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Dunedin approves townhomes project for causeway

DUNEDIN — A new 24-unit townhome development is slated to go up on the Dunedin Causeway in coming months.

In a 5-0 vote, the Dunedin City Commission approved preliminary design plans last week for Causeway Townhomes, giving developers the green light to start seeking permits from the city's engineering and building departments.

Each three-story unit within the complex — to be built on 2.4 acres at 2621 and 2641 Michael Place, between the Causeway Plaza shopping complex and Island Outpost Restaurant — will feature roughly 2,000 square feet of living space, a back patio and a ground floor two-car garage. The community will include a swimming pool and clubhouse and be ringed by an 6-foot wall.

Prices are expected to start at $299,000. Developers hope to break ground in October and wrap up construction within a year.

Developer Ron Morgan said the project fits the goals of city officials, who have spent months tweaking building and land development codes in hopes of boosting the causeway's appeal among shoppers and investors by creating a district ambience, similar to what's been done downtown.

The city has also said year-round residency would be a boon for area merchants, who currently rely on traffic from seasonal residents and struggle during summer months.

"The city wants to accent access to Honeymoon Island as well as become more pedestrian friendly," Morgan, president of the Dunedin-based Alliance Development Corporation, wrote in a May proposal letter to the city. "We have designed a project which will set Causeway Boulevard apart from other roadways."

Several neighbors who attended the meeting complained that the wall wouldn't match the look of other buildings on the causeway, which they said during past visioning meetings should remain a natural, foliage-lined entrance to Honeymoon Island State Park.

"Let's make it like the rest of the causeway — friendly and open," one woman said.

Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski and Mayor Dave Eggers said they weren't fans of the wall either.

But the developers argued — and commissioners agreed — that the wall is a privacy feature, separating the townhomes from adjacent businesses and blocking residents' back yards from view of passing cars. Morgan agreed to work with the city's arts and cultural citizen advisory committee on a decorative public art feature for the wall.

In response to citizen complaints about insufficient notice, commissioners and city staff said they would review city code, which calls for notification of people within a 500-foot radius of new potential development projects.

Bujalski suggested that the city explore expanding the distance for certain highly visible neighborhood projects, and Eggers suggested posting signage along the roadway. Planning Director Greg Rice said the city could also send email blasts to folks who attend neighborhood meetings.

In other action at last week's meeting:

Contractor bids came in too high, fueling the city's decision to remodel the Little League clubhouse in Highlander Park rather than demolish it and erect a new building.

Commissioners last fall budgeted about $382,000 to replace the outdated clubhouse. They voted 5-0 Thursday to instead use $15,000 of that to install a new slide at Highlander Pool and $214,500 to pay off debt on the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.

As part of the $152,000 Little League renovation, workers will update the electrical system, and knock down several walls to expand office space and the kitchen the team uses to sell the concessions which drive program funding. The modifications are expected to extend the life of the building by about 10 years.

"This is a temporary situation to get us through until money comes available" to build a new clubhouse in a new location mapped out under the long-term Highlander Park master plan, said Parks and Recreation Director Vince Gizzi.

Dunedin approves townhomes project for causeway 08/14/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 9:02pm]
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