OLDSMAR — By annexing into the city of Oldsmar, Tampa Bay Downs would be allowed to build resorts, restaurants, hotels and other developments directly across from the horse track, the city's planning and redevelopment director said this week.
"It'll be sort of a mixed-use development," Marie Dauphinais said during Tuesday's meeting of the Oldsmar City Council. "Commercial uses. Industrial uses. They're not really sure at this time what they're planning to do."
Until Tuesday's meeting, the property's specific development potential was largely a mystery.
In an application for annexation filed with the city last month, Tampa Bay Downs attorney Gordon Schiff typed "mixed uses" when asked to describe the proposed use of the property.
When the St. Petersburg Times asked him then what that meant, Schiff said, "The petition speaks for itself and we hope it will move forward in a positive manner."
Schiff didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Tampa Bay Downs sits on Race Track Road in Hillsborough County. Directly across the street, in unincorporated Pinellas County, is 100 acres of racetrack-owned land. Signs, fences, power line towers, railroad tracks and stormwater ponds dot the property, which is valued at nearly $2 million.
Officials with Tampa Bay Downs have been trying to pull it out of the East Lake Special Fire Control District and annex it into the city of Oldsmar for at least two years. The property is surrounded on most sides by Oldsmar. And by joining the city, Tampa Bay Downs would be taxed once.
Now the racetrack pays three different taxing authorities, and the district is one of them.
"We have a better ability to serve than East Lake does," Oldsmar Mayor Jim Ronecker said Tuesday.
As it stands now, if Tampa Bay Downs applied for a building permit from Pinellas County, it wouldn't be able to develop anything on the land.
"Right now, the way it's zoned is agricultural estate and the future land use map for that area is industrial limited," said John Cueva, the county's zoning manager. "Because the zoning is not consistent with the land use map, if they came into our office today, we would not be able to issue a zoning permit for any type of industrial use."
Oldsmar, on the other hand, would create a new zoning category that permits Tampa Bay Downs to build — among other things — a hotel with 50 rooms per acre. The height of buildings would not be able to exceed 80 feet.
"It is something special to get this much industrial land in any city," Ronecker said.
There are still additional channels to go through before the annexation becomes official. Ordinances authorizing the annexation and the zoning changes will come to the City Council on June 15 for a first reading and public hearing.
But on Tuesday, officials were cheering as if all the formalities had been completed.
"Our city just got bigger," Vice Mayor Doug Bevis said.
"And a lot more valuable," Ronecker said. "A good day for the city of Oldsmar. No question about that."
Rodney Thrash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4167.