Leaders Support Paying Piper

By MICHAEL H. SAMUELS msamuels@tampatrib.com

Published: Jan 14, 2006

SOUTH TAMPA - From Beach Park to Ballast Point, residents say it's time developers start paying their fair share for South Tampa's growth.

Neighborhood leaders spoke on the subject this week after Mayor Pam Iorio imposed a $1,500 impact fee on every new residential and commercial unit in areas generally south of Interstate 275. The fees are supposed to pay for an estimated $48 million, 10-mile pipeline from the David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility, 7125 30th St., to downtown and South Tampa.

"I think it's all something we have to live with because we all need water," said Sue Lyon, president of the Bayshore Beautiful Neighborhood Association and former head of Tampa Homeowners, an Association of Neighborhoods. "I don't know how else to get it. I can't believe how many houses they're building in South Tampa. And not small ones - huge ones."

Beach Park civic group President Emmy Purcell Reynolds, a real estate broker, said an impact fee should have been levied on developers long ago.

"Even though I hate increases on taxes on an overall basis, I support this to help support the totally unchecked growth occurring in South Tampa," Reynolds said. "I think the impact fees of Tampa and Hillsborough County should mirror the fees of other municipalities in the state of Florida."

The median price of a single-family house in South Tampa was $260,000 in 2004, up 63 percent since 2000, property records show.

Reynolds said $1,500 is a small price for developers and builders to pay given housing prices.

"It's a drop in the bucket," she said. "We can't change what occurred before, but we need to recognize that this area has finally been identified by developers as the next hot spot."

In the past year, planning or construction has begun on almost 3,000 residences south of Gandy Boulevard. The new impact fee could increase the cost of some of those projects by millions of dollars.

Truett Gardner, an attorney for developers in the Channel District and downtown, said his clients are unhappy with the fee. He said the city pushed developers to breathe life into downtown and should be careful not to drive them away.

"We tried and tried to bring energy back to downtown, and I hate that now they're sending the message out that you can build downtown but here's the cost," Gardner said.

The pipeline is supposed to increase water distribution in South Tampa.

Lyon said dealing with low water pressure has become part of life. She said some of her neighbors who live in old houses cannot run two showers at the same time, and it gets worse during lawn-watering days.

"That's awful," she said. "Something has to be done."

Jerry Miller, president of the Ballast Point Neighborhood Association, said any improvement in water pressure would help.

"It's an old, old system," he said. "It hasn't been upgraded in forever. We're happy about [the pipeline project] in this particular part of the world."