Temple Terrace leaders can’t escape bat house issue
TEMPLE TERRACE Mayor Frank Chillura and Temple Terrace City Council members are being hounded by bats. The city’s leaders held their first community meeting of the year in Orange River Estates this week but most of the residents who attended were from Riverhills Drive and they wanted to talk about plans to build a replica of the city’s bat tower in their neighborhood. The meeting was held at the Orange River Estates Clubhouse on Wakulla Drive on Tuesday so elected officials could get input on a series of topics from residents in the subdivision. Scott Hines of Riverhills Drive and his neighbors attended to express their concerns about plans to build the tower in Riverhills Park near their homes.“I live across from Riverhills Elementary,” Mary Beth Gioffre said. “I know a lot of us who live in that area feel it (the bat tower) was snuck in on us. “We are not opposed to the bat tower; we don’t want it on that luscious, green piece of land.” Gioffre’s sentiments were shared by others whose homes are in view of the proposed site for a replica of the city’s original bat tower in the park. The Temple Terrace Preservation Society wants to erect the tower to overlook the Hillsborough River in the park. “Our concern is what’s next?” said Hines, who is leading an effort to persuade the preservation society to find a new location. Chillura and City Council members encouraged the residents to attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday, when the bat tower is slated to be discussed. Several bat experts are scheduled to attend and make presentations. “What the city is trying to do is its homework,” the mayor said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions.” For an hour and a half, the elected officials and Seeber were peppered with suggestions on ways to improve municipal services. They asked about installing more sidewalks and increasing community events and activities. They addressed concerns about incorporating the city’s Mediterranean revival architecture style at public structures, including transit bus shelters. Jan Knapik, president of the Orange River Estates Homeowner Association, asked about the future of the downtown redevelopment district project, which has been at a standstill at North 56th Street and Bullard Parkway since March 2012. Chillura said a meeting with members of the Vlass Temple Terrace group is tentatively set for June 6. “We have to talk to them to see what direction they want to go,” Chillura said. Resident Sue Wiggins wanted to know if the developer was seeking national and regional retailers. City officials said they want the project to include well-known stores and restaurants to attract a lot of people. Linda Green of Orange River Estates asked the city council to tighten the city code enforcement ordinance to make it tougher for squatters to move into unoccupied houses. City officials promised they were working on such a plan. Knapik said it was an honor for Orange River Estates, a subdivision of about 400 homes off Harney Road, to host the first city-sponsored community meeting in more than a year. For information about future community meetings, contact the city clerk’s office at (813) 506-6440.