Dunedin commissioners approve purchase of Catholic church land near Hammock Park

Published July 29 2016
Updated July 29 2016

DUNEDIN — City Hall erupted in cheers Thursday night when commissioners unanimously agreed to buy a piece of Catholic church-owned land adjacent to Hammock Park, saving it from being developed for townhomes.

Residents spent nearly two months pressuring city leaders into the purchase — and reprimanding them for passing on the land when the church offered it earlier this year. But Thursday, all was made right.

"We did it," Eileen Ishikawa, an active advocate for saving the land, said through tears as friends rushed to hug her after the vote. "I am so proud of this city."

How much of the 8.7-acre parcel the city will purchase has not been decided, but according to interim City Manager Doug Hutchens, it should be between 7 and 8.7 acres. Regardless, the city will pay $154,023 per acre and be responsible for reimbursing development company Taylor Morrison, which backed out of its own purchase deal with the church, up to $45,000. Residents took turns thanking commissioners for listening.

"The hard work you've put in has been inspiring," said Hammock Advisory Committee chairman Steve Fasnacht. "You listened to the citizens, asked questions and acted with speed and purpose to find a solution."

And commissioners returned thanks to residents, saying their passion made all the difference.

"Thank you for all the effort you have put into this project. You have reminded us that we are representatives — your representatives," Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said. "You guys are what makes Dunedin delightful."