Tampa City Council considers river setbacks

09/25/08 Mitch E. Perry
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At a workshop today, the Tampa City Council discussed expanding setbacks for homeowners who live along the edge of the Hillsborough River.

Currently, setbacks for waterfront lots range from 5 to 20 feet, but city officials are proposing a 30-foot waterfront setback for residential development.

City Councilman Joseph Catano questioned the need for the change.

City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena is leading the charge for the changes. She said that the Hillsborough River Board and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, which she both serves on, are concerned.

Several residents had comments about the proposal, and about even getting sufficient notice about the proposal.

Gary Ellsworth is with the South Seminole Heights Civic Association, one neighborhood group that is part of the 900 or so homes affected by the proposal.

Like many of those who spoke, he said he wasn’t certain that most of the those homeowners were aware of the plan. And he questioned why only the proposal would affect only those who live north of Columbis Drive.

Susan Long said she personally presented fliers to waterfront residents in Old Seminole Heights. She said there was a difference of opinion among those she surveyed, depending on the depth of their lots. Long also read aloud a few emails from those who live near the river.

Rich Brown said that in discussions with his neighbors alongside the river, the sentiment is positive regarding extending setbacks.

There was to be no vote taken as the Council was simply holding a workshop, with the setback proposal just one of several different amendments set to be considered officially next by the council.

As such, City Attorney Julia Cole said the city was not legally mandated to contact all homeowners who would be affected. And she said, her department didn’t have the money to spend on such notices.

City Councilman John Dingfelder said he wanted to see if staff could be flexible with the proposal, and create different lot types.

Council members were running out of time after discussing the issue, so they said they will set aside time on Oct. 16 to discuss sending out a mailer to residents who live near the river and would be affected. They also will discuss at that time if they want to hold a public workshop, and if so, where.

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