V.M. Ybor residents want pool and less crowded housing units

02/07/13 Janelle Irwin
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In the V.M. Ybor neighborhood of Tampa some residents are living in overcrowded lodging facilities. They also don’t have access to the community’s pool for the fourth consecutive year. This morning neighborhood leaders asked city council members to move forward with proposals that would solve both problems.

Community leaders from the historic neighborhood north of Ybor City often find themselves addressing Tampa City Council looking for ways to strike a balance between middle-class homeowners and despondent renters struggling to make ends meet. Today was one of those days. Kelly Bailey, with the V.M. Ybor Neighborhood Association asked council members to approve staff recommendations that would limit the number of people living under one roof.

“… specifically that each lodging unit is a minimum of 150 square feet, that the maximum occupancy of each lodging unity does not exceed two individuals, that each rooming house does not have more than six lodging units and that each rooming house be located at least 500 feet apart.”

Her concern isn’t with the living conditions being eye sores; nor is it because the problem overwhelmed the neighborhood with crime. Instead, Bailey wants to improve the quality of life for everyone in the neighborhood.

“It will help to make significant changes in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood which has experienced the negative effects of having up to 40 individuals packed into 3,000 square feet or less of living space.”

Kim Headland said no one should have to live in such crowded conditions and the draft ordinance being presented to city council is just the ticket.

“… eliminating the potential for a handful of owners to truly exploit borders in extremely, extremely overcrowded conditions.”

The community group is also asking city council members to find some money in their budget for repairs to the Cuscaden Pool that has been closed since 2010. The Neighborhood Association’s Bailey said both measures together will help keep kids from what she called “the temptation of the streets.”

“By closing the pool again in 2010 our neighborhood lost an activity that promotes healthy living, helps to keep our children safe in a supervised environment as well as we lost a place where after school programs were held.”

The pool needs more than $1 million worth of repairs. The filtration system doesn't work right, it leaks and, as Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick put it in an interview during a break this morning – it’s a mess.

“We get $2.5 million back from the Buccaneers. Those funds are supposed to be used for infrastructure needs and that includes the park and recreation and I’m hoping that some of the funds from that $2.5 million will be utilized to fix the Cuscaden Pool.”

The city already forked out almost $2 million in repair costs. That’s an expense residents argued will be put to waste if a more permanent fix isn’t found. But even if the city does fix the pool and re-open it, there will still be on going costs.

“In addition, I hope they will go and find federal funding to off set additional costs in order to get that pool up and running.”

The expense is something Fran Costantino said is well worth the time it will take to find the money.

“It’s an oval, up-ground pool and other than our cigar factories and some of our historic schools, I think this pool, architecturally-wise, is more significant historically to Tampa than even our water works building.”

Tampa City Council will hear a staff report about funding options to fix the Cuscaden Pool at their meeting on April 4. A draft ordinance regarding changes to rooming house regulations will be presented at the February 21 meeting.

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