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'Choked by traffic': Pinellas Park residents want moratorium on new apartments

Posted at 6:21 PM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 18:21:31-05

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — 1,000 signatures and counting. Homeowners are fighting a proposal to bring more apartments to an area they say is already “choked by traffic” in Pinellas Park.

Barbara Tierney lives in the Lakes Community and says traffic at U.S. 19 and Mainlands Boulevard is getting worse and worse.

“The traffic is going to be just crazy," Tierney said, speaking about a plan to add more apartments within a few blocks of her home.

Residents of the Mainlands of Tamarac and The Lakes Community say turning onto U.S. 19 from their homes requires patience.

“It will take, sometimes, 2-3 lights to get out. You could wait 7 minutes to just to get out of our community," George Filiau, a Mainlands of Tamarac resident, added.

Traffic is already unbearable, according to residents in the 55+ communities, and that's why they’re fuming as eight new apartment communities start to take shape within blocks of their front doors.

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Joanna Sands started a petition to put a moratorium on new apartments within a few miles of their community.

“All of these people are moving in within a mile of us here in Mainlands; and it’s oppressive,” Sands elaborated.

Residents are particularly interested in fending off a 239-unit apartment planned in the wooded area next to Calvary Chapel Church at 8900 U.S. 19 North. Developer Belleair Development Group approached the church with an offer to buy the land and turn it into an apartment community, which will also have workforce units available at a lower rental rate.

Carlos Yepes is the developer for that project.

“We think it’s a definite improvement to the community what we’re doing,” Yepes explained.

Yepes doesn’t believe traffic will be much of an issue once the apartment building construction gets underway. That’s because FDOT is planning to build overpasses in the area in 2022, as part of the new Gateway Express Project, bringing an expected 15% reduction in traffic as more drivers bypass the U.S. 19 and Mainlands intersection.

“Which is about when we’ll be finished building the apartments,” Yepes added.

Nearby homeowners also worry about the impact on the area’s infrastructure as hundreds move in. The church site also includes an area of wetlands which the developer will have to address.

“We don’t want more apartments. We’d like to see other things built,” Sand added.

With 900 people on average moving to Florida every day, according to the US Census Bureau, developers like Yepes say new apartments are more in demand than ever.

City leaders will hear arguments on both sides at a council meeting on March 26.