Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Dunedin gives thumbs-up to incentives for downtown development

DUNEDIN — City commissioners have preliminarily approved discounts and incentives aimed at encouraging residential developers to build in the downtown.

At issue is Dunedin's Land Dedication Ordinance, or LDO. Since the mid 1970s, the ordinance has required owners of new residential developments containing five or more units to either include green space for their residents or contribute to a city fund for future parks. The fee is based on the property's value.

But as downtown property values increase, the city has received complaints that developers are discouraged from building there due to high LDO fees and little space for parkland in their projects.

The city staff has proposed that developers in downtown's Community Redevelopment Area receive an automatic 50 percent discount on LDO fees, bringing the rate more in line with fees assessed elsewhere in the city. Developers could earn up to another 35 percent in discounts if they meet certain requirements. Those include adding a mixed-use element such as retail or a restaurant, using high-quality building materials or including open space such as a fountain, plaza or courtyard with benches.

The Community Redevelopment Agency would cover the extra 35 percent in developer incentives, paying the money into the LDO fund over a five-year period.

About 21 acres of vacant land, spread over six or seven parcels, remain downtown. City officials said six citizen advisory groups support the LDO changes, which they expect will break a years-long stalemate on new construction and jobs.

Officials say new projects would finally also generate revenue for more city-owned parking or a garage, plus other downtown improvements the city identified when it successfully applied to Pinellas County for an extension of tax increment financing, which allows any taxes collected on increased property values to be plowed into downtown redevelopment rather than go back into local government coffers. The extension expires in 2033.

"This commission has supported mixed-use," Vice Mayor Julie Scales told her colleagues during their meeting Thursday. "I think this proposal is reasonable and I'm willing to give it a try to get development going downtown."

Added Commissioner Ron Barnette: "It's a win-win-win."

A half-dozen residents and downtown merchants took to the lectern to speak in favor of the LDO changes.

"While I agree Dunedin is unique and special," said developer Joe Kokolakis, high fees have "effectively killed development downtown."

However, former Dunedin Mayor Bob Hackworth, a strong advocate for green space, called the automatic discount unfair because all residents have the same impact on parks no matter where they live in the city.

He also believes developers outside downtown will eventually ask and be granted similar discounts for "doing absolutely nothing" but developing their property.

"I think your approach should be to instead give the 50 percent discount only after you've got a commitment for (things like improved architecture or public space) so that discount is earned," Hackworth said.

Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski acknowledged that she was slightly hesitant about the LDO changes because she felt staff didn't sufficiently explain why the automatic discount is 50 percent versus some other number.

But noting the strong staff and advisory board support, she said the discount meets "the spirit" of the LDO by generating money for parks: "I don't want to just sit around and wait to see if things happen. I want to be proactive."

Commissioners approved the changes 5-0 Thursday. A second public hearing and final vote is set for March 6.

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

Comments
Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

DUNEDIN — After losing a four-run lead thanks to a bad sixth inning, it would have been easy for Clearwater Central Catholic to fold against Dunedin in the final of the 49th annual Dunedin Spring Tournament. But quality relief pitching from Gar...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

ST. PETERSBURG — Roughly four hours before taking the field against his former team Friday, Rays outfielder Denard Span spoke admirably about the Minnesota Twins, their organization in general, even hometown icon Joe Mauer.But business is busin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

BRANDON — Ryan McDonagh blocks shots. He competes for pucks in the corners and wins those battles. He moves the puck up the ice well. He can join the rush. He can shoot from the blue line. He kills penalties."It was a great pickup by (Lightning...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for April 20

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 15, Central 0
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete says discharge never reached the bay. Its own report says otherwise.

St. Pete says discharge never reached the bay. Its own report says otherwise.

ST. PETERSBURG — The city said not one of the 266,000 gallons of reclaimed water released on Jan. 18 reached Tampa Bay.There was no mention of the waste released from the Northeast Water Reclamation Facility ever reaching the bay in the city’s notice...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

TAMPA — Deputies are searching for a woman accused of blocking a special needs school bus with her car, getting out and banging and kicking on the bus door until she broke the glass.And there were four children inside, deputies said, as she shouted a...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

BRANDON – Devils top defenseman Sami Vatanen had not traveled to Tampa as of Friday afternoon, according to coach John Hynes, and his availability for Game 5 Saturday against the Lightning is in doubt.Hynes, however, did not rule out Vatan...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Plan to entice developers to help pay for Rays ballpark hits speed bump

Plan to entice developers to help pay for Rays ballpark hits speed bump

TAMPA — Private developers would bear much of the cost of a new Rays stadium in Ybor City under a plan Hillsborough County officials are putting together.Developers would benefit by cashing in on commercial, retail and other construction around a ne...
Updated: 4 hours ago
St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

ST. PETERSBURG — Officers are searching for a 20-year-old woman who they believe to be missing and who could be in danger.Kayla Brandi Boone was last seen at about 11 p.m. Thursday in the 2700 block of Fourth Street S, according to St. Petersburg pol...
Updated: 4 hours ago