More apartments are coming to the Tampa Palms area, and Kevin Hawley knows there is little he can do to stop them.
But, the Tuscany at Tampa Palms Homeowners Association (HOA) president is still going to try.
On Oct. 28, he organized a meeting — socially distant, of course — in a cul-de-sac in Tuscany in the hopes of formulating a plan to convince developer Warren Kinsler of New Tampa Inc. to not build 400 apartment units at 7970 Tampa Palms Blvd., just west and across the street from the Emerald Pointe Townhomes.
However, New Tampa Inc., which bought the property in the Tampa Palms Open Space & Transportation (TPOST Community Development District in 1994, already has the entitlements to build them, going back to 1985, when the property was first annexed into the city.
Still, Hawley’s meeting, which included Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera (who represents District 7, which includes most of New Tampa) and various HOA board members from neighboring communities Chelsea, Buckingham and Stafford, stirred the debate. Hawley said more than 30 residents attended.
“Our concern is that it (the apartments) will have a negative impact on Tampa Palms Elementary, which is already beyond capacity, and a negative impact on traffic, where we already have problems on Tampa Palms Blvd.” Hawley says. “There also is concern about the possible impact on property values, and some also voiced concerns about environmental impacts.”
A City of Tampa Variance Review Board meeting for the property had been scheduled for Oct. 13, creating the stir. However, that meeting did not need to be held because the planned development has an allowance for 40 percent tree retention, and “they actually have 50 percent retention,” according to Abbye Feeley, the Director of Tampa’s Development & Growth Management Department (formerly known as the Planning and Development department).
“The notices (for the variance meeting) went out prematurely,” she added.
Feeley said the area has already gone through the first round review to ensure that it is compliant with all of the codes that govern it, and the city is waiting for the developers’ resubmission. Feeley says little can be done to stop Kinsler from building the apartments.
“Unfortunately, the builders of these villages (like Tuscany, Chelsea and Buckingham) never properly briefed their buyers about the developer’s rights and plans for the whole area,” said Maggie Wilson, the vice-president of the Tampa Palms Owners Association (TPOA).
The TPOA represents the owners and residents of 3,000 single family homes and 1,500 apartments in Tampa Palms. TPOST 3, which was once part of the Tampa Palms DRI before being purchased by Kinsler, already has more than 1,000 homes in its various villages and apartment communities.
When asked by Hawley to join him in opposing the apartment project, the TPOA declined.
“They are the big dog,” Hawley says of the TPOA. “I reached out to them, and they said this has been zoned this way for a long time and they decided as a board not to oppose it,” says Hawley, a USF faculty member and Tampa Palms resident for 18 years.
With no way to stop the project, Hawley is hoping for at least some traffic mitigation from the developer, or some way to “soften the impact.”
Hawley doesn’t think that entitlements and plans developed two decades ago necessarily still make sense today, and would like to see other things considered for the property that better meet the needs of the area.
He even has his own suggestion — instead of yet another apartment complex, why not build something for older residents in their 60s and 70s? “That way, there will be less impact on the schools,” he says, “but it would still bring in more residents to support local businesses and restaurants.”
Viera said he will meet with Hawley and the residents in a few weeks, and intends on bringing some planning officials from the city to also participate.