Is there only a “minor” difference between an office building and a Topgolf facility with a restaurant, bar, driving range and event spaces?
A group of residents of the Carillon Office Park is suing the city of St. Petersburg, saying officials failed to notify them before approving a change in plans to permit a 67,521-square-foot Topgolf sports entertainment complex close to their homes. The site on Carillon Parkway originally had been proposed for an office tower.
In the suit recently filed in Pinellas County circuit court, Concerned Citizens of Carillon say city officials approved the change on a site plan application earlier this year "without notice, public participation or public hearings'' as required by city code.
The application did not "request a mere minor modification but rather a substantial change to the use of the space and basic intent of the original site plan,'' the suit says. "The construction of a Topgolf facility will greatly impact the status quo of residents located within the near vicinity of the development.''
The suit seeks to have the approval voided and the city blocked from issuing a development order that would allow the Topgolf project to proceed. City officials said they do not comment on pending litigation. Texas-based Topgolf, which has a complex in Brandon and dozens of other locations worldwide, did not return calls.
Carillon, located in a triangle formed by Interstate 275, Ulmerton Road and Roosevelt Boulevard, is generally considered an office park with tenants that include Raymond James, Spectrum and BayCare Health. But it also is a live-in community with a Publix and hundreds of residents in apartments and townhomes.
In 2001, the city approved a site plan for construction of a 250,000-square-foot building for Aegon, one of the world’s largest insurance companies. Nothing was built, and in 2012 a seemingly identical site plan was filed for the "express purpose'' of preventing the expiration of the original site plan, the suit says.
In February, the city received an application to modify the 2012 plan to construct "an outdoor commercial recreation destination with an adjoining restaurant.'' On May 29, the application was administratively approved after officials determined there had been only a "minor'' modification of the plan.
"None of the neighboring residents and property owners ... were asked to participate in the process, nor were they given notice and opportunity to attend public hearings to resolve concerns that construction of the Topgolf facility would cause for the residential neighborhoods,'' the suit said.
The homeowners also allege that the city failed to produce some documents they requested and delayed turning over others. The suit identifies only one homeowner, Jason Liu, a lawyer who lives in Carillon’s Saxony Place townhomes. The names of 13 other plaintiffs were blacked out.