From today’s St. Petersburg, Florida, Times:
Church’s porch in right of way
The contractor asks for forgiveness. Community residents and leaders are not much inclined. The county will decide.
By JACKIE RIPLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published June 30, 2006
TOWN ‘N COUNTRY – When church leaders envisioned a new sanctuary on Webb Road 10 years ago, they pictured a house of worship so fertile that congregants would one day spill onto the portico and into the community.
But they probably never envisioned the portico itself spilling into the community.
That’s exactly what’s going on at a construction project on a tract of land between Rhonda Road and Webb Road. An open expanse fronts the Rhonda Road side of the property. But on the Webb Road side, a portion of the 3,600-square-foot building intrudes into the county right of way.
“The building is encroaching 8 to 10 feet into a required 25-foot setback zone,” said Craig Mahlman, the manager of Hillsborough’s site plan and subdivision review section. “It’s in violation of building codes.”
County code calls for setbacks of 7½ feet on the sides of the building and 25 feet in the front and rear.
Brian McElroy of Lithia is the contractor for Iglesia Comunal Cristiana de Tampa, a Spanish-speaking church meant to house as many as 180 members. And on July 7, McElroy will ask the county to forgive his construction mistake.
If granted, the porch, though partially in the county right of way, would be allowed to remain. And a sidewalk, removed for construction, would not be replaced.
The construction mistakes, as well as the county’s lack of oversight, have upset many in the community.
“Why is the contractor not being held responsible for ‘accidentally’ putting the building in the wrong place,” asked Bill Browne, president of the Town ‘N Country Alliance. “What happens if the county wants to widen that road?”
Browne is joined by leaders of the Town ‘N Country Park Homeowners Civic Association and Twelve Oaks Civic Association. They say residents would be adversely affected if the county forgives the mistake and does not make the church remove the porch and replace the sidewalk.
“Sidewalks on Webb Road are necessary for citizens who walk to and from the hospital and medical office buildings, and for elementary school children who must walk along Webb Road to and from school,” said Rosemarie Middleton, president of the Twelve Oaks Civic Association.
Things apparently began to go awry a few months ago when McElroy laid the foundation for the building too close to Webb Road.
Mahlman surmised McElroy incorrectly thought he could pick the street that would front the building, in this case Webb Road.
Iglesia Comunal Cristiana de Tampa is affiliated with Grace Brethren North American Missions Inc. in Winona Lake, Ind.
Other churches affiliated with Grace Brethren are in Brandon, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, Brooksville and Orlando.
McElroy declined to comment on the project. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Gerardo Leiton, did not return a reporter’s telephone calls.
In the meantime, the county has ordered McElroy to stop work on the part of the project intruding into the county right of way. Civic leaders, however, are not satisfied.
“They’ve applied for a variance but that’s not good enough,” Browne said. “It should never have gotten to that point.”