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Tall buildings part of Safety Harbor's past

Some officials and residents of Safety Harbor have a laser-like focus on building heights as the No. 1 factor in creating a successful, yet quaint, downtown environment.

They consider tall buildings negative, and some define "tall" as anything higher than two or three stories.

It is that kind of thinking that led to a lively discussion at a recent City Commission work session. In the end, a majority of commissioners seemed inclined to temporarily reduce allowable building heights in two sections of the downtown redevelopment area.

Allowable building heights would be reduced from 35 feet - around three stories - to 25 feet in residential sections bounded by Second Street N and Fourth Street N and Philippe Parkway and Ninth Avenue.

Allowable heights would be cut from the current three stories to two stories on Main Street east of Third Avenue, in the heart of the city's retail strip.

City Attorney Alan Zimmet suggested the city put a time limit of nine months on its building height moratorium. Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the issue again at future meetings.

Opponents of the suggested height caps noted that parts of the redevelopment area already are blighted, and handicapping developers with a severe height limitation is not the way to get the area redeveloped.

However, proponents of the new limits said that capping heights would allow downtown Safety Harbor to retain its historically quaint, small-town appearance.

Those who believe that buildings taller than two stories don't belong in downtown Safety Harbor might want to study the historical photograph that accompanies this editorial. It shows downtown Safety Harbor in the 1930s, and the two buildings anchoring downtown's major intersection are at least four stories tall.

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