Largo neighbors win fight to stop redevelopment

Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel noted that Winchester Road was a dividing line between large and small lot sizes in a neighborhood in unincorporated Largo. Neighbors appealed to the commission to stop a request that would have allowed a development with smaller lot sizes.

LARGO — A group of neighbors in unincorporated Largo got together and objected to requests that would have allowed a single family home development on lot sizes smaller than those in the surrounding area.

Pinellas County commissioners agreed with them and voted 5-1 to deny the request for a future land map amendment and zoning atlas amendment during an April 27 meeting.

Dushyant Gulati of Largo had requested a future land map amendment on 2.18 acres of vacant property at 1736 Winchester Road from residential suburban to residential low and a zoning atlas amendment from rural residential to single-family residential.

The change would have allowed for construction of single family detached home on minimum 6,000 square foot lots with a maximum density of five units per acre — double what would be allowed without the amendments.

The Local Planning Agency voted 4-2 to recommend that the request be approved and county staff also recommended approval.

The maximum number of units that could be built would have been 11; however, due to how the lots would have to be configured to allow for driveways and stormwater facilities, the developer conceded that the likely number of units would be closer to eight.

With the current zoning, the development would be limited to five units.

Although county staff said lot sizes in the surrounding area were varied, the neighbors argued that allowing the smaller lot sizes would not be consistent with most of the others in the neighborhood. Gulati also provided evidence that the smaller lot sizes were compatible with the area. He did concede that some lots were bigger.

However, one of the neighbors, Leo Torres, said most of the lots in the immediate area were 12,000 square feet or larger. He said it would set a precedent to allow lots of 6,000 square feet and might be applied to an adjacent piece of vacant property.

Torres was among the dozen or so that sent in letters and 90 that signed a petition against the proposed changes.

“We’re just trying to keep our neighborhood with large lot homes,” he said.

Another objection was the roadway. County staff estimated that a redevelopment on the property would generate up to 58 additional daily trips, which would not change the level of service; however, Belcher Road was the only nearby road with regulated level of service. The others are smaller. Staff said if the changes were approved, the developer would be responsible for improving Winchester Road.

Other concerns voiced by the neighbors included drainage and potential flooding and harm to the environment, including many species of animals.

Torres said the neighbors did not want to prevent redevelopment of the land, they just wanted to keep it to five units per acre.

Commissioners briefly discussed asking Gulati to include an overlay that would restrict the development to only eight units. However, Commissioner Karen Seel pointed out that Winchester Road seemed to be a dividing line between an area with bigger lots versus some smaller.

“I don’t think it is compatible,” she said, adding that it was a “very interesting neighborhood.”

She agreed with the neighbors that five units per acre was more compatible. The others agreed with the exception of Commission Chair Dave Eggers. Commissioner Kathleen Peters was absent.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.