TAMPA - Everybody likes warm scones and handmade bed quilts, but there is widespread suspicion of the man trying to open a bed and breakfast in historic Tampa Heights.
The century old Victorian at 313 East Oak seems a proper setting for a bed and breakfast. Approval of a re-zoning request will make it legal. But, not if the neighbors get their way.
"If it were a true bed and breakfast, it would probably be an enhancement. As a flophouse, it's definitely negative" said Chris Koury who owns the adjacent lot. Koury and his wife, Vicki, believe it's going to be a flophouse because of the owner, realtor, Mike Arodac.
I asked Koury why he won't take Mr. Arodak at his word.
"I'd like to, but I've seen some of the past history of some of his properties," said Koury.
So have we at ABC Action News.
This last February we reported on the fire marshal's eviction of 25 of Mike Arodak's tenants from a warehouse in Ybor City because of unsafe conditions. Arodak claimed he was helping people, but code inspectors called it an illegal rooming house. Most of those evicted were indigent and needed taxpayer assistance to resettle.
Mike Arodak agreed to an on-camera interview, but then canceled our meeting. In an email, he said he will not turn his building into a rooming house, but refused to answer any questions about what he is planning.
In full disclosure, I live in Tampa Heights, a neighborhood that takes pride in having reduced crime and in having restored many historic houses. Neighbors here are sensitive to anything that might reverse that progress.
"One of the concerns is just the criminal activities that take place with a boarding house" said Tampa Civic Association officer, Jim Hartnett who claims to have identified more than 150 calls for police service at the property in the last few years.
Hartnett said the group will oppose Arodak's zoning petition, in part, because it's a misuse of the rules.
"Not only in Tampa Heights- this is really an end-around for the whole city that needs to be addressed" said Hartnett.
In city codes, the difference between a rooming house and a bed and breakfast that can have as many as 12 units in a single house is subtle. It requires only that a bed and breakfast guest have a separate primary residence.
There is no requirement that you serve breakfast.
Thom Snelling, Director of Planning and Development is familiar with Mike Arodak's history, but says City Council cannot take that into account when considering the application in October.
"We won't consider those types of the things in the evaluation of this application" said Snelling.
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