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Tampa considers new rules on development in high-risk coastal areas

An effort to halt multifamily development south of Gandy Boulevard has evolved to cover low-lying areas throughout the city.
Strong winds and high tide from Tropical Storm Colin floods Bayshore Boulevard in south Tampa on Monday, June 6, 2016
Strong winds and high tide from Tropical Storm Colin floods Bayshore Boulevard in south Tampa on Monday, June 6, 2016
Published Feb. 5
Updated Feb. 5

TAMPA — What started as an effort to hit the pause button on the proliferation of apartment complexes south of Gandy Boulevard morphed into a proposed compromise for coastal areas around the city.

The far-reaching proposal spurred a fight between developers and residents at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

A proposal to lower the allowable density of residential development in the city’s coastal high hazard areas — parts of the city deemed likely to flood during hurricanes — didn’t go far enough in the eyes of some residents south of Gandy Boulevard, who complain that a recent rash of apartment complexes has led to traffic congestion, hinder hurricane evacuations and lowered the quality of life.

Dozens of people spoke on a city proposal to temporarily slow development in coastal city neighborhoods, in a discussion that lasted more than three hours.

“The invasion of monster apartment complexes has completely changed the character of our neighborhood,” said Stephanie Poynor, a south of Gandy neighborhood activist.

Developers and land-use attorneys argued that imposing density caps amounted to an unfair penalty on investment. They pointed to city data showing that South Tampa’s population density wasn’t as high as other parts of the city that lie in the hazard zones. And they said the push by south of Gandy residents would negatively affect large swaths of the city, which hadn’t been adequately consulted.

“What exactly is the nature of the problem we’re trying to address?” said David Mechanik, a land-use attorney.

After lengthy negotiations, a proposed nine-month agreement would apply to rezonings and changes to the city’s comprehensive plan for more than 30,000 housing units and 55,000 residents, and just under 15 percent of the city’s land. The pause would encourage mixed-use development and reduce the density allowed for residential development to 25 units per acre.

Council members asked staff to return with a draft ordinance by March 4. The vote was unanimous with Charlie Miranda absent for the vote.

Related: Tampa mulls temporary halt on development south of Gandy Boulevard

Bill Carlson also asked for staff to develop a solution that would only apply to the south of Gandy neighborhood by November. The motion also passed unanimously.

The measure would also encourage mixed-use projects that might alleviate long trips to grocery stores and other retail.

Last year, Council member John Dingfelder proposed a one-year moratorium on multifamily housing south of Gandy Boulevard to address residents’ concerns. That effort led to Thursday’s marathon session, which spread to cover low-lying areas that fell within the high hazard zone throughout the city.

In October, the St. Petersburg City Council voted to loosen rules that prohibited increases in building density in the Coastal High Hazard Area. A vote to require more resilient construction in those high-risk zones passed unanimously.