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City accommodates resident’s quest to build elevated homes

Mark Parker

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A rendering of one of two elevated homes a resident will build on a single-family parcel in Shore Acres. All images are screengrabs from city documents.

A family in St. Petersburg’s flood-prone Shore Acres neighborhood recently received the city’s blessing to transform a .35-acre, single-family lot into two parcels with elevated homes.

The Development Review Commission (DRC) approved the variance request March 6 without hesitation, despite it creating two nonconforming parcels. City documents state Robert “Matt” Walker is the homeowner at 4527 Huntington St. NE, and Commissioner Walker – a member of the DRC has “a direct or indirect ownership interest” in the property.

Attorney Katie Cole said Walker, who moved into the neighborhood in 2012, has repeatedly experienced significant flooding. In addition, she noted that 79% of the neighboring parcels do not comply with city width standards.

“I’ve supported these types of platted lot splits in the past,” said Commissioner Kevin Reali. “This one comes with the added bonus of replacing it with flood-compliant property.”

Shore Acres was built atop marshland in the 1920s, before current elevation standards. Flooding is an increasingly common occurrence in St. Petersburg’s lowest-lying neighborhood.

City officials platted Walker’s property, totaling 15,114 square feet, into two lots in 1925. The home, which he will soon demolish, was built in 1959 and straddles both parcels.

The current residence straddles two lots platted in 1925.

The 120-foot-wide site meets the 75-foot neighborhood suburban zoning regulations. Splitting the area in half would put the resulting parcels 15 feet below current requirements, a common problem as city documents state just 21% of area homes are compliant.

A city staff report states constructing two single-family homes on separate lots would align with neighborhood character. In addition, Walker pledged to preserve two large oak and pine trees and remove invasive species during the redevelopment process.

“The impetus of this is, candidly, the significant flooding that this area has incurred over the past – specifically, the past two years,” Cole said. “The applicant seeks to build the two homes to alleviate the flooding issues and raise it up to current building standards. It’s simply not practical … to rebuild their home compliant with flood standards if they can’t do it on both lots.”

One neighbor spoke in favor of the proposal at the DRC meeting. The city also received three emails supporting and two opposing the project.

“Under no circumstances would I want double lots built on the property,” wrote Dan Schaller. Another email sent an hour and 14 minutes later expressed a change of heart.

“What the owners at 4527 Huntington Street are trying to accomplish makes the most sense,” Schaller wrote. “They want to stay where they are and not get flooded again and again. I support their efforts.”

He also requested that city officials take note of the sludge, bricks and debris building contractors have left in drains “to destroy the flow of water” and the neighborhood’s reputation. Over 1,200 of the neighborhood’s 2,863 homes flooded when Hurricane Idalia passed 100 miles offshore in August 2023.

A rendering of a second elevated home that will share the .35-acre lot.

Many residents are still rebuilding from Idalia’s effects and significant flooding brought by a December “no-name storm.” City Councilmember Brandi Gabbard has requested municipal funding to help people waiting on federal reimbursements elevate their homes.

Another neighbor, Kathy Lenington, wrote that she has yet to return home after Idalia and is struggling to afford reconstruction and temporary housing “on a retirement income.” She still opposed Walker’s request.

“Shore Acres is already battling drainage issues, and until the current issues … are resolved, I feel there is no room for additional homes that would take up more of the drainage space,” Lenington wrote. “While I know it is only one home we are talking about, I don’t feel the city should be permitting this request or any other similar request until something is done …”

At a Feb. 29 meeting, the city council unanimously approved a contractor’s $3.75 million maximum price proposal to replace 14 tidal backflow prevention valves in the neighborhood. Roughly $3 million will go towards evaluating and replacing up to 56 systems at critical locations throughout the city.

Cole told the DRC that strict enforcement of zoning regulations would leave her client no “reasonable use of land” in the flood-prone area. Commissioners unanimously agreed.

 

 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Darren

    March 18, 2024at5:58 pm

    Building up on your own lot is a great idea if you love where you leave but dread the summers and risk of flooding. These look like good options.

  2. Avatar

    Laura

    March 18, 2024at5:32 pm

    I understand the desire to build a new elevated home. I do not understand why this necessitates splitting the lot and building a additional home. What does one have to do with the other?

  3. Avatar

    Cherie Newberry

    March 17, 2024at10:01 am

    Fix the Problem with Flooding?

  4. Avatar

    TimK

    March 15, 2024at11:56 pm

    Any thoughts on the sanitary sewer infrastructure? Twice as much on a alright antique system brilliant!

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