Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

New owner of Dunedin 'eyesore' will meet with disapproving neighbors

DUNEDIN — The new owner of an unfinished waterfront mansion has agreed to meet with neighbors to discuss his plans for the property, city officials said Thursday.

Pinellas property appraiser records show that German attorney Volker Raabe purchased the 12,000-square-foot concrete structure at 570 Edgewater Drive last month from Iberia Bank for $850,000.

It was originally intended as a developer's dream mansion, but construction stopped when a bank foreclosed on it in 2009.

City staff said Raabe has long been aware of the controversy over the structure, which prompted picketing and City Hall speeches by neighbors who called it an "eyesore" and said they wanted the city to buy and raze it to make way for a parking lot, stormwater drainage or — at the very least — a "normal-sized" home.

Dunedin planning director Greg Rice told residents at an Edgewater Drive Advisory Committee neighborhood meeting on Thursday night that City Manager Rob DiSpirito, through a third party, has been working to orchestrate another neighborhood meeting — this time with Raabe — which will probably be scheduled for early May.

DiSpirito told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that in addition to serving as a meet and greet, the discussion at the May neighborhood meeting will probably center around Raabe's plans for aesthetics, length of construction and landscaping.

"He's going to complete it as a single-family home," DiSpirito said. "That's clearly the intention that was expressed to me by everyone I've spoken to, from the Realtor to the contractor to the bank."

The property's redevelopment is on a list of long-term improvements the citizens advisory committee is proposing for the scenic route.

About 50 residents attended the 90-minute meeting Thursday at Church of the Good Shepherd to offer feedback on the improvement plan, which touches on traffic safety, park upgrades, beach erosion and overall aesthetics.

The hulking Edgewater Drive home was among the items that generated the most chatter. Residents had questions about permitting and how much time the owner has to finish the project.

Rice said the city's new land development codes allow the City Commission to decide on design, site plan, landscaping and architectural details, rather than leaving that task to the city staff.

If permits are approved, Rice said, the new owner will have two years to complete the project or possibly face daily code enforcement fines after that. Completion timetables, aimed at preventing unfinished "white elephant" projects from blighting the city, vary based on project value.

Other highlights from Thursday's committee meeting:

• The committee had suggested moving the Alt. U.S. 19 federal highway designation from two-lane Edgewater Drive to a four-lane road in a bid to deter noisy trucks, traffic congestion and speeding.

But Charlotte Abington, head of the Edgewater subcommittee that crafted the improvement plan, relayed a city staff announcement that moving the road's Alt. U.S. 19 designation would mean a loss of state funding for maintenance and weather emergencies.

Most attendees appeared to oppose the measure, though several attendees sought figures on how much it would cost the city to maintain the road. Abington said Friday that she had heard that insurance coverage might be available to cover cities in case of a catastrophic event.

• Residents disagreed with the committee's proposal that crosswalks be kept to a minimum on Edgewater. The committee said few motorists obey them, but neighbors say speeding is a huge problem that prevents them from crossing the street to enjoy Edgewater Linear Park.

Suggestions included a slightly raised bricked crosswalk, pedestrian flags similar to those used on Sand Key or signs warning of fines for violators.

• Residents said they opposed a proposal for decorative, solar-powered streetlamps overlooking park benches. The committee had hoped to increase safety for nighttime walkers and bikers, but neighbors said city-operated streetlights already provide sufficient lighting.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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