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.”