Sunday, December 10, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Balancing neighborhood character, new housing designs

The cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa have plenty to offer millennials and young families, including beautiful parks, bustling bar and restaurant scenes and improving job prospects. One challenge is housing, much of it aging and small by comparison to the 3/2s of modern suburbia. Developers are eager to resolve the mismatch by building bigger, modern homes that can appear out of scale in established neighborhoods. As the Tampa Bay area evolves, urban planners should strive for a better balance between preserving the character of neighborhoods and encouraging a housing renewal that meets the needs of younger residents.

The growing pains are being felt in signature neighborhoods like St. Petersburg's Historic Kenwood and Snell Isle and Tampa's West Tampa and Seminole Heights. The Tampa Bay Times' Susan Taylor Martin recently reported on a rift in Kenwood, which boasts one of Florida's largest concentrations of craftsman-style bungalows dating from the 1920s. But many have just two bedrooms and one bathroom and cover a tight 1,300 square feet. In some cases, they are being replaced with much larger houses, offering more space and more amenities — and slowly altering the look of the neighborhood. Another common complaint on both sides of the bay: small homes on double lots being knocked down and replaced with two large houses with minimal setbacks. Neighborhoods need breathing room, and while maximizing size and density boosts developers' profits, it does not serve the greater community interest.

Design standards are more subjective and more challenging for city planners. In Seminole Heights, another bungalow enclave, residents objected to new homes popping up featuring "faux" porches — glorified front stoops that couldn't hold two rocking chairs. In Kenwood, boxy, modern homes don't blend in with the quaint bungalows. But one person's eyesore is another's dream home, and imposing rigid standards like those in deed-restricted subdivisions would be an overcorrection.

That's where codes and zoning come in. One builder's representative said in an email to St. Petersburg officials that it's not "the government's business to tell a family what size home they should have.'' Maybe not what size, but certainly where, and with reasonable conditions. When uniformly enforced, zoning preserves the integrity of neighborhoods by limiting home size, requiring setbacks from neighboring properties and providing incentives to make new houses fit in. St. Petersburg, for example, is considering sensible new guidelines that would limit home size but allow builders to exceed the maximum if they incorporate design enhancements that mitigate the "big box" feel of new homes. Those kind of incentives leave flexibility for people to build the house they want while having a positive long-term effect on how neighborhoods evolve.

Through smart investment in community amenities, Tampa and St. Petersburg have grown into thriving urban centers where more and more people want to live. The eagerness of developers to build attractive, spacious new homes helps revive communities, add local tax revenue and create safer neighborhoods. It's a great problem to have, but it's crucial that local governments provide steady oversight that preserves what is unique about each city while encouraging development of new, viable housing.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trump’s risky move

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough County’s Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasn’t enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, it’s looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the city’s dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17