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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nearly 100 Dunedin residents protest local church's plan to sell to developers

Dunedin resident Pat Higgens, 69, holds a sign during a Sunday morning protest in front of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Leaders plan to sell a portion of church's property that backs up to Hammock Park to developers hoping to build townhouses.

MEGAN REEVES | Times

Dunedin resident Pat Higgens, 69, holds a sign during a Sunday morning protest in front of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Leaders plan to sell a portion of church's property that backs up to Hammock Park to developers hoping to build townhouses.

Following last Wednesday's jam-packed and contentious Development Review Committee meeting about the proposed development of land connected to Hammock Park, nearly 100 Dunedin residents showed up outside Our Lady of Lourdes' Sunday morning mass to protest.

The church sits on a 34-acre parcel at 750 San Salvador Drive, owned by the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and wants to sell about 8 acres if it to Taylor Morrison Homes, a development company hoping to build townhomes there. 

Father Gary Dowsey says the church has been trying to sell the portion of land backing up to Hammock Park since last summer, after he realized it was a liability to allow the public to continue using it as a part of the park. In February, the church offered the land to the city for $1.2 million, but commissioners declined, saying the price was too high for something not in the city's strategic plan for parkland.

"We offered it to the city first and foremost, and they decided they didn't want to buy it," Dowsey said. "We told them we would be looking into developers."

Although the church can legally sell the land, residents argue it is a decision that is destructive to trees and animals living in the park -- particulary, the gopher tortoise population.

"People like the atmosphere in Dunedin. This is an active, outdoor community," said 71-year-old resident Ora Sue McKinnon at the protest. "Overdevelopement encroaches on that."

Several residents say they plan to protest outside the church's 9:30 mass each Sunday until something changes, and many plan to go to Thursday's 6:30 p.m. commission meeting to express their concerns to city leaders.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 12:45pm]

    

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