Thursday, January 18, 2018
Business

Largo takes steps to spur development

LARGO — A thriving mix of residential and retail at the corner of U.S. 19 and Roosevelt Boulevard. A better-designed connection between the Pinellas Trail and downtown. A city that apartment developers find enticing.

The City Commission made several development-related decisions last week that could set the stage for all of the above to become reality. Or, in the case of the Pinellas Trail project, maybe not, according to one commissioner.

Pinellas Trail connection

The commission approved spending $80,000 on design of a new and improved intersection between the trail and downtown.

The project would probably include a trailhead — a small parking lot that could include bike racks, a map and water fountains, according to community development director Carol Stricklin.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes renewed his skepticism that trail travelers will want to stop off in Largo because the trail does not intersect with an area teeming with shopping or dining options, as in Dunedin.

"I don't understand why we're trying to make the trail into something that there's virtually no chance of it becoming," he said.

The enhanced trail intersection is part of an urban trails plan city staff developed with "a great deal of community input," Stricklin replied.

"The community wants that kind of connectivity," she told Holmes at Tuesday night's meeting.

The intersection project's price tag has dropped since Holmes lodged his last objection. When city staff brought it to commissioners last summer, they proposed spending more than $1.3 million. The cost is now $530,000, Stricklin said, which reflects a "more strategic" plan to improve the trail's connection.

Price for parks

The idea behind parkland impact fees is this: Developers should pay Largo money to provide parks for their residents. The builder of a 300-unit apartment complex could pay as much as $777,000 in park-related impact fees.

Not for the next two years, though, as the City Commission approved a moratorium on the fees. Several developers have asked the city recently to waive the fees, and staff decided, in the interest of spurring development, it was a good time to give the fees a break.

Got parking?

Apartment developers have also been asking for leniency on the city's parking requirements of two spaces per one-bedroom apartment. Staff will likely look into making changes, Stricklin said.

Last week the commission approved a development agreement that allows Pollack Partners to build a 342-unit complex with 600 parking spaces at the former site of the Bay Area Outlet Mall.

Jeff Rogo, government affairs director for the Bay Area Apartment Association, said the city should consider permanently relaxing its parking requirements to put it closer to 1.5 to 1.75 spaces per apartment. Rogo also lauded the impact fee moratorium.

"The city is doing a good job of putting itself on competitive footing with other communities," he said.

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