Margaret Vizzi

Citation
Margaret Vizzi

Material Information

Title:
Margaret Vizzi
Series Title:
West Central Florida land use oral history project
Creator:
Vizzi, Margaret, 1931-
Mansfield, Bill
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
1 sound file ( 95 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Neighborhoods -- Florida -- Tampa ( lcsh )
Zoning -- Citizen participation -- Florida -- Tampa ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history. ( local )
Online audio. ( local )
interview ( marcgt )
Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )

Notes

Summary:
Margaret Vizzi, homemaker and member of the Tampa Neighborhood Association, talks about her experiences with neighborhood associations and zoning. She discusses neighborhoods in Tampa, zoning issues, functions of the Variance Review Board, commercial development, the Beach Park Homeowners Association, liquor licenses, the Tampa Homeowners Association, the Tampa Homeowners Association of Neighborhoods, and traffic issues.
Venue:
Interview conducted October 9, 2006, in Tampa, Fla.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by William Mansfield.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
028708419 ( ALEPH )
206924062 ( OCLC )
W34-00013 ( USFLDC DOI )
w34.13 ( USFLDC Handle )

Postcard Information

Format:
Audio

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


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Margaret Vizzi, homemaker and member of the Tampa Neighborhood Association, talks about her experiences with neighborhood associations and zoning. She discusses neighborhoods in Tampa, zoning issues, functions of the Variance Review Board, commercial development, the Beach Park Homeowners Association, liquor licenses, the Tampa Homeowners Association, the Tampa Homeowners Association of Neighborhoods, and traffic issues.
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text William Mansfield: I always put a label on the disc by saying, this is Bill Mansfield from the University of South Floridas Land-Use Oral History Project talking to Ms. Margaret Vizzi in her home in Tampa Florida on October the
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Margaret Vizzi: Ninth.
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WM: The ninth. October 9, 2006. Ms. Vizzi, we always get people to start off by having them state their name and telling us when they were born and where they were born. So let her go.
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MV: Okay. I am Margaret Vizzi. I was born July 30, 1931 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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WM: Okay. What is your current occupation?
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MV: Homemaker.
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WM: Okay, thats good.
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MV: It has been for a long time.
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WM: When did you come to Tampa?
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MV: Nineteen sixty. September 1960.
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WM: What brought you?
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MV: My husband was born here and he had finished all of his training and we came back here to live.
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WM: Training in what?
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MV: Medicine.
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WM: So he was a doctor?
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MV: A MD. He was in internal medicine.
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WM: Okay. Well tell, me what got you involved inI read in the newspaper where youd been active in the Tampa Neighborhood Association. Tell me about that.
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MV: Well, my original activities started, I guess the first time we sat here at our dining room table. Someone came to my door with a petition, because of the development that was being proposed, just three blocks west of us. So, we signed the petition and not much, you know, other activity did I get into, at that time, because I had several young children. But the thing that really got me involved was traffic being caused by the development that occurred.
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So, with the petition that the neighbors had passed around I went down to the mayors office, it was Bill Poe at the time and talked to him about the concerns. That was just the beginnings then of realizing that the development that was going to occur around us, because Kennedy Boulevard is so close. It was going to be important to pay attention to the development around us, not only in the neighborhood.
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So, I got involved with others who lived in the neighborhood and we beganat that point it was sort of the beginnings of the early, early comprehensive planning that was occurring. Because this was in, I would imagine, the early seventies [1970s].
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WM: Is that when the person came around with the petition?
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MV: No, no, no, no. That was in sixty-three, in 1963. Several years went by before the transportation problem became, you know when the development was complete and the traffic problem was generated. The cars, instead of using Kennedy, were using the neighborhood streets.
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WM: Okay.
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MV: So thats howwe just felt something needed to be done.
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WM: So it was traffic congestion in your neighborhood?
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MV: Well it wasnt the congestion. It was the numbers of cars that were coming through here because it was easier than using Kennedy. They came through here instead.
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WM: So, tell me about the process of organizing your neighbors to affect a change.
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MV: Originally those of us who lived in this area that was more effected, because you have to know Beach Park and this area. Theres only two streets that go through: Cleveland [Street] and Azeele [Street]. Then you hit the water. So everybody that wants to go that way has to filter down these streets.
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WM: Everybody who wants to go to the water?
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MV: To the water.
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WM: Which is west of here?
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MV: Just on the other side of the water there is another residential development, to the west and then between us is where commercial office building started going up. That was the traffic that was being generated to come through.
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Then, of course, the other thing on my particular street, on Sherrill [Street], which is now cul-de-sac. Town and Country was developed, which is the neighborhood northwest of us. Many of those who lived there worked at MacDill Air Force Base. They would come through this little street in front of my house, go up Azeele to Westshore and then out to the Base. The city registered 6,000 cars a day on this little two-block street.
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WM: Wow!
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MV: It took a death at the corner of Cleveland and Sherrill toare you familiar with our former Mayor, Dick Greco?
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WM: No.
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MV: Well he was our former mayor, the first time. Then he came back and served again. It was during his first [term] as mayor that he came back and cul-de-sac [of] the street, after the death occurred.
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WM: There was a traffic accident?
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MV: Yes, because of the heavy, heavy traffic that was going through here. But anyway, as all of this occurred more of the neighbors began to know one another and we began to get very involved in watching what was happening around us.
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At that time, I would think it was maybe the mid-1970s, that the studying began for the comprehensive plan. I wasnt sure what that was all about, but I did find out that in the original plan this area, all the way to Azeele Street, was designated for the commercial to come back to it. When we found that out, we started our efforts to make sure that that changed with the new comprehensive plan that was coming in and the new land-use designation.
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WM: Okay. I just want to make sure I understand you. You looked at the comprehensive plan and discovered that commercial
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MV: Could have been allowed to come into this area, all the way to Azeele.
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WM: And you wanted to keep this residential?
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MV: We wanted to keep this totally residential. To keep nothing further than what fronts Kennedy Boulevard as the commercial and then everything south residential.
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WM: Okay. This might seem like a one of those obvious questions, but why would you want to keep it residential? I mean keep the businesscommercial from expanding into this area?
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MV: Well, because its a totally different, you know, you cant merge single family detached with commercial. For example, I know that those who want to live in the condos are okay with the commercial mingling with the condo. But its always been my feeling, and for most people, who live in single-family detached neighborhoods, you dont want that within the neighborhood.
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You want it surrounding you, so that you can use the commercial. But you dont want the traffic thats generated and more trash, more trucks and all of those good things that have to serve the commercial. So it isnt only the commercial but even high, higher densities. We wanted it to remain single-family detached residential. We got busy and attended meetings and learned what it was all about.
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WM: You said you found out that this was originally planned for the commercial to return; how did you find that out?
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MV: When we started looking into this, What is this land-use? and, What is this zoning all about? And started talking to the people down at the Planning Commission, which in those days the Planning Commission was really just beginning, I guess youre familiar with the Hillsborough County city/county planning as compared to each city in the county having its own?
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So we started talking to those who are in the planning commission and found out that [our neighborhood] wasnt zoned for that. This was zoned for residential, but the land-use that it could have been given other zoning to allow for the spread of commercial. Of course we were all single-family detached and didnt understand why they let all of this develop as single family and then have that land-use designation.
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So, thenI guess it wasIm trying to think of the years and I cant. I would imagine it was the late seventies [1970s] when all of this activity began. And then it was in the eighties [1980s] when the new comprehensive plan was being put together. The mayor at that time was Sandy Freedman. We talked to the land use and zoning people at land development in the city and told them of our concern about any land use designation that would allow that spread of the commercial or higher density into the neighborhood.
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So they studied it and understood it, because we were surrounded by it. If youll take a little ride, youd understand that just two blocks that waytwo blocks that way, its high density.
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WM: What? Two blocks west and two blocks north?
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MV: Yes and two blocks north is high density. So anyway, they totally understood and gave us the land use designation, suburban density, residential. Which means its an R-6 now. Its called an R-6 which means six dwelling units per acre.
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WM: Okay.
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MV: So basically thats how my involvement began. And being concerned about traffic and then getting into land use and zoning, cause they run together. Its like, which one comes first? Build the roads let the development? Or let the development happen and then build the roads.
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WM: Usually they build the development and then the roads.
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MV: Right, and then worry abut the roads and then there is no place to put them, which is the problem that this city and county has. I dont know if youre familiar with the development thats going to happen south of Gandy [Boulevard]? All of that land-use it was originally heavy industrial. Westinghouse plants back there and a lot of these chemical plants, et cetera. Now its all being re-zoned for high density residential and some commercial to serve that.
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But I dont know where the cars are going to go and the city doesnt know where the cars are going to go. So thatsand Mr. Weaver, I know is very familiar with all of that.1 Part of it because hes been involved with some of that, I know with the redevelopment hearings down there. Were saying Westshore Boulevard cannot be widened. If you do, all of this residential that lines it, very expensive homes, theres no place. South Tampa is really limited in what you can do with roads.
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WM: You said in the early 1980s the new comprehensive plan came together and you said, We talked to the planning commission.
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MV: Right.
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WM: Who is we?
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MV: Oh, some of the neighbors, in my neighborhood. At this point I was, you know it was strictly, I had nothing to do with all the rest of the city. But in the meantime, I started attending City Council meetings. I realized that things were going on in other neighborhoods, that they had no idea was happening.
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So I became very concerned. Then, of course the neighborhoods that are just east and northcause there are no neighborhoods going directly north until you get to Hillsborough. There was so much going on over there. Loretta Ingraham who was a black activist in her neighborhood, we would see one another and talk about the fact that we really had to get together and pay attention, you know, together. We ought to form an umbrella group.
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Well that was the beginnings of the talk, but nothing happened until Sandy Freedmans second term. There was Parke Wright, Parke Wright III, who was a very influential man in the development of downtown called. He lived in Sunset Park, which is just south of us. He said, You know we really need to get these neighborhoods to start working together, to watch out for whats going on in the neighborhoods.
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So, with that he called a luncheon and I called about fifteen people from different neighborhoods by then, that I had met up with. So we formed the Tampa Homeowners, an Association of Neighborhoods. Which was how the umbrella group came to be. It was because of the fact that I realized that people just did not know what was going on and what was about to happen to them. So because of that we are now, this is our eighteenth year as the umbrella group. Its been a good involvement.
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WM: Good. Id like to ask you for you to tell me more about that. But first, you said that Ms. Ingraham was this black woman, what neighborhood did she
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MV: Lincoln Gardens-Carver City, which is just north of the interstate. Truly, I would saycause it doesnt go all the way to Westshore, but Ill give you the boundaries. Its Westshore to Del Mabry. In fact most of that neighborhood was developed when they went through with the interstate through Ybor City. Many of those who lived there were displaced and they built in that area. They were seeing all of this development around them too, which is mainly now the Westshore development. Which is, I guess you know the largest business development in the state of Florida.
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WM: Im afraid I still havent learned that.
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MV: Well it is. I mean its bigger than downtown. Its the largest in the state, someone said, Even than Miami? I said, Even Miami. Its such a large district. It is limited because of the airport for height, but other than that, theres just lots of office space.
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So anyway, they were being affected by that. They were being affected by what was happening on Dale Mabry and all around them. She and I would see one another at City Council and we would talk. We knew that we were close together. Loretta died about ten years ago and the community center in her neighborhood is now the Loretta Ingraham Community Center. Loretta and I got to be really good friends. She was a good lady. I was reallyI was on vacation when she died and I was just so surprised when I came back to hear that.
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WM: Lets see, youve been active in the Beach Park Homeowners.
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MV: The Beach Park Home Owners, we reorganized about twenty years ago. It had sort ofthere was an organization many years ago. The original Beach Park was started in the 1920s. It was theactually thats how this Azeele Street thing came about. Because Beach Park was really Azeele, south and east. Thats why when they were putting the land use and this land wasnt developed yet, even though it had the zoning for only single families, thats how that designation, in my great thinking came about. There was nobody here to say any other thing. So then, as I say, twenty years ago Beach Park Homeowners re-established and I was on that original board and still sit on that board. In fact Ron Weaver lives in Beach Park, but on the other side of Westshore. Hes in this neighborhood as well.
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WM: Tell me about the reorganization process for the Beach Park Homeowners Association. How did it come together?
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MV: Well, Im glad you asked. There was a proposal for a townhouse development, right up here at the apex of Royal Palm, Azeele and Westshore Boulevard. There was this piece of land right here. Someone wanted to put townhouses. And everybody said, No! So it was during that process that a larger area came together and then the Beach Park Homeowners was re-established. Ever since then weve been very active in watching this corner.
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WM: Okay. When you said, when they came together, thats kind of a vague term. If you could, tell me as much as you can about the organization process, recruiting people
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MV: Well, flyers. We have a totally different way of doing things now. We used to walk fliers. I mean, petitions wed walk door-to-door. Fliers, wed put out fliers. Thats basically how wed let the people know. Then of course there was a meeting called. There were about twelve of us who were really sort of the group that got it going.
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WM: The leading forces?
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MV: Exactly. So we then, passed out the fliers, had a meeting. A small group was put together to put the by-laws and the articles of incorporation and all of that together. Then we were officially formed.
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WM: Okay. Well, tell me what you remember about the leading people. Who were they? What kind of folks were they?
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MV: They were realtors, they were businessmen, they were attorneys. Now it is very difficult for attorneys to really get active in their neighborhoods, especially ifIm not exactly sure how to put this. They helped a lot, but they had to help us quietly.
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WM: Unofficially?
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MV: Yes, sort of unofficially.
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WM: Would that have brought up issues of attorney-client
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MV: Yes. Well it could. And attorneythe kind of work that they did.
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WM: Conflict of interest issues?
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MV: Conflict of interests, exactly.
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But I meanas far as they were homemakers, housewives, you knowall kinds of people who got involved. Mainly they really wanted to see that this area remained single family detached residential. We are one of the few neighborhoods that is solid residential. Many of the others are solid residential but they will have sort of a strip of commercial. But within our boundaries were totally single family detached.
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WM: Okay, so the people in the organization were committed to maintaining the status quo?
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MV: Exactly.
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WM: I dont want to put words in your mouth.
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MV: No! That is exactly right.
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WM: I just want to make sure I understand.
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MV: Yes. Because by then the issue of the land use, and all, in our zoning had already been taken care of. Those of us who had been active at that point had already seen to that. In other words they wanted a re-zoning to do that development. So any way that continues to be our main focusmaintaining the single family detached and paying attention to what happens around us to make sure it wont adversely affect us. For years we fussed about water pressure and other serves, storm water. Now the city has finally put together the storm water fee, to do some storm water projects.
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But with the developments that did happen around us, many of the, most all of them, had to take care of their own storm water. In other words in couldnt flow down into us any more. And the city has since put in more water lines that development had to pay for. So that cost didnt affect us.
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The main thing that we still have concerns about are traffic. And when something is going on around us, we still go down there and talk about traffic and what it would mean if that development occurred and now we as for traffic (inaudible) and hopefully get them to use, like Kennedy Boulevard, where the traffic should be. We have a resolution that is reinstated that every one of our general membership meetings as Beach Park has a board that pretty much runs the organization. Twice a year we have a general membership meeting and we reinstate the resolution that says, The board shall work to maintain the residential character, or to maintain current land use and zoning that the city of Tampa has established, within and around us. We dont want it to get any more dense than it already is outside and keep what we have inside.
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WM: You said that you started attending the City Council meetings, was this prior toand Im asking this question to get some kind of chronology.
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MV: I kind of think that I started attending City Council meetingsI mean on a regular basis, thats every Thursday, probably before the establishment of both Beach Park Homeowners and Tampa Homeowners. Because Tampa Homeowners was formed shortly after Beach Park officially came back as a group. So that would have been twenty-five years ago, maybe? Thats a long time.
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WM: I know. I cant keep of track of time like I used to.
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MV: Of course I was juggling all of this, raising nine children besides.
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WM: My goodness.
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MV: But I did. Because I felt very strongly about it. I mean I was living here and I wasmy main reason for getting involved in that traffic issue was because of my children. And though they had a big back yard to play in, they were still out on the streets, riding their bikes. There was a time when they could even ride their bikes to school. So I did that.
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WM: What was your impression of the town council meetings?
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MV: They were very interesting. I found them to be very interesting.
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WM: How so?
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MV: Well, because, you know theres a lot that goes on at council meetings that people just dont realize. And youve got to remember, back then there was no cable television that you could watch them on. In fact it was Tampa Homeowners that sort of got all of thosethem, you know, to put it on cable. And notices that were available, we now get notices of zonings that will occur in your neighborhood or the closet neighborhood to development outside of the neighborhood.
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None of that was at that time. People just didnt know what was going on. It wasI just started getting really interested in realizing that people needed to pay attention to what was going on. Not only for Beach Park, but the other neighborhoods as well.
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WM: I think you said that you learned that what was happening in one neighborhood would affect another?
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MV: Absolutely. Of course.
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WM: You mentioned that Ms. Loretta Ingraham would attend these meetings too. But were there other concerned citizens?
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MV: Not on as regular a basis and even Loretta didnt come to all of them. But Loretta was there because she had gotten involved because of everything that was going on. One of the main things, I think, was when the Westshore development of regional impact came about. I guess thats when I really met Loretta and thats when we realized we had similar issues, because very definitely, all neighborhoods are important to one another. Because if youve got a good neighborhood here and a dilapidated neighborhood here, its just not going to work.
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So it was fun. I enjoyed getting other people involved. And of course, when Mayor Freedman realized we had formed our group then she actually hired someone to work with the neighborhoods and help us to get all of this information. Thats Steve LaBour. If you want any information on the beginnings of that office you might want to talk to Steve LaBour because he came in and
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I would help Steve. Steve didnt really know what he was doing. I had some of the beginnings. Sometimes when Steve wasnt in the office the city would tell them to call me, if somebody called about a neighborhood issue. So I sort of became Steves helper, you might say, just out of the fact that I happened to be here. Then as Steve working with the city and other neighborhoods, he would let me know about this other group, so thats how I got to know more and more of the neighborhoods. Cause the city of Tampa is pretty spread out.
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WM: It is indeed.
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MV: Especially once you leave south Tampa, it goes so far north and east. It would have been impossible for me tothough Sulfur Springs was on of thethats way out on, well it was [US Highway] 41. Are you familiar where Sulfur Springs is?
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WM: Thats where the water tower is.
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MV: Yes it is. Of course that neighborhood was very involved. Ive met them. In fact they were one of the founding members of Tampa Homeowners as well. So it was my getting involved that I learned some of these people who were being active in their neighborhoods but didnt have any official group.
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So, of course after that they formed their own associations. And we promote and push and encourage them to be organizedI mean incorporated and to have their bylaws and to follow them. Keep good records. So thats what, sort of happened after Tampa Homeowners was formed. That neighborhood involvement spread.
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And then, it was really funny because some people from the county, who lived in the county, in the unincorporated county didnt understand that they were not in the city of Tampa. And they wanted to, you know, get involved and get some of the things that the city was doing, because the city then put these signs. I dont know if you have noticed the neighborhood signs? Well the county people wanted signs too. Well this got the county involved in getting a neighborhood office set up in the neighborhoods around the county. But that was all an outflow of the city of Tampa doing what we did in the city.
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WM: You said that Steve LaBour came on as sort of a liaison between the city government and the neighborhoods?
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MV: Thats right. Thats what he
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WM: When was that?
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MV: That wasthis is our eighteenth year, so he came in about the second or third year, so that about sixteen years ago I would imagine, maybe seventeen.
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WM: Okay. Well Ill do the arithmetic and figure out when that was. Well, tell me about putting together the neighborhood association, because
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MV: Which one? The umbrella group?
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WM: No, no well start with the Beach Park first, because you said there were people who were really concerned and had the time, the energy to devote to theand the interest to devote to the organization.
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MV: Right.
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WM: So how did that play out? Did you have people?
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MV: You mean people who didnt want to see what we were doing?
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WM: No, no, no, no. Im just thinking about, from the way you described it you said there was about a dozen people, who were the engines, the leading forces in organizing it. So then there were the other people in the neighborhood who were sort of interested but not as active, you know, so
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MV: Right, but we had their support. And thats where its so important. Because in most neighborhood groups, thats what you have. You have the engines which are those twelve to fifteen people who really get into it. Then the others want the same things, but they cant because either they are working or they really dont want to get involved, or whatever. But you have their support. We never had opposition to what that engine wanted to do. I mean everybody jumped on the bandwagon and said, Yes. In most neighborhoods, thats the case. Now in some I know that there has been some friction, you know, people wanting to sell out. So they could have other development rather than residential. But I think today, people realize that a good residential neighborhood supports those developments on the major streets.
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So I dont see that kind of conflict in neighborhoods anymore. Of course when it comes what zonings, for example, thats another thing. You know where the restaurants that are on the main streets want a liquor license. Needless to say you want nice restaurants, but you also have to be very careful, because once a property is wet zoned it stays wet zoned, no matter who stays there, or who goes. So, thats another big involvement of neighborhoods, is watching out for wet zones.
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WM: When you say wet zones you mean selling alcohol?
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MV: Selling alcohol. Exactly.
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WM: Okay.
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MV: Of course there are different kinds, selling it packaged or just with an R, where you have the restaurant and they are just selling beer and wine, usually. Some of the bigger ones of course go to the mixed drinks. But that was another big thing that the neighborhoods couldnt understand how these people were all getting these licensees to sell all this liquor around them. And we now get notices of all of those things, on a regular basis, out of the Land Development Office. We get a list of all the zonings that are coming up, all the wet zonings that are coming up, as an out-flow of this involvement many years ago. So it makes me happy to know that all the neighborhoods now have access to this.
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WM: Tell me how the associationsI guess we can construct examples so that people can understand how the association works. But like an issue comes in and a zoning change or a request for a zoning changedoes the city council contact the neighborhood association, or is it incumbent upon the neighborhood association to
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MV: Let me show you, I just gotIll show you that. Hang on because I just got one yesterday.
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MV: This comes out every two weeks.
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WM: Its called Tampa Cares.
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MV: Yes, Tampa Cares. It comes out of the zoning, the land use office and this always some pertinent information about things that are coming up. And then this tells you all of the Variance Review Board. Cause you know there is a board that gives variances.
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WM: And thats a change in the zoning plan?
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MV: Thats a change but there has to be a true hardship with the land. It cant be just because I want to do it. There has to be a reason. Then you have the zonings. Thats these Zs. Then you have the wet zonings.
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WM: Okay and thats for alcohol?
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MV: Thats for alcohol.
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WM: Okay.
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MV: So every two weeks we get a mailing like this. And this is how neighborhoods nowthe ones who are mailed these are the one whos listed down at the city as the contact person for the different neighborhood. The neighborhood office that I was telling you about, thats Steve LaBour, Shannon Edge is now the contact person in that office.
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WM: Shannon Edge?
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MV: Shannon Edge, yes.
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WM: So this
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MV: That comes from land development.
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WM: So it comes to your office?
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MV: Comes to your home.
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WM: And then what?
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MV: Well, then you go from there. For example there is one on here that is in Beach Park. Someone is requesting a rear yard setback, for example. So of course the position that we will take on this, because we dont look at them and say, Oh yeah, we like you so we wont do anything about it. Across the board we go down there and say, We want it to stay the way it is. Now if the land is shaped differently, for example if it is a triangular lot, theres times when we know they will get because of that, but just because somebody wants to make their home bigger and have more. Across the board our resolution says we will maintain the zoning laws. The zoning laws set the setbacks. So this is a variance from the established setbacks. So, as you see hear all the neighborhoods are listed that the request is in. So you take this and you go from there.
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WM: Okay. I just want to make sure I understand you. This comes out so the board of the
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MV: Beach Park, for example.
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WM: Beach Park would sit and talk about this among yourselves?
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MV: Well, our position is, just across the board. Many times they will call and ask, for example, the president of the Beach Park Homeowners. Will you all agree with this? And she just tells them, No we will not. That doesnt mean you cant go down there and ask. If they see that there is a reason to give it, fine. But across the board we say, No. Its not consistent with the zoning code.
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WM: Okay. Ill set up a hypothetical example, just help better understand how it works. Say I want to expand my house in Beach Park, so that it exceeds the setbacks. So I would go to the city and apply for the variance.
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MV: Right.
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WM: They would send this out and it would go to the president.
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MV: And I also get a copy, as the zoning chair for Tampa Homeowners.
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WM: Okay. So you would read here that I want to expand my house and Im asking for a variance. So you would come and tell me, No you cant do this.
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MV: We dont go. Well go down to the hearing.
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WM: Oh, okay.
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MV: Well go to the hearing. But sometimes they will call and ask if were going to oppose it. And as I say, our president, as just as all of the presidents have in the past sometimes they call me as the zoning chair for Beach Park, and we just say, Were not telling you not to go down there, were not telling you that youre not going to get it. But we will not support you in doing that.
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WM: Okay. But Ive called you on the phone and said I still want to expand my house and youre not going to support it. So we go to the city council
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MV: No thats the Variance Review Board that we would go to
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WM: Okay. We go to the Variance Review Board and I tell them I want to expand my house and that means to change my setbacks. So then, what would you do?
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MV: Well give testimony, and this five criteria by which they are supposed to grant variances. And one of the main ones is a hardship with the land. Not a personal hardship. Not that youve got a larger family, or your parents are coming to live with you, or anything like that. Its supposed to be a hardship with the land.
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Sometimes its because there is agrand oak, for example, in one part so that could have expanded in that but because the grand oak is there and you dont want them to cut down the tree. We still couldnt support, but we could understand where the VRB [Variance Review Board] might say, You could have done that but you cant because of the tree. So will give you. The VRB has been pretty good about upholding the code and making sure there is a hardship, a true hardship with the land.
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WM: So cutting down the tree would be a hardship with the land?
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MV: Cutting down a grand oak in Beach Park is almost as bador worse because, I dont know if you know this but Tampa is known for its tree cover. We do help to protect our trees. We would say, basically, Well dont expand. Period. But we can understand where the VRB has a reason to grant, maybe the rear yard because they dont want to cut down the tree either. So, as I say, there are times when we totally understand why the variance is given. Yet we would not go to the hearing and say we support them doing this.
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WM: You said there were five criteria for the variances can you
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MV: Oh gosh.
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WM: This isnt pop quiz.
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MV: No, to name them offif I was going to a hearing Id be able toId have them written down. But it all has to do withone of them is that you wouldnt adversely affect your neighbors. Is that you have a hardship with the land. And thats the one where not to grant the hardship would be a hardship on you. Which is what I just explained. And then theres three others that Iordinarily Id know them, but right now theyre not coming to me.
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WM: Youll think of them once I
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MV: I review them every time we have to go to the down there.
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WM: Anyhow, Im there and I want to expand my house and you all have said that you oppose this.
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MV: So we go down there and then after they hear the petitioner, then they hear any opponents, or proponents. Then they deliberate among themselves and decide what will be.
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WM: Okay. They have decided to overrule you and give it to me. So do you let it go or do, is there an appeal?
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MV: We could appeal, but in most cases that becomes very expensive. The homeowners associations cant afford. There are appeals to city council and you can appeal it to city council, either if its denied and the petitioner wants to do it or if the opponents could. But in most cases, as I say
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That board has been really good, especially in recent years, about upholding. And so when they grant something you can understand why it was granted. So Im trying to rememberI think one time we filed an appeal as far as city council and it was overturned by the council. In other instances, yes there was one I remember, not too long ago, where the VRB denied it and they appealed to council and the Council did give it to them. So appeal to the city council as welleither way.
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WM: So both sides have the right to appeal?
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MV: Correct. And then from there, if you still dont like it you can go to court.
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WM: Thats where Mr. Weaver comes in?
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MV: Thats where he would come in. But Ive never faced Mr. Weaver.
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WM: (laughs) Well good. Okay. But the board of the neighborhood association, is it generally the same people? What kind of turnover is there?
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MV: Well it all depends. Its difficult to get people to commit. Different groups have different ways. Some people have their board meetings and then they have a general meeting like every other month. We found out, early on, that to get people out twice a year in general is about the best way to go. Cause at the same time we have our neighborhood watch meeting, which is, you know around that say the police, the neighbors are watching.
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The board has turnover. Sometimes you have a lot of turnover. Our group, we lost two of our members to death. Usually there are two or three new people that come in about every three or four years, because when you are elected for a two-year term, youre usually reelected. Im the only one thats been on this board since its inception, til now. And yet Ive never served as its president. I always felt that Id rather be involved in all of the issues and watching things and have someone who will be president and do all of the other things that the president of the group has to do.
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Of course THAN [Tampa Homeowners Association of Neighborhoods] they know I was a founding member of THAN. The way THAN works, you send a representative from your group to THAN. Early on, as a founding member of THAN, I got involved with THAN and in fact served as its president for the first four years of the organization. Of course THAN, I think were on our seventh. In fact Steve, after he left the city, he represented his neighborhood and became president and served as president of THAN.
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So as far as turnover, in most neighborhoods, from what I gather, its the turnover like we had. Every three of four years youll get new people on the board and then some fall off. And some will come back. Its just for some other reason that they cant continue at that time. But it varies and I think it varies in the different neighborhoods as to the involvement on the board.
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WM: Okay. That brings logic to a good place. Talking about putting together the neighborhood associations in THAN, so tell me about that.
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MV: Well this all started and we had that first luncheon that I told you aboutParke Wright III had called me in and talked to me about the fact the he thought we ought to be looking at an umbrella group of neighborhoods.
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I knew about twelve people by then, from different neighborhoods, that had been involved but with no real organization of a board, just neighborhood involved people. So we got together, and as I say, he had a lunch for us. From that we had meetings; we put together the incorporation and even had discussions about what we would call this group that we were putting together. So that was the founding group and of that founding group, there are, lets see there are, one, two, three there are about four of us who are still involved with Tampa Homeowners. Though the founding members are an automatic member.
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Other than that, each neighborhood is represented. We work there as a board. We have a meeting once a month and there is a representative from each neighborhood. So you have one vote per neighborhood. In fact we have a meeting this week. Its always the second Wednesday of the month. But thats how Tampa Homeowners was formed. Then most of those went back to their own neighborhoods and did what we did in Beach Park. And formed into their individual groups. Now, I think the city hasyoull have to talk to Shannon about the actual number, but there are about fifty neighborhood groups now that are officially formed.
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WM: Wow. Well, can you recall the four original members who are still active?
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MV: Well theres Sally Flynn and I. Oh gosh. Oh Im trying to remember. Maria OSullivan, she was in Beach Park as well, but I dont know if she wasIm trying to think of the table as we sit at the table. Maybe its only three of us and Im thinking of Maria as the third person, but I dont know if she was actually at that forming meeting or not.
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Out of curiosity, I dont know if you want me to let you know, to put it as part of the record, but Im going to ask Sally Flynn, because she and I are there regularly, and I know there are two others that show up on occasion. And the any past president is an automatic member as well, to continue on that group.
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WM: And when did THAN get started?
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MV: Were now in our eighteenth year.
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WM: Okay.
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MV: So that was in eighty
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WM: Would have been eighty-eight [1988].
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MV: Eighty-eight, eighty-eight [1988]
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WM: I guess there are a wide variety neighborhoods from the affluent to the challenged?
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MV: Absolutely there are. Ironically though, some of the neighborhoods show up when they are having a problem, cause they want our help. How do I do this? It concerns me that some of them dont come back after they solve their problems, because it is so important for the continuity of listening to everything that THAN has to offer at our meetings.
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For example the zoning code. Tampa just had a major revision to their zoning code. Well that is so important for us to be involved in and we were. Those are the things that everything else is guided by. But many people dont understand that part of it. They only see that they need our help as THAN, when they are having a problem. But we do have the from the very affluent to the very depressed, but trying to help themselves, absolutely.
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WM: Has there beenI dont know how to put thishave there been conflicts of interest? Like something that would benefit one neighborhood might be detrimental to another neighborhood?
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MV: Yes, very definitely.
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WM: Tell me about that.
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MV: Especially, for example there was something recently. Are you familiar with Bayshore Boulevard? The Hyde Park Neighborhood preservation group was very concerned and we all are about Bayshore. Bayshore as they say, is everybodys street in this city.
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But some of the zoning code, that was going to help everybody else, was detrimental to Bayshore, because of setbacks. I think was the main concern. We werent even thinking about Bayshore and Hyde Park hadnt really gotten involved on the zoning committee that was reviewing all of that, until the very end. Then that conflict came about because we were supporting what the city was proposing without even realizing the impact, the negative impact that it was going to have on Bayshore In that instance what happened was, Bayshore was given a special classification. For example right now, the big issue is front porches. I dont know if youre familiar with that?
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WM: No thats another one thats news to me.
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MV: Well, some of the older neighborhoods, Seminole Heights for example, that were all developed with front porches, they want front porches. And I have a front porch. But one of the council members decided that everybody ought to be able to add a eight-foot front porch to the front of their homes. Well suppose I want to do that and I stick out eight feet and my neighbors back here? Youd just have this unconventionalthey want to make it legal, in other words, to go into your front yard setback and add front porches. Well its very interesting because on of the things that he was using, because he wanted to do it, was Seminole Heights.
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Well Seminole Heights, they dont want new development to go into the front yard set backs either. They want it to line up with everybody elses front porches. So its very interesting to work with the other neighborhoods. Because some of them only have five-foot side yard setbacks, and thats the way it is. Most of those instances now, they are doing what they call the neighborhood planning where they actually have an overlay, which addresses their zonings. For example there is the Hyde Park Overlay, so far theres the old Seminole Heights Overlay, there is thewhats that called, just north of down town? Theyve done one for that area too, with all the re-development.
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WM: Tampa Heights?
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MV: Tampa Heights! Exactly. So that they have separate rules from the basic city code. So that in the basic zoning what we tried to do is address what is important for everybody. And then where there are different types of development that occurred, for example, in Tampa Heights, where they want to maintain what they have. We totally understand that.
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I think as time progresses there will be more and more neighborhoods that are going to want to do that. Especially in East Tampa where they have a more unique type of development in the past and theyll want to maintain it. We have no problem with that. You asked about any conflict, I remember one time; it was one of the city council who had a concern about all of these people who were parking on the lawns. That isnt very good for the aesthetics of the neighborhood, nor for the just the whole idea. Cars arent supposed to be on the lawn. You ought to have a driveway where you can
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Well some of the neighborhoods felt they didnt want the cars parked on the street and they didnt have enough room to put a driveway to handle the cars. So both the council- person and the Tampa Homeowners sort of backed off on that. And its an individual neighborhood type issue. I think the code still says youre not supposed to do it but in many instances its a matter of neighborhoods who dont care, and feel its okay just ignoring it. And those that do, call it in cause it is a code violation.
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So, thats the way those kinds of issues go. Boats in front yards, for example, in front yards a strict code on what kind of boats and the size of the boats. We, in Beach Park, if somebody moves in and puts this big boat in the front I guarantee you the city will be called. We just dont want the boats in the front yards. Other neighborhoods could care less.
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WM: Well in thinking about development issues, like you were talking about, changing zoning from industrial toand again this is another hypothetical situation, but say there was a neighborhood that wanted an area zoned for industrial or commercial and this other neighborhood association didnt. How would that be resolved?
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MV: Well, going to city council hearings. Now in recent years, and I dont know if youve spoken to Ron Weaver, but the city council has become very adamant about developers meeting with neighborhoods, before they come to the hearings, to see how much you can iron out, that the neighborhood sees and see where the developer can say, Okay, maybe we wont do it as dense, or, Maybe we wont do it this particular way. And I have not seen that in most cases. The residential parts of those neighborhoods, the two neighborhoods, would probably view it the same way. Theyd probably realize that the development is going to happen so that the best thing to do is work with the developer, to make the development as good as it can be. Thats basically whats happened with us.
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I mean youve got to remember when I moved here, for example, Westshore Plaza wasnt there. When that went in we didnt even know what was going on, back then. I think they opened in 1965, or sixty-six [1966]. But the developmentyou need to have some commercial development and its got to be the best you can get. Everything else that occurred then, on this side of Kennedy, was all development, so we as Beach Park had a lot of input into what went along there and thats why our streets are cul-de-sacs. They realized the traffic would come through here, to Kennedy, just to like they come through this way to get back there. So they cul-de-saced all the streets. There is one street along Kennedy that is opened, but other than that they are all closed.
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So, getting back to the neighborhoods, I think that they would probably work together to see the best. Because nobody is against development, but they dont want it to adversely affect the residential neighborhoods. Because residential neighborhoods are important to the city. And well agree that there are different kinds for different kinds of people whoyou knowIf you want to live in a single family detached Beach Park is an excellent place to be, along with many other neighborhoods. And if you want to be in the high density there are areas to be in. So, I have never seen one neighborhood fighting another neighborhood, with disagreements about development.
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WM: Okay. I was just thinking of if THAN encompasses fifty-four different neighborhoods
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MV: Oh! Well we dont takethere was one issue that was very difficult for us to make neighborhoods realize that we were not going to go in there and tell you what you wanted. We were strictly there to help you accomplish what you wanted to accomplish. No, its only on the zoning code, for example or transportation issues that we come up with our position on different things. As far as the zoning, we dont get that. They will come to us and say, What can I do? Ive got this problem. What can I do?
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But at first some neighborhoods didnt want to join because they thought we wanted to take over the whole city. We told them, Not at all. Each individual neighborhood is responsible for its own. Well help you to accomplish whatever you want to accomplish, but were not going to take a position. In fact, are you familiar with where they want towhat was that water? You know where they are putting the River Walk through Hyde Park?
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WM: Waterworks Park?
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MV: Waterworks! Exactly. The city came to THAN and for us to give our opinion of them giving up that land, that park designation. Of course we were all very familiar with what had happened to the park on Davis Island. What, two years ago, were you here when all that was going on?
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WM: No. We were just arriving.
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MV: You were just arriving?
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WM: So we had a lot of other things to worry about at that point.
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MV: Okay. Well, everyone was very upset when the city did give 100-year lease on part of the park area on Davis Island.
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WM: Tell me about that.
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MV: Well, Tampa General wanted to expand. The city felt it was important for them to expand. The only way for them to expand was to go into what was designated the park area on Davis Island, and with major opposition from Davis Island. In that instance Tampa Homeowners had taken a position, because of the fact that it was a designated park that was being given up for development. We felt, you know we have not enough park designation to begin with. And to give it up is not great. But anyway, ultimately, the city decided it was better for Tampa General to have their expansion, so they took some of that park and gave 100-year lease, or whatever, on the park area. Now, Davis Island still has some park left.
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So all of that was very familiar in our minds and then coming to THAN to support a de-designation of a park area. The first we said was, Wait a minute, we dont even know thatTampa Height had not even seen this. They hadnt voted on it. So we were not about to take a position. All we said was our concern was still for the de-designation of the park. I understand, in the meantime Tampa Heights had supported that. Theyre going to take this and give them some other park area. Not exactly sure, cause that only happened two months ago.
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WM: Yeah, I read about that in the paper.
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MV: So, were very careful about taking positions about things that happen in other neighborhoods. Thats not what were all about.
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WM: So in dealing with the city council you can offer suggestions and rally public support but you cantyou dont affect policy?
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MV: Right. Well policyyes! The zoning code, for example. The other big thing thats coming up is the TCEA. Are you familiar with that Transportation Concurrency Exemption Area?
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WM: No, Im afraid not.
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MV: Well, that was a major thing that was put into place mainly during the Greco administration.
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WM: And what is it? TEC
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MV: T-C-E-A, Transportation Concurrency Exemption Area. The entire city of Tampa, south of Fowler [Avenue] is under that TCEA. City of Tampa north of Fowler is not.
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WM: What you mean the traffic congestion?
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MV: The traffic congestion, yes. Before that came into being you could still pretty much move around because development couldnt occur unless the roads could handle the traffic. Now they cant even consider transportation as part of the rezoning. They can talk about parking. So now this is comingoh I forgot why I brought this up.
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This is an issue thats coming up to Council and the administration is looking at. Was this a good thing and should it continue? Should it continue in some areas where they want to see development occur? It was mainly done to help development in east Tampa, in the Ybor City area. But where did the development occur? Not there! All in the south Tampa area. Now we were successful in stopping it. The Citizens Committee Im talking about. From going north of Fowler, where New Tampa was just developing, so its not effective. I mean that part of Tampa is not under a TCEA, nor is the rest of the county. Its strictly the city of Tampa, south of Fowler. And we will take a position. We have taken a position on that.
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WM: I guess you can express your opinion and shape policy that way, but the decision is made by the city council?
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MV: The decision is made by Council. Absolutely.
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WM: Okay. Well tell me how you were successful in stopping the TCEA north. Tell me how you managed that?
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MV: Well, because I was on the Citizens Committee and we just said, How can you do this? All of that new area of Tampa is just starting and they dont have enough road work to begin with. This was ten, eleven years ago. So why would you want to do that? And they listened to us. So they decided that Fowler south. Of course they kept telling us that the main reason was that they could get development in Ybor City and in east Tampa. And then who got it? Everything south of Kennedy, mainly. I mean it was where all of this.
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So this big discussion. In fact there was a big hearing, where I saw Ron. In fact last week, or the week before, where the city is trying to decide, is this going to continue to be a good thing? Then, of course the state has really started cracking down, because we werent the only area that did it. I mean thats why transportation around the state. Traffic has gotten so congested. Truly, there is no place to put more roads in south Tampa. South Tampa, north Tampa, even north of the interstate. Those are all established neighborhoods. To go through there and just clear the houses, so you can build more roads for more development, makes no sense.
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WM: That reminds me of a question I wanted to ask. When I was talking to Mr. Weaver he mentioned when they were trying to get a change in zoning, they would bring in all sorts of experts to testify about why these changes were necessary and possible. So how do the neighborhood associations counter that?
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MV: Only our speaking in council, realizing the obvious. They can bring in all kinds of experts who will tell you, oh no, this development isnt going to bring any more traffic than what wasfor example, Ill just use the development down there, where you have these chemical plants, or Westinghouse. Those people went in and then they went back home. Youre changing that to 5,00 dwelling units, plus. Thats only whats been approved. So you have people who have cars, at least two or three per home. They go in they go to work and they come back out and its
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But the developer will say, and the transportation expert will say, But youre not going to have any more than that Westinghouse plant caused. Knowing what you know about living in a neighborhood, and living in your own home you know how you go in and out. You dont come in and stay in the house the rest of the day. So, I guess, you know, council also has some shall I say, pertinent information on their own. Sometimes the experts, particularly transportation people, there is something with thisRight now the only thing they talk about when they are approving development is peak hour traffic. They dont talk about the off-peak. And its the off-peak that all of this residential encourages.
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Its not that were saying that residential development shouldnt occur, but its the density that is concerning everyone. As far as experts? No he cant bring. Not recently we have gotten a young lady on our board who is a transportation, who has given us even more information aboutI always knew the difference, I didnt realize that it was in the code, that you only address peak hour traffic, that you dont address off-peak. Thats why the experts that they bring in only talk about peak hour traffic, not about the other traffic.
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WM: To play the devils advocate, I can imagine the city councilmen sitting there and the development people saying Mr. Councilman, who are you going to believe? Dr. Smith, with a Ph.D. in traffic management from a leading educational institution, or Ms. Vizzi who seems to be an irate housewife? Because the experts
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MV: Well believe me they do it. Yes.
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WM: So how do you counter the access to resources that these groups have?
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MV: Sometimes its very difficult. I think thats whats happened. I mean whats so fresh in our minds is all of that re-development south of Gandy [Boulevard], because thats only a portion of the land thats available down there. Everybody sees what we have now. So for the transportation people to say it is not going to make it any worse. Well its sure not going to make it any better either. I mean the city council has some smarts as well. You know, they can see things. As far as mass transit; which is another issue thats coming forward.
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Ive promoted mass transit. I know you werent here but there was what they called the Committee of 99, in 1999. We worked and that was when the County Commission considered passing a penny sales tax for mass transit. They put together this committee of ninety-nine people. We met over an entire year, way out at USF. So those of us who lived in my area, these meetings were held at the worst hours. Id have to go through traffic to get down there, which they said that was part of it. They wanted us to know how bad the traffic was. (laughs)
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01:17:13.1
But the committee came up with a recommendation. Though, at that point we were not yet totally ready for mass transit, that in five years it should be reviewed. But they had to continue because it was going to have to be. Well everything just died. It went off the plan. Well now, with what the state is saying, unless you can put a mass transit plan into your transportation element the state is going to oppose all this additional development, without the means for transportation.
265
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Its going to be an interesting session next year. I think that thewell well wait and see what happens. Theyre not going to stop development because we all know that landowners have certain rights that they can develop. But the city also has the burden, if you want to call it that. Of making sure [it] is development thats not going to overload the road system, thats already overloaded. So they can bring in all the experts that they want to and say, This isnt going to do any more. This isnt going to make it any worse.
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WM: Im just thinking, in convincing people that they made the right decision they will want to decide with the experts, even though, if you look beyond the expert testimony what the experts advocate defies all common sense.
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MV: In some instances it does. And yet, until recently, I guess I knew that it always addressed peak hour traffic, but the very idea that it doesnt even consider the off peak hour traffic, which is getting almost as bad. I dont think there is a time, anymore, when you can get on the interstate and not be in traffic. Or the roads, I mean Westshore and Kennedy there is no off peak time that is not peak. And yet they only address peak. I guess thats the thing you have to find out, are they talking about peak time? Because if youve got an F to begin with, no matter how much more traffic you put on it, its still going to be an F, cause it cant be any worse.
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WM: And an F road means?
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MV: Its the worst. An A road means that the traffic just flows. A B road is a little bit more congested, and it goes on to F. F is a failing road.
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WM: Okay.
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MV: For example, Westshore has been a failing road. I call it an F-F-F road. See you cant make a road like that any worse, supposedly.
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WM: Well, Im sure they could find a way.
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MV: Well thats it, but it cant have a worse classification because its already an F. Thats as bad as you can get.
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WM: Do you see people becoming more involved with civic activism and planning and preservation?
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MV: Definitely. Absolutely and there are always the core groups of each neighborhood. For example, are you aware that comp-plan is coming back up? They just did the EAR [Evaluation And Review], which is the evaluation review of the old plan. Now they are going to be coming up with the new comprehensive plan. They have to look at what your old plan said you would do. Did it work the way it you wanted it to work? Or did it cause what we have now?
276
01:21:8.3
Because thats when Greco was in and decided he wanted to do that, they had a revision. They did comp plan changes and they changed what was in there. Thats when the TCEA came about. So the evaluation and review, Did everything come out good or do you think its not so good?
277
01:21:35.9
That just went up to Tallahassee for review and now the planning commission is in the process of looking at all of the elements, the land use. Is all of the land use the way you want it to be? Or should we look at maybe changing some of the land use? Thats what well be working on, is this comp plan. I guess you have talked to those in the planning office?
278
01:22:9.8
WM: Ive talked to Paula Harvey but shes more county planning and Steven Gran who is the agricultural liaison with the county planners.2
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01:22:23.1
MV: I mean down at the planning commission, you havent talked to them?
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WM: No I havent.
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MV: Cause Michelle Oglivie there
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WM: Whats her last name?
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MV: Oglivie. O-g-l-i-v-i-e, I think it is. And Terry Cullen are the ones working on the city of Tampa and the county as well and all of that planning. I served on that. Ive served on a lot of citizens committees. Two years ago when they were putting together the EAR, the Evaluation and Review, they put together a committee to give input as to what the people felt. There were all kinds of people there. There were developers, there were the citizens, to tell them what they thought about. So we worked on that. We had six or eight meetings over a year, before the EAR was put together. So Michelle and Terry are the ones that are working very closely with the city of Tampas comp plan update.
284
01:23:32.7
WM: I ask this question a lot, because I, like most people, come home from work in the evening and I want to have supper and read and just not have worry about anything. But it really behooves us to stay involved in whats going on around us, to have some control over development.
285
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MV: Absolutely.
286
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WM: But then there are people, developers, who have a vested interest in this development and that is their job to do that. They have at their disposal experts and all sorts of resources that we dont. So how do we equalize things?
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01:24:18.7
MV: Fortunately you have those that will get involved, such as I have. I mean, can you imagine, I was raising those nine children and I put dinner on this table every night and would go to meetings. They were a little bit older by the time I could evenit was only if my husband was at home, because I never had help to leave them with. I had to be here with them.
288
01:24:49.3
But a lot of this happens during the day. Re-zonings used to happen during the day. That was the other thing. The people who worked couldnt get to them, but now, at least, if you have any kind of an interest and you have a group that will let you know. Now, there are still those who say, Oh yes I think thats a great thing. And then wont get involved. But thank goodness, as I say, there are different kinds of people. And there are those that will go out and speak. We can write letters now. We can send emails.
289
01:25:28.0
On any kind of contact with council on a zoning issue they must make that known at the hearing. Their attorneys ask if youve had any contact either with the developer or any of your constituents on this issue. You have to put it on the record. For a time there you were not even allowed to call them or write to them or anything else like that.
290
01:25:56.5
In the old days everybody talked to them, those who were for and those who were against. Then it went to no contact. Now its come to you can contact them with letters, phone calls et cetera, but they must put it in the record thats available, right there at the desk. Then at the hearing its all made known.
291
01:26:18.3
There are other ways to affect things than just going down to the hearings and thats what we tell people if they cant be there. Some people will go but they dont want to speak. Well council will address that, for example, someone who can make a nice presentation. Theyd rather hear a neighborhoods presentation done by two or three people, than twenty people stand up and repeat the same thing. So some people can just come and they give a minute. Youre allowed three minutes to speak. They can give a minute of their time, for one person. So if a neighborhood wants to make a thirty-minute presentation and you have three people who are really good speakers and know the issues then it all be accomplished by just bringing people who will give their minutes. So there are so many different ways.
292
01:27:17.4
Thats what I mean when Id go to those city council meetings and realized all of these rezoning that were occurring that nobody knew anything about. Of course all of that has changed over all of these years, a tremendous change.
293
01:27:36.9
WM: Ill be walking home and see a sign announcing a change and I think, ordinarily I dont have any control over this and its going to happen whether I want it or not.
294
01:27:48.4
MV: But you do and you can. You can fight city hall.
295
01:27:51.8
WM: And thats what the neighborhood associations do?
296
01:27:54.8
MV: Thats what the associations do. For a long time it was, Why bother? You cant do it. And Im not telling you that weve stopped development, cause you can see that hasnt happened. But the development has definitely gotten better, except for traffic. Putting that TCEA thing in place was a terrible thing. I had no idea that it would be as bad asbecause my understanding was you had to have a road or an improvement planned on the Five-Year Plan to approve it. But thats not the way it went through. It just went through that you basically cant stop development just because you cant handle the traffic.
297
01:28:52.0
WM: So I guess well reap a bitter harvest from that.
298
01:28:55.6
MV: Well we have. Hopefully the city is going to realize that. If they wanted for example in East Tampa where they want some more development to occur, but down here my gosh, in south Tampa and even areas in north Tampa now. I dont think its a good idea in most of the city. I dont see why it should be at all. If the roads cant handle the traffic it is going to generate? My gosh! What do you want to do?
299
01:29:34.9
WM: Go to the suburbs.
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01:29:37.2
MV: Well thats what we dont want. I was out in Westchase, on Saturday with my two daughters, visiting from Fort Lauderdale. We went to visit a son out there. The traffic was unbelievable. On a Saturday at mid-day. So the suburbs are getting bad.
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01:30:3.5
WM: Well Ive been talking to you, asking questions for the past hour and a half. Is there anything thing you want toany question you want to answer that I havent asked? Anything you want to talk about that we havent covered?
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01:30:20.3
MV: I cant think of anything. I think Ive brought up things that you didnt expect to have to listen to. But they all come together. Thats why Tampa Homeowners became such an important thing for neighborhoods, because at that meeting we will have different speakers. This one this time were going to have the clean city team. The director of that is going to be there to tell us more about that program. But what I mean, whenever there is a major thing, like the comp plan coming up, the planners, Terry and Michelle will come to out THAN meeting and give us more information about where we are in the process, so people can get involved when those hearings come up.
303
01:31:10.1
WM: I said I wasnt going to ask you anymore questions, but I guess theres at least one more I want to ask. As involved as you have been in working with the city to control development and effect development in away that its beneficial to most number of people, have you ever considered running for city council?
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01:31:35.4
MV: No! Never did. Many people have asked me over the years. In fact theyve even jokingly asked me if Id run for mayor. I always felt that you need somebody on this side of the fence as well. Ive preferred being there to help them. Because council, I fully appreciate whatbecause no matter what they do they are going to have those who agree and disagree. The attorneys can help the development side. And they need people on the community side who at least know how to at least get up there. If youre going to oppose something, you dont just say, I dont like it. You have to give the reasons of the adverse effects, et cetera, that it would have.
305
01:32:33.9
I think thats wherewe just won a big one down here where they wanted to put a condo down there west of us. It all had to do with the development did not coincide with what was around it. So it was denied. Now will there not be something there? Yes, because its an office building now. Whether they will come back and just do another office, or theyll come back with a reduced condominium that would fit more into what is already as far as residential, we dont know. We know well get something there. But it will be a better something. And thats what Ive always said. Youre not going to stop development but just make it as good as it can be.
306
01:33:25.7
WM: I just want to make sure I understand you. You decided not to run for office because you knew you could better serve the public as an advocate?
307
01:33:34.7
MV: As an advocate for good quality of life in the city of Tampa, lets put it that way.
308
01:33:46.8
WM: Okay well that sounds like a real good way to conclude. I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me. Ive enjoyed it.
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01:33:53.9
MV: Well Ive enjoyed it too.
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01:33:55.8
WM: Well good.
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01:33:56.8
MV: I hope Ive answered all of the questions youve asked, with an answer you understood. Cause everything, as I say, comes together. When you start talking about one thing you see how that was affected by this. And it really is. I mean transportation and land use go together. You cant address one with out the other.
312
01:34:24.1
WM: Okay. But I always remind folks that the information youve shared with me is going to be deposited in the University of South Florida and be available to future researchers and in order for them to have access to it I need to your permission. There is a release form that I have to ask you to sign.
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01:34:41.9
MV: After you send me that printed.
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01:34:42.9
WM: Well you can wait and sign it then, or sign it now. Its your choice.
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01:34:47.2
MV: Id rather see.
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01:34:48.4
WM: Okay.
317
01:34:49.5
MV: This is sort of an aside, because Ive been interviewed by some newspapers on different issues and it didnt come out I said it. The more controversial parts came out instead of everything. So thats why Id rather sign it after.
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WM: Okay. And we do want this to represent you. Also Ive been photographing everybody I interview. Do you mind if I take your picture?
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MV: No, just so I can be sure my hair was combed.
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WM: Okay. Ill cut this thing off, get the camera out and you can



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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0

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Land Use Oral History Project Patel Center for Global Solutions University of South Florida Interview with: Ms. Margaret Vizzi Interviewed by: William Mansfield Location: Tampa, Florida Date: October 9, 2006 Transcribed by: Wm. Mansfield Edited by: Wm. Mansfield Audit Edited by: Jessica Merrick Audit Edit Date: November 28, 2007 Final Edit by: Nicole Cox Final Edit Date: January 08, 2007 WM: Land Use Oral History Project talking to Ms. Margaret Vizzi in her home in Tampa Florida on October the MV : Ninth. WM: The ninth. October 9, 2006. Ms. Vizzi, we always get people to start off by having them state their name and telling us when they we re born and where they were born. So let her go. MV: Okay. I am Margaret Vizzi. I was born July 30, 1931 in New Orleans, Louisiana. WM: Okay. What is your current occupation? MV: Homemaker. MV: It has been for a long time. WM: When did you come to Tampa? MV: 1960. September 1960. WM: What brought you [to Tampa]? MV: My husband was born here and he had finished all of his training and we came back here to live. WM: Training in what?

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2 MV: Medicine. WM: So he was a doctor? M V: A MD. He was in internal medicine. WM: Okay. Well tell, me what got you involved in [the Tampa Neighborhood Neighborhood Association. Tell me about that. MV: Well, my original activities started, I guess the first time we sat here at our dining room table. Someone came to my door with a petition, because of the development that was being proposed, just three blocks west of us. So, we signed the petition and not much you know o ther activity did I get into, at that time, because I had several young children. WM: Um huh. MV: But the thing that really got me involved was traffic being caused by the development that occurred. So, with the petition that the neighbors had passed a office, it was Bill Poe at the time and talked to him about the concerns. That was just the beginnings then of realizing that the development that was going to occur around us, because Kennedy Boulevard is so close. It was going to be important to pay attention to the development around us [and] not only in the neighborhood. So, I got involved with others who lived in the neighborhood and we began At that point it was sort of the beginnings of the early, early comprehensiv e planning that was WM: Is that when the person came around with the petition? MV: No, no, no, no. That was in 1963. Several years went by before the transportation problem became, you know when t he development was complete and the traffic problem was generated. The cars, instead of using Kennedy, were using the neighborhood streets. WM: Okay. WM: Traffic congestion in you r neighborhood [got you involved]? here because it was easier than using Kennedy. They came through here instead.

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3 WM: So, tell me about the process of organizing your neighbors to affect a change. MV: Originally those of us who lived in this area that was more effected, because you have to know [the neighborhood of] Beach Park and this area. There [are] only two streets that go through: Cleveland and Azeele. Then you h it the water. So everybody that wants to go that way has [to] filter down these streets. WM: Everybody who wants to go to the water? MV: [Yes,] to the water. WM: Which is west of here? MV: Just on the other side of the water there is another residentia l development, to the west and then between us is where [this] commercial office building started going up. That was the traffic that was being generated to come through [our neighborhood]. Then, of course, the other thing on my particular street, on She rrill, which is now [a] cul de sac. Town and Country was developed, which is the neighborhood northwest of us. Many of those who lived there worked at MacDill Air Force Base. They would come through this little street in front of my house, go up Azeele to Westshore and then out to the Base. The city registered six thousand cars a day on this little two block street. WM: Wow! MV: It took a death at the corner of Cleveland and Sherrill to Are you familiar with our former Mayor, Dick Greco ? WM: No. MV: We ll he was our former mayor, the first time. Then he came back and served again. It was during his first [term] as mayor that he came back and [made a] cul de sac [of] the street, after the death occurred. WM: There was a traffic accident? MV: Yes, becaus e of the heavy, heavy traffic that was going through here. But anyway, as all of this occurred more of the neighbors began to know one another and we began to get very involved in watching what was happening around us. At that time, I would think it wa s maybe the mid 1970s, that the studying began for the original plan this area, all the way to Azeele Street, was designated for the commercial to

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4 come back to it. Wh en we found that out, we started our efforts to make sure that that changed with the new comprehensive plan that was coming in and the new land use designation. WM: Okay. I just want to make sure I understand you. You looked at the comprehensive plan and discovered that commercial MV: Could have been allowed to come into this area, all the way to Azeele. WM: And you wanted to keep this residential? MV: We wanted to keep this totally residential. To keep nothing further than what fronts Kennedy Boulevar d as the commercial. Then everything south [of Kennedy] residential. WM: Okay. This might seem like a one of those obvious questions, but why would you want to keep it residential? I mean keep the business commercial [development] from expanding into this area? you know detached [housing] with commercial. For example, I know that those who want to live in the condos [downtown] are okay with the commercial mingling with the condo. But always been my feeling, and for most people, who live in single family detached traffic th densities. We wanted it to remain single family detached residential [housing]. We got busy and attended meetings and learned what it was all about. WM: You said you found out that this was originally planned for the commercial to return; how did you find that out? is this which in those days [the] Planning Commission was really just beginning. to each city in the county having its own [planning commission]? WM: Um huh. MV: So we started talking to those who are in the planning commission and found out land u se that it could have been given other zoning to allow for the spread of commercial [development]. Of course we were all single

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5 they let all of this develop as single family and then have that land use designation [for commercial]. So, then I guess the late 1970s when all of this activity began. And then it was in the 1980s when the new comprehensive plan was being put together. The mayor at that time was Sandy Freedman. We talked to the land use and zoning people at land development in the city and told them of our concern about any land use designation that would allow that spread of the commercial or higher density into the neighborhood. WM: Um huh. density. WM: What? Two blocks west and two blocks north? MV: Yes a nd two blocks north is high density. So anyway, they totally understood and 6 6 which means six dwelling units per acre. WM: Okay. MV: So basical comes first? Build the roads let the development [happen]? Or let the development happen and then build the roads. WM: Usually they build the development and then the roads. MV: Right, and then worry abut the roads and then there is no place to put them, which is the problem that this city and county has. Gandy [Boulevard]? All of that land being re zoned for high density re sidential and some commercial to serve that. [throws up her hands in frustration]. Mr. Weaver, I know is very familiar with all of that. [S 26 06]

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6 If you do, all of this residential tha South Tampa is really limited in what you can do with roads. WM: You said [that] in the early 1980s the new comprehensive plan came together and MV: Righ t. MV: Oh, some of the neighbors, in my neighborhood. At this point I was, you know it was strictly, I had nothing to do with all the rest of the city. WM: Um huh. MV: But in the meantime, I started attending City Council meetings. I r ealized that things were going on in other neighborhoods, that they had no idea was happening. So I became very concerned. Then, of course the neighborhoods that are just east and north neighborhoods going directly north until you get to Hillsborough. There was so much going on over there. Loretta Ingraham who was a black activist in her neighborhood, we would see one another and talk about the fact that we really had to get together and pay attention, you know, together. We ought to form an umbrella group. second term. There was um Parke Wright Parke Wright III, who was a very influential man in the development of downtown called. He lived in Sun set Park, which is just south With that he called a luncheon and I called about fifteen people from dif ferent neighborhoods by then, that I had met up with. So we formed the Tampa Homeowners, an Association of Neighborhoods. Which was how the umbrella group came to be. It was because of the fact that I realized that people just did not know what was going o n and what was about to happen to them. So because of that we are now, this is our eighteenth year as the umbrella group. Ms. Ingraha m was this black woman, what neighborhood did she [represent]?

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7 MV: Lincoln Gardens Carver City, which is just north of the interstate. Truly I would say hore to Del Mabry. In fact most of that neighborhood was developed when they went through with the interstate through Ybor City. Many of those who lived there were displaced and they built in that area. They were seeing all of this development around the m too, which is mainly now the Westshore development. Which is, I guess you know the largest business development in the state of Florida. the state [even So anyway, they were being affected by that. They were being affected by what was ha ppening on Dale Mabry and all around them. She and I would see one another at City Council and we would talk. We knew that we were close together. Loretta died about ten years ago and the community center in her neighborhood is now the Loretta Ingraham Com munity Center. Loretta and I got to be really good friends. WM: Um huh. MV: She was a good lady. I was really I was on vacation when she died and I was just so surprised when I came back to hear that. Homeowners. When did that start? MV: The Beach Park Home Owners, we reorganized about twenty years ago. It had sort of there was an organization many years ago. The original Beach Park was started in the 1920s. It was the Street [issue] came about. Because reat thinking came about. There was nobody here to say any other thing. WM: Um huh. MV: So then, as I say, twenty years ago Beach Park Homeowners re established and I was on that original board and still sit on that board. In fact Ron Weaver lives in Bea ch WM: Tell me about the reorganization process for the Beach Park Homeowners Association. How did it come together?

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8 MV: Well wnhouse development, right up here at the apex of Royal Palm, Azeele and Westshore Boulevard. There was this piece of land right here. (taps the table to indicate close proximity) Someone wanted to So it w as during that process that a larger area came together and then the Beach Park Homeowners was re m. If you could, tell me as much as you can about the organization process, recruiting people MV: Well, flyers. We have a totally different way of doing things now. We used to walk to doo course there was a meeting called. There were about twelve of us who were really sort of WM: The leading forces? MV: Exac tly. So we then, passed out the fliers [and] had a meeting. A small group was put together to put the by laws and the articles of incorporation and all of that together. Then we were officially formed. WM: Okay. Well, tell me what you remember about the l eading people. Who were they? What kind of folks were they? MV: They were realtors, they were businessmen, they were attorneys. Now it is very difficult for attorneys to really get active in their neighborhoods, especially if exactly sure how to p ut this. They helped a lot, but they had to help us quietly. WM: Unofficially? MV: Yes, sort of unofficially. WM: Would that have brought up issues of attorney client [privilege]? MV: Yes. Well it could. And attorney the kind of work that they did. WM : Conflict of interest issues? MV: Conflict of interests, exactly. But I mean as far as they were [There were] homemakers, housewives, you know all kinds of people who got involved. Mainly they really wanted to see that this um area remained [zoned for] single family detached residential.

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9 We are one of the few neighborhoods that is [solidly] residential. Many of the others are solid residential but they will have sort of a strip of commercial. But within our ed. WM: Okay, so the people in the organization were committed to maintaining the status quo? MV: Exactly. MV: No! That is exactly right. WM: I just want to make sure I understand. MV: Yes. Because by the n the issue of the land use, and all, in our zoning had already been taken care of. Those of us who had been active at that point had already seen to that. In other words they wanted a re zoning [in order] to do that development. So any way that continu es to be our main focus maintaining the single family detached and paying For years we fussed about water pressure and other serves, storm water. Now the city has finally put t ogether the storm water fee, to do some storm water projects. WM: Um huh. MV: Put with the developments that did happen around us, many of the most all of them into us any mo re. And the city has since put in more water lines that development had to The main thing that we still have concerns about are traffic. And when something is going on around us, we still go down there and talk abou t traffic and what it would mean if that development occurred. Now we as for traffic [quality] and hopefully get them to use, like Kennedy Boulevard, where the traffic should be. We have a resolution that is reinstated that every one of our general members hip meetings as Beach Park has a board that pretty much runs the organization. Twice a year we have a general membership t land use and zoning that the city of Tampa inside.

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10 WM: You said that you started attending the City Council meetings, was th is prior to MV: I kind of think that I started attending City Council meetings I mean on a regular Homeowners and Tampa Homeowners. Because Tampa Homeowners was formed shortly after Beach Park [Homeowners] officially came back as a group. WM: Um huh. MV: So that would have been twenty of time like I used to. MV: Of course I was juggling all of this, raising nine children besides. WM: My goodness. MV: But I did. Because I felt very strongly about it. I mean I was living here and I was my main reason for getting involved in that traffi c issue was because of my children. All though they had a big back yard to play in, they were still out on the streets, riding their bikes. There was a time when they could even ride their bikes to school. So um I did that. WM: What was your impression of the [city] council meetings? MV: They were very interesting. I found them to be very interesting. WM: How so? WM: Um huh. to remember, back then there was no cable television that you could watch [the meetings] on. In fact it was Tampa Homeowners that sort of got all of those them, you know, to put it on cable. And notices that were available, we now get notices of zonings th at will occur in your neighborhood or the closet neighborhood to development outside of the neighborhood. was I just started getting really interested in realizing th at people needed to pay attention to what was going on. Not only for Beach Park, but the other neighborhoods at all.

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11 WM: I think you said that you learned that what was happening in one neighborhood would affect another. MV: Absolutely. Of course. WM: You mentioned that Ms. Loretta Ingraham would attend these meetings too. But were there other concerned citizens? Loretta was there because she had gotten involved bec ause of everything that was going on. One of the main things, I think, was when the Westshore development of regional impact similar issues. Because, very definitely, all neighborhoods are important to one another. WM: Um huh. MV: So um it was fun. I enjoyed getting other people involved. And, of course, wh en Mayor Freedman realized we had formed our group then she actually hired someone to LaBour. If you want any information on the beginnings of that office you might want t o talk [to] Steve LaBour because he came in and neighborhood issue] the city would tell th em to call me. (chuckles) So I sort of became Then as Steve working with the city and other neighborhoods, he would let me know know more and more of the neighborhoods. WM: It is indeed. MV: Especially once you leave south Tampa, it goes so far north and east. It would have out on 41. Are you familiar where Sulfur Springs is? they were one of the founding members of Tampa Homeowners as well. So it was

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12 [t hrough] my getting involved that I learned some of these people who were being active So, of course after that they formed their own associations. And we promote and push and encourage them to be organized I mean incorporated and to have their bylaws and Homeowners was formed. That neighborhood involvement spread. And then, [chuckles] it was really funny because some people from the county, who lived city of Tampa. And they wanted to; you know, get involved and get some of the things that the city was doing, because the city then pu have noticed the neighborhood signs? Well the county people wanted signs too. Well this got the county involved in getting a neighborhood office set up in the neighborhoods around the county. But that was all an out flow of the city of Tampa doing what we did in the city. WM: You said that Steve LaBour came on as sort of a liaison between the city government and the neighborhoods? WM: When was that? MV: That was this is ou r eighteenth year, so he came in about the second or third year, so that about sixteen years ago [1990], maybe seventeen [1989]. putting together the neighborhood associati on, because MV: Which one? The umbrella group? who were really concerned and had the time, the energy and the interest to devote to the organization. MV: Right. WM: S o how did that play out? Did you have people ? there was about a dozen people, who were the engines, the le ading forces in organizing it.

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13 So um then there were the other people in the neighborhood who were sort of interested but not as active, you know, so most neighborhood g those twelve to fifteen people who really get into it. Then the others want the same want to get involve d, or whatever. But you have their support. We never had opposition WM: Um huh. Now in some I know that there has b een some friction, you know, people wanting to sell out. So they could have other development rather than residential. But um I think today, people realize that a good residential neighborhood supports those [commercial] developments on the major streets. WM: Um huh. that are on the main streets want a liquor license. Needless to say y ou want nice involvement of neighborhoods, is watching out for wet zones. WM: Wh en you say wet zones you mean selling alcohol? MV: Selling alcohol. Exactly. WM: Okay. you have the restaurant and they are just selling beer and wine, usually. Some of the bigger ones of course go to the mixed drinks. people were all getting these licensees to sell all this liquor around them. And um we now get notices of all of tho se things, on a regular basis, out of the Land Development coming up, as an out flow of this involvement many years ago. So it makes me happy to know that all the n eighborhoods now have access to this [information].

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14 WM: Tell me how the associations I guess we can construct examples so that people can understand how the association works. But like an issue comes in and a zoning change or a request for a zoning chan ge does the city council contact the neighborhood association, or is it incumbent upon the neighborhood association to [find out]? MV: Let me show you, I just got [this]. pause in recording MV: This comes out every two weeks. WM: Um Tampa Cares MV: Yes, Tampa Cares It comes out of the zoning, the land use office. And this always [has] some pertinent information about things that are coming up. And then this tells you d that gives variances. because I want to do it. There has to be a reason. Then you have the zonings. WM: Um huh. MV: WM: Okay. MV: So every two weeks we get a mailing like this. And this is how neighborhoods [get information]. The ones who are mailed these ar the contact person for the different neighborhood [associations]. [It comes from] the neighborhood office that I was telling you about, [with] Steve LaBour. Shannon Edge is now the contact person in that office. WM: Shannon Edge? MV: Shannon Edge, yes.

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15 WM: So this um MV: That [newsletter] comes from land development. WM: So it comes to your office? MV: Comes to your home. WM: And then what? MV: Well, then you go from there. For example there is one on here that is in Beach Park. Someone is requesting a rear yard setback, for example. So of course the position Now if the land is shaped differently, for example if it is a triangular lot, there [are] times when we know they will get [the variance] because of that. But just because somebody wants to make their h ome bigger and have more. [Unanimously] our resolution says we will maintain the zoning laws. WM: Um huh. MV: The zoning laws set the setbacks. So this is a variance from the established setbacks. WM: Okay. MV: So, as you see hear all the neighborhoo ds are listed that [have a request]. So you take [the newsletter] and go from there. WM: Okay. I just want to make sure I understand you. [The newsletter] comes out so the board of the [neighborhood association] MV: Beach Park, for example. WM: Beach Park would sit and talk about this among yourselves? MV: Well, our position is, just across the board. Many times they will call and ask, for with the zoning code. cal example, just help better understand how it works.

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16 Say I want to expand my house in Beach Park, so that it exceeds the setbacks. So I would go to the city and apply for the variance. MV: Right. WM: They would send this out [ Tampa Cares ] and it would go to the president [of Beach Park Homeowners Association]. MV: And I also get a copy, as the zoning chair for Tampa Homeowners [Association]. variance. So you would co WM: Oh. oppose it. And as I say, our president, as just as all of the presidents have in the past sometimes they call me as the zoning chair for Beach Park, and we just [say to the oing to get it. But we will not support you council he Variance Review Board. WM: Okay. We go to the Variance Review Board and I tell them I want to expand my house and that means to change my setbacks. So then, what would you do? MV: Well [you would] give [your] testimony, and this five criteria by which they are supposed to grant variances. And one of the main ones is a hardship with the land. Not a th the land.(taps table for emphasis) grand oak, for example, in one part so that [you] want them to cut down the tree. We still co

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17 The VRB has been pretty good about upholding the code and making sure there is a hardship, a true hardship with the land. WM: So cutting down the tree would be a hardship with the land? MV: Cutting down a grand oak in Beach Park is almost as bad or worse because (I understand where the VRB has a reason to grant [you], maybe the rear yard because they ree either. So, as I say, there are times when we totally understand why the variance is given. Yet we would not go to the hearing and say we support [you] doing this. WM: You said there were five criteria for the variances [what are they]? MV: Oh gosh MV: No, to name them off have them written down. But it all has to do with adversely affect your neighbors. [Another] is that you have a hardship with the land. And grant the variance?] would be a hardship on you. Which is what I just explained. And MV: I review them every time we have to go to the down there. oppo se this. MV: So we go down there and then after they hear the petitioner, then they hear any opponents, or proponents. Then they deliberate among themselves and decide what will be. WM: Okay. They have decided to overrule you and give it to me. So do you let it go or do, is there an appeal [process]? MV: We could appeal, but in most cases that becomes very expensive. The homeowners um appeal it and the petitioner wants to do it or if the opponents

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18 That board has been really good, especially in recent years, about upholding [zoning ordinances]. When they grant something you can understand why it was granted. So um I think one time we filed an appeal as far as city council and it was overturned um by the council. In other instances yes there was one I remember, not too long ago, where the VRB denied it and they appeale d to council and either way. WM: So both sides have the right to appeal? WM: Tha WM: (laughs) Well good. Okay. But the um the board of the neighborhood association, is it generally the same people? What kind of turnover is there? MV: W different ways. Some people [I mean other neighborhoods] have their board meetings and then they have a general meeting like every other month. We found out, early on, that to get people out twice a year in general is about the best you know [you see the signs] around that say the police, the neighbors are watching. The board has turnover. Sometimes you have a lot of turnover. Our group, we lost two of our members to death. Usually there are two or three new people that come in about every three or four years, because when you are elected for a two usually reelected. watching things and have someone who will be president and do all of the ot her things that the president of the group has to do. Of course THAN [Tampa Homeowners Association of Neighborhoods] they know I was a founding member of THAN. The way THAN works, you send a representative from your group to THAN. Early on, as a founding member of THAN, I got involved with THAN and in fact served as its our seventh [president]. In fact Steve [LaBour], after he left the city, he represented his neighbo rhood and became president.

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19 time. But it varies and I think it varies in the different neighborhoods as to the involvement on the board. WM: Okay. That brings logic to a good place. Talking about putting together the neighborhood associa tions in THAN, so tell me about that. MV: Well this all started and we had that first luncheon that I told you about Parke Wright III had called me in and talked to me about the fact the he thought we ought to be looking at an umbrella group of neighborho ods. I knew about twelve people by then, from different neighborhoods, that had been involved but with no real organization of a board, just neighborhood involved people. So we got together, and as I say, he had a lunch for us. From that we had meetings [ where] we put together the incorporation and even had discussions about what we would call this group that we were putting together. So that was the founding group and of that founding group, there one, two, three [counts to her self] t here are about four of us who are still involved with Tampa Homeowners. Though the founding members are an automatic member. Other than that, each neighborhood is represented. We work there as a board. We have a meeting once a month and there is a repres entative from each neighborhood. So you have Wednesday of the month. own neighborhoods and did what we did in Beach Park. And formed into their individual groups. Now, I think the city has number, but there are about fifty neighborhood groups now that are officially formed. WM: Wow. We ll, can you recall the four original members who are still active? she was (voice tra maybe was actually at that forming meeting or not. e to let you know, to put it as part of the know there are two others that show up on occasion. And the any past president is an automatic member as well, to continue on that group. WM: And when did THAN get started?

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20 WM: Okay. MV: That was in WM: 1988? MV: 1988. WM: I guess there are a wide variety neighborhoods from the affluent to the challenged? MV: Absolutely there are. Ir onically though, some of the neighborhoods show up when because it is so important for the continui ty of listening to everything that THAN has to offer at our meetings. WM: Um huh MV: For example the zoning code. Tampa just had a major revision to their zoning code. Well that is so important for us to be involved in and we were. Those are the things t hat see that they need our help as THAN, when they are having a problem. But we do have [representatives] from the very affluent to the very [economically] depresse d, but trying to help themselves, absolutely. WM: Has there been have there been conflicts of interest? Like something that would benefit one neighborhood might be detrimental to another neighborhood? MV: Yes, very definitely WM: Tell me about that. MV: Especially, for example there was something recently. Are you familiar with Bayshore Boulevard? The Hyde Park Neighborhood preservation group was very concerned. And we all are about Bayshore Bayshore as they say, is ev in this city. But um some of the zoning code, that was going to help everybody else, was detrimental to Bayshore because of setbacks. [Setbacks] I think was the main concern. on the zoning committee that was reviewing all of that, until the very end. Then that conflict came about because we were supporting what the city was proposing without

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21 even realizing the impact, the negative impact that it was g oing to have on Bayshore In that instance what happened was, Bayshore was given a special classification. that? MV: Well, some of the older neighborhoods, Seminole Heights for example, that were all developed with front porches, they want front porches. And I have a front porch. But one of the council members decided that everybody ought to be able to add a eight foot front porch to the front of their homes. Well suppose I want to do that and I stick out They want to make it legal, in other words, to go into your front yard setback and ad d because he wanted to do it, was Seminole Heights. backs either. They want it interesting to work with the other neighborhoods. Because some of them only have five [In] most of those instances now, they are doing what th ey call the neighborhood planning where they actually have an overlay, which addresses their zonings. For there is the oh area too, with all the re development. WM: Tampa Heights? MV: Tampa Heights! Exactly. So that they have separate rules from the basic city code. So that in the basic zoning what we tried to do is address what is important for everybody. And then where there are different types of development that occurred, for example, in Tampa Heights, where they want to maintain what they have. We totally understand that. I think as time progresses there will be more and more neighborhoods that are going to want to do that. Especially in East Tampa where they have a more unique type of You asked about any conflict, I remember one time, it was one of the city council [members] who had a concern about all of these people who were parking on the lawns.

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22 WM: Um huh. u ought to have a driveway where you can [park your car]. person and the Tampa ignoring it. And th ose that do, call it in [and complain], cause it is a code violation. WM: Um huh. size of the boats [that can be in your front yard]. We, in Beach Park, if somebody moves want the boats in the front yards. Other neighborhoods could care less. WM: Well in thinking about devel opment issues, like you were talking about, changing zoning from industrial to and again this is another hypothetical situation, but say there was a neighborhood that wanted an area zoned for industrial/commercial and this other neighborhood association di MV: Well, going to city council hearings. WM: Um huh. council has become very adamant about developers meeting with neighborhoods, b efore they come to the hearings, to see how [many] problems you can iron out, that the most cases. The residential parts of those neighborhoods, the two neighborhoods, would probably so that the best thing to do is work with the developer, to make the d evelopment as good

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23 opened in 1965 um the development you need to have some Everything else that occurred then, on this side of Kennedy, was all development, so we as Beach Park had a lot of input into what went cul de sacs. They realized the traffic would come through here, to Kennedy, just to like they come through this way to get back there. So they cul de saced all the streets. There is one street along Kennedy that is opened, but other than that they are all closed. So, getting back to the neighborhoods, I think that they would probably work together to affect the residential n eighborhoods. Because residential neighborhoods are important to you know If you want to live in a single family detached [housing neighborhood] Beach Park is an exc ellent place to be, along with many other neighborhoods. And if you want to be in the high density [neighborhood] there are areas to be in. So, I have never seen one neighborhood fighting another neighborhood, with disagreements about development. WM: O kay. I was just thinking of if THAN encompasses fifty four different neighborhoods there was one issue that was very difficult for us to make neighborhoods realize that we were not going to go in there and tell you what you wan ted. We were strictly there to help you accomplish what you wanted to accomplish. ill respo In fact, are you familiar with where they want to um what was that water? You know where they are putting the River Walk through Hy de Park? WM: Waterworks Park? MV: Waterworks! Exactly. The city came to THAN and for us to give our opinion of them giving up that land, that park designation. Of course we [are] all very familiar with

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24 what had happened to the park on Davis Island. What, two years ago, were you here when all that was going on? WM: No. We were just arriving. MV: You were just arriving? WM: So we had a lot of other things to worry about at that point. MV: Okay. Well, everyone was very upset when the city did give a hundr ed year lease on part of the park area on Davis Island. WM: Tell me about that. MV: Well, Tampa General [Hospital] wanted to expand. The city felt it was important for them to expand. The only way for them to expand was to go into what was designated the park area on Davis Island. [There was] major opposition from Davis Island. In that instance Tampa Homeowners had taken a position, because of the fact that it was a designated park that was being given up for development. We felt you know we have not enou gh park designation to begin with. And to give it up is not great. But anyway, ultimately, the city decided it was better for Tampa General to have their expansion, so they took some of that park and gave [them] a hundred year lease, or whatever, on the pa rk area. Now, Davis Island still has some park left. WM: Um huh. MV: So all of that was very familiar in our minds and then [the city was] coming to THAN to support a de w that So we were not about to take a position. All we said was our concern was still for the de designation of the park. e going to take only happened two months ago. WM: Yeah, I read about that in the paper. other WM: So in dealing with the city council you can offer suggestions and rally public MV: Right. Well policy yes! The zoning code, for example. The other bi coming up is the TCEA. Are you familiar with that Transportation Concurrency Exemption Area?

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25 MV: Well, that was [a] major thing that was put into place mainly during the Greco administration. WM: And what is it? TEC MV: T C E A, Transportation Concurrency Exemption Area. The entire city of Tampa, south of Fowler [Avenue] is under that TCEA. City of Tampa north of Fowler is not. I served on a citizens committee that totally opposed it and they wanted to put it in place. city of Tampa. WM: The traffic congestion? MV: The traffic congest ion, yes. Before that came into being you could still pretty much about parking. Bu t So now this is coming oh I forgot why I brought this up. Was this a good thing and should it continue? Should it continue in some areas where they want to see deve lopment occur? It was mainly done to help development in east Tampa, in the Ybor City area. But where did the development occur? Not there! [It was] all in the south Tampa area. bout. [We not effective. I mean that part of Tampa is not under a TCEA, nor is the rest of the And we will take a position. We have taken a position on that. WM: I guess you can express your opinion and shape policy that way, but the decision is made by the city council? MV: The decision is made by Council. Absolutely. WM: Okay. Well tell me how you were success ful in stopping the TCEA north [of Fowler].

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26 This was ten, eleve to us. So they decided that [it would be] Fowler south. Of course they kept telling us that the main reason was that they could get development in Ybor City and in east Tampa. And then who got it? Everything south of Kennedy, mainly. I mean it was where all of this. So [there was] this big discussion. In fact there was a big hearing, where I saw Ron [Weaver]. In fact last week, or the week before, where the city is trying to decide, is this going to continue to be a good thing? Traffic has gotten so congested. Truly, there is no place to put more roads in south Tampa. South Tampa, north Tampa, even north of the interstate. Those are all established neighborhoods. To go through there and just clear the houses, so you can build more roads for more development, makes no s ense. WM: That reminds me of a question I wanted to ask. When I was talking to Mr. Weaver he [told me that] when they were trying to get a change in zoning, they would bring in all sorts of experts to testify about why these changes were necessary and pos sible. So how do the neighborhood associations counter that? MV: Only our speaking in council, realizing the obvious. They can bring in all kinds of than what was he plants, or Westinghouse. Those people went in [and testified] and then they went back been approved. So you have people that have [at least two or three cars] per home. They go in they go to work and they come back out. to have any mo you know about living in a neighborhood, and living in your own home you know how I guess, you know, council also has some shall I say, pertinent information on their own. Sometimes the experts, particularly transportation people, there is something with this Right now the only thing they talk about when they are approving development is peak hour traffi peak that all of this residential [development] encourages.

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27 that is concerning everyone. As far as exper gotten a young lady on our board who is a transportation [expert] who has given us even more information about code, that you only address peak ho peak. other traffic. development with a Ph.D. in traffic management from a leading educational institution, or Ms. Vizzi MV: Well believe me they do it. Yes. WM: So how do you counter the access to resources that these groups have? in our minds is all of that re only Everybody sees what we have now. So for the transportation people to say it is not going council has some smart s as well. You know, they can see things. As far as mass transit; Committee of 99, in 1999. We worked and that was when th e County Commission considered passing a penny sales tax for mass transit. They put together this committee of ninety nine people. We met over an entire year, way out at USF [the University of South Florida]. So those of us who lived in my area [had a way traffic to get down there, which they said that was part of it. They wanted us to know how bad the traffic was. (laughs) But the committee came up with a recommendation. Thou gh, at that point we were not yet totally ready for mass transit, that in five years it should be reviewed. But they had to continue because it was going to have to be. Well everything just died. It went off the plan. Well now, with what the state is say ing, unless you can put a mass transit plan into your transportation element the state is going to oppose all this additional development, without the means for transportation.

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28 (sighs in frustration) rights that they can develop. But the city also has the burden, if you want to call it that. Of making sure [it] is already overloaded. incing people that they made the right decision they will want to decide with the experts, even though, if you look beyond the expert testimony what the experts advocate defies all common sense. MV: In some instances it does. And yet, until recently, I gu ess I knew that it always you can get on the interstate and not be in traff ic. Or the roads, I mean Westshore [Boulevard] and Kennedy [Boulevard] there is no off peak time that is not peak. And yet they only address peak [traffic hours]. f ittle bit WM: Okay. F sure they could find a way. WM: Do you see people becoming more involved with civic activism and planning and preservation? MV: Defin itely. Absolutely and there are always the core groups of each neighborhood. For example, are you aware that comp plan [comprehensive plan] is coming back up?

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29 They just did the EAR [Evaluation And Review], which is the evaluation review of the old plan. No w they are going to be coming up with the new comprehensive plan. They have to look at what your old plan said you would do. Did it work the way it you wanted it to work? Or did it cause what we have now? do that, they had a revision. They That just went up to Ta llahassee for review and now the planning commission is in the process of looking at all of the elements, the land use. Is all of the land use the way you want it to be? Or should we look at maybe changing some of the land use? g on, is this comp plan. I guess you have talked to those in the planning office? 25 with B ill Mansfield 6 28 06] who is the agricultural liaison with the county planners. MV: Oglivie. (spel ls) O G L I V I E, I think it is. And Terry Cullen are the ones working on the city of Tampa and the county as well and all of that planning. Two years ago when they were putting together th e EAR, the Evaluation and Review, they put together a committee to give input as to what the people felt. There were all kinds of people there. There were developers, there were the citizens, to tell them what they thought about. So we worked on [that]. We had six or eight meetings over a year, before the EAR was put together. So Michelle and Terry are the ones that are working WM: I ask this question a lot, because I, like most people, come home from work in the evening and I want to have supper and read and just not have worry about anything. But over development.

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30 MV: Absolutely. WM: But then there are people, developers, who have a vested interest in this development and that is their job. They have at their disposal experts and all sorts of MV: Fortunately you have those [people] that will get involved, such as I have. I mean, can you imagine, I was raising those nine children and I put dinner on this table every night and would go to meetings. They were a little bit older by the time [I got involved] and it was only if my husband was at home, because I n ever had help to leave them with. I had to be here with them. But a lot of this happens during the day. Re zonings used to happen during the day. That you have any kind of an interest and you have a group that will let you know [about meetings]. get involved. But thank goodness, as I say, there are different kinds of people. And t here are those that will go out and speak. We can write letters now. We can send E mails. On any kind of contact with council on a zoning issue they must make that known at the per or any of your constituents on this issue. You have to put it on the record. For a time there you were not even allowed to call them or write to them or anything else like that. In the old days everybody talked to them, those who were for and those wh o were desk. There are other Well council will address that, for example, someone who can make a nice presentation. The hear twenty people stand up and repeat the same thing. So some people can just come and their time, [up to ten minutes] for one person. So if a neighborhood wants to make a thirty minute presentation and you have three people who are really good speakers and know the issues then it all be accomplished by just bringing people who will give th eir minutes. So there are so many different ways [to affect policy]. rezoning [hearings] that were occurring that nobody knew anything about. Of course all of that has

PAGE 32

31 not. MV: But you do and you can. You can fight city hall. you can see that Putting that TCEA thing in place was a terrible thing. I had no idea that it would be as bad as it [has been]. My understanding was you had to have a road or an improvement planned on the Five t from that. MV: Well we have. Hopefully the city is going to realize that. If they wanted more development in east Tampa, but down here my gosh, in south Tampa and even areas in see why it What do you want to do? WM: (facetiously) Go to the suburbs. daug hters, visiting from Fort Lauderdale. We went [to] visit a son out there. The traffic was unbelievable On a Saturday at mid day. So the suburbs are getting bad. there have to listen to. But th such an important thing for neighborhoods. Because at that meeting we will have director of that is going to b e there to tell us more about that program. But what I mean, whenever there is a major thing, like the comp plan coming up, the planners, Terry and Michelle will come to out THAN meeting and give us more

PAGE 33

32 information about where we are in the process, so people can get involved when hearings come up. want to ask. As involved as you have been in working with the city to control development and effect development in away people, have you ever considered running for city council? need somebody on this fully appreciate what [the council does]. Because no matter what they do they are going to have those who agree and disagree. The attorneys can help the development side. And they need people on the community side who at least know how to at least get up there. If the reasons of the adverse effects, et ce tera, that it would have. wanted to put a condo down there west of us. It all had to do with the development did not coincide with what was around it. So it was denied. as good as it can be. WM: I just want to make sure I understand you. You decided not to run for office be cause you knew you could better serve the public as an advocate? MV: As an advocate for um good quality of life in the city of Tampa. WM: Okay well that sounds like a real good way to conclude. I want to thank you for ve enjoyed it. about

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33 going to be deposited in the University of South Florida and be available to future researchers and in order for them to have access to it I need to your permission. There is a release form that I have to ask you to sign. MV: After you send me that printed tra nscript [of the interview]. WM: Okay. out I said it. The more controversial parts came out everybody I interview. Do you mind if I take your picture? MV: No, just so I can be sure my hair was combed. end of interview


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