TEMPLE TERRACE When a group of upset residents spoke out, city officials listened. And now they plan to listen some more.
The dispute is over the city council's April 2 approval of a plan to erect a replica of the community's iconic 40-foot-tall bat tower at the northern end of Riverhills Park.
Residents living near that site showed up in force at the June 4 council meeting to air their concerns, including potential health risks, odors, an obstructed view of the river and a decline in property values.
City officials took those objections to heart and began searching for alternative sites. City staff members appeared again before the council on July 16 with a list of 20 possible locations that council members unanimously narrowed to three: Scout Park - North at 911 West River Drive; Rotary Park at 8000 E. Fowler Ave.; and Riverhills Park (south) at 329 S. Riverhills Drive.
Those are the same three locations recommended by city staff, whose team of researchers was led by Leisure Services Director James Chambers.
The council requested that notices be sent to residents whose homes neighbor the parks to allow them 30 days to respond with their opinions on the matter.
City council will take up the subject again at its Aug. 20 meeting.
"We owe this to our citizens," said Councilman David Pogorilich, who was appointed the board's liaison to work with residents opposed to the bat tower near Riverhills Park (north), as that site is referred to by city staff.
Councilwoman Alison Fernandez agreed but said, "It's not about who screams the loudest, but which one makes the most sense."
In the meantime, Mayor Frank Chillura said staff will delve further into issues concerning the accessibility of the three alternative sites; the amount of land clearing that will be required; and the feasibility, if need be, of obtaining the approval of the Florida Department of Transportation, the agency that leases the Rotary Park site to the city.
"If we think we're going to come up with a site that would please everyone, it's not going to happen," said Councilman Grant Rimbey, also a longtime Temple Terrace Preservation Society member who spearheaded the bat tower rebuilding effort.
The original tower was erected in 1924 and stood on the banks of the Hillsborough River until it was destroyed by arsonists in 1979.
The preservation society, headed by president Tim Lancaster, has been on a quest to rebuild the tower. After almost a decade of fundraising and site searching, the group settled on the Riverhills Park (north) location, which drew the ire of people living in the neighborhood.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMcKenzie@gmail.com.