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Saturday, Nov 17, 2018
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St. Petersburg property owners seek historic status to protect traditional neighborhoods

ST. PETERSBURG — A pocket of the Old Northeast and another in Kenwood are seeking to become local historic districts.

Their quest comes just months after a previous section of the Old Northeast, a block of 10 homes, won City Council approval for what some believe could be a trend toward micro historic enclaves in the city's traditional neighborhoods.

The proposed 200 Block of 10th Avenue Northeast Historic District consists of 14 homes. To the west, the Kenwood Section — Seminole Park Local Historic District, covers 24 properties.

Both clusters also are part of a National Register of Historic Places district, which gives them a certain cachet, but not the protection property owners seek from unwanted teardowns and objectionable, "McMansion" replacements.

"It's been alarming for us to see the beautiful old homes being torn down," said Brenda Gordon, president of the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood Association. "We have been distraught about the new construction. ... that is so out of character with the charm of our historic neighborhood."

Council member Karl Nurse predicts a spate of applications for local historic status.

"I believe that there will be a whole cluster of historic districts that will eventually make up a significant share of Kenwood and a significant share of Old Northeast," he said.

Peter Belmont, vice president of St. Petersburg Preservation, foresees broader concern that could include areas such as Driftwood, Crescent Heights and the "birdcage" homes of Pinellas Point.

In Kenwood, local historic designation would include nine homes by A. A. Stebbins, a developer known for his Craftsman style. All homes in the district, built between 1923 and 1951, face Seminole Park at Third Avenue N and 30th Street.

Sunday, a group of homeowners in the Old Northeast met at the home of Sue Blanshan and Barbara Smith to discuss the upcoming council meeting. Smith said they had searched 10 years for a place to retire before finding their 1923 Craftsman-style home on 10th Avenue NE.

The group in their backyard spoke ardently about their close-knit community between Bay Street NE and Oak Street NE, their charming brick streets and homes that date from 1915 to 1936.

"The thing that we value so much about this neighborhood is the historic aspect of the homes," said Dee Sheppard, a veterinarian who spearheaded the designation effort.

"Places like this neighborhood are not being created anymore," Zoe Wilkinson said.

The council will vote on the Kenwood and Old Northeast requests on Monday. But Council member Ed Montanari told the Tampa Bay Times that he had questions when a similar request was brought before the council a few months ago. Then, it was for what is now the 700 Block of 18th Avenue Northeast Historic District, an area of 10 homes.

"I asked the question then, how small do we go and what sort of guidance do we have? Are we going to create a patchwork of historic districts, and from a long-term planning point of view, is that good for St. Petersburg?" Montanari said.

"I'm all for historic preservation," he said. "I get concerned about it when an owner objects to it. And my other concern is of creating a patchwork of districts throughout the city."

Belmont blames city regulations. An ordinance passed in 2015 requires an assenting vote of 50 percent plus one for all properties in a potential district even before an application can be filed for historic designation, said Derek Kilborn, a manager in the city's urban planning and historic preservation division. In most cases, if a ballot is not returned for a property, it is counted as a "no" vote, he said.

"I think experience shows that it's not easy to get everybody to respond. And as you get bigger, it gets to be a problem that gets out of hand," Belmont said.

In Kenwood, Gordon said, "What we have done is bite it off in small increments, so that we can speak with our neighbors." She vows to go "street-by-street-by-street" to preserve Kenwood.

The first bite-size section being proposed drew 70 percent support for local historic status. Cheri Caudle, a neuro-diagnostic technologist who moved from Oregon 14 years ago, voted against the proposal.

"I knew nothing about the area and I stumbled into this absolutely magical little house," she said. "What I discovered after I moved in, it's not just a great house. The neighborhood is marvelously diverse, quirky."

And she doesn't want that to change, said Caudle, 67, but thinks that could happen with local historic status.

Caudle said she refused to sell when an investor tried to buy her home to replace it with "a new big house."

"That's what this measure was meant to stop. I do appreciate that, but I think it goes too far," she said. "There are restrictions built into it that make this whole project unaffordable for people like me."

Kilborn said exterior modifications and demolitions in local districts typically require a certificate of appropriateness, some approved by city staff and others by the Community Planning and Preservation Commission.

Another section of the Old Northeast has its sights on local historic status, Kilborn said. Property owners on the south side of the 100 block of 19th Avenue NE, between First Street and Bay Street, are currently being polled. It's an area of 10 one-story Mediterranean revival homes.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

St. Petersburg Local Historic Districts

Roser Park, 57 homes

Granada Terrace, in the Old Northeast, 70 homes

Lang's Bungalow Court, 13 properties

700 Block of 18th Avenue Northeast Historic District, 10 homes

Cost to apply for local historic status

$200 base fee

$10 per parcel, up to a maximum of $1,000

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