NEW PORT RICHEY — The city will begin negotiating with well-known developer Frank Starkey to build upscale apartments on a key piece of downtown property the city bought more than a decade ago.
During a meeting Tuesday night, the New Port Richey Community Redevelopment Agency, composed of members of the City Council, voted unanimously to allow city staffers to begin negotiating a development agreement with Starkey's People Places LLC.
Starkey has proposed to build about 86 one- and-two-bedroom apartments on the 2.26 acres, site of the former First Baptist Church on Circle Boulevard, across from the city's popular Orange Lake and Sims Park. The CRA bought the property in 2005 for $3.1 million, but it remains vacant after several development proposals failed to materialize.
In seeking the CRA's approval to move forward with People Places, City Manager Debbie Manns pointed to Starkey's development experience. Starkey and his brother, Trey, developed the Longleaf residential community off State Road 54 in the Trinity area and planned the Starkey Ranch project, which is being developed at SR 54 and Gunn Highway.
Starkey called the property's potential spectacular and expressed high hopes for the city's future.
"It's got really good bones in place," he said of New Port Richey.
CRA members across the board raved about the proposal's potential.
"I'm looking forward to this one," Mayor Rob Marlowe said.
Also Tuesday, the council:
• Approved on first reading an ordinance that will ban all roadside memorials on public property and rights of way in the city. The move follows complaints from residents about memorials staying up endlessly. If passed in two weeks, the ordinance will allow city staffers to take down memorials and give owners of the material 14 days to collect it.
• Approved on first reading an ordinance that will prohibit additional convenience stores in the city's downtown zoning district, citing their "tendency to detract from other retail activity and uses." Existing convenience stores will not be subject to the ordinance.
• Approved spending up to $21,500 for a consultant, Clearwater-based Sports Facilities Advisory, to conduct a market study and operations audit of the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center as debate continues over the need for planned renovations at the facility.