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St. Pete’s storefront conservation plan stays intact, for now

Margie Manning

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The St. Petersburg City Council has held off making any changes to an ordinance intended to protect independent businesses on two downtown blocks, saying the proposed changes wouldn’t adequately address the concerns of building owners.

The council will meet as a committee of the whole, likely in October, to consider what changes, if any, they want to make to the Storefront Conservation Corridor Overlay ordinance.

The council also has asked Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration for an annual report on whether the ordinance has achieved intended outcomes.

The ordinance, approved in April, makes land use and zoning changes on Beach Drive and Central Avenue from the waterfront to 31st Street. It puts limits on large storefronts most often associated with chain businesses, and aims to preserve a pedestrian-friendly aesthetic.

Property owners said at the time the measure passed that it was too restrictive, and the council agreed to consider an amendment to the ordinance to address the owners’ concerns.

The proposed amendment, developed by the city’s economic development staff and up for consideration by the council Thursday night, would have exempted structures built before 1970 that are designated as local landmarks or that could qualify for that designation.

Developers said the plan didn’t go far enough and any building 50 years or older should be exempt. Because so many buildings in the overlay area are at least 50 years old, that would undermine the storefront conservation initiative, said Derek Kilborn, manager, urban planning and historic preservation for the city.

A motion by council member Amy Foster to defer the discussion to a committee meeting was backed by council member Brandi Gabbard.

“This is not the right place to do this and we owe it to the stakeholders in our community to make sure we did the best job we could, and that is having one more conversation,” Gabbard said. “There’s no harm in taking it to a committee of the whole again to make sure we’ve dotted every I and crossed every T,  we’ve made this as good as can and go from there. Maybe not any changes come out of it then. Maybe it does. We’re not there tonight, but we owe it to everyone involved to continue to have a conversation.”

Gabbard also asked the development community to provide more information about changes to the ordinance that would be acceptable to everyone.

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