SAFETY HARBOR — There are parts of Mullet Creek that aren't pretty.
Look into it and you'll see broken appliances, a dirty mattress and empty liquor bottles.
Vagrants buy their beer at the nearby Cumberland Farms and drink it on the undeveloped property at the northwest corner of Philippe Parkway and Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.
Landowner John Mahan and architect Ted Williamson say all that will change with the City Commission's 3-1 vote Monday to amend the zoning and land use designation, paving the way for a new office building on the south side of the creek.
Sprucing up the area is also part of the plan.
Mayor Andy Steingold voted against the revision. "I was for the change in zoning but wanted to maintain control over the development of the project through a construction agreement in order to gain the confidence of citizens who are skeptical.''
City Commissioner Mary Lynda Williams was absent.
Williamson plans to construct a 4,500-square-foot, two-story office building on the 0.69-acre parcel.
Nearly a dozen opponents spoke against the project during Monday's meeting.
"That is an estuary,'' said Robin Fornino. "It's absolutely going to be negatively impacted.''
She added that "an office building is not an appropriate gateway to our city.''
But Mahan and Williamson want to prove Fornino and others wrong and build an environmentally-friendly edifice that would serve as an attractive new northern gateway to Safety Harbor.
Voting for the project were Commissioners Joe Ayoub and Nina Bandoni. City Commissioner Nadine Nickeson believes the project will be good for the city.
"I found the property to be an appropriate transition zoning (area) between the commercial area to the south and the residential characteristics to the north,'' she said.
Now that the city has signed off on the land use designation and zoning, Williamson plans to purchase the land from Mahan and construct new headquarters for Williamson Dacar Associates, Inc. His business, which employs 12 people, is now located at 935 Main St.
Mahan declined to reveal the purchase price.
Williamson said he plans to submit a site plan to the city in a month or two and break ground later this year. Under city code, the new structure can be up to 35 feet tall.
He admitted that "people would rather not see anything built'' on the site, but stressed he does not intend to destroy the natural beauty of the area.
"We want to use as many trees as we can in our design,'' he said. "And we will leave it natural at the corner of Philippe Parkway and Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.''
Some neighbors were upset in December when Mahan and Williamson proposed building seven live/work units north of the creek.
Commissioners denied the request for the zoning change for the four parcels between Mullet Creek and Sixth Street N.
The applicants plan to try to get their project approved later in the year as a Planned Development District or PDD.
The designation would give city officials more control over the development.
"I think we're going to please people when they see what we're going to do,'' Mahan said.
Eileen Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.