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Agreement to address neighbors' concerns about Largo apartment project

LARGO — Neighbors who fear the impacts of a planned 260-unit apartment complex near Largo Mall learned last week what protections the city is penciling into a development agreement with Steve McConnihay, the property owner-developer.

Those protections include buffers and height restrictions to limit views of surrounding residential properties by the apartment complex's eventual occupants.

After neighbors complained at a Pinellas Planning Council meeting that they had few details about the project, Largo commissioners voted to require McConnihay to negotiate a development agreement with the city. Development agreements, not done for all projects, typically contain more details and give local government more control over what is built.

McConnihay plans to build the apartments on the site of the Briarwood Travel Villas at 2098 Seminole Blvd., just north of Ulmerton Road. The 14-acre property now contains a 138-space RV park.

Last week, city commissioners listened as Carol Stricklin, Community Development Department director, and principal planner Jesus Nino presented the conditions in the agreement, designed mainly to allay the concerns of residents in the adjoining communities of Coastal Ridge and Palm Hill Country Club.

The agreement is peppered with height restrictions and requirements for additional setbacks and buffer zones between the complex and adjoining properties.

Residents of Coastal Ridge had been concerned about "the ability of people (in the new apartments) to see into the neighboring properties,'' Stricklin said. So the proposed agreement requires not only a 150-foot buffer between the apartments and Coastal Ridge, but also that the apartment buildings be set behind a parking area.

Some neighbors have expressed concern that tall apartment buildings will impact their quality of life by, for example, blocking sunlight and breezes.

Although McConnihay had already proposed only three- or four-story buildings, the development agreement lays out in writing the maximum height allowed: no more than four stories high, and no taller than 70 feet, Stricklin said.

"Can we make sure that the four-story buildings are on the southern end of the property and that they're not abutting other homeowners?'' Mayor Pat Gerard asked. "I think the surrounding neighborhoods would appreciate that."

Stricklin assured the mayor that the building placement requirements would be worked into the agreement as well.

Commissioner Harriet Crozier asked if the apartment construction would worsen the traffic situation in that area caused by the widening of Ulmerton Road, a state project that is under way.

"Will we have triple the congestion when this project starts?'' she asked.

The answer was provided by Nino. The Ulmerton Road project, which will create new turn lanes at the intersection of Seminole Boulevard and Ulmerton, is scheduled to be completed at the end of this year. The apartment construction isn't slated to begin until early 2015.

Before ground can be broken, several more public hearings on the issue will be held before the Largo City Commission and the Pinellas Planning Council.

"We're looking at two more public hearings on the development agreement and then two more public hearings concerning the land-use designation before this is done,'' Stricklin said. "We'll then appear a final time in front of the City Commission. All of this makes it so that we're very comfortable with the amount of public input available.''

Piper Castillo can be reached at pcastillo@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4163. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Agreement to address neighbors' concerns about Largo apartment project 02/09/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 4:26pm]
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