Project sketch

This image shows what a new storage facility at East Bay Drive and Highland Avenue will look like. The site was previously developed as part of Missing Links, which included an ice cream store, miniature golf course, golf pro shop, baseball batting cages and golf driving range.

LARGO — Two development projects on East Bay Drive took respective steps forward by being given the go-ahead by the City Commission at its Jan. 21 meeting.

Commissioners voted 5-1 to approve a development agreement for Hupp Retail East Bay LLC to construct a self-storage facility on 5.62 acres of land at the southeast corner of East Bay Drive and Highland Drive.

The agreement will allow the firm to convert the former golf driving range into a three-story climate-controlled self-storage facility with accompanying office.

In August 2018, commissioners first authorized the city’s development controls office to negotiate terms and conditions for an agreement. In September 2019, they then voted to formalize the agreement.

With frontage on the southeast section of Highland Avenue, the site was previously developed as part of Missing Links, which included an ice cream store, miniature golf course, golf pro shop, baseball batting cages and golf driving range on an 8.05-acre tract, according to city documents.

Commissioner Samantha Fenger voted “no” on the development agreement, saying the tract could be considered for other types of redevelopment, including a possible solar panel field. She asked whether the commission could open the proposed development agreement to further public comment.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes said he is favor of pushing the project forward.

“I really don’t want to throw more obstacles in the way of this project,” Holmes said. “With this piece of land, there is very little that you can do with it — this is an old trash dump.”

Fenger said she did not want to hinder the project, but wished that other possible development uses could have been considered.

“My goal is not to make wedges or anything else in the way of this project,” she said. “My goal is to see that we are making the best decision for the future of our community, as well as sticking to our strategic plan and our goals and our vision. There are other (land development) uses that could have been brought to us.”

The development agreement will now go before the City Development Committee, which will schedule a neighborhood information meeting for public comment on the project.

In conjunction with its project, Hupp Retail East Bay also sought a future land use amendment for its proposed storage facility to be converted from recreational/open space to industrial limited. The commission by a 5-1 vote passed an ordinance approving the request, with Fenger objecting.

The land use map amendment will now be submitted to the Pinellas County Planner Advisory Committee and the Countrywide Planning Authority for review. If approved, the request will go before the commission for a second and final public reading.

The commission also authorized by a 6-0 vote for the city development controls officer to negotiate a development agreement with Paradise Group LLC for it to redevelop a 4.3-acre tract south of East Bay Drive that is east of Newport Road and west of Bedford Circle.

Located at former site of Our Savior Lutheran Church, the developer is also seeking from the city a future land use map amendment from institutional to residential/office/retail to redevelop the site.

The development agreement would restrict land use development that is incompatible with the surrounding area, and provide a conceptual design site plan that addresses site buffering, improvements and other potential mitigation.

The developer’s land use amendment request will include two meetings for public comment, said Rick Perez, Largo planning manager.

The next step for the planning staff is to craft the proposed terms and conditions of the development agreement to be then presented at a future city commission meeting.

Meanwhile, the commission voted 6-0 to approve on second reading an ordinance to appropriate $275,000 to the city’s fiscal year 2020 general fund budget to pay for the architecture and engineering services making up Phase I of the new City Hall development project.

The city had initially budgeted $150,000 for the first phase of the project, but added the additional $275,000 to total $425,000 to cover the extensive scope of the project’s initial development phase, city officials said.