Tampa looks to rezone historic Seminole Heights district

01/29/13 Ella Wind
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The plans for rezoning Seminole heights began five years ago. Tim Heberlein, a local activist, attended the Vision Tampa meetings and the previous neighborhood input sessions organized by city officials for Seminole Heights residents. He is excited about the plan.

“We have some great restaurants down here and to see more light commercial pop up there and different spaces where residents can walk down there, go grab a drink at Ella's and go the record store across the street, and just to be able to walk those neighborhoods -- it's a great idea and a great vision. And the kind of place I would like to live in.”

In 2008, city planners held a series of workshops where of residents, property owners and business owners were asked to map out a vision for a neighborhood where they wanted to live and work. The plan calls for new type of zoning, called form-based code, that relies on neighborhood input for decision making, and will increase population density in the historic district. Bruce Gibson is an architect and a member of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association. He is concerned that the new zoning categories don’t do enough to take local conditions into account.

“While I think that the general push has been great, it's in the details where it trips up a bit and where there can be places that are very fine-grained where decisions need to be made very carefully, and that's where I have the problems with it. ”

Most residents will not be affected directly by the rezoning. Most of the significant changes will take place along the major corridors of Florida and Nebraska Avenues, and at major intersections. However, Gibson is concerned about how some of the rezoning may affect the neighborhood’s historic housing.

“To me, it is really an attack on the historic district that you would rezone to that category for a type of building that has no historical precedence.”

If approved, the mass rezoning would conclude a pilot project launched during Mayor Pam Iorio's administration as a test case for a city-wide change in urban development. The city will hold open house meetings about the rezoning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at 1400 N. Boulevard.

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