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South Tampa City Council candidates address SoHo parking and noise

Parking issues should be remedied through a variety of transit and alternative transportation options.

Tampa City Council candidates in District 4 and 6, the two districts that represent South Tampa, said they are committed to balancing the needs of businesses in the South Howard business district with those of residents in adjoining neighborhoods.

The five candidates fielded questions from the Epicurean Hotel across the street from Bern’s Steakhouse Tuesday in a forum hosted by the SoHo Business Alliance.

One of the toughest challenges facing both residents and businesses is parking. The hustle and bustle of the South Tampa dining experience and night life leaves drivers searching, often aimlessly, for parking. Those drivers often wind up parking on residential streets, taking up valuable space residents also use.

The candidates all agreed the parking issues should be remedied through a variety of transit and alternative transportation options.

Guido Maniscalco, the incumbent in District 6, said he hopes to use All For Transportation sales tax revenue, which will generate about $40 million a year for the city of Tampa, to expand the TECO Line Streetcar into North Hyde Park and potentially to Kennedy Boulevard and Howard Avenue.

A streetcar study is currently being finalized that would extend the current streetcar route in downtown Tampa and Ybor City north into Tampa Heights.

“But in the future, I’d like to see that cross over … so we don’t have to focus so much on lack of parking,” Maniscalco said. “I would use it. I could go from city council to here, from here to Ybor city and I wouldn’t have to use my car.”

Maniscalco’s challenger, South Tampa small business owner Wendy Pepe, also suggested using a trolley of some sort to limit the amount of need for private passenger vehicles. She also said the city needs to do a better job of making the area more pedestrian friendly by widening sidewalks and building more crosswalks.

“Those are things that we could do immediately because the city owns [Howard Avenue],” Pepe said.

She also touted ride-sharing, noting the rise of popularity in young people getting a ride for a night out instead of driving their own car.

“What I don’t want is people driving here because they hadn’t had any drinks yet and then later deciding to leave their car on a residential street overnight and picking it up the next day,” Pepe said.

District 4 candidate Bill Carlson threw out another idea — a train.

South Howard sits right on a CSX rail corridor that could be used for passenger rail.

“If that happens, this whole area here could be the center of gravity,” Carlson said.

But he also agreed that solution should be paired with pedestrian friendly improvements.

Carlson’s opponent, Lee Lowry, wants better collaboration between business owners, city officials and residents to establish regulations, codes and other ideas to solve transportation and other problems in the district.

Sal Guagliardo Jr., the third candidate in the District 4 race, echoed the need for expanded sidewalks, more crosswalks and additional transportation options “so people don’t feel the need to drive their car.”

The candidates also weighed in on noise issues. As South Howard has grown over the last decade it’s seen an emergence of popular restaurants, gastropubs and bars. Most of those businesses neighbor at least one home.

Maniscalco said dealing with noise pollution has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“You can’t expect to open an establishment and say, ‘you can’t have music, you can’t have a band.’ You have it in hours within reason, but you can’t just say no,” Maniscalco said.

Guagliardo simply said the city should control growth. The part of South Howard north of Swann Avenue is where the younger patrons go and it’s where most of the bars and potential noise-creators are. South of Swann though is more packed with less noisy restaurants like Bern’s, Fresh Kitchen and Green Lemon. He said the bar trend should be kept from creeping south.

Pepe and Carlson said enforcement should be part of the noise problem. That includes partnering with businesses and the Tampa Police Department to ensure bad actors aren’t ruining the district’s residential and entertainment charm for the rest of the community.

Maniscalco was the only candidate seeking re-election of the group speaking in South Tampa Tuesday. District 4 candidates are running to replace Harry Cohen who is leaving office due to term limits and running for mayor.

Election Day is March 5.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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