The Accardi brothers, who own the company, had previously issued a warning about suing the city. They have now followed through on their threat and initiated legal proceedings.
After simmering for decades, a longstanding neighborhood conflict, which includes a major Tampa surface parking lot operator, has escalated into a legal battle.
Jason and John Accardi, proprietors of Ybor Properties and 717 Parking, lodged a petition in Hillsborough Circuit Court at the end of the previous month. In their petition, they assert that the Tampa City Council violated their rights when it voted to overturn a prior decision that, they contend, granted them the permission to maintain operations at two parking lots within Ybor City.
“City Council ignored the well supported factual findings and resulting conclusions of law in favor of its own interpretation of the City Code which is entirely unsupported by facts and law,” reads the petition, filed by Ethan Loeb, a Tampa-based attorney representing the Accardis. Loeb has been the attorney in a fewhigh-profile cases against the city in recent years.
On the morning of the council vote in July, Loeb’s firm issued a warning to board members on behalf of his clients, as indicated by records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. The warning conveyed their intention to pursue legal action if the council voted against granting the Accardis permission to use the properties.
The origins of the parking lot dispute date back 23 years, stemming from the city’s announcement that all vacant lots in Ybor would be rezoned for mixed-use in an effort to encourage residential development. It’s worth noting that city code prohibits full-time parking lot usage for mixed-use properties. Property owners, however, had the option to opt out of the rezoning before a specified deadline.
In March 2021, the city cited 717 for a code violation. The Accardi brothers maintain that they submitted the necessary documentation to retain parking zoning for their properties located at 1916 and 1918 E Fifth Ave., which fall under the portfolio of 717 Parking—a company with over 40 parking lots scattered across downtown, the Channel District, and Ybor.
The city’s office of Land Development Coordination initially denied their claim in August 2021 but reversed its decision two weeks later. This reversal was based on a decades-old letter provided by the Accardis, requesting the lots to be zoned for commercial use.
Ybor Realtor Joseph Caldwell, who is also named in the Accardis’ lawsuit, filed a petition seeking a review of the decision. He argued that the zoning administrator should not have considered the letter as there was no public record to verify its origin.
During a hearing before an independent special magistrate in May, the Accardi brothers’ consultant, Stephen Michelini, testified under oath that he personally delivered a copy of the letter to the city in the year 2000.
The hearing officer has issued two recommendations to dismiss Caldwell’s petition and has reaffirmed the zoning of the Accardi brothers’ lots for parking.
In June, the City Council, with a 5-2 vote, expressed the view that the hearing officer should have conducted a more thorough investigation or forensic examination regarding the letter. The council contended that the testimony provided by Michelini was insufficient and lacked competence and substantial evidence.
In July, the City Council reached a unanimous decision to endorse a final order that upheld the original zoning administrator’s determination. They emphasized that there was no supporting evidence to establish a historical use of the property as a parking lot.