Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for January, 2007

Maybe doggie dining wasn’t such a great idea after all

Back a few months ago I posted a blog entry about a new Florida state law that allowed restaurants to let diners bring their dogs along. There were a number of restrictions — the local communities had to sign on to the bill, and the restaurants had to have outside dining facilities, for example — but a number of restaurants signed on.

One of the local restaurants was Moon Under Water in St. Petersburg. Plenty of Moon Under Water patrons started bringing their dogs along for lunch and dinner. (The dogs had to stay on the floor, but still…)

Well, things got a little out of hand at Moon Under Water. Lots and lots (and lots) of dog owners started bringing their dogs. People and their dogs lined up out on the sidewalk, waiting for tables. Dogs urinated (and worse) on the sidewalks. Some dog owners were outraged that their dogs had to stay on the floor, so arguments weren’t unusual.

So on Jan. 11, Moon Under Water changed its mind. No doggies allowed anymore.

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Crist’s next target — property taxes

Florida’s new governor, Charlie Crist, wasted little time after his inauguration, going right after the insurance industry. He called a special legislative session and, after a week, the lawmakers did come up with a plan that should result in lower homeowners’ insurance premiums.

Now, the governor is dropping big hints that he wants city and county governments in Florida to reduce their property tax rates.

There are going to be hearings on property taxes over the next several weeks around Florida. One of those hearings is going to be in Tampa.

State figures show that property taxes in Florida have gone up an average of 83 percent in the past five years. During that same period, personal income has gone up just 37 percent.

“People are paying exorbitant property taxes at the local level and they wonder what the money is being spent on,” Crist said. “So do I.”

The housing industry came to a screeching halt about a year ago in this part of the world. There were a number of reasons for that, but skyrocketing insurance and property tax rates played major roles.

The market has been getting better, and it should improve in a hurry if we see some meaningful property tax relief. But watch out — if property taxes and homeowners’ insurance rates go down, we’re apt to see property values go up.

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Where are the restaurants going?

If you visit this blog or my web site with any regularity, you know that I like restaurants — a lot. So when a new restaurant comes to town, it’s big news to me. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true — when a restaurant packs up and leaves, that’s news to me, as well.

Lately, it seems that we have been losing more restaurants than we have been gaining, and I’m not sure why.

The latest news is that Sam Seltzer’s Steak House on US19 north of Alderman Road has been closed. That restaurant has been open for about a year and a half, and we’ve eaten there a number of times. Honestly, we didn’t like it as much as the Sam Seltzer’s further south on US19, down south of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater (there’s a review of that restaurant on my Restaurant Review page).

Sam Seltzer’s management says that the company felt that the Palm Harbor restaurant was taking business away from the Clearwater restaurant as well as the location up in Port Richey.

Another big surprise is that the Hooter’s restaurant, which was also on US19 north of Alderman, has closed down as well. No word from Hooter’s on what happened, but there is some speculation that it had to do with a rent increase. Hooter’s puts out a pretty good burger, but honestly it has never been one of my favorites and we almost never go there.

Not too long ago, the Fred Fleming’s barbecue restaurant on US19 at Nebraska closed. We miss that place, because we used to like to take our two granddaughters there. Another fairly recent closure was the Palm Harbor Ale House, on US19 just north of Tampa Road. That was a place for a fairly young crowd, kind of a sports bar atmosphere, and we didn’t go there very much either.

But not all the recent restaurant news has been negative. Dagwood Deli recently opened, and Wild Fish has been open on US19 south of Curlew for a number of months now. We haven’t tried Dagwood, but we’ve been to Wild Fish a couple of times. I’ll try to get a review of Wild Fish up on the web site in the near future.

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Homeowners’ insurance; relief is on the way?

Okay, first of all — sorry, sorry, sorry for being away so long. It seemed like the holidays were just too demanding of my time this year, and, between that and the usual work demands, there just didn’t seem to be any blogging time at all. Soooo, I took a bit of a hiatus. Hope you didn’t miss my chatterings too much. Anyway, I’m back…

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It looks as though we may be on the verge of getting some much-needed homeowners’ insurance relief. And it seems that we have our new governor, Charlie Crist, to thank for that.

When he was running for governor, Crist said that the insurance companies were profiteering and they needed to change their ways if they were going to keep doing business in Florida. This past month, Crist told the Legislature that they needed to get serious about reforming homeowners’ insurance, and it looks like lawmakers might have used a one-week special legislative session to good advantage. As of yesterday, it looked as though they might actually pass legislation that contains some teeth, telling the companies that they have to write homeowners’ coverage if they want to sell other types of insurance in Florida.

Basically, the packages that the legislature is considering shifts more hurricane risk to homeowners and to the state and away from the companies. Not ideal, but I imagine we’ll support anything that gets rates out of the stratosphere.

We’ll see what happens in the coming days…

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