After seven months of negotiations, the Temple Terrace City Council has denied developer Vlass Temple Terrace’s revised proposal for apartments in the redevelopment area.
At a special meeting Tuesday, council members unanimously voted down Vlass’ third amendment regarding the residential aspect of the project.
“Each time we get together and talk with the developer, we get back a document that isn’t what we discussed,” said Councilwoman Mary Jane Neale. “… There is no way I can vote to support this.”
Since February, council members and Temple Terrace residents have spoken both for and against the 214-unit apartment complex that Vlass originally proposed. The initial plan required approximately 25 changes to the master development agreement (MDA), a contract created in 2010 between the city and Vlass that dictates what the developer can and can’t do. It also called for a development corporation, Inland Atlantic, to build the residences with no retail space on the first floor.
That was a concern for council members and most residents, who have stated that they want a walk-able downtown. Vlass contended that getting financing for a multi-use building would be impossible.
“I disagree with all these changes,” said Councilman Bob Boss Tuesday. “How much have demographics changed from May of 2010?”
After the council denied Vlass’ original proposal in March, both sides met several times to discuss their terms. The conflict centered on three main topics: ceiling heights on the first floor of the buildings that would make up the residences; how long the first floor would be marketed for retail before being converted to residential; and the amount of parking spaces that are adequate.
On Sept. 25, Vlass submitted its third and final proposal.
“I was anticipating the document we received back from the developer would reflect what was discussed in our last meeting,” said Councilwoman Alison Fernandez.
But the revision differed little from what had already been discussed.
The council said ceiling heights should be 14 feet; the Vlass proposal had them at 12 feet. The council said first-floor retail should be marketed for at least one year; the Vlass proposal had it marketed for six months. The council said there should be shared parking on the west side of the apartment buildings; the Vlass proposal had designated parking there for apartment residents.
“Inland has stated that they do not want a mix of commercial and retail,” Fernandez said. “Why would they convert to retail without any mechanism in place? If we can’t agree on a ceiling height, then we can’t move forward on this piece of the project.”
Councilman Ron Govin agreed.
“It’s almost as if we’re starting over with a new document,” he said. “…I believe there are critical elements left out of this amendment that affect fulfillment of the MDA.”
Councilman David Pogorilich said he didn’t think Vlass intended to put retail on the first floor.
“If there was truly intent to build retail, they wouldn’t be discussing it so much and instead they’d be building 18-foot ceilings,” he said. “There is not enough parking for the Arts Center. And the six-month marketing plan is a deal breaker. They will allow no outside input on the marketing and after six months, we have to lease it.”
Before the vote, Vlass’ attorney David Smith contended that the ceiling height of the first floor, the common area maintenance and adequate parking spaces should be postponed for a meeting devoted to zoning issues.
“The zoning code is a different process,” he said. “Therefore those decisions should be made in another context.”
He also said having renters in the building would encourage retail below.
“We want this to work, but we might need multi-family residential until the market for retail comes back,” he said.
Residents encouraged the council to deny the proposal despite the Vlass group’s previous threat to abandon the project if the plan wasn’t approved. Tom Veit said the council shouldn’t worry about what might happen after a denial of the amendment.
“We shouldn’t fear that if we vote ‘no’ the developer will walk—so what?” he said. “… If the developer stays, then we know we have a partner.”
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