednesday. The first public hearing will be from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday in Rooms A and B at the library.