eye on Pinellas County: Sembler turns his rezoning sights to Garden Manor in St. Petersburg

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sembler turns his rezoning sights to Garden Manor in St. Petersburg

Last Tuesday Pinellas County commissioners voted to 4 - 3 (AGAINST THE ADVICE OF ITS OWN STAFF) to approve a Sembler Company bid to have 29 acres of industrial-use property in Seminole rezoned to commercial so it can build a shopping center. Mike Meidel, the county’s director of economic development, and Brian Smith, the county’s planning director, made spirited pleas to the commissioners to back their recommendations to deny the proposal. Said Meidel,
"To keep Pinellas a self-sustaining county, instead of becoming a bedroom community for the wealthy will require between 2,200 and 5,800 acres of industrial land, which traditionally generates more jobs per acre than commercial land, to attract new industries and let the industries already here expand locally instead of moving elsewhere."
Brian Smith added that Pinellas by Design, Planning to Stay, the Comprehensive Plan and other long-range county plans discourage the rezoning of industrial land for other uses.

We are surprised that no one at the hearing pointed out that back in March the Safety Harbor city council approved a Sembler request to rezone 3 acres from industrial to commercial so it can build a shopping center there; or that back in August Sembler met with members of the Garden Manor Neighborhood Association in St. Petersburg in South Pinellas County to explain its plans to buy 18 acres of industrially-zoned property from the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg and get it rezoned commercial. When Pinellas planners look at rezoning requests by a particular company, do they turn a blind eye to history or is every specific request considered in relation to other current/previous requests made by every company?

On Monday Sembler held a second meeting with the folks in Garden Manor. The local citizenry seems to be opposed to the idea. They feel there are already enough shopping centers (one of them already built by Sembler) and they are concerned about additional traffic. But Sembler studies show "minimal new impact" to traffic.

A better way to make a living: give up your 9 - 5 office job and become an anti-commercial activist. Just find out where a big company wants to build and stir the local citizens against it. I'll bet somebody will offer you a consulting job or a vice presidency--or something. Last August local citizen Steve Plice lead the charge agaisnt Sembler. But Monday, Steve was a changed man. He has seen the light. He had this to say at teh meeting, "Sometimes commercial property takes traffic off the road. It depends on the kind of commercial."

What does Steve do these days. After August's meeting he became a consultant with the Diocese trying to sell the property! See SPT for full story.

Other sources:

Seminole Beacon 12-14-05

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