LARGO – The moratorium on Largo's parkland impact and facility/capital improvement fees likely will be extended another two years, at the request of businesses planning new projects within the city because of the lower costs.
The decision was unofficial; Largo commissioners will vote on the issue in November after city staff prepare an ordinance outlining the terms. But the developers of the Gateway North and Briarwood apartment complexes – who both have experienced delays that endangered their ability to cash in on the moratorium – could breath a sigh of relief as the city leaders spoke in favor of the program Oct. 16
“I like the parks, but we’ve got all kinds of money to buy more of them … We already have problems maintaining the parks that we have,” said Commissioner Curtis Holmes. “I think we ought to really work with the developers and give them a little slack and a break.”
The parkland impact fees are collected for the purchase of more land as it becomes available, allowing the city to offset development with more parks. But the fees can be significant, roughly $2,000 per housing unit, said Community Development Director Carol Stricklin.
“The purpose of the moratorium was to take advantage of the increasing real estate market and to stimulate residential development. I think from the level of interest and activity … it has certainly had that effect,” she said.
Stricklin and her staff also proposed to extend the window within which projects must be completed from 12 months to 18 months, allowing developers more construction time.
Projects that are being built in the city of Largo because of the moratorium include: Pinellas Heights senior housing; Gateway North apartments; the apartment complex slated at the former Briarwood RV Park, expected to start construction in November; Bay Isle Landing, a property that annexed into the city and is seeking approval for the construction of 96 townhouses; the restart of Whittington Court and Beacon Trace, both townhouse projects that began development in 2006, and finally Plantation, a 17-unit, single family residential project.
The commissioners all said they liked seeing so much development, arguing that more time was needed to allow projects to take root in Largo.
The parkland dedication fund is currently $1.5 million, and the facility/capital improvement fund has about $670,000, Stricklin said. While the moratorium continues, those funds cannot increase.
Commissioner Woody Brown asked if projects within the city’s downtown redevelopment districts could be entirely exempt from the fees, given that the city’s largest and most popular park, Largo Central Park, was so nearby. City Attorney Alan Zimmet said he would research that possibility.
Low income housing
Two projects proposing to build affordable senior housing within the city will be seeking federal funds to support their efforts. Commissioners agreed to support both projects, committing $75,000 of the city’s State Housing Initiatives Housing Partnership, or SHIP, funds in hopes that at least one will receive the federal tax credits. No more than one project per county will be funded through the program.
The Palms of West Bay, at 1260 W. Bay Drive, would be an 80-unit apartment complex; 70 percent of those apartments would be affordable. All 64 units of the Ibis Point housing project, at Mehlenbacher Road and 10th Street NW., would be affordable housing. Both projects would be developed on vacant properties.