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Mayor Responds to Reader Comments on Redevelopment

Mayor Joe Affronti has addressed comments that readers posted on a piece he wrote about the downtown redevelopment project.


Editor's note:
Mayor Joe Affronti is responding to reader comments on his piece, “”

From Mayor Joe Affronti:

I would normally not respond to comments made by some citizens publicly, but when my honesty and integrity is challenged, I will respond. When people cannot enter into an intelligent debate, they tend to challenge the character rather than to address the facts presented by the other party. To me, this is sickening and uncharacteristic of the citizens in our community. My wife and I have always treated everyone with the utmost respect, and I am very upset with the slanderous innuendos expressed by some of the responders. I will also address some of the questions posed in several replies.

To Lucinda Johnston: The Hillsborough County Tax Appraiser notifies each jurisdiction of their projected property values and these projections are as of July 2012.

To Chase: I absolutely would like to see this project move forward during the balance of my term. We have been working on this for 10 years, and I was just as committed with our two previous developers as I am with Vlass.

My passion for the redevelopment began in 1998 when I ran for City Council. That was my main platform, and I have not deviated from that goal in my 14 years serving this city. Our city’s No. 1 goal, established by our council over the past several years, has been and still is the Downtown Redevelopment. As mayor, it is my responsibility to do everything reasonably possible to make it happen.

Regarding your disagreement with the 4 percent property value projected decrease, I suggest that you call the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser and tell him that his Property Values for Temple Terrace are wrong and you have the right figures. I am sure that he will appreciate your input.

The statue was put up by Vlass, who owns the land. To my knowledge, the citizens were not asked to vote on his decision. Do you really think that Vlass should have asked the city to have a referendum to approve the statue? You can't be serious!

Your accusation of “back room deals” is appalling. Maybe you are more familiar with this kind of activity, but it is not and never has been in my make-up.

Lucinda Johnston: Your comments about my wife and me “wondering what we did to deserve such a nice gift. Make you wonder doesn't it.” What could we have done to deserve the gift? Are you implying that I promised to give him my vote to approve his project? I have no vote, and in my eight years as mayor, I voted only once to break a tie and that was in 2009 for the MDA. Do you suppose that I made a deal with Vlass in 2009 that I would vote for the MDA if he would erect my statue two and one half years later? That defies good logic.

Quentin: Regarding your accusation that “I do not feel that you care anything about Temple Terrace.” I represent Temple Terrace as the chairman of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization, which meets twice a month, and have been re-elected chair each year for the past five years. I represent Temple Terrace as chairman of the Hillsborough County Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board, which meets every other month. I represent Temple Terrace on the Economic Development Corporation for Hillsborough County, which meets at least once a month. I
represent Temple Terrace on the Tourist Development Committee for Hillsborough County, which meets each quarter. I meet with our school principals three times a year. All of these activities have been very beneficial to our city directly and indirectly.

In addition, I participate in our city's Garden Club events, Woman’s Club events, Friendship Club events, Preservation Society events, Chamber of Commerce events, city park events and many meetings in general that could benefit Temple Terrace.

What have you done for our City?

JW: To the best of my knowledge, Marbella is trying to sell what they already have at bargain prices. The original developer went under.

You, I am glad to say, are not “the people.” We have 26,000 residents in Temple Terrace and every day I hear from citizens who want this project to move forward. At a town hall meeting in July 2009, Vlass stated that the multi-family could be condos or apartments depending upon the market. I assume you missed that meeting.

Taxpayer (No Name): The first two developers pulled out because they did not have the financing to do the project.

Regarding the government intervention issue. I set up a Small Business Roundtable made up of 15 well-known small businesses in our area to meet with elected officials at the national and state levels to express our small business concerns. We met with Congresswoman Cathy Castor, Congressman Gus Billerakis, State Representative Shawn Harrison and then State Senator Jim Norman.

Some of the main concerns among the group were the rules and regulations imposed by our government that is inhibiting our business growth. Maybe you have done the same with different results. The small business views are not unbelievable. They are real, and since we employ more than 60 percent of the workforce, they should be listened to and not ignored.

Richard Diaz: “The mayor sold our city out for a statue.” I cannot even respond to “DUMB” and “STUPID.”

John Chambers July 10, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I am not particularly happy about the way the redevelopment project has progressed but given the duration of the project, well over 10 years, it was inevitable that we would encounter numerous phases of an economic cycle. Unfortunately our timing was not propitious causing numerous developers to be involved, plans to be changed, prospective tenants reconsidering their commitment, etc. What we have to do now is to play the hand that is dealt us as well as we can - working within the constraints that exist. One thing I am definitely certain about is the integrity and dedication of the Mayor. He is the only politician that I know who I trust implicitly. He truly has never had any personal agenda to accomplish, certainly nothing similar to a statue or any other enhancement to his image or status. He has served the City well for nealy 14 years and I appreciate all of his efforts in trying to make this community a better place to live - while up against some very daunting problems. I regret the personal attacks on his character even though they are made out of ignorance. Thanks Joe. John Chambers
Temple Terrace resident July 10, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Most will admit the statue was poor timing at best, it should be removed for a period of time, it has become a needless distraction. We can replace the statue when this project is finished. The Mayor is doing the best he can but seemingly the only advice he heeds these days is from the developer. Certainly we must all recognize that the interests of the developer and that of the city are completely different. The developer is not our friend, this is a business transaction, that is all.
Linda Beckman July 10, 2012 at 02:53 PM
While my views on how the city and it's developer should proceed on Phase III of the re-development plan does differ with those of our mayor, I wish to distance myself from those who would call his character and integrity into question. I have known the Mayor Affronti for several years and have never doubted his vision for the future of our city was motivated by any but the purest of intentions. The allegation that he sold our city out for a statue is patently ridiculous.
JS July 10, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I agree, the statute is a distraction. Vlass put the Mayor in a no win situation. The wise thing for him to have done was not accept it, but it is not his fault. The attacks have really come from citizen frustration. The mayor should understand that. I do not wish him ill intent and I would hope no one else here does. I was, and am angry about the redevelopment mess. We were presented with beautiful plans and while nothing has ever been "promised" outright, anyone who denies what was implied in the media is not being honest. The fact that citizens could not attend town hall meetings should not be used to hide behind possible bad decision making by officials. The situation, as I see it, is we handed over the land to the developer with a gentlemen's promise. We have our vision, Vlass has theirs. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is nothing in writing or contract to compel Vlass to complete our vision if it goes against their economic goals even to the slightest. In reality they can walk at the drop of a hat or change the redevelopment to suit their profits. Had I understood this I would of been against the deal from the beginning. Why we would take taxpayer dollars, 24 million, hand it over and enter into such a deal is beyond my understanding. No business in the world would sign such an agreement. In simple terms, we may be screwed. especially in this economy. Tozier warned of this. We kicked him to the curb. I regret not listening more intently to him.
Carol Dell July 10, 2012 at 02:58 PM
TT resident has it right........the developer is not our friend. We know what we have been expecting for our redevelopment.....a walkable downtown. It has been in the plans for years that the town center would include stores....restaurants....the arts center as well as residences. An apartment complex does make a town center for our current 24000 residents. Carol Dell
Ashamed TT Resident July 10, 2012 at 03:01 PM
This is such foolish bickering, it's almost laughable. I said almost! I'm ashamed to call myself a Temple Terrace citizen with this childish behavior. Shame on you people. And especially you Mr Mayor for responding to these nitwits that have nothing better to do than argue back and forth about who's right and who's wrong. You make yourself look like imbeciles. "any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do." - Dale Carnegie
Pam Devoid July 10, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I never questioned the mayor's character; however I have recently experienced the mayor’s rudeness toward the residents at public meeting where they were expressing their opinions. I do believe the mayor has lost sight of our vision, this does not make him a bad person, however to try and turn his frustrations onto the residents is never acceptable. We have a new mayor and new council that will be in place soon, Vlass has no interest in pursuing our needs for retail, they continue to fight us every step of the way and bully us by saying it is their way or they quit, which they said prior to the last public hearing, we are two years ahead of schedule, better to take the tax hit now for the property sitting then to sell out to something the residents do not want nor will they support. Pamela
Pam Devoid July 10, 2012 at 03:38 PM
To Ashamed TT Resident I am not a nitwit; I am a resident who has supported the redevelopment since day one. To expect citizens to sit around and not reply or do anything would be irresponsible. I am also not a fool; I will not sit around and criticize, condemn and complain, I will make a difference starting with our city officials at election time. This is not bickering; it is the redevelopment of our city that has been in the works for over 20 years. I am 46 lived here 40 years of my life, a business owner in Temple Terrace and I intend to be an active citizen of my community. So apparently you are the only name caller here, I am a working citizen for my community.
Barbara July 10, 2012 at 05:44 PM
...and why is Vlass not starting on Phase 2 ?
Pam Devoid July 10, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Vlass is not going to do anything else for our city until we back down and allow the apartments and cut in retail they have requested. They are nothing more than bullies, and I agree it is only about money for Vlass. What has been done to date is nice, but our vision is a far cry from where we are right now.
Lucinda Johnston July 10, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I have never questioned the mayor's character or integrity. I do question his judgement in treating a developer like a trusted friend and his citizens like naughty school children.
Pam Devoid July 10, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Bravo Lucinda my point exactly, you must have been at the public meetings. Pam
Al Martini July 11, 2012 at 12:29 AM
I also am not comfortable with the attacks on the mayor. Given the economic circumstances of the past few years and the different viewpoints of our residents, the redevelopment project has not been an easy one. We need to stick together, share opinions and keep moving forward! We should thank Joe Affronti for the work he has done and dedicate ourselves to outlasting the current economic problems and making sound decisions for the future of the community.
Howard Johnston July 11, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Attacking citizens and using terms like "dumb" and "stupid" shows how out of touch Mayor Affronti is with public sentiment in the city. He is outraged that we question his relationship with Vlass Development because Mr. Vlass erected a statue of the mayor in the would-be downtown center. It would be OK if the statue was erected to celebrate an outstanding project -- or if Mr. Vlass placed the statue in his office -- or his own backyard. But it wasn’t. It was erected during talks to waive regulations so that Vlass can build small, low-cost, and easy-to-finance apartments in an area already saturated with apartments. I believe that Mr. Affronti did not engage in any ethical shenanigans, but he and Mr. Vlass showed jaw-dropping bad judgment with the statue. First, it creates an impression of impropriety. Second, it is foolish. The Mayor’s bronze hand points to a vacant lot, proclaiming that our dream has been realized. Nonsense! That is too much like President Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” to be anything but laughable. This is still a very hot issue, and it seems Mr. Vlass is doing his best to evade what few obligations appear to have been negotiated into the development contract in the first place. Mr. Affronti is angry, but about the wrong thing. He’s upset that people question the impropriety of the statue, when he should be angry that Mr. Vlass seems to be intent on turning our downtown into a low-end apartment development
Kerry Brown | LCSW July 11, 2012 at 03:05 AM
In the words of the late Rodney King... "Can't we just get along?" All perspectives and concerns expressed are valid, but the veiled accusations and name-calling and cheap potshots are not becoming. Our mayor has been one of the most visible and available and hard-working mayors any small community could hope for, and implications of deals and quid pro quos demean the long commitment and service he has given. So perhaps we can take a deep breath and respectfully focus on our options and on finding solutions instead of continuing this public mudslinging.
Joan Staehle July 11, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Those who are involved in name-calling should be sent to time-out...along with Mr. Vlass. Our city government should be lauded for the improvements to entry ways into Temple Terrace, brick sidewalks, attractive walls, etc. But all 26,000 TT residents should keep in mind that Vlass deserves no credit for these improvements because they were the result of state and federal grants or money out of Temple Terrace's (our) taxes. All Vlass has done so far is add makeup to existing stores and fail on what was expected of him. Tiny wooden apartments can NEVER be turned into condos "at a later date" because they would not meet code requirements for condos if they are built to apartment specifications. Let's think about no apartments and maybe no condos. Let's think about a beautiful park with 2-3 upscale restaurants, a Barnes & Noble bookstore and/or a craft store like Michaels or JoAnne Fabrics....some establishments that would bring TT homeowners into our downtown area again!
Quentin July 11, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Better to be silent and thought the fool rather than speak and remove all doubt. Congratulations Joe!!
JS July 11, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Think about this for those who say no complaints are due. Vlass was handed 24 MILLION in land SCOT-FREE which is likely worth half that now, paid for by us. Our city council and Mayor paid top dollar for much of it in the largest RE bubble in history. This burden will hurt homeowners hardest, with commercial and multifamily picking up some, but their portion is passed on to consumers. Now this is quick chicken scratch math estimate. It could be less, but likely much more. It always is! The 2010 census says there are about 11250 homeowners in Temple Terrace. Thats a tab of $2100 per, lets reduce to $1900 when we include commercial etc. The number grows exponentially with interest. Money borrowed over 30 years at 5% the tab grows to 3700.00. Don't even think about all the future debts at the state and national level sure to hit your wallet. The development revenue, theoretically, will offset this debt. Are you willing to pay for an asset worth much less now and not get what you were told, implied or not? Town hall meeting attendee or not? Are you willing to forgo high quality revenue generating business/residences for low quality low revenue when you were sold the opposite? If you don't stand up your going to own crappy wood apartments insurance companies don't even want to write policies on and Dollar General style anchors. This is MY money too and I sure as heck have a say in how it's spent.
Concerned Resident July 11, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I agree that the deal with the Vlass partnership dead, there is no way possible that we will allow anything even close to what they propose, we will not accept wood structures or any other caveat that he has mentioned.... Though we need to understand that the loan the City took on the $24 million is not one that the City can afford, the law does not allow taxes or fee's to be raised enough to cover the payments... The questions that need to be asked are, if Vlass walks away, how long will it be until the City defaults on the loan? what effect will defaulting on the loan be on the City? and if the default occurs what is the likelihood that another developer or bank would become involved with the City? After these answers are received it will be clear that the old and new councils priority needs to be to get a new City Manager and then a new Developer. I like the Mayor and have had lunch with him many times, he is frustrated and rightly so... So that it is clear we will not accept ANY changes to the MDA, lower than 18 ft ceilings are not going to be accepted, yes the MDA would allow more apartments though they can't be wood frame. If Council believes that the past emails and/or citizen involvement was excessive they haven't seen anything yet, the Mayor's response has everyone talking and everyone will have their voices heard now, goodbye Mr. Vlass.
Temple Terrace resident July 11, 2012 at 05:16 PM
It's premature to say the Vlass partnership is dead, they know our demands, let's see what they come back to the table with. If it is not what the MDA and downtown code demands, then we move on per "breach of contract".
JS July 11, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Is there even a contract to breach?
Chase July 11, 2012 at 05:51 PM
What do we owe Vlass? Nothing!!! He has a deal of a lifetime. He has threatened numerous times to walk away if he is not given what he wants. So are we just to accept what he wants for fear of them abandoning the project? Commit to the plan you agreed on Mr. Vlass, and finish what you promised. We as a city have been working on this for Twelve years and what do we have? We have a bulldozed building, a facelift on Sweetbay, a horribly designed post office, a statue with controversy, a master agreement that is trying to be altered, and people bathing in the fountain area. This thing is an utter train wreck because it has gone off course. STICK TO THE PLAN THAT WAS AGREED ON. Was there a clause in the original agreement contingent upon Vlass getting financing? NO.... End of discussion. Then either he holds up his end of the deal or WE AS A CITY have to make a decision.
Temple Terrace resident July 11, 2012 at 08:02 PM
C'mon, it's not all that, the Sweetbay Center is much better than before, some may have problems with parking at the Post Office, but I have found that is age related, not everyone has a problem with it. I have never seen people bathing in the fountain. 56th Street is beautiful.
JS July 11, 2012 at 08:32 PM
The work on Sweetbay is a definate improvement sans the liquor store, but it is a not all high quality and signs of trouble are already appearing. The support posts in front of Sweetbay are not wrapped in protective material, stone etc, its just painted and already looks shoddy from cart traffic, same thing with all the walls. Look at Publix across the street, thats a quality designed front entrance. All poles should be covered in a cart resistant surface. Common sense. The rail by the post office should of been extended all around. People have created foot trails down the landscaping, ruining plants, dislodging all the mulch and eventually will ruin the drip irrigation. Its also a safety issue. Yesterday a street lamp blew over in front of Sallys that didnt even look like it was anchored. Good thing no one was hit. The landscaping to the left of Sweetbay in the box looks likes weeds. Some other areas of landscaping are also not doing well. So by the time the rest of this thing is done your gonna have to go back and redo the beginning. Maintenance has been my other big worry about this project. Who is going to do it? Who is going to MAKE them do it? These are just a passerby's notice of work that is not that old..... I also think Sweetbay should be forced to keep their entrance clean and get rid of the shoddy smoking lounge picnic tables out front, but maybe Im too picky. Temple Terrace Resident, Im headed down now with soap and towels.
DM July 12, 2012 at 01:14 PM
I would like to know who has benefited from this project Who are the people the city paid for the property purchased for the various phases of the project I wonder if you will find friends and family of some of our city officials have benefited the most. I purchased a home in Temple Terrace( in 2000) Planning upon staying for the rest of my life. I am now just praying to be able to sell and leave. I too had high hope for a New downtown Retail neighborhood with better Restaurants Better types of Stores such as better Clothing. (Gap - Old Navy) Household Goods ( Sur La Table) , Good Bakery Coffee Shop ( Peets Coffee) ect. I travel to CA often and find many small neighborhood type cities with all of these and more. Most are retail with residential above. Time to get rid of the Old Guard and find new leadership not more of the same self serving ones
Carol Dell July 13, 2012 at 05:04 PM
We need a long term solution to this Redevelopment situation, not a short term fix. Long term \solution would be to stay with the Citizens Vision.....retail, residences, restaurants and the arts center. Short term fix...sell out for another apartment complex. Carol Dell
Eligey W. Ellis Jr. July 13, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Common sense does not seem to be to common! We the people have an agreement with our elected leaders, known as the MDA. The leadership of Temple Terrace has a responsibility to support their citizens wishes. Find "another contractor" to build what the citizens want! Pete
JS August 06, 2012 at 12:30 PM
The latest : Temple Terrace mayor's statue keeps lonely vigil http://www.tampabay.com/news/temple-terrace-mayors-statue-keeps-lonely-vigil/1243620
Carol Dell August 06, 2012 at 01:16 PM
"Affronti sees three possible outcomes: The two sides reach an agreement and move forward; the deal falls through and the city gets back the property it turned over to the developer, after paying back what the developer put into it; or they become embroiled in a lawsuit." I go for the second possibility.....get back the property we GAVE the developer and sell it for real money and let the owners build on it. Carol Dell
Temple Terrace resident August 06, 2012 at 01:23 PM
I agree with this.

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