Boutique request spurs debate
SEMINOLE HEIGHTS - City officials will modify new zoning regulations that, if left unchanged, could have allowed businesses such as auto repair shops and dry cleaners along bungalow-laden Central Avenue. A glitch in the regulations — approved last year for Seminole Heights — became apparent during a zoning hearing for a proposed baby boutique at 6202 N. Central Ave. No one objected to The Nursery Experience, but nearly a dozen residents at an April public hearing opposed rezoning the residential property to allow a business. In a 5-1 vote, the Tampa City Council last month gave initial approval to the boutique. A final vote is scheduled Thursday.With the property zoned for commercial use, there is a long list of businesses that could open on the site. Residents viewed many of those businesses far less favorably than the boutique. They include an appliance repair shop, a small automotive repair shop, a dry cleaning store, a bank, a restaurant and an assisted living facility for six or fewer people. "We cannot imagine anyone being opposed to a baby boutique," said Susan Long, vice president of the Business Guild of Seminole Heights. But, she said, "This (Central Avenue) is one of the most beautiful streets in Seminole Heights." Central Avenue is lined with oak trees and 1920s-era bungalows. Close by the boutique are Seminole Heights Elementary School and Seminole Heights United Methodist Church. There also is a cluster of storefronts in a 1920s building: Glen's Hair Studio; Velo Champ, a bicycle shop; Mikey's Bakery & Café; and Health Mutt, a pet store. The rezoning for the boutique is based on new zoning codes that emerged from a pilot project during former Mayor Pam Iorio's administration. City officials are working with other neighborhoods to craft similar regulations. The codes are a departure from traditional zoning which separates homes, shops and factories into distinct districts. The new codes emphasize the size and appearance of buildings as well as the layout of streets and public spaces. The regulations allow some blending of residences and businesses. But some residents said auto repair shops and the like on residential streets were not what they envisioned for Seminole Heights. "Had we realized that this slipped through … we would have opposed it a long time ago," said resident Christie Hess. By July, the city plans to propose a new zoning category — commercial neighborhood — that will restrict the types of retail in the area to smaller shops such as the boutique or coffee shops. "We agree with them that that is appropriate," said Thom Snelling, the city's director of planning and development. By the end of the year, Snelling said city officials also would like to complete an area-wide rezoning in Seminole Heights. That would require a public hearing and city council approval. The hearing is on hold while the city awaits recommendations on a city-wide neighborhood master plan funded with a $1.2 million federal grant. Snelling said city officials want to be sure the vision plan already approved for Seminole Heights meshes with the city-wide plan.
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