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Mayor: Impending Redevelopment Vote is ‘Most Important Decision’

Mayor Joe Affronti has written a letter to explain what is at stake regarding the downtown redevelopment project. A vote on the developer’s final plan for the residential units is scheduled for Oct. 9.

Editor’s Note: A special Temple Terrace Redevelopment Agency meeting and City Council meeting regarding the residential portion of the downtown redevelopment project has been scheduled for Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Lightfoot Recreation Center.

Developer Vlass Temple Terrace submitted a third and final revision of the plan for this portion on Sept. 25. The council is expected to take a final vote on the issue at the Oct. 9 meeting.

From Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti:

I am writing this letter in an attempt to answer the questions many of our citizens are asking regarding our redevelopment.

On Oct. 9, 2012, our City Council will cast votes, which will establish the future of our Amazing City.

After many months of discussions, there have been three main issues that separate the city and Vlass Temple Terrace LLC. These issues are:

  1. The ceiling heights of the ground floor of the multi-family building.
  2. The parking on the west side of the multi-family building (on Main Street).
  3. The triggering mechanism that will determine when the ground floor can be marked for residential rather than non-residential.

Ceiling Height

Vlass is proposing to build the ground floor spaces with 14 feet from floor to bottom of top floor. That, according to their architect, will result in a 12-foot finished ceiling height to accommodate commercial tenants.

Our staff contends that a 14-foot floor to bottom of the top floor could result in a finished ceiling height lower than 12 feet because of the unknown thickness or the trusses and other equipment that might be needed in between floors. Staff is specifying a 17-foot height from bottom floor to bottom of top floor.

Our city staff conducted a survey in June 2012, which shows that commercial finished ceiling heights for 19 properties in Temple Terrace range from 9 feet to 15 feet with an average of 12 feet.

Parking

The parking discussion involves Vlass’ proposal to have designated parking spaces on the west side of the multi-family buildings to accommodate those who will be leasing in these buildings both residential and non-residential. Vlass’ parking consultant presented a very comprehensive study that shows that there is adequate parking throughout the redevelopment area to accommodate all parking requirements, including special events. In addition, Sweetbay has given their permission to allow parking in their parking lot for special events.

Staff wants the parking on the west side of the multi-family buildings to be shared parking instead of designated parking as proposed by Vlass. Vlass contends that everyone leasing in that building would expect designated parking spaces. Staff has approved designated parking in the rear and north side of the multi-family units.

One City Council member expressed concern that there be adequate parking in the future as the redevelopment progresses.

In Vlass’ proposal on September 1, 2012, Vlass stated that he would guarantee that there would always be adequate parking. Vlass further provided a guarantee that if in the future parking is not adequate, he would provide it at his sole expense.

First Floor Marketing

The third issue is more complicated and involves a timeline for allowing Vlass to stop marketing the bottom floor of the multi-family building from non-residential to residential. Vlass is proposing to market the bottom floor for non-residential for six months after the third amendment is approved and would build out the rented space to accommodate its commercial tenant.

Staff recommended that the ground floor spaces be marketed for eight months after the third amendment is approved. In addition, staff recommends that Vlass designate and build 3,000 square feet of the ground floor of Building E as non-residential for a period of one year from the issuance of the certificate of occupancy, after which time the developer could convert them to residential. This would require that Vlass market the 3,000 square feet for almost two years after Amendment 3 is approved.

Alternatives

Vlass’ final proposal to approve Amendment 3 submitted on Sept. 25, 2012, is not significantly different than what was submitted in May. Consequently, our staff and Vlass will be at an impasse and our council will be asked to vote up or down on Vlass’ proposal for the third Amendment to the MDA (master development agreement).

Here is what is at stake: If we do not move forward, we will, according to the MDA, be required to pay Vlass LLC the amount of money they have invested in the property thus far. This amount will probably be in the millions based upon what has been done.

History shows that there will not be an immediate agreement on the amount owed to Vlass and it could drag on for many months. During that time, we will be accumulating substantial legal fees.

Until the amount is settled, we will NOT own the land and therefore will not be able to engage another developer—which would be our fourth!

The amount we pay will be added to our $24 million existing debt. We will not be generating any additional revenue to help service our debt and in 2014, our TIF (tax increment financing) revenue* will be decreased by 20 percent (from 100 percent to 80 percent).

We have a bank loan of $24.2 million on which we have been paying interest only at $695,962 annually (interest rate at less than 3 percent). This loan is up for renewal in 2014.

If we agree to build the 214 multi-family units, according to our chief financial officer, we will generate $370,000 in taxable revenue annually when they are occupied.

In addition, our city would receive $750,000 in impact fees to fund some of our infrastructure. As the redevelopment grows, we will generate substantial revenues to service our debt.

It is important that our council receive your input so they can vote on this most important proposal.

This is the most important decision that Temple Terrace will face.

You must decide if you feel that ceiling height, parking and marketing differences between staff and Vlass are “deal breakers.”

I encourage you to make your feelings known to your council members.

*When Hillsborough County approved declaring the southeast quadrant of Temple Terrace a blighted area and establishing the Community Redevelopment Agency, they agreed to give the city 100 percent of the incremental tax value using 2004 as a base year. In other words, if the assessed value of the property was $2 million dollars, the city would get 100 percent of Hillsborough County Ad Valorem on the increased value of the property. Under this agreement, Temple Terrace receives 100 percent for 10 years and 80 percent for the next 20 years.

The projection of the TIF funds the city expected to generate through the increased property values it would realize after completion of the redevelopment was a key factor in declaring the property given to Vlass was “Fair Value” for what the city would receive in additional tax revenue.

See also:
City Receives Revised Redevelopment Proposal
Mayor: Redevelopment Project Must Move Forward
Redevelopment Project at Standstill
City Denies Redevelopment Proposal
Developers Give City Ultimatum
Council Postpones Redevelopment Decision 

JS October 04, 2012 at 06:56 PM
"The city will not go "broke" if we do not concede to these demands." It appears, in this statement, and others made here in the Patch and at candidate forums that financial ruin is a real possibility. Until someone with real information that can back this up with hard numbers I am going to assume the worst. "If there was no way to demand that a developer follow through with the MDA he signed there would be no point to planning or contracts in general." Excuse me, but if you read or saw what the Vlass attorney said at his last appearance. This is the last offer. If this is not approved Vlass walks, in not so many words. So, what teeth does this thing have? NONE. "1st, I support the TTRA denying these requested changes to the MDA. 2nd, After that, renegotiate the MDA do less density " So what do we do when the developer walks and does not renegotiate, as the attorney for Vlass implied? Listen folks, I am not trying to be argumentative. I want direct answers to direct questions poised in my scenario based on what I read in this article. We can do supposition from now until the cows come home to the Temple Terrace Meadow. We can stop our feet and toot our horns. Scream from every street corner and wave banners. But after it is all said and done, if we do not have a legal leg to stand on we are S-C-R-E-W-E-D. I just wish someone could give us a clear answer.
JS October 04, 2012 at 06:58 PM
"If there was no way to demand that a developer follow through with the MDA he signed there would be no point to planning or contracts in general." oh, and I am not trying to imply that MDA's and contracts have no validity. It all depends on HOW they are drafted. I am talking about THIS contract, which, from what I have seen and heard, is worthless.
Eunice R. Stoops October 04, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Not exactly Truth Teller People like RIMBLEY pushed us into this mess and is now running for office--he should NOT get elected becasue he is responsible for much of this problem. The redevelopment project resuted from a bogus finding that the area was "blighted" even though it was not and did not represent the severity of blight the Fla statutes envision and require for a CRA to succeed. WE KNOW THIS IS TRUE BECASUE THE PROJECT IS A FLOP AND ALWAYS WOULD BE A FLOP BECAUSE THERE HAS BEEN NO INITIAL SAVINGS FROM ELIMINATING THE ALLEGED BLIGHT --had we really had blight and its negative side effects like crime that was costing a fortune to deal with and control, by virtue of eliminating that alleged blight the city would have started saving lots of visible money when crime dropped and the savings from no longer dealing with the deleterious blight effects. The project would have easily succeeded EXCEPT there was never any true blight in the first place. Instead people LIKE RIMBLEY pushed project becasue EGO and they lived in that area and wanted to increase theiri own property value- if you read the council minutes from that era, they indicate the project was based on aesthetics after people who lived behind that shopping center came to council meetings and complained they were embarrased by empty Publix when friends passed that area on way to visitt .Embarassment is not blight, and neither is empty Publix store.LOOK FOR COUNCIL who LIVED/OWNDED PROPERTY AROUND PROJECT
JS October 04, 2012 at 07:04 PM
I think citizens should demand a public meeting before this vote. Maybe the Patch can spearhead the movement. It must be made clear to us what our legal standing is by a lawyer, not the Mayor or council. It must be made crystal clear to use what the likely financial fallout will be with a no vote. This is too important not have all the facts. What is in that contract?!?!?!?
Eunice R. Stoops October 04, 2012 at 07:04 PM
VLASS BUILT THE MAYOR A STATUE OF HIMSELF RIGHT SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PLACE. What do you suppose that statue represents??
JS October 04, 2012 at 07:09 PM
No offense here, but we are not missing the boat on rentals. Ride around Temple Terrace and look at the mess. I have a rental property across the street from me. When I moved in the people who lived there had built the house, in 1955. It was immaculate. They passed on, a new owner moved in, then moved out and rented it. It is now a constant battle just to get the grass cut. The rest of the house is in shambles. The bottom of the housing market is likely in for Florida. Sales are recovering. Tear downs and rebuilds are occurring all over the golf course. Just look around you! Adding more rentals at the market low is akin to the same mistake we made buying all that property at the top of the market. Buyers are back.
Morris Rendahl October 04, 2012 at 08:58 PM
People, Its implausible that Vlass would allow someone, such as Affronti, to speak for him to suggest that if our council doesn't follow the Vlass script that Vlass will vacate his interests, walk away, lock stock and barrel, from his involvement in his project. It is important to remember that the other component of this MDA may be flourishing and most certainly will provide a lot of value to our City if we do buy it back. If in fact Vlass walks, and walks from this south parcel development, is that what we are buying back? And can he really walk if he has sold a part interest in this south parcel which I understand he has…..Perhaps we actually have Vlass over the barrel! Its important you contact elected councilmembers with questions, ask them for real answers such as; How much must the City pay Vlass for his termination of this deal? Just as important, what is the value of these assets if we take over! Certainly Council have the dollar figures available to base an important decision like this on. Let taxpayers see those figures, if not shame on you Councilmembers. Its hard to believe your elected representatives don’t want to have real numbers & good information before any "Termination" vote is taken. If termination is really what Affronti is stating, in his clarification letter, but have Council and City manager considered these points or other business details necessary for the decisions. Mo
JS October 04, 2012 at 09:37 PM
"Its implausible that Vlass would allow someone, such as Affronti, to speak for him to suggest that if our council doesn't follow the Vlass script that Vlass will vacate his interests, walk away, lock stock and barrel, from his involvement in his project." I suggest you find and view the the last meeting where Vlass's attorney spoke. It is the Vlass attorney implying the walk away, speaking on behalf of Vlass, not Affronti. He presented a final ultimatum. It was rather quite clear, many citizens even saw it as a threat. "Perhaps we actually have Vlass over the barrel!" I think not. He has control of 26 million worth of land for nothing with no legal binding for him to perform. Should the deal fall through the city of TT owes him for every penny he has spent up to this point. He sure as hell won't be wearing a barrel. As far as termination costs, the city will have no idea of the cost of termination. Vlass will present a bill and lawyers negotiations would begin at that point, for months at a minimum. They may have a guestimate, but legal costs and project delays are sure to skyrocket those. As far as the value of the assets, well, the land was bought, for the most part, at the top of the market. 50% haircut at least. What Affronti's letter here implies, at least to me, is my scenario of the possible outcome is correct. Until he, or someone else in the city proves me wrong with hard facts I trust it is accurate.
Lucinda Johnston October 05, 2012 at 12:57 PM
At the risk of being publicly scolded by the mayor, yet again, I would like to second the idea that the mayor remove himself from this issue. It looks to me that the most benign interpretation of this latest scare letter is that he hopes to assure that he leaves office with SOMETHING being built behind his ridiculous "Our Dream Has Been Realized" statue. I was a fourth grade teacher for years and in my math and arithmetic classes 2 always came before 3. Lets DEMAND to know why phase II has been put on the back burner. To start these apartments before our NEW city officials are seated in just a few months is a slap in the face to the voters of this community. We have waited for years and a few more months will not make or break us. If we have to raise taxes to pay for this disaster so be it. Maybe we will be more careful about who we vote for in the future.
Eunice R. Stoops October 05, 2012 at 02:22 PM
and the lawyer who tells you what is in the contract should not be the lawyers who wrote that contract. The City needs new UNBIASED sources to come look thru the books and contracts and tell us the TRUTH. I think Affronti and Leinback are LYING to us and we do not know half of the undrbelly facing the CIty--this project has sucked up so much city money that should be used for other things and now those other things go neglected. They have used the Buccaneer Tax for this project and have channeled other onies from other accounts to this project that is supposed to be self supporting thru the TIF fund-and it is not. I am not willing to continue financing this as the New Urbanism pipe dream bc that will require us to continue throwing good money after bad and neglect the rest of the City all for this one project when we all know the center of the city has moved down toward Fowler Ave anyway, and we all know everyone who knows TT traffic AVOIDS 56th St and this project has made trafic even worse-the only people who benefit from this project are those living down in that area. It would have been cheaper to buy those folks new homes up in Teresa Arbour. FACE REALITY ALReADY. SALVAGE IT AS BEST AS WE CAN -Be reALISTIC AS TO THE FEASIBLE AND VIABLE OPTIONS, CUT THE LOSSES ANDLET US MOVE ON
JS October 05, 2012 at 02:27 PM
It is pretty obvious why phase 2 stalled. Vlass is using it as hostage to provide leverage for its assault. In the taped chamber meeting with Vlass' attorney one of the council members, I forget which, said exactly that. I repeat my stance on this. Until someone, the Mayor, Council or someone from the city gives us a straight answer on all of the risks in making this decision I have to assume, based on what Affronti is implying here, that we are screwed. Donohue, who is a supporter of moving ahead with Vlass, seems to allude to the same situation when she speaks at some functions. It's pretty sad that none of them have the chutzpah to come out and set us straight in plain talk on the risks of each option. I would hate to fire Vlass because my emotions tell me too and not have all the financial facts as they relate to the contract and strength of it. We need these questions answered: What is the legal standing we have to insist Vlass follow the MDA and how strong, if at all is it? If we fire Vlass, or he walks if denied, what are the short and long term most likely financial impacts on the city. Included in this answer should be if we sue Vlass, what are the chances we win, and then, that we collect anything from them? We have been kept in the dark on this contract long enough and I dont like making up my mind like Im sitting at the machines at Hard Rock.
Eunice R. Stoops October 05, 2012 at 02:30 PM
sell the remaining land to a medical-based facility or Home Depo or WalMart or some entity that can and will get us off the hook for out 10 year mistake --this is no coincidence this project has been such a headache--IT IS A BAD IDEA FINACIALLY AND THE GOVT HAS NO BUSINESS GETTING MIXED UP IN THeSE KINDS OF PROJECTS--ESP TT GOVT. Let us stop wasting money NOW and stop letting the small but vocal group of people who got us into this expensive nightmnare keep pushing us around by continuing to push this ridiculous NEW URBANISM project in the middle of a SUBURB. Are you going to buy a condo down there? If you aren't, who do you think will? Do you want to live around a bunch of bars, restaurants, grocerie stores? Neither do I. We all moved to the suburbs so we could sit in our back yards and enjot the peace and quiet. New Urbanism does not have that element. It is an outdated stupid concept we should have never gotten mixed up with.
Eunice R. Stoops October 05, 2012 at 02:49 PM
MO- what will happen to the statue of affronti if Vlass walks? Can we insist Vlass take that monstrosity wit them if they walk? Someone please add that condition to the Valss "walk" contract and let us pray Vlass is reasonable and will remove its rubbage when it leaves....
Chase October 05, 2012 at 03:09 PM
JS, We all understand that there are many questions that have not been answered. Vlass is in a binding contract on Phase II, it has no bearing on Phase III, yet they are holding us hostage. They are certainly using it as leverage. The problem we have with our mayor and council is they have zero experience in developing a project of this size. "Donohue, who is a supporter of moving ahead with Vlass, seems to allude to the same situation when she speaks at some functions." Mrs. Donohue has been a great citizen for the city of TT, but again zero developing experience. I am certain she has not analyzed the city budgets. The city simply needs to put a foot down and not discuss any changes to Phase III until Phase II is complete. Why all of a sudden is there this massive rush? Something is looming in November folks. If Vlass does not want to finish Phase II then put it out for public bid. Someone would build it. Lastly the mayor keeps bringing up all of this revenue that the city will generate, that revenue will not help when all of our property values drop like a rock in three years after completion. These frame apartment buildings are not meant to last 15 years. The property will be sold to Inland who will convert the buildings to subsidized housing in a few years and then they will sell it off. I am in the real estate development field, this is nothing new.
JS October 05, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Thanks Chase but no offense you have not answered a single question, and personally, in theory, I agree 100% with what you say, and have advocated that from the start of this fiasco. You say there is binding contract on Phase II. Have you seen, read and had it legally analyzed? In my view the Vlass stance represents one of or perhaps both of two things: First, the contract has no teeth. Now, I am not a lawyer, but I do know the value of a contract is in how it is actually drawn up and executed, not in the wishes behind it. Second, Vlass LLC TT, as a new and independent limited liability company pretty much isolates them personally from anything we could do. Sue them and you bankrupt a company specifically created to build the redevelopment. If I were the developer I would squeal in delight at that setup. As someone in the development field you should be well aware of the abuse by unscrupulous builders with LLCs. I am 100% against the wood structure apartments and all the changes Vlass proposes, but before I dig a hole and jump in it I want to be absolutely sure our city officials have a designed a strong ladder so I can climb out. From what I have seen so far, I have little faith in that, sorry. So, you are proposing the city do something and we it support without the citizens really knowing, for sure, a single shred of the facts of the financial and developmental impact. Cant do it.
Rollo Tomasi October 05, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Affronti is lost. he represents Vlass it seems, not TT if Vlass wants it Joe wants it. Why is that? Vlass has screwed the city and he laughs at all the tough talk because he has "outs" He knew he was going to clean up when he took this bid and knew he wasn't going to do anything else other than what HE wants to do. He has threatened to pull out and leave but when they did not cave he pulled it back wanting the message to be sent he will go to extremes. Face it we as a city are getting screwed and nothing at this point will change that. But lets not give in to the Vlass group just because Joe says so. he probably is hoping for a 6 ft oil painting paid by Vlass in the arts center of himself looking at his statue!!!
Carol Dell October 05, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Still looking for answers to these Tax Questions: 1) Does Vlass pay taxes on the undeveloped property? 2) Why are the taxes projected to be $370,000 when the apartments are fully occupied.......is this different than when they are completed? ( "If we agree to build the 214 multi-family units, according to our chief financial officer, we will generate $370,000 in taxable revenue annually when they are occupied.")
JS October 05, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Chillura is having an ice cream social tomorrow. We should all go and ask him these questions. Maybe he has some answers.
Morris Rendahl October 05, 2012 at 08:41 PM
sorry pal...how can Vlass walk if he has sold a portion of his interest to another entity????the City is not responsible to buy that interest back. as to value, the new leases brought on board, in the south area have increased that parcel value subs.. parcel' perhaps you should reread the Affronti letter… "Here is what is at stake: If we do not move forward, we will, according to the MDA, be required to pay Vlass LLC the amount of money they have invested in the property thus far. This amount will probably be in the millions based upon what has been done". this is stated as a statement of fact not a implied threat of action. A statement of fact which should only have been made by a agent of Vlass. In truth, we will not be required to do anything unless Vlass decides to vacate his agreement and at this time that is strictly speculation. Hence my conclusion!!!
Temple Terrace Resident 2 October 06, 2012 at 10:21 PM
The MDA we have is a legally binding contract between city and developer.
Temple Terrace Resident 2 October 06, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Current MDA was written in 12 hours at the Mayor's and developers urging. A document of this magnitude written in 12 hours places the city at jeopardy.
Temple Terrace Resident 2 October 06, 2012 at 10:27 PM
If Vlass walks or is terminated we would pay him for the work he has done so we can issue another RFP to find another developer asap. Not sure why we would want to sue him, it would slow us from issuing another RFP and moving on.
Temple Terrace Resident 2 October 06, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Not sure how you ended up at this conculsion?
Temple Terrace Resident 2 October 06, 2012 at 10:32 PM
JS, why don't you send a certified letter to the City Manager (and City Attorney) asking for answers to your questions? I think your assumption that the city can't or won't answer your basic questions is incorrect. It's probably more productive than writing "the sky is falling" over and over.
Temple Terrace Resident 2 October 06, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Bosek was writing about the Torti Gallas plan, that's not the plan we are building now. We should keep the density proposed now.
Truth teller October 07, 2012 at 01:55 PM
JS I suggest you go to the city clerks office and read the MDA yourself all your speculation is just that speculation, intellegent decisions are not based on speculation. You keep saying they will walk, how do you know that? They have threatened to walk 3 times already and yet they are still here why? Maybe its becase while the MDA is not perfect it does have some "teeth" all the documents are at the city clerks office rather than speculate what might happen from one letter by the mayor and posturing of an attorney go educate your self and then comment based on that education.
Truth teller October 07, 2012 at 01:58 PM
PS: JS did you bother to go to the ice cream social as you suggested?
JS October 07, 2012 at 09:05 PM
How about this for some Truth, teller. I am not a lawyer. I have not been elected to represent the people. The answer I want should come from the people in place in the city we pay to work for us and those we have elected. Those elected officials should be educating all of us. It is not something I have the expertise in, nor should I have to attempt it. The last time I looked we are a representative form of government, not a direct democracy. Maybe it is enough for someone as informed as you to make the decision based on "maybe.......it does have some teeth." That is not enough for me to decide to support a vote that could possibly bankrupt the city. Obviously you have not read the MDA or understood either, or you could explain it intelligently here. Yet you make your decisions on suppositions. That is the kind of thinking that has gotten us into this mess in the first place. The citizens of this city agreed to the redevelopment based on the assumption council, mayor and city staff would do everything they should to safeguard the city's investment. People like you need to stop assuming and demand answers from the people in charge. Regardless of the present public standing of the mayor, I sure as hell am going to take a letter he posts to the public with more weight than anonymous comment like yours.
Taxpayer poor October 12, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Carol, Look at the hillsborough co property appraisers sight and see the value of the north end of this project, that is what Vlass is paying taxes on currently, until the buildings are built occupied or not there is no increase or TIF coming back to TT. As a matter of fact all the property except the SweetBay portion has taken a nose dive in Value, TIF is based on increased value! It started about 2005 and was only 100% of increased value for 10 years..guess we are well into that with overall net gain for the SW Quad as a negative. two more 10 year renewals but at less than the 100% so our leaders have squandered the majority of any gain as well as leaders giving away the land taxpayers are on the hook for about $25 million if any or nothing happens there!
JS October 12, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Thanks Taxpayer poor, it is those kind of facts and figures the people really need to know. I wish we had much more concerning the financial impacts and risks of this project, price adjusted to today's market. Unfortunately, I think most of them would rather choose to ignore them.

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