Tampa City Council can't stop Trinity Cafe's move into V.M. Ybor

City Attorney Julia Cole told the Council that because Trinity has been zoned as "CG," or Commercial General, the Council had no authority to rule on the matter. She said it would be an administrative decision to relabel the cafe from a restaurant to a soup kitchen, which is what V.M. Ybor residents say it is.

Be that as it may, such a decision is simply out of the hands of the Council, Cole explained.

That led to a detailed discussion by some Council members about the possibility of zoning for social services, which is how one might classify the work of a center that feeds the homeless, as Trinity has been doing for over a decade.

Council member Harry Cohen reiterated that there was nothing the Council could do even if it wanted to, other than to ensure that complaints about loitering in the neighborhood could be quickly addressed by Tampa Police and Code Enforcement.

Kim Headland, the president of the V.M. Ybor Association, said neighborhood concerns about Trinity Cafe are not merely conjecture. She said there's been loitering in the North Florida Avenue area where Trinity is currently located. "Soup kitchens are ambiguous in nature in the city's zoning code," she asserted, adding that the city needs to update its current zoning codes.

But Jeff Darrey, a founder of Trinity, said his organization had done everything right according to the rules, and the city had no right to punish him in any way. He said Trinity had searched for over two and a half years before finding the property they purchased last year, though they are still raising funds to restore the building before moving in.

Another Trinity supporter, Fred Hoffman, criticized the neighborhood activists, saying they were worried about home values, while he was worried about humans.

In the end, the Council promised to hold further discussions on changing the classification of soup kitchens. But unless something unforeseen happens, Trinity Cafe will be serving lunch at its V.M. Ybor location later this year.

Two weeks ago, dozens of residents of Tampa's V. M. Ybor neighborhood told Tampa City Council in no uncertain terms that they were against the proposed move into their area of Trinity Cafe, which serves free lunches to the homeless.

When the issue came up for a second time this Thursday, Trinity rallied supporters to make a counter-argument in favor of moving its dining hall to Nebraska Avenue.

In the end, the Trinity supporters won out — not because the City Council thinks it's a good thing for the facility to move into a neighborhood that has spoken out strongly against it — but simply because legally it was not Council's call to decide.

The issue was brought up two weeks ago by Council member Frank Reddick, whose District 5 seat includes the V.M. neighborhood.


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