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Massive land use changes approved for Lealman

Mark Parker



Artist Leo Gomez created this mural outside the Lealman Exchange, as part of Creative Pinellas' Lealman Mural Project. Photo: Creative Pinellas.

Pinellas County Commissioners recently approved several comprehensive plan changes and land use amendments to foster revitalization across a historically underserved, unincorporated community bordering St. Petersburg.

Three proposed zoning changes encompassing hundreds of acres in Lealman passed unanimously at the Nov. 14 board meeting. Commissioners also heard two items related to a new 122-page form-based code they believe will produce more consistent and predictable development patterns.

“This is such a big area that we’re talking about – it’s all of Lealman for your form-based code,” said County Attorney Jewel White. “We want to avoid that inconsistency, which would occur for about a month if you were to take action on the land use tonight and not the zoning until December.”

Commissioners agreed, and the sweeping changes will take effect Jan. 1. Over 171 acres about six miles northwest of downtown St. Petersburg previously zoned for residential, office and retail uses will now become multimodal corridors and target employment centers.

County officials moved the previously recommended plans forward without discussion. However, Commissioner Charlie Justice expressed his hopes for the area in a conversation with the Catalyst.

“I want the folks who live there now to have some of the same exact opportunities as the people who live just a couple of miles away,” Justice said. “We want housing inventory. We want available transportation to jobs, but we also want some jobs right there in the local community.”

Over 30,000 people live in Lealman, and many lack sufficient housing, employment and grocery options. County leaders have recently spent considerable time and money to uplift the community redevelopment area (CRA).

Three new mixed-use corridor designations will incentivize housing developments and allow much-needed commercial uses and job creation. Many downtrodden residential areas can soon feature low-to-mid-rise, street-oriented buildings with “activated” retail and public spaces.

A map showing land use changes in Lealman. Screengrab.

Justice said the changes would foster walkability by widening sidewalks and incorporating other pedestrian amenities. He also noted the importance of site orientation.

County planning agency Forward Pinellas established specific building requirements to maximize façade lengths and pedestrian access by limiting off-street parking along property frontages. Justice said the goal is to provide a “community feel.”

“For an area like Lealman, where it is a low car-ownership area, people are going to be walking anyway because of need,” he added. “But now we want to make it a little more convenient and aesthetically pleasing.”

The land use amendments create three districts within the community – commerce, local trade, neighborhood park (residential and arts) and an area designated for recreation or open space. The area around Haines Road and 28th Street will feature most of the industrial zoning.

County officials will implement mixed-use commercial corridors along 34th Street (U.S. Highway 19) and the Haines Road-54th Street-28th Street North triangle. Scott Swearengen, long-range planning manager, previously told commissioners that the updated zoning would allow up to five-story buildings according to lot size, parking requirements, stormwater standards and other factors.

He explained that the form-based code is intentionally broad and supports most current and future uses. Justice said the added flexibility would help stakeholders find creative solutions.

Form-based code documents state it “does not focus on rezoning existing single-family homes.” Justice said the changes only apply to new developments and extensive expansions or remodeling efforts.

Commissioner Charlie Justice (right) volunteers at a Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco County home in Lealman. Photo by Mark Parker.

A related document notes that the changes are not meant to “further gentrify Lealman.” Justice said that is an ongoing concern as property values soar in St. Petersburg.

“That’s a challenge that any area that is improving faces,” he added. “It’s a balance. Nicer new houses bring more tax revenue into the CRA … that money will be reinvested in infrastructure and improvements in Lealman.”

Justice mentioned how Dr. Kanika Tomalin, president of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, discussed how a person’s zip code influences their life expectancy and future outcomes. While Tomalin referred to predominantly Black St. Pete neighborhoods, Justice said the same is true in Lealman.

He said the extensive land use changes are “really all about just creating opportunities for the folks who live there, and the quality of life.”

“We (commissioners) are working on our part as far as the infrastructure, parks and the community center,” Justice said. “I haven’t given up on a grocery store. That’s still something we talk about a lot.”



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  1. Avatar


    December 8, 2023at2:20 pm

    So what happens to the existing housing in these new zoned commercial areas of 28th Street and Haines Road? Are you going to tear out the trailer parks? What is this affordable housing? Are you going to force people to build them rent micro houses in their backyards to homeless? Pretty sure if people built those they would be airbnbs or such? So many questions. I’ve been calling zoning everything for the last 4 years and I cannot get any answers to this.

  2. Avatar

    Michael Benedict

    November 28, 2023at12:42 pm

    28th St.N. Between 38rh St. And 62nd Ave. Is in Need of more Street Lights, and Sidewalk Improvements, People are forever crossing the Main Street, and Getting Struck by a Vehicle, or Electric Bike, Scooters or Skate Bard. Which Happens Alot… Cause thier on thier Cellphone, Not Paying Attention, and Driving Too Fast..

  3. Avatar

    Matthew Gowdy

    November 23, 2023at9:24 am

    So, once again, West Lealman gets nothing!? The east side gets garbage pick up for $19 a month. In West Lealman it’s $44. Where is the “Justice” here?

  4. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    November 22, 2023at10:00 pm

    St. Pete should have adopted a form-based code decades ago. It’s hard to believe such a walkable city that celebrates historic development continues to use a Euclidean code.
    Let’s go, St. Pete. Adopt a form-based code.

  5. Avatar

    Michael A

    November 22, 2023at7:46 pm

    Just Adding Streetlights, and Better Sidewalks on 23th. ST. N. Would HELP Improve the Neighborgood, to Be Safer For Both Pedstrians, and Cars Traveling along Thie Corridor,, Too Many People are Getting Struck By Cars, Trucks, Scooters, Mortorcycles in the Past Couple of Years.

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