A proposed project in unincorporated Seminole to create affordable homes for adults with disabilities is in jeopardy due to its required zoning changes and potential impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.
Pinellas County Commissioners discussed the proposal for over two and a half hours Tuesday. The extensive debate followed a Dec. 13 continuation that allowed Community Assisted & Support Living (CASL) representatives time to address residents’ concerns.
The property at 13000 Park Boulevard encompasses 2.79 acres and currently includes one single-family home. CASL officials asked for a zoning change to build 20 affordable units for people with developmental disabilities, a clubhouse and other amenities.
County documents state that the Local Planning Agency (LPA) voted 4-1 to deny the request due to the proposal’s lack of compatibility with the surrounding residential neighborhood and potential traffic, drainage and evacuation issues. Brian Aungst, an attorney representing residents opposed to the development, told commissioners he could distill their “grave concerns” into just a few words – density and multi-family use.
“What they’re proposing is a 567% increase in the allowable density under the Residential-Estate (RE) zoning standards,” said Aungst. “What they’re proposing is a 285% increase in density under the existing land use, which is Residential-Suburban (RS).”
He added that no one would deny the critical need for affordable housing for people with disabilities; or teachers, first responders and veterans. However, he said it was the commission’s job to ascertain if the proposal aligns with the residential community.
Despite the LPA’s initial opposition to the project, county administration recommended that commissioners approve the land-use changes.
Following the Dec. 13 continuation, CASL officials reduced the maximum number of units from 21 to 20 and eliminated the three-bedroom option. They also agreed to build property setbacks that meet or exceed RE zoning requirements.
Documents note the property fronts Park Boulevard, a four-lane divided arterial roadway, and sits between a medical office, retail center and residential area. Administrators believe the proposed zoning change “can be considered an appropriate transition” between commercial designations and single-family homes.
“If you approve this, it’s not a transition,” Aungst said. “It’s a takeover.”
He explained that only a narrow strip of the property borders Park Boulevard, and the majority runs deep to the south, “in the heart” of a residential community. Aungst added that rezoning the area would “fundamentally change the character of the neighborhood.”
Commissioner Kathleen Peters noted this particular area of Pinellas lacks the greenspace and residential yards commonly found in the northern parts of the county. She said that making a decision was difficult due to the conflicting land preservation and affordable housing needs.
“What I would rather see is that they (CASL officials) work with the neighborhood to really come up with a solution,” Peters said. “Because everybody’s in agreement that we love what they’re doing, and we need it.”
Rather than voting on the potential changes, commissioners unanimously approved a “denial without prejudice to reapply.” That allows CASL officials to again work on a compromise with residents and reapply, with no time restrictions.