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Pinellas commission denies Seminole assisted living facility's expansion plans

Published Feb. 25, 2015

SEMINOLE — Heeding the requests of a procession of angry neighbors, the County Commission this week shot down the expansion plans of an assisted living facility on Park Boulevard.

The commission Tuesday voted 4-3 to deny a rezoning request that would have allowed Oak Tree Manor owner Christine Gibree to expand the building on the southwest corner of Park and 128th Street to accommodate 32 beds. That would have brought the total number of beds to 71.

Gibree sought to rezone part of a 1-acre vacant parcel to the west of the facility from estate residential to institutional to accommodate parking. The new wing would have remained on the 1.5-acre property on which the building now sits.

That's a change from last August, when the commission denied a similar rezoning request. That plan would have used a portion of the other property for the new wing. The revised agreement would have limited the building height to 16 feet and prohibited Oak Tree from serving clients with drug or mental health issues. County staff and the Local Planning Agency recommended approval.

Supporters sporting hot pink shirts with the logo "Support Oak Tree Manor" packed the commission chambers and praised Gibree's character and the quality of her care.

"I think keeping everything on the existing property, there should be no problem," Gibree told commissioners.

The amended plan did nothing to ease concerns of opponents who said the expansion would increase traffic in their leafy neighborhood and cause property values to drop.

"We live in a neighborhood that represents a country setting, and we want to keep that," said Delane Ward, who lives south of Oak Tree Manor and was one of more than a dozen who showed up to the meeting. Opponents submitted a petition with 49 signatures from nearby residents.

Commissioner Pat Gerard, who supported the plan along with commissioners Janet Long and Karen Seel, said Gibree had gone to "great lengths" to address neighbors' concerns.

Chairman John Morroni and commissioners Dave Eggers, Charlie Justice and Ken Welch voted no. Welch noted the county has allowed Oak Tree to nearly double its number of beds since 2004.

"I think we've done enough," Welch said.

"This isn't about the care of the nursing home," Morroni said. "This is about the quality of life of the people who live in that community."

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.


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