Monday, April 30, 2007

S.H.I.P. Shame

FYI: The Senior Home Improvement Program building on Florida Ave., just south of Hillsborough Ave., has taken down its chain link fence. It has been replaced with a black, ornate, steel fence.

Yes, it's still a fence, but at least it's not a chain link one. Kudo's for their first step and efforts toward making their property more aesthetically pleasing AND to helping improve the look of one of the community's major business arteries. It's my hope they will continue to improve their rather large patch of land and building.

5/17 - This compliment has be revoked, based on new info posted (see comments).

15 comments:

ranbar said...

I wish I could agree with the kudos. When SHIP first moved in, their representatives stated that they wanted to be a good neighbor and fit in with the neighborhood. But, even prior to the original fence going up, they flat out refused to consider fencing in a smaller portion to allow for after hours shared parking, despite OSHNA offering to work with solid waste to discourage the dumping that SHIP claimed was the reason to fence it in in the first place. Then, when the fence first started going up, OSHNA warned The Center for Women (SHIP's parent organization) that, in addition to violating the historic district guidelines, it also perpetuated the industrial perception of the neighborhood. We offered to work with them to find alternatives. But, dispite assurances to me that they would review the situation, they finished putting the chain link up anyway.

In fact, they only changed the fence was because they were required to, and they fought it every step of the way. At the ARC hearing, they used the "why should we change it, Florida Avenue is ugly anyway" argument.

But the worst thing is that, buried on the April 12th City Council consent agenda, item number 29, is a resolution transfering $12,830 in Community Development Block Grant funds to SHIP to pay to replace the fence. I sit on the CDBG Citizens Advisory Committee and can tell you that CDBG funds are very sparse, and using such funds to pay for this mistake that could have, and should have, been avoided, takes money away from other, more worthy, expenses like after school programs or indigent care. I am a big supporter of the work that The Center for Women and SHIP does, but in the case of this fence, their actions were a disgrace.

==========================

City Council, April 12, 2007

Building, Zoning and Preservation Committee
Joseph Caetano, Chair, and Thomas Scott, Vice-Chair

File No. B2007-2
Resolution making certain changes in the budget of the City of Tampa for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007; approving the transfer, reallocation, and/or
appropriation of $12,830.50 within the Community Development Block Grant Thirty-second Entitlement Fund to provide for the replacement of the fence surrounding the property located at 5023 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33603.

Torgo said...

I stand corrected. I perceived their efforts as voluntary.

For an organization to fight against its own goals of improving its community is unacceptable at best. Taking community grant money to correct a situation they created (by violating historic district guidelines and community requests) is simply unethical.

The headline would have been more accurate if it had read "S.H.I.P. Shame."

IFly said...

Thanks for shedding more light on the story Randy. If they had handled it in a manner such as: "We'd really like to improve our property to contribute to the beauty of the community but we have a limited budget so are applying for the grant to allow us to make the improvements." They would have been lauded as good neighbors and all would probably be well. As it stands the whole thing stinks of impropriety, even if no malice was intended. Not sure what SHIP's purpose really is if the attitude is if a neighborhood is ugly anyway, why should SHIP be any different. Where else would the "I " for improvement come from?

Shawn-non-anonymous said...

[vent]

Worse yet will be the next social service organization to make the same exact mistakes and simply use this as precedent to charge the needy for their inability to follow building codes.

OSHNA tried to help them, but like many others, they refused help. Let's wait a few months and we'll start hearing them whine about how the neighborhood doesn't "support" them.

[/vent]

SH Citizen said...

If this incident is any indication of their stewardship practices their donors should take a long hard look at who they support.

Their vision according to their website, http://www.centreforwomen.com/, is to be well known and highly respected for quality service and to proactively meet the needs of their consumers and the community through neighborhood-based service, collaboration and advocacy.

Their attitude and actions towards this situation are a complete contradiction to their mission statement and whoever was/is responsible for making these decisions should be evaluated and reprimanded.

I'm disgusted by their arrogance and actions.

The community works hard to raise the quality of life here and the aesthetics of the area. And to have a new business that relocated here criticize and try to impede the progress is inconceivable.

They should be completely embarrassed and offer a public apology for the violation of their mission and attitude and most importantly disrespecting the community in which they reside.

Shawn-non-anonymous said...

[snark]
I can't wait to hear the Trib columnists twist this into a "Seminole Heights hates Women" article.
[/snark]

:-) Darned to Heck if we do, and Darned to Heck if we don't.

IFly said...

Shawn,
Some, but not all, snark aside, it wouldn't surprise me. Either that or we'll hear that Seminole Heights hates Home Improvement.

Tim Taylor keep out.

Centre for Women said...

This blog was recently brought to my attention, and I’d like to clarify a few points within this discussion. While the appearance is a factor in the quality of a community, we believe it’s the people within it who matter most. That’s why it both surprises and disappoints me to see such intense discussion about a fence. It was not our intention to create an “eyesore.” Candidly, we had no idea it was not permitted until it was brought to our attention – after installation was already underway. But this was only the beginning of a series of what I’d like to think are misunderstandings.

OSHNA Membership
When the Centre purchased the business-zoned property where our Senior Home Improvement Program now resides, no one informed us that we were bound by OSHNA by-laws. Not at the time of purchase and not during closing of the sale. That’s why we had no idea we were in violation of OSHNA’s deed restrictions. It was not a flagrant disregard for rules.

Fiscal Responsibility
There’s been talk here regarding the Centre’s duty to spend tax dollars wisely. It is exactly this reason why we sought to retain the original fence. Clearly the new fencing is much more attractive, but we felt our hard-earned funding was better spent on clients. Undoubtedly, however, the most concerning part of this discussion is the false accusation that the Centre approached the City of Tampa for additional funding to “correct a situation we created.” This is completely untrue. No funds were redirected away from more worthy causes as a result of this new fence. Rather, we asked the City if we could allocate two percent of our existing funds toward this project. You see, dollars given to the Centre are done so with conditions regarding their use. As a result we were required to request this allocation change during the April 12 City Council meeting.

Shared After-Hours Parking
While we would like to accommodate after-hours shared parking, we quickly – and at great cost – realized that this would not work. Unfortunately, the Centre received fines for improper disposal of waste in the lot adjacent to our building. Although OSHNA representatives offered to work with us toward a resolution, we simply could not risk additional fines or, worse yet, personal injury claims related to public use of our private property. It is not our intent to be unfriendly. We ask for your understanding of this position and hope you will not bear grudges against us for the inadequate parking conditions in this area.

While we are, technically speaking, a new member of the Seminole Heights community, we have in fact been a part of it for many years. In the last four years alone, the Centre has helped more than 600 Seminole Heights residents improve the quality of their lives through various services. Over a third of these services were home repairs provided to low-income, elderly homeowners who are residents of Seminole Heights.

As members of this historic district and OSHNA, we recognize the value and importance of preserving and enhancing our neighborhood as well as organizational citizenship. You have my assurances that we are, and will remain, committed to serving this and other communities with quality, relevant programs. Should you still have any concerns about the items discussed in this blog, please contact me at 813-251-8437, ext. 228, so that we may address them.

Sincerely,
Beth Ficquette
Executive Director, The Centre for Women

IFly said...

As I am not privy to the discussions OSHNA representatives had with SHIP representatives I only wanted to address the misconception that OSHNA applied these rules to the property. I am not a representative of OSHNA, but I did research this very topic before moving to SH because I had no desire to live in a deed-restricted community myself. Also someone please correct me if I am wrong on any of this.
The rules SHIP violated are not OSHNA generated or "by-laws" of the association. There are no deed restrictions, conditions, or covenants, only the City of Tampa ordinances. OSHNA is not a homeowners association, but a neighborhood association. OSHNA has no authority to impose use rules on anyone's property. The rules that were violated are city ordinances pursuant to SHIP's property being located in the historic district. The ordinances are public record, and anyone wishing to relocate should do the research as to what they can and cannot do before investing in property anywhere. I find it surprising after appearing before the ARC and council meetings regarding the fence that SHIP believes that the rules in question are deed-restrictions, not ordinances. Perhaps this is a case of misunderstood semantics, but there are clear distictions between the two.

Rick F. said...

The Centre for Women has long conections to this neighborhood with their absorbing the Family Service Association (where I did my clinical internship)on Nebraska and with their connection to the Center for Girls at Sligh & Florida.
I doubt that the Executive Director has a clue as to Seminole Heights boundaries so I take with a grain of salt the assertion that they have helped "more than 600 Seminole Heights residents in the past four years".
Just like profit businesses, non-profits can be good neighbors and bad neighbors. In the case of the SHIP program, the Centre for Women has proven to be a not so good neighbor.
The arguments that "Florida Avenue is ugly anyway" speaks to an elitist mindset. Take a look at the Centre's Board of Directors and then look where they reside. They would not have done that in their neighborhoods and if it had been done they would have worked all their connections to have it reversed.
There should be a caveat to NIMBY (not in my back yard)...if you don't want it in yours don't put it in someone elses.

carasu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
carasu said...

I'm with ifly; the violation is not a neighborhood by law, but a city violation, which was SHIP's responsibilty to research before making any changes to the property. It's hard to say whether Ms. Ficquette's responses were born from sheer ignorance or a dishonest attempt to save face, but she is wrong on many points in her response. This organization is not a good neighbor and chooses to do whatever works for them despite how it impacts the neighborhood and/or violates the historical protective codes put in place to nurture and protect the neighborhood. We have several business which are grandfathered in and can continue to not adhere to the guidelines, but when a new business moves in and completely disregards their responsibilty to the neighborhood and the city codes, it's infuriating. I would rather another Spanish restaurant go in their place.....; )

Shawn-non-anonymous said...

More specifically, The Center violated the code overlay that covers roughly everything from 15th West to the river, MLK North to the river. This means it covers most of Old Seminole Heights, SE Seminole Heights, and South Seminole Heights. As it happens, though, the building falls inside Old Seminole Heights boundaries.

According to S.H.I.P.'s website, they offer the services of Carpentry, Weatherization, Minor Plumbing, Wheelchair Ramps and Handicap Retrofits, and Roof Repairs and Replacements. Most of these, depending on situation, require permits and all require adherance to city building codes. You might imagine my surprise that SHIP is complaining that no one told them about the city code they were required to follow.

I think having services in the area are a GOOD THING and I generally welcome organizations like S.H.I.P. However, all we seem to get are people that blunder into a purchase, make changes without understanding the rules and consequences, and then blame others for their error. People. PLEASE take some responsibility for your own actions. Hearing "yeah, my bad" once in a while would be refreshing.

This includes people who open services, restaurants (Cappy's did say "my bad"), and even people who buy homes and are surprised by the increase in taxes. (I could rail at greedy realtors that don't tell their clients about such things but a realtor on this blog has even whined about his surprise over it... fer cryin' out loud.)

ALL of you should know better. All of you have professional experience with codes, permits, taxes, and such. None of you have any excuse. And if you cannot admit your blunder, apologize, and move on--SHAME ON YOU. (and no one should trust your services, by caveat.)

Shawn-non-anonymous said...

Let me please correct my above comment:

While it is true they are in the Overlay District, this is not the set of code they violated. They violated the Historic District (a special type of overlay). This is still city code. It is still something a service that revolves around activities controled by city code should be aware of.

The Overlay does not permit residential chain link fencing. The Historic District extends that to any new fencing for any structure in its boundaries, regardless of use.

My error.

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