St. Petersburg panel approves tiny-house community

Tampa Bay’s first tiny-house community won unanimous approval Wednesday from St. Petersburg’s Development Review Commission.

Pedro Medina, manager of the project, said he hopes to start construction this fall on six houses in the city’s Midtown area. Initially, they wouldn’t be for sale but instead would be rentals, possibly through Airbnb.

“This tiny-house movement has been very popular,’’ Medina told the commissioners. “I was very passionate about it and this is a good time to get started.’’

Each house would have 722 square feet of living space, including two bedrooms, and a porch with an additional 94 square feet. Although each would have the same floor plan, the houses would be painted in different colors with different trim.

The only opposition came from Jalessa Blackshear, who said she owns property near the houses proposed for two lots at 1253 22nd Avenue S.

Blackshear questioned whether the homes would truly be “tiny houses,’’ which she said are generally defined as those of 350 square feet or less. She also asked Medina to explain his previously published statements that he thought the project would appeal to millennials.

“Is it just for millennials and outsiders?’’ she asked, expressing concern that the houses, if sold, would go for relatively high prices and raise property taxes for people already in the area “who are just hanging on.’’

Medina responded that the neighbors he had spoken to were “all very happy’’ that the houses would replace a 1920s-era apartment building that has been condemned and is slated for demolition.

The city’s planning and zoning development staff recommended approval of the project, which is in a blighted area targeted for new construction and affordable housing.

The six-unit building, owned by real estate investor Ashok Shah, is in a neighborhood of single-family homes but was grandfathered in. Technically, the review commission approved reconstruction of the six units but as detached houses rather than as multi-family units. Since the commission voted yes and no appeal to the City Council is expected, Medina and Shah will only have to deal with city staffers from now on.

In response to a question by Commissioner Chuck Flynt, Medina said the houses, if ever sold, would probably be marketed as condominiums. Buyers would own the houses but share responsibility for maintaining the parking lot and other common areas.

“In the spirit of the tiny-house movement, I think that should be divided among all neighbors,’’ Medina said.

Commissioner John Barie, an architect, also had some suggestions that he said would make the houses look more attractive than the renderings.

But, he added, “I’m all in favor of tiny houses. I think the plan is generally right.’’

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John William is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami, and has spent his lifetime in sales and marketing. The fourth generation to join his family business, John William manages all luxury residential sales and transactions within the Tampa Bay and South Florida markets. A keen industry insider with a finger on the pulse of the area, He is an expert identifying high-return acquisition and development opportunities for hungry investors both large and small while simultaneously working with homeowners and homebuyers to buy and sell the home of their dreams… often times without the need of the MLS or a For Sale sign. He also oversees all digital and print marketing for the company, and handles all sales training for new and established agents alike. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Brookwood Florida, the oldest charity in Florida, and works to raise millions of dollars annually for local charities and museums.