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Forward Pinellas approves affordable housing development near Bear Creek

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Grace Connection Church, 635 64th St. S.

The county-wide planning organization Forward Pinellas voted unanimously during its monthly meeting Wednesday to approve an affordable-housing development in West St. Pete.

Last year, an administrative judge sided with St. Petersburg City Council to approve the housing development after dozens of neighbors fought the proposal. The judge’s order also required Forward Pinellas’s approval for the development.

The development is slated to go up at 635 64th Street South, which is the current site of Grace Connection Church near Bear Creek and Pasadena.

According to St. Pete City Councilmember Brandi Gabbard, community members belonging to the legal fund PGSP Neighbors United mainly opposed the project, and voiced concerns over rising crime associated with lower income and workforce housing, as well as zoning issues related to the building’s planned height and exact location.

Restating her position on the matter, Gabbard said, “crime is not something that becomes rampant as soon as you add affordable and workforce housing to a community, so that was a very easy argument for me to not be concerned about.”

Nousheen Rahman, planning analyst at Forward Pinellas, also gave a presentation explaining how the development would not increase population density in the Coastal High Hazard Area as community members voiced concern over in earlier meetings. 

Shawn Wilson, president of Blue Sky Communities, the company in charge of the development, also confirmed that the proposed 85-unit, 55+ residential building would not violate height restrictions for the area.

PGSP Neighbors United repeatedly challenged the development on the basis that multi-story buildings do not fit the area, which primarily holds single-family residential houses. In an earlier letter to the St. Pete City Council, the group urged city officials to “only consider projects which fit the character of the neighborhood, and even more, those that add to the community greenspaces in our beautiful city.” 

None of the development’s opponents made public comment during Wednesday’s meeting. 

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