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Council Postpones Redevelopment Decision

The Temple Terrace City Council decided Feb. 16 that it needed more time to decide whether to allow downtown developers to build 214 multi-family residential units.

The Temple Terrace City Council has until March 20 to decide whether it will allow developers to build 214 rental apartment units in the downtown redevelopment area.

After a special meeting Feb. 16 that lasted four and a half hours, council members voted 3-2 to postpone their decision in order to gather more information.

Councilman Bob Boss and Councilwomen Alison Fernandez and Mary Jane Neale voted in favor of the delay, saying they would be willing to work toward a compromise on the project.

“I think we have a lot to digest,” Boss said. “…I don’t feel prepared to make a decision tonight.”

Councilmen Ron Govin and David Pogorilich cast the dissenting votes, saying the developers’ proposal does not fit with the city’s original vision for the project.

“Can’t we just wait a little bit and find the right time and the right place?” Govin said.

The residential component of the downtown redevelopment project would be located on the northeast side of the site where buildings, such as the former Publix, Pet Wize and Masque Community Theatre, are currently being demolished. Vlass Temple Terrace, the developer of the entire project, and Inland Atlantic Development Corporation, which would build the residential units, have asked the council to grant them an estimated 25 waivers and approve their proposal for the 214 apartments.

The proposed Towne Park Residences at Temple Terrace would be made up of three buildings, which would only house residents on each of their four stories. The proposed high-end, luxury apartments would have one- and two-bedroom units and range from 580 to 1,045 square feet. Developers also proposed building a 6-foot high fence around the entire residential component with two access gates—one near Bullard Parkway, and the other at the southeast corner of the residences.

More than 200 people attended the meeting, and about 20 residents spoke during the public hearing portion. A few said they favored the proposal, but most said the city shouldn’t allow the developers to build rental apartments.

Some said developers should instead build owner-occupied condominiums, which was the original concept. Others said there should be retail on the ground floor of the residences to encourage a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. Still others said they think that if apartments were built and could not be leased, the residences would turn into Section 8 or government-subsidized housing.

“I have a major issue with the apartment complex,” said David Long, owner of Business Ink Printing, who was the first resident to speak. “From day one, we said we wanted upscale condos.”

Developers insisted that they want to build residences that make sense for the area.

“We are not thinking about Section 8—that’s crazy,” said Mike Vlass, head of Vlass Temple Terrace. “… I can’t do condominiums because there is no market. My next best option is high-end apartments.”

Barry Lazarus, chief executive officer of Inland Atlantic Development Corporation, said developers would be willing to restrict the units so that there would never be Section 8 housing there. He also conceded that developers could move forward with the project by redesigning the size of the units and without building a fence around the residences.

The one point Lazarus wouldn’t compromise on: Putting retail on the ground floor of the residences.

“You can’t finance retail,” he said.

Even city staff was divided on the action the council should take.

Community Development Director Charles Stephenson said the developers’ current plan lacks the vision of the original proposal and contradicts design guidelines. A true urban design should propose mixed-use concepts; not incorporate single-use buildings of massive size.

“Residential on the ground floor does not encourage a pedestrian environment,” he said.

City Manager Kim Leinbach said he disagreed. He said he’d like to see retail on the first floor, but Owen Beitsch, the city’s independent building consultant, has said that’s not practical.

“We need to compromise and find solutions to the problems we might have,” he said.

Mayor Joe Affronti echoed Leinbach’s sentiments at the end of the meeting.

“I think we all want to make it work because the future of our city is at stake,” he said. “I think it’s too important to our city’s future to walk away from this now.”

Kathy McGuire February 18, 2012 at 02:09 AM
I started replying to this and had too much to say. So I am writing about it in my Patch blog. it will be there within the hour Editor Ashley!
Andrea Tagliarini February 19, 2012 at 12:32 PM
I have avoided selling my house and even remodeled because of the promise of redevelopment and a pedestrian friendly shopping area. Building a wall around whatever is there is counter-productive. I personally do not like the idea of ANYTHING residential right there...we have enough. But, if it must be...then townhouses or condominiums would be best.
Don Lack February 19, 2012 at 02:13 PM
The next meeting will be behind closed doors without anyone's knowledge. Apartments and fence will be passed....
Karly Dell February 19, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I was told by a council member that their bigger issue is the 22 million debt the city has currently as a result of the downtown development, and that they may not have a choice in changing the Land Development Code so that the city can begin to recoup some monies. Was the builder NOT aware of our code at the contract signing? We have the current codes to protect the ideals of our community and I don't appreciate them being changed to appease a builder. Homeowners in this city better get loud in this matter because I have been given the impression on a few different occasions that this is likely to pass regardless of our wishes!
Lucinda Johnston February 19, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Karly is exactly right! We need thoughtful minds working on this situation. I only hope we aren't too late to turn this around! Call you elected officials and let your voice be heard.
Grant Rimbey February 19, 2012 at 08:08 PM
No doomsdayer here, I am still confident that a good compromise proposal can be reached on the redevelopment multi-family. Keep sending your input to city council folks.
Lucinda Johnston February 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Grant, according to the last census. 53% of the households in Temple Terrace are rentals. We need some out of the box thinking to get this finished and functional in this down market. Rentals are a stop-gap measure...transient by their very nature. That doesn't build community. Something needs to be done to make that development a destination as well as a good place to live.
Lucinda Johnston February 19, 2012 at 08:59 PM
One more thing, you may not remember the Florida Colkege bridge where hush-hush, wink/wink deals were being made that almost resulted in an environmental disaster. It's not doomsday thinking to be VERY concerned that mistakes can be made when people fail to think about the long term consequences of thier decisions. I've lived in this area for my entire life. It wasn't that long ago that the apartment complexes south of the 56th street bridge were "luxury" rental apartments. Now look what we have.
Grant Rimbey February 20, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Lucinda, yes, I knew that rental statistic, it is alarming and unhealthy for such small town. That's 53% of our population that don't have the vested interest in our community of home ownership! Our city has a poor track record regarding rental multi-family, we have our 60s and 70s TT city council to thank for planting the seeds for today's problems. Most of TTs issues have been 40 years in the making, they did not crop up overnight. I remember the FC bridge proposal too, I had just arrived back in town. I wasn't referring to you re: doomsday
Quentin February 20, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Its a cabal!! We are getting screwed! the developer has his own personal cheerleader in the mayor (see statue named "here's $22 million) and the residents are not being heard. It is not what's good for the town it is whats good for the developer. I quote AC/DC" Dirty deeds done dirt cheap".
Joan Staehle February 20, 2012 at 11:59 PM
How can a wood frame apartment of under 900 square feet with only one bedroom be considered an "upscale luxury apartment" by anyone's standards? This change in the vision of our downtorn redevelopment is alarming!! It would be better to leave the area vacant than to accept a Future Nightmare to replace the Dream we citizens had for our downtown. We don't need more rental apartments and increased crime in the heart of our city!!!!!!!! We need a Barnes and Noble store or a Michael's craft store and a Starbucks. We need a reason to frequent the area. Over 300 concerned citizens attened the Feb. 16th council meeting, and not one of them was an apartment dweller. Homeowners care about Temple Terrace.
Carol Dell February 21, 2012 at 01:18 AM
We do not need any more apartments!!!!! This is not what we wanted for our Town Center. We need to get the retail going....we need stores and restaurants that will cater to our local citizens...we do not need to wait until apartments are built and then bring in retail to cater to the apartment dwellers. The citizens want the retail now!!!! We should wait awhile until the market inproves and there is a need for the condos.........I bet there are local realtors who could sell condos to residents who have lived here for a while and want to downsize. We cannot let the Council change the Development Code for the benefit of the developer and forget about the MANY citizens of Temple Terrace. Carol Dell
Alec McGillivray February 21, 2012 at 07:33 AM
Apparently, the word "renters" connotes transient and low income residents. As if being a homeowner in the last decade has been an indicator of stability and financial security. And why does the term "transient" have to imply inability to build community? When I went to college, the sense of community permeated every second of life on campus, yet the population turns over completely every 4 years. There are other forces besides real estate at work here. <<@Grant Rimbey: I'm stunned to read your sentiments that renters are somehow less valuable members of the community. You are trying to bring multi-family housing to the re-development, but at the same time characterizing renters as people that don't give a crap about where they live...not a strong tactic! I lived as a renter in several neighborhoods in Atlanta and Savannah, and I, as well as other renters, actively participated. Even though I didn't always match the local demographic, in each place, I was fortunate that the neighbors welcomed me as a local anyway. Pride in the community was infectious because everyone felt connected to eachother, and very few homeowners or renters (short- or long-term) sat on the sidelines. I believe that is the type of community you (Grant) would very much like to see in Temple Terrace, but I can tell you that dividing community stakeholders into "renters" and "homeowners" is bad. >>
Alec McGillivray February 21, 2012 at 07:40 AM
The residential component is critical. On-site residents add a steady buzz that will attract even more activity. Unfortunately we had to compromise the orginial vision, but I would hate to see us give up at this point. We can't get commercial on the ground floor, but let's integrate the residences as much as possible, and not isolate behind a wall. More connection is better, and let's build it to last. Wood-framed will degrade too quickly and we'll be stuck with the blight again. Regarding filling the apartments...manipulating demographics is nasty business, but sadly necessary. This needs to be a place where every Temple Terrace resident can feel at home. Human nature works against us though. A person's tendency is to fill the place with people just like himself, or fill it with people different than himself and put a fence around it. Mixing things up as much as possible is a good way to go. Grouping like with like, its too easy to draw lines (or a fences) around different areas and pretend that they can be separated from the whole. An all-low-income option is bad of course, but an all-high-income isn't healthy either. I have seen successes with mixed-income. Different apartments have different grades of finishes, and rent levels are staggered, with a small number of units offered to qualifying low income residents, most units offered to middle income residents, and a few higher grade units are marketed to higher income residents.
Lucinda Johnston February 21, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Grant Rimbey has been a voice of reason throughout the TEN+ Year history of this "development". Grant's tongue would rot if he purposefully insulted anyone. His views on rental vs homeowners are on target. I rented for half my life before marrying my husband. I understand completely what you are saying Alec, but people like the two of us are exceptions to the rule. While there are many exceptions the staggering statistic that 53% of the households in Temple Terrace are already rental units is cause for concern. To add more just doesn't make sense. And as for a steady buzz of people, where will we buzz around? Sally's Beauty Supply? $5 Fashions? The Post Office? Further, the traffic on Bullard Parkway and 56th Street is already a nightmare. We actually have rush hour traffic on Riverhills Drive as people cut through to avoid those two streets. Adding more density to that area is just going to make things worse. I'm admitting that I don't know what the answer is. But I do know that we should be holding public meetings like the "Visioning" meetings we had ten years ago to see where to go from here. Insulting a valued and contributing member of our city does nothing to solve this problem.
Karly Dell February 21, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Renters v. homeowners is analogous to substitute teacher v. permanent teacher in my mind. Does it mean that the substitute teacher lacks the same skills and abilities, no, but it also does NOT mean that it is the same. Home ownership just like permanent teaching lends itself to a larger commitment and concern for the community/student in general. There are typically harsher penalties for poor performance or lack of "pride in ownership." To ignore that trend, in my mind, is just as short sighted as assuming the worst in all renters. I think trying to relate the sense of community of college kids is a far stretch too, except that USF is present but is still largely a commuter school. I wonder if some of these comments come from actual Temple Terrace residents or just from those that have connections to some elected officials? In that case, you are also entitled to your opinions. However, I strongly agree with many of the building comments and suggestions made. Unfortunately I have been told (by a council member) that eventually the rentals could possibly turn to section 8 like they did in New Tampa.
Rollo Tomasi February 21, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Rental communities breed problems, look at the police reports all in the apartment complexes, why? that's where the undesirable elements congregate. Are all renters bad, no, just most of them. apartments are a drain on the community, Vlass does not care what happens in 10 years he's a millionaire thanks to Temple Terrace. The slogan should be "Temple Terrace, a place for suckers!" We're going to get the apartments in some fashion and you'll have the same trash in the section 8 areas reside there. Thinking some small group of intellectuals will flock to 1000 square foot WOOD framed apartments is idiocy of the highest level. High end? what you're going to use treated wood? that's what you must be calling high end. It is sad but the naysayers get the last words of" I told you so" but at a huge expense. The rest that want so badly for the Disneyland you were sold initially will try to make the best by saying well we got something out of it. Better yet "Temple Terrace, a place for idiots"
Grant Rimbey February 22, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Mr. Alec McGillivray, I believe you misunderstood what I was saying. Call me anytime if you wish to discuss. Take care. Thank you Lucinda, for your comments.
gw February 22, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Some things to consider: My Mom sold her marco Island home and bought a "urban" style condo. Parking is on bottom floor, retail above it, then 3 floors of luxury condos above that. The retail failed miserably, and the condo prices are half of what she bought for. This is the result of the poor economy, etc. My in-laws have a riverfront home in New Port Richey. Most of the city dwellers in the "urban concept" are not really who you would want to be your neighbor. My daughter rents in a new upscale apartment complex in Jax. It is beautiful, with granite, stainless, three bedrooms, double sinks. One year is coming up, and I will be visiting soon. It will be interesting to see how it is kept up, and the type of tenants who have filled it up. We do have so many apartments in TT. They are pretty messy as are so many homes now. Code enforcement can crack down better. This is a very difficult decision. The more input the better. It will help us all plan for our future better. Thanks everyone, Sue Wiggins
Cyndi Roberts Mohler February 24, 2012 at 11:06 PM
We need to make sure we are all in attendance at the March 20 meeting. Many residents spoke up - until the developer was once again given the floor - but we cannot back down now. The last meeting was very illuminating and if we let these decisions be made behind closed doors we will not get what is best for Temple Terrace. Save the date!!! MARCH 20
Carol Dell February 26, 2012 at 05:18 PM
This decision should be a no-brainer. We were promised a Town Center to cater to the existing citizens of Temple Terrace....not an apartment complex. There is not one single new business in our redevelopment project. How hard are the developers trying to get the retail into the redevelopment? Why isn't the new Beef O'Bradys in the center instead of in the old Blockbuster building??? Carol Dell
Howard Johnston February 29, 2012 at 01:26 AM
I am very concerned about the proposal for building apartments on the downtown development site. Frankly, there are many arguments against doing so from a community-building standpoint, but the most important issue is that City Council may not have the authority to change the plan that was approved by referendum by city voters. Voters did not approve any development plan, but a very specific plan that did not include apartments. To deviate from that approved plan, as a minimum, would seem to require another referendum. It is not City Council’s decision to make. In fact, under Florida law, granting sweeping waivers that essentially and fundamentally change the plan approved by referendum may be illegal. As a minimum, I suspect that the issue would have to be sorted out in court.
Howard Johnston February 29, 2012 at 01:33 AM
There are other solutions. The developer should build the condos and pre-sell them at cost. No one was guaranteed to make money in this situation. The city took a risk in launching the plan with its third-choice developer, and the developer took a chance in the middle of one of the worst real estate markets in US history. Certainly they could assess the risk in an intelligent manner. That’s the way capitalism works; it’s all about risk and reward. The city has no obligation to bail out the developer. Or, the developer could deed the undeveloped property back to the city. That wouldn’t put the property back on the tax rolls, but it would allow the city to look for other options when the market improves. Finally, the most feasible alternative is to do nothing. Bring the undeveloped property to some acceptable standard – such as removing the paving – and simply wait until conditions for development improve. It took 10 years to start the project, let's wait a bit more. Putting 214 more apartments next to a complex that contains 250 rental units creates even more transience in an area of the city that needs stability and serious, long-term development. Apartments are not the solution, no matter how convenient they may be for the developer. City Council is obligated to act in the best interests of the city, not in the interests of a developer with whom we have a business relationship. I urge Council to reject the apartment plan and seek alternative solutions.
Carol Dell February 29, 2012 at 03:30 AM
I hope all of the connents here have also been shared directly with the Council members and the Mayor!!! Carol Dell
Carol Dell February 29, 2012 at 03:32 AM
I hope all of the comments here have also been shared directly with the Council members and the Mayor!!! Carol Dell
Grant Rimbey February 29, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Howard, The 2005 bond referendum to fund the Temple Terrace downtown redevelopment was defeated.
Lucinda Johnston February 29, 2012 at 07:16 PM
This illustrates what I see as a problem. There is so much misinformation floating around. Where can citizens go to get accurate updated info?
Howard Johnston February 29, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Sorry. I relied on information from a neighbor who has been following this pretty closely and who insisted it had passed. I think Lucinda's correct: this has been going on for so long that it's difficult to find comprehensive, accurate information about it.
Grant Rimbey February 29, 2012 at 09:39 PM
No problem, it's a complex issue. Here is the city redevelopment website: http://www.templeterrace.com/revitalize/index.htm Here is the Citizens for the Revitalization of Temple Terrace website, active since 2001: http://pfweb.com/CRTT/ The Minutes for the February 16th Special City Council Meeting on the redevelopment are here: http://www.templeterrace.com/govt/docs_index.htm Hope this helps.
Howard Johnston February 29, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Thanks, Grant. You are the best source of information we have.

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