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Rezoning could drastically increase density in St. Pete

Mark Parker

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According to city maps, expanding NTM-1 zoning to within 500 feet of "future major roads" would impact neighborhoods such as Oakwood Gardens, located near 16th Street and 30th Avenue North. Photo by Mark Parker.

As part of ongoing efforts to mitigate St. Petersburg’s housing crisis, city council members are again looking at zoning changes that would increase density and its stock of available units.

During Thursday’s Committee of the Whole Meeting, city council members discussed expanding Neighborhood Traditional Mixed Residential (NTM-1) zoning to within 500 feet of “future major streets.” The city has already initiated NTM-1 rezoning for parcels with alleys within 175 feet of future major streets and high-frequency transit routes – including around SunRunner Bus Rapid Transit stations.

If enacted city-wide, the number of NTM-1 qualified parcels, which allow for up to four units on a single property, would balloon from 2,976 to 39,478.

Council Chair Gina Driscoll asked how many of those current or potential lots were vacant. Derek Killborn, urban design and historic preservation manager, said he would consult with the county and provide that information to council members at a later date.

“Because really, if you think about it, it’s not like we’re going to have 39,000 homes torn down to build quads (quadplexes),” said Driscoll. “But we’re going to hear some residents talk as if that is exactly what is going to happen. I want to make sure we have perspective on this.”

A city map showing the number of parcels that would qualify under the expanded zoning. Screengrab.

Vacant lots, added Driscoll, are more likely to be developed in the next few years. She noted the opportunity to build up to four separate dwelling units in a single building would increase density and help alleviate the housing crunch. City officials could also attach affordability stipulations to any potential developments taking advantage of the rezoning.

Driscoll relayed that she has always felt St. Petersburg should increase the NTM-1 zoning beyond 175 feet of major streets and believes 500 feet is an acceptable distance.

“If you want 20 people to come to your party, you got to invite 50,” said Driscoll.

Liz Abernethy, planning and development director, told council members that affordability agreements for current workforce housing typically last 30 years and come with reporting requirements. Zoning expansion would likely take the same approach, Abernethy added, unless city leaders created different guidelines.

Driscoll suggested offering incentives to developers – such as tax and fee breaks – for creating third and fourth units to encourage affordability. She said the process and paperwork are often cumbersome and believes that if the property owner recieves something in return, they will take the initiative to approach the city.

“Tax abatement for affordable housing would be a wonderful tool,” said City Administrator Rob Gerdes. “That we don’t currently have.”

Gerdes said they could discuss that further and relayed that the city administration has worked hard to provide other incentives – such as expedited permitting and a reduction in water fees.

However, Gerdes said limiting allowable developments to occupants making under a specific percentage of the area median income (AMI) would require monitoring. He said city officials scrutinize projects receiving workforce density bonuses, and the proposed rezoning initiative would likely require a similar mechanism.

He said that if the city ultimately decides to implement such a program, the administration has the knowledge and experience to oversee the affordability aspect.

“If we want to try and focus on affordability without a bureaucratic regime to monitor it, I think the point that Councilmember (Richie) Floyd made is really interesting – and that’s size,” said Gerdes. “To me, one of the wonderful things about ADUs (accessory dwelling units) is that because we have the size limitation on them, we consider them more naturally occurring affordable units.”

Gerdes added that restricting the rezoning to ADUs would allow for more affordability stipulations while eliminating extensive monitoring, auditing and reports.

Councilmember Ed Montanari spoke against increasing the zoning to 500 feet due to its widespread impact on neighborhoods. The city council agreed to adopt the 175-foot limit in 2019, and he noted administrators have yet to implement the changes. Abernethy said much of that delay was due to the pandemic.

Montanari, a staunch supporter of preserving St. Petersburg’s character, expressed his desire to wait until the previously discussed changes take effect before moving forward with expansion.

The need for more density in the city has grown since 2019, noted Driscoll. She said city leaders were already considering increasing NTM-1 zoning to 500 feet around major roads, “and it’s time to do it.”

She added that regulations are in place to protect a neighborhood’s identity and keep developments or additions from exceeding the scale of surrounding buildings. The NTM-1 rezoning, said Driscoll, would also complement transit-oriented development discussions. “We only have so much land to work with. I don’t think this is going too far by concentrating on the future major streets area.”

The city administration will continue initiating the previously discussed 175 feet expansion and will provide council members with a detailed planning schedule shortly.

 

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kari M

    August 26, 2022at3:22 pm

    Urban Land Institute, the leading international think tank on studies on growth and development, predicts 90,000 additional residents in Pinellas County by 2045. That is the equivalent of an entire city of Largo moving here in the next two decades. We cannot continue to stick our head in the sand and pretend economics doesn’t apply because it’s too painful.

    Without adding supply, existing residents will be priced out by those with higher earning power (which is basically every other metropolitan area in the entire country).

    The other only solution is to encourage and subsidize home ownership by local residents and workers while adding supply. I don’t of any other other city in the country that offers up to $60,000 in down payment assistance. Take advantage of it and meet with area non-profits that offer free education seminars to buy your first home.

    Sticking our collective head in the sand and protesting housing costs is not a rational or productive response to this ongoing increased demand to live in Saint Petersburg. If it’s the same or just slightly more to pay a mortgage payment than rent, AND down payment assistance is available, what are you waiting for? Without density increases, the limited supply will increase in price that much faster.

    Please support adding additional supply to an area that desperately needs it.

  2. Avatar

    Corbin Supak

    August 27, 2022at6:24 am

    I’d like to see the middle of MLK sold and developed, leaving narrow paths on either side. The road is too big, can’t do anything else with it, and you have big roads in 4th st and the interstate close by. There’s a ton of space, and the city owns it.

  3. Avatar

    Karl Nurse

    August 27, 2022at4:00 pm

    When I left city council, 4-1/2 years ago, there were about 1,500 vacant lots in the entire city. 1,000 of these were in the CRA (Midtown/Childs Park). Subtracting the infill since then, there are probably 750 vacant lots in the CRA and 150 in the rest of the traditional neighborhoods. Likely, a third of those lots will not support much density because they are too small, are corners with larger setbacks and related issues.
    Bottom line is that this zoning change will result in a modest increase in the housing supply which will help slow the rocketing increase in housing costs.

  4. Avatar

    Ryan

    August 28, 2022at7:37 am

    How about accepting the fact that Pinellas is full. It’s essentially an island. Thise of us who got here early should be able to enjoy it and all its fruits like the beach, easy water access, beautiful views without the crowds of newcomers. It’s hard to want any more people living here. Am I the only one tired of the increasing traffic, everywhere? Tyrone and park has been a nightmare for decades, and these city councilmen want to make it worse. Do they not care about quality of life?

  5. Avatar

    Dee

    August 28, 2022at7:37 am

    Along 9th ave n there is vacant land & edward white hospital has been an eyesore since its closing many years ago. I’ve not ever heard whats going on with it. Tear it down & put some affordable homes on it. I mean not affordable housing but actual homes that people can afford to buy or build something that will help the community.

  6. Avatar

    Erik

    August 28, 2022at9:29 am

    Why is it when it gets to creating affordable housing there’s always these local political officials and think tanks immediately look to the south side for a solution.. like Midtown and the neighborhoods that surround it.. I’ve yet to hear any of them say let’s expand anything past 5th Ave N and MLK or 4th st for affordable housing..but a yet when developers want to build up those 40+ story Condos… City council agrees to let those projects go forward with grandiose announcements for the city acquiring, yet another Skyscraper..!

  7. Avatar

    Erik

    August 28, 2022at9:40 am

    The problem is we’ve now become a Metropolitan area and this is what happens when it gets to so call affordable housing.. there’s no such thing in a area that’s turn into a high end upscale area , the housing that’s being proposed won’t be affordable it will only be less expensive.

  8. Avatar

    Steve D

    August 28, 2022at9:19 pm

    People love Pinellas County. They want to move here. They want to move here so much that they’re willing to pay more for less space to do so. It’s a classic case of supply and demand, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Reactionary politicians will attempt to make it look like they’re doing something, but the market will always prevail. If you don’t like it anymore, move somewhere else. Only then, will the increase in supply lower prices….Sigh.

  9. Avatar

    Dee

    November 16, 2022at1:12 pm

    Technically, isn’t Manhattan also an “island”? And they have millions of people living there. People move around. Nothing stays the same forever. It is what it is. I’m glad we purchased our properties in St Pete when we did. Invest in local real estate and reap the rewards when you retire. At least you’ll have enough money to move to a quieter place!

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