Via St. Pete Catalyst

Pinellas County Commissioners recently approved several comprehensive plan changes and land use amendments to foster revitalization across a historically underserved, unincorporated community bordering St. Petersburg.

Three proposed zoning changes encompassing hundreds of acres in Lealman passed unanimously at the Nov. 14 board meeting. Commissioners also heard two items related to a new 122-page form-based code they believe will produce more consistent and predictable development patterns.

“This is such a big area that we’re talking about – it’s all of Lealman for your form-based code,” said County Attorney Jewel White. “We want to avoid that inconsistency, which would occur for about a month if you were to take action on the land use tonight and not the zoning until December.”

Commissioners agreed, and the sweeping changes will take effect Jan. 1. Over 171 acres about six miles northwest of downtown St. Petersburg previously zoned for residential, office and retail uses will now become multimodal corridors and target employment centers.

County officials moved the previously recommended plans forward without discussion. However, Commissioner Charlie Justice expressed his hopes for the area in a conversation with the Catalyst.

“I want the folks who live there now to have some of the same exact opportunities as the people who live just a couple of miles away,” Justice said. “We want housing inventory. We want available transportation to jobs, but we also want some jobs right there in the local community.”

Over 30,000 people live in Lealman, and many lack sufficient housing, employment and grocery options. County leaders have recently spent considerable time and money to uplift the community redevelopment area (CRA).

Three new mixed-use corridor designations will incentivize housing developments and allow much-needed commercial uses and job creation. Many downtrodden residential areas can soon feature low-to-mid-rise, street-oriented buildings with “activated” retail and public spaces.

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