TARPON SPRINGS — The long roller coaster ride that has been the Anclote Harbor apartment complex proposal came to a temporary halt when the Tarpon Springs Planning and Zoning Commission voted overwhelmingly Sept. 20 to deny zoning and land use planning measures needed for the project to move forward.
But since the board’s recommendation to deny is only advisory, the project’s fate will ultimately be decided by the Tarpon Springs City Commission.
During an emotional, nearly six-hour-long meeting that included charges of conflicts of interest, accusations of “flim-flammery” by the project’s developer Morgan Group, political “bullying” and concerns over wildlife in the area, it was traffic that was the sticking point.
“It moves on to the City Council with a hearing on Oct. 26,” attorney Ed Armstrong, who represents Houston-based developer Morgan Group, said after the meeting. “We intend to put our best foot forward.”
The project was last stopped in July after a special session of the commission resulted in a request to eliminate a secondary entrance to the complex from Hays Road. The developer came to the Planning and Zoning Commission with a plan to eliminate the Hays Road entrance and replace it with a second access point on U.S. 19. That is the only change from the original, 404-unit, 74-acre plan.
City staff has recommended approval of the project.
But traffic was one of the objections opponents brought to the board. Area residents, including a few from outside Tarpon Springs, used terms for the secondary access plan for the development like “potentially lethal” and a “death trap” due to heavy traffic on U.S. 19.
Commissioner John Koulianos told the group that he saw difficulties with the second U.S. 19 access point.
“How the heck are these people going to get in and out?” he said. “It’s a dangerous situation. It’s about the safety of the residents. It’s not going to be safe.”
Commission Chairman Michael Seamon agreed.
“I’m a strong supporter of property rights,” he said. “But I’ve had more time to look into the traffic aspects and I’m more concerned than I was before. I’m not truly convinced there is safe access. The bottom line is I don’t want to feel at fault if somebody dies going in and out.”
It was a sentiment echoed by other commissioners, who, like many in the crowd, were also concerned about the environmental impact of the project.
But in January, the City Commission approved the project with the direction that the second access point be moved to U.S. 19 from Hays Road.
“We responded positively to the City Council to provide a second access point,” Armstrong said. “I think there is significant emotion over the proposed project. But we believe the City Council will make their decision based on the proper application of their regulations, not simply the emotion of our opponents.”