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Family offers to donate land if Dunedin builds a park on it

DUNEDIN — Residents could gain another spot to fish and frolic if a local family's plan to donate parkland is approved next month.

The offer comes from three siblings who own a half-acre tract of land at 538 and 540 Skinner Blvd. In exchange for their donation, they would want the city to create a park and name it the "Gavin R. and Margaret M. Douglas Memorial Park" in memory of their parents.

The Douglases were lifelong Dunedinites who were deeply involved in the community. The Douglas siblings say their grandparents were early settlers of the city.

In addition to gaining a "waterfront" park by extending a nearby lake onto the property, city staffers say the project could set the stage for multiple stormwater drainage and other environmental improvements.

"In my professional opinion, at present, this appears to be a very intriguing opportunity for Dunedin," City Manager Rob DiSpirito told the City Commission on Thursday.

The offer comes several years after the family attempted to sell the land, appraised in 2008 at $280,000, to the city for $200,000. However, several weeks ago, the family decided to take a different tack after speaking with former city attorney John Hubbard about the potential tax benefits of donating the land

Under the proposal, the city would assume responsibility for about $1,500 worth of current ad valorem taxes, finance the closing costs, and bear the costs of demolishing a vacant home and dilapidated three-car garage. The city also would provide the Douglas family an appraisal for their tax records.

City officials say they could use the park to expand a nearby stormwater retention basin.

The improvements would help alleviate the history of stormwater drainage problems for the adjacent neighborhood of small homes and apartments. It also creates a great "selling point" for developers of the Dunedin Gateway and other projects, who could — at their own expense — direct stormwater runoff into the park's pond rather than install an expensive underground system.

The city also wants to preserve an oak tree, which the city's arborist believes to be the single largest and oldest tree in Dunedin, DiSpirito said.

The family hopes the closing on the property could come by the end of the year. There's no timetable for when the park must be built. But parks and recreation staff estimated demolition, park furnishing and other preparatory costs at $37,900.

The park project might also be eligible for Swiftmud grants and Community Redevelopment Agency funding, DiSpirito said. Annual costs for mowing, landscaping, trash removal and other maintenance are estimated at $2,500.

Commissioners on Thursday said they were interested. But before accepting the offer, a site assessment for potential environmental hazards and asbestos screening on the property's buildings are required.

The commission voted 5-0 to move forward with the $4,900 worth of tests. Economic development director Bob Ironsmith said he expects the results in three to four weeks.

Commissioners expect to discuss the findings and whether to approve the donation in December.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

>>On the web

To learn more

Visit http://bit.ly/vUFswj to read more about the proposal and see a preliminary park rendering.

Family offers to donate land if Dunedin builds a park on it 11/04/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 4, 2011 9:23pm]
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