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Tampa Landowner Gets Deal On Parcel Near Port

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TAMPA - The owner of a 53- acre parcel of land near Tampa's port can move ahead with turning the site into a residential and commercial hub.

Tampa port, city and state officials said Friday they signed an agreement with property owner Bruce Woodruff that will allow up to 900 condominium units to be built on the site. The Tampa City Council, which must approve the agreement, is expected to vote on it Thursday.

As part of the deal, Woodruff had to agree to several stipulations, including building an 8- foot-high wall along 22nd Street and a 20-foot landscaping buffer. Any residential development built on the site would also be limited to two entrances.

Property owners would also have to be informed in writing that homes are located in an industrial area, officials said.

``We just don't want them to complain about the port later and want it to leave,'' said Bob Clifford, planning manager for the state Department of Transportation. ``We believe we have the best deal we could work out.''

The land, across from city shrimp docks and the former Seabreeze Restaurant, was home to the Auto Park drive-in from about 1960 into the early 1980s.

Woodruff's proposal, backed by city officials who want to spruce up the waterfront corridor, had met opposition from the Tampa Port Authority and state agencies worried that new residents of a development and existing maritime industry would clash over noise, traffic and pollution.

``We hope this agreement will be a win-win for everyone,'' said Mark Huey, the city's economic development administrator. ``Any significant road that comes into the city is a gateway. Right now, [22nd Street] is not an attractive roadway.''

Woodruff has tried for more than a year to get the property, north of 22nd Street, rezoned for residential use so he can sell it to a developer.

His efforts to get rezoning approval were held up when the state Department of Community Affairs denied his request last year, largely because the city's comprehensive land- use plan calls for industrial use on the property. The Tampa Port Authority and the state Department of Transportation had also objected to Woodruff's rezoning efforts, arguing that a residential development would not fit in with the heavily industrialized port area.

Woodruff's proposal won preliminary city approval in March 2004 but stalled while state and city officials tried to work out whether to amend the comprehensive land-use plan. The issue was heading to an administrative law judge when the settlement was reached.

The gateway idea gained support in January when businessman George Lorton went public with his proposal to build condominiums and office space on 54 acres near Woodruff's land, on the south side of 22nd Street. Lorton has instead agreed to sell the land to the Tampa Port Authority, which voted Tuesday to buy 39 acres from him for $15 million. The deal is expected to close next month.

Port spokesman Steve Valley said Friday that the port is not interested in buying Woodruff's property because it does not abut deep-water the way Lorton's property does.

``Our main concern right now is to limit the marine industry impacts on people who will be moving in,'' Valley said. ``The proposed settlement agreement handles that.''

Clifford, the planning manager with the state Department of Transportation, said the department does not support residential development along the corridor but can live with the Woodruff agreement. The department's main concerns, he said, are truck traffic along the causeway and future residents objecting to noise and pollution from the port.

Reporter Shannon Behnken can be reached at (813) 259-7804.

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