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Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Neighbors ponder ramifications of Dale Mabry rezoning request

VIRGINIA PARK - When neighbors voiced concern about a new retail development at the corner of Santiago Street and Dale Mabry Highway, they presented the usual arguments. They didn't want more traffic on residential streets, or a big building towering over people's houses. But underwear was the major point of contention during last week's Tampa City Council meeting, when members were expected to vote on a request to rezone the property. If the council members rezoned the lot at 3802 W. Santiago St. from residential to "specialty retail," residents wondered, what would prevent an undesirable business - for example, they suggested, a lingerie store - from moving into the space in the future?
"What's going to go in there next?" asked John Landkammer, a neighbor who spoke before the council. "Is it going to be a tobacco shop? Is it going to be a general convenience store with no parking? A lingerie store with private modeling? Anything can go in there once this change is made." While city officials reassured neighbors that a lingerie shop probably would not fall under the specialty category, council members did discuss how they could ensure any future use of the property is compatible with the neighborhood. Councilman Mike Suarez said city codes don't allow for just any business to open on the site as Landkammer indicated, but he said he understood neighbors' worries about future uses of the property. Many families with small children live in the Virginia Park neighborhood, which is near Plant High School. "There are certain parameters set forth in our code that there could be things - it may be a use that none of us like in the neighborhood - that end up there because (the code) is accessibly broad," he said. A children's boutique and a high-end, appointment-only jewelry store currently are planned for the space. Specialty retail goods, as defined by city code, are of a "particularized market such as tourists, ethnic groups, collectors, et cetera, offering a single type or closely related type of merchandise towards impulse or discretionary purchase and recurring needs." Examples would be a small tourist shop or a store that sells handmade arts and crafts, officials said. The products have to be unique so that customers couldn't find them anywhere else. "It would have to be more specialized than underwear," senior assistant city attorney Julia Mandell told the council. Councilman Harry Cohen told property owner David Nguyen the council members were not worried about his business. Rather, they were concerned about what could happen with the property if his businesses moved. "The way that our code works, when we make these decisions, they last forever," Cohen said about the rezoning. "And that's why we have to be very careful." In the end, Nguyen asked for a continuance of the zoning application so he could work with neighbors to address some of their concerns, including traffic issues. The council will hear the issue again Aug. 8. "We would like the opportunity to work with transportation, work with zoning staff," Nguyen said. "We certainly want council to feel comfortable with what we are moving forward with. We are excited about the project." [email protected] (813)259-7691 Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO
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