Advocacy Issues

The Issue: Keeping Driftwood Designated as a Local Historic District

Neighborhood: Driftwood Neighborhood

City Council Member: Gina Driscoll 

Action You Can Take Now: Send a message to City Council: council@stpete.org  Please copy info@preservetheburg.org


BACKGROUND

Driftwood, located on Big Bayou just south of 22nd Avenue South, is a special neighborhood with an incredible sense of place that can be felt as soon as one enters the neighborhood.  The homes within the neighborhood include an original 19 homes designed during the 1930s to 1940s by nationally known artist, Mark Dixon Dodd and Archie Parish, an important local architect. All of these homes still remain.  The neighborhood plan is an early example of designing with nature.  This concept visually unites all of its homes located within a coastal sub-tropical hammock, and yet still retains a dense tree canopy with an understory of lush jungle-like garden landscaping.

Driftwood was once a site used by Native Americans. There may still be prehistoric features and artifacts from the native settlement whose large shell mounds were destroyed in the early 20th century.  Driftwood is also the site of archaeological features from the 1800s pioneer homesteads of Abel Miranda and John Bethell who were the first permanent European settlers in lower Pinellas County.  It is also the only area in Pinellas County to see armed military conflict during the Civil War with engagement between the U.S. Navy and the settlement of alleged blockade-runners occurring in February of 1862. 

The beauty of Driftwood is unmatched and its historical legacy unrivaled in the city.  It is, without question, one of the most special neighborhoods in St. Petersburg. 

 Click here to watch a wonderful video about the Driftwood neighborhood.

TIMELINE 

2017 - Driftwood neighbors, concerned about future neighborhood development impacts, discuss creating a neighborhood historic district

January 2018: A public meeting is conducted by city preservation staff to answer questions about potential Driftwood historic district

February 2018: City mails first neighborhood ballot to Driftwood property owners to determine support for district application submittal (a super majority of residents return ballots in support of designation.)   

March 2018: Driftwood residents submit a historic district application.   

April 2018: The Gandy Home, also known as the Mullet Farm, located on the edge of Driftwood is demolished. The 1910 home was lived in by members of the Gandy family (builders of the Gandy bridge) for nearly 100 years.

June 2018: City mails second neighborhood ballot to Driftwood property owners to determine support for district application submittal. Again a super majority return ballots in support.   

October 2018: The Community Planning and Preservation Commission ("CPPC"), after conducting a public hearing, votes unanimously to recommend city council approval of the Driftwood historic district application, finding it clearly meets the city's criteria for designation.

March 2019: After conducting a public hearing, City Council votes 6-2 to approve the Driftwood historic district application. Council received more than 600 messages of support for the district. An attorney for several residents raises complaints for the first time about date stamps from the June 2018 neighborhood ballot.

May 2019: City Council conducts another public hearing, addresses the neighborhood ballot date stamp issue and votes 5-2 to affirm the historic district designation.

July 2019: Several residents, unhappy with the local historic district designation, seek court review of City Council's decision to approve the Driftwood historic district application. 

March 2020 - The Pinellas County circuit court overturns the Driftwood historic district designation, finding the City failed to follow its ordinance requirements regarding the date stamping of neighborhood ballots.

Preserve the 'Burg notes that the court only ruled upon a narrow issue interpreting the city’s historic preservation ordinance requirements for date stamping ballots delivered to the city. The court did not find, nor infer, that Driftwood does not meet the standards for historic district designation. The facts remain that a majority of neighborhood property owners have voted twice to support historic district designation and the vast majority of public comments received by City Council also supported designation and keeping Driftwood special.


THE THREAT

The historic designation of Driftwood has been overturned. Designation encourages historic building reuse and discourages demolition of significant historic resources, helping to keep Driftwood and St. Petersburg special while maintaining our cohesive sense of identity. Overturning the designation removes one of the most powerful tools from the neighborhood zoning tool box, one intended to help the neighborhood retain its sense of place and allowing for neighborhood involvement in local development decisions.

THE OPPORTUNITY

City Council has the option of becoming the applicant for historic designation, as it recently did with the historic Westminster Church in the Old Northeast neighborhood. Preserve the 'Burg believes City Council should exercise this option for Driftwood.  

This is a particularly appropriate option as the procedural error identified by the court in overturning the district designation was a city clerical error. If this option is exercised, the City's application would be subject to another round of public hearings before the CPPC and City Council but another neighborhood vote would not be necessary.

The will of the neighborhood was clear in the original vote and should be honored.

WHAT PRESERVE THE ‘BURG IS DOING

Preserve the ‘Burg will continue to support Driftwood's historic district designation through its education and advocacy efforts.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Send a message to your City Council member, or ALL the members, telling them that you want to see Driftwood remain designated as a local historic district. You can do that by clicking here: council@stpete.org

  • Keep up to date on the issue by following Preserve the ‘Burg’s social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), and reading our weekly E-news.  Sign up for E-news here.




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Contact:
Preserve the 'Burg
P.O. Box 838
St. Petersburg, FL 33731
(727) 824-7802
info@preservetheburg.org
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