Palm Harbor Homeowners Against 15th Street Redevelopment Project Rezoning
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Palm Harbor homeowners surrounding the closed Palm Harbor Elementary School object to the recent petition to rezone the parcel from the existing zoning of A-E to R-5 that is proposed by Icon Development. Allen's Ridge alone, which is adjacent to the former school to the east along 15th Street, has more than 250 single-family homes. At the community's annual meeting on November 28, 2017, members discussed the proposed rezoning with the 60-plus residents at the meeting along with many write ins, and there is overwhelming support against the rezoning. Residents in the surrounding communities mirror the sentiment and oppose rezoning to R-5 as proposed.
There are several issues that we would like to bring to your attention on why rezoning this property to R-5 would not be in the best interest for the public.
1) Non Consistent Zoning: The developer is looking to rezone the property to R-5 Zoning. (Urban Residential) The property is currently zoned A-E ...(Agricultural Estate 2 acre lots). Allen's Ridge is a mix of R-1 (9,500 sft lots) & R-2 Zoning (7,500). The residential area to the north of the school is a mix of R-1 to R-3 (6,000 sft lots). The R-5 zoning allows the lots to be 3,000 sft. In reviewing the zoning map, there is no R-5 zoning within miles of the site.
2) Future Land Use: The proposed redevelopment is looking to take advantage of a loophole in the proposed Future Land Use (FLU) assigned to the property of Institutional (I) which allows residential use up to 12.5 dwelling units per acre. As we all know, the FLU of Institutional was assigned to the property as it was a school. The argument that based upon the FLU they would be allowed up to 94 dwellings (12.5 dwelling * 7.52 acres) should not be taken into account, since the property was intended to remain a school. If anything, there should be a Future Land Use amendment to change the FLU to a category fitting the area.
3) Traffic: 15th Street is already a heavily-traveled road with many people using it as a cut-through road. There are several issues of people traveling well above the posted speed limits, and a recent traffic study showed some vehicles traveling at 100 or more miles per hour. If you drive down 15th Street between Tampa Rd. & Nebraska Ave., you will see many signs from neighbors saying “Drive like your kids live here”. There has been a lot of turnover in both our subdivision and the surrounding neighborhoods with older families whose children have grown and moved away moving out, and younger families with school-aged children moving in. Allowing a more intrusive zoning than what is currently in the area will only make a bad situation worse. Also the condition of 15th Street is in question. It is a two-lane rural road with no street lights. Adding this much traffic would cause issues.
4) Stormwater & Green Space: Based on concept plans submitted to the county, there is very little green space proposed on the development. This area already has issues with flooding, and reducing the impervious area will only make an existing problem worse. Based on the existing school, it appears about half of the property is green space, as the entire southwest quarter of the property is an open field and there is a courtyard, along with other green spaces. The conceptual development would decrease this substantially with the amount of rooftops and roadways. With the increase, the stormwater runoff has to go somewhere. We question if the developers have hired an engineer and met with SWFWMD to take this into account.
5) Utilities: The surrounding residential areas already have issues with flow and capacity with potable water, sanitary, and reclaimed water. Allowing this high of density will only increase the existing issues.
6) Building Height: R-5 Zoning allows a building height of 45 feet which is a 4-story building. With R-5 they are only required to be 5-ft from the rear property line. The area is surrounded by traditional single-family homes. Of the 22 houses that directly abut the development, 21 of the homes are single-story and one is two-story. We don’t see how allowing buildings of that height that close to surrounding residents is in anyone's best interest.
7) Setbacks and Lot Size: With R-5 Setbacks being 10-ft Front, 0-5 Feet Side, and 5-Feet Rear and the lot sizes being only 3,000 sft, the development will not be conforming to the surrounding areas.
8) Permitted Uses: Since this is only for a Rezoning we have a lot of concerns about the allowable uses. In the unfortunate event that R-5 zoning is approved, it would allow duplexes, triplexes, & townhomes. Multifamily projects like this are best used as buffers between single family homes and commercial developments as they are much more intensive. This would be proposed to be surrounded by single family homes.
We, as the surrounding community, understand that although we would love to have the school reopened or have the area redeveloped into a park or even have a charter school move in, it is not our decision to make. We also understand that a school that has been vacant for several years is not the best use for the property.
With that, we formally request that if the property is rezoned, it is only for residential uses that fits into the surrounding existing neighborhoods. (R-1, R-2, or R-3 single-family homes).
We plan to have as many people as possible attend the Pinellas County public hearings on Dec 14th and Jan 23rd to voice our concerns with the proposed rezoning and affects it will have on our neighborhood.
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