OLDSMAR – A local developer hoping to build a 50-unit town home community on St. Petersburg Drive in downtown Oldsmar had his plans halted recently after the City Council elected to postpone a vote on a purchase and sale agreement for the land in the amount of $877,000.
The move came as a surprise to many after officials had approved a zoning change for the nearly four-acre parcel in July, apparently paving the way for Oldsmar Towns, LLC. to construct the development next to the Oldsmar Public Library.
But when the new agenda item was addressed on September 19, two council members expressed reservations about the deal for two very different reasons; Council member Jerry Beverland refused to vote on a sale agreement without seeing a site plan first, while fellow local lawmaker Eric Seidel questioned whether the City was getting the proper value for the property.
“I know the appraisal that we had done on the property was based on a different use, a pure commercial use, and none of want that type of development there,” Seidel said of a previous assessment of the land had it valued at more than $1.1 million. “Having said that though, I think before we approve an agreement we should have it appraised for the use that we ‘re intending it to ultimately be, so we know how we’re doing on market price.”
Seidel suggested the City spend the money to have a new appraisal done “so we know if the offer is in line with the value of the property.”
Following Seidel’s comments, Beverland made his thoughts about the deal known in his typical fiery fashion.
“I don’t know how in the world anyone can vote for this tonight and you don’t even know what’s going there,” Beverland, who has been involved in local government since the 1970s, said. “You think you know what’s going there. But you haven’t seen anything that’s going there.
“I’ll tell you right now, I’m not voting on anything until I see what’s going there,” he added. “This whole thing is backwards.”
According to a representative of the developer, the units are expected to be three-story upscale town homes, priced in the high $200,000 to low $300,000 range.
And while it was noted they had already submitted a preliminary site plan, and would be paying approximately $400,000 to the City in impact fees, Beverland was unfazed.
“Money cannot buy the value of what the city is,” he said. “They could offer five million dollars, and I wouldn’t care.”
He conceded the project “would probably be great,” but Beverland added he “would not vote for something I haven’t seen.”
At that point, Mayor Doug Bevis suggested postponing the vote.
“What I suggest is that we can push this back and make it on the same agenda as the development agreement where we can have a chance to review the site plan and address both items at the same time,” Bevis said, adding “if we don’t approve the development agreement, then we don’t approve the sale.”
Tony Tanico of Oldsmar Towns then took to the podium to defend his project, stating, “it will be a great project. It will be beautiful. It will fit the area, architecturally it will fit the Town Center code, and in my opinion, exceed it.”
But he admitted officials don’t have all the information about the project—yet.
“In terms of the site plan you know what you’re getting. In terms of the renderings, you don’t,” Tanico said. “But you will, and at that time you certainly can vote no, I’m not telling you how to vote, obviously. But I want you to vote so we can proceed with this project, get that development agreement negotiated, get those renderings in there and…bring a great, quality project to downtown Oldsmar. And that’s what I want to do. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Though the lawmakers said they didn’t doubt the project would be high quality, their reservations were strong enough to delay the vote on the sale.
“I have no doubt it will be a fine project,” Seidel said. “But I’m not just gonna take your word that it’s worth what it’s worth because you said it is. And I’m sure you can appreciate that, right? While you spent tens of thousands, we spent hundreds of thousands buying that property over many, many years. So, what’s fair is fair.”
The five council members ultimately agreed to delay the vote on the purchase and sale of the land until the developer brings a development agreement to them for approval.
After the meeting, Bevis spoke about the decision.
“I don’t know what the thought process was approving the sale prior to the development agreement being approved,” Bevis said by phone. “It seems (backwards) to me unless there’s a timing issue with their lender. I’m not sure. These deals are all different, but typically you come in with a development agreement first.”
He said he believes the project will come before the council for a vote in the future.
“I think it will,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about making sure we get the right price for the property and it being profitable on their end.”