Tampa City Council agrees to allow 5 Cigar Factories to opt out of Historic Status By Mitch E. Perry

02/02/06

The quest to designate 15 old Cigar Factories in West Tampa as a Historic District was thwarted once again today, when a majority of City Council members voted to have the City Attorney re-write the current City Ordinance to allow those property owners who do not want to be listed as being part of the District the chance to do so.

5 of the 15 properties in the West Tampa District have been steadfast in fighting the Historic label, saying that it would interfere with their property rights and livelihood. City officials have negotiated with the property owners over the last year, but to no avail. So as the Council convened today, City Attorney David Smith told them that there was NO opt-out provisions in the City’s Ordinance, and therefore any actions taken would be for all 15 properties.

That led to this response from Councilman Sean Harrison (roll tape #1 o.q.�has not asked for this voluntarily�) One of the champions for the Historic labeling is City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena. She said that in the past there have been individual property owners who did not wish to be part of a Historic District, but the Council always went ahead anyway with such designations. (roll tape#2 o.q.�a huge, backward step�)

In fact, those officials never did speak at the meeting. If the Council had approved landmark status, property owners would have to follow architectural guidelines and get approval from a review board to change their properties. But once Councilmember Harrison decided that the Council should not consider the matter, his stand for property rights spread like wildfire, as other Council member joined in with him to support the idea of re-writing current law to allow for the recalcitrant property owners to opt out of being part of the historic district.

As the discussion continued, City Councilmember Rose Ferlita said she was late for a medical procedure, but wasn’t about to leave until she could weigh in in support of Harrison’s motion (roll tape#3 o.q.� I will be one of those 4 people�)

City Councilwoman Mary Alvarez, who represents the District in question, then spoke, saying she had stayed up past 1 AM the night before to compose her thoughts on the issue(roll tape#4 o.q.� not before�)

Then City Councilman John Dingfelder – like Sean Harrison - an Attorney in his job away from the Council, spoke up. He said the talk of “property rights� sounded righteous and populist, but in reality, he said the City Council every week is doing something that could be construed as violating property rights – and its done in support of the common good for the entire city (roll tape#5 o.q.�historic preservation�)

The Council will not re-visit the issue for 6 months now. City Attorney David Smith said he would need that time to not only re-writing the current Ordinance, but also to insure that the City does not run afoul of any laws in doing so.

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