Public meeting Thursday, March 21
Residents in the eastern area of Riverview are at odds over the look of their community.
Some long-time residents who have been using their properties many years for show business use could lose that opportunity if residents in new developments along U.S. 301 get their way.
Some residents of the new communities along US 301 complained to Hillsborough County code enforcement in 2010, causing 40 property owners who use their land as a base for show business to apply for a special show business zoning overlay that would protect them against having to remove their business equipment and animals.
This zoning overlay application is scheduled to be heard by County Commissioners in June.
But after talking with residents on both sides of the issue and touring the area, the county’s development services department has proposed an alternative solution that offers a type of “grandfathering.”
A public hearing on the alternative plan was held at the Riverview Civic Center March 7 and another will be held in the County Commissioner’s board room March 21 at 6 p.m. This is located in County Center, 601 Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, on the second floor.
“In 2011 40 property owners who have been using their property for show business use applied to have a zoning overlay to protect that use,” said John Healey, with the county’s development services department. “What the county has proposed is an alternative to that.”
The county’s “Intent Statement” concerning the issue lays out a solution that would address the situation as an amendment to land uses, instead of a zoning overlay.
This means that each individual property owner in the area concerned — which is the southeastern portion of Riverview, especially Tropical Acres — wanting to use their land for show business would need to apply for a legal nonconforming use.
“The amendment would not set a precedent that the area is designated for show business use the way creating an overlay would,” Healey said. “Yet it would allow those who already have show business use to continue with certain restrictions that are laid out in the amendment.”
Some of those who have show businesses say the amendment would put a stop to the very things they need the property for: repairing and maintaining equipment and keeping and training exotic animals.
The county maintains that those uses are not in compliance with current zoning regulations anyway. That is why the property owners chose to apply for the overlay which would specifically designate the area for show business use.
The county’s proposal – unlike a show business overlay — would prohibit some show business uses currently in place, including group living facilities, exotic animals and repairing of large equipment, but would allow others.
Any show business property owner who was in business prior to June 23, 2011 may apply to be permitted to continue his or her use if the amendment is adopted by the County Commission.
Those in show business say this is unfair.
They say they were there long before the developments and the area has always been used by show people.
Joey Even owns seven pieces of property in the contested area. He said he took county officials on a tour and everything that is there is legal.
“I showed them I have RSV zoning,” Even said.
Dave Rivera has been in that area since the 1950s. “The Tropical Acres area has had show business people since the 1930s, just like Gibsonton,” he said.
The county’s Comprehensive Plan specifically addresses the show business zoning in Gibsonton, but not Riverview.
Phillip Baluca from South Pointe said he was very concerned with the “migration of show business into Riverview.”
“The heavy maintenance, the exotic animals. Tigers, within a close proximity to our homes concerns me very much,” he said.
Kristie Deaton of South Fork says any tolerance of show business use will affect property values.
Zoe Fackler agreed, adding that show business uses were not compatible with the new neighborhoods.
“So this has been going on for all these years illegally and nobody has stopped it yet?” asked Roy Webb, who has lived in Tropical Acres 30 years. “What makes anybody think you (county) can stop it with an amendment now?”
Several in the crowd of about 150 said the show business people should go to Gibsonton.
This caused Karen Arnold to call it profiling.
“When people tell you where you belong because of what you are, that’s profiling. Nobody can just tell me to move to Gibsonton.”
She is the owner of Arnold Amusements and says she is and has always been very much a part of the Riverview community.
“My kids go to Riverview High School. They’re in sports, and FFA. Show people aren’t just travelers. A lot of us live here full time,” she said.
Lynn Starkey who lives on Balm-Riverview Road which is the western border of the contested area said there wouldn’t be a problem if people looked at the surrounding area before they bought homes.
“Why don’t you ride around and see what’s there first?” Starkey said.
Carol Phillips cited that show people had been in both the Riverview and Gibsonton area since 1927.
“Historically speaking it started with Eddie and Grace Lamay. Nothing in Hillsborough County was zoned except Tampa. The whole unincorporated area of the county was lived in long before any zoning was established. We haven’t moved in on the new development communities. They’ve moved in on us.”
* There are no geographical boundaries associated with this story except the western line of US 301. Forty individual pieces of property are concerned. They are interspersed in the southeast portion of Riverview, mostly in Tropical Acres.