Sunday, September 23, 2018
News Roundup

New Port Richey okays sale of ex-church site downtown

NEW PORT RICHEY – The city had reached a deal to sell long-vacant downtown property that continues to be a major financial drain on city coffers. The buyer is Frank Starkey's development company, which plans to build upscale apartments there.

On Tuesday, the New Port Richey Council, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency board, voted unanimously to sell 2.43 acres that once held the First Baptist Church. The site is now known as the Residences of Orange Lake.

New Port Richey purchased the property in December 2005 for $3.1 million, hoping to sell it for redevelopment. But the real estate bust doomed the effort, triggering several failed attempts to develop the site, which fronts the city's downtown Orange Lake at 6561 Circle Blvd.

The CRA board agreed to the sale of the land to Starkey's People Places, LLC, for $300,000. The deal for construction of up to 88 residential units also includes waiving permitting and water/sewer fees, and giving property tax rebates for the project until 2024. The deal still needs a formal approval from City Council.

Selling the property amounts to a substantial financial loss for the city. But it closes the books on the speculative real estate purchase that cost the city interest payments on the acquisition as well as lost property tax revenue from the failure to find a private buyer/development partner

Mario Iezzoni, the city's economic development director, said New Port Richey spent $1.4 million just in interest payments since the city borrowed money to acquire the land.

Iezzoni said the sale will benefit the city by stopping the continuing financial drain and get the land on the tax rolls in the coming years. It also paves the way for the economic growth that could be generated by a developer who he said has a proven track record of success, he said.

"It solves a problem that has been hanging out there for 10 years," Iezzoni said.

The CRA has also praised the credentials of Starkey, an enthusiast for the new urbanism movement. Frank Starkey is the brother-in-law of County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.

In the late 1990s, Frank Starkey, along with his brother, Trey, created the Longleaf development, a 568-acre residential and retail development north of State Road 54 near Trinity. That project is noted for its nod to quaint neighborhoods of old, with picket fences, front porches, rear garages and on-street parking.

The brothers also planned, engineered and sold what is known as Starkey Ranch, a 2,500-acre multi-use project currently being developed that includes a 200-acre, Publix-anchored town center at Gunn Highway and SR 54. Starkey's grandfather, JB Starkey, sold thousands of acres to the state for preservation decades ago. It remains a popular preserve called the JB Starkey Wilderness Park.

Starkey said he hoped construction can begin downtown by the first of the year depending on the permitting process.

Mayor Rob Marlowe said the project could be a positive step for decades to come for the city's downtown. Council member Jeff Starkey (no relation to Frank Starkey) also described the project as being transformational for the city.

"Make no doubt about it, this is a huge change for downtown New Port Richey," said Council member Starkey.

Comments
Lightning journal: Roster trimmed to 28

Lightning journal: Roster trimmed to 28

TAMPA – After Sunday morning, the Lightning sat five cuts away from having a 23-man roster to start the regular season.It announced 27 cuts that left 28 players on the roster with the start of the regular season less than two weeks away.Gone ar...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: Motorcyclist injured in Bayshore crash, southbound traffic diverted

Police: Motorcyclist injured in Bayshore crash, southbound traffic diverted

TAMPA — A motorcyclist suffered serious injuries in a crash on Bayshore Boulevard, police reported.About 3:10 p.m., the motorcyclist was driving southbound, according to the Tampa Police Department. At the same time, a driver in a Jeep Cherokee was h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
This is what happens to a shy octopus on ecstasy

This is what happens to a shy octopus on ecstasy

If you give an octopus MDMA, it will get touchy and want to mingle.What sounds like the premise of a children's book set at Burning Man is, in fact, the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology. Neuroscientist Gül ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Snell wins No. 21 as Rays beat Blue Jays 5-2

Snell wins No. 21 as Rays beat Blue Jays 5-2

TORONTO – Blake Snell earned his team record and majors-most 21st win on Sunday as the Rays beat the Blue Jays 5-2.The victory improved the Rays to 87-68 and kept alive their slimmest chances to make the playoffs, though perhaps for only a few ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Find A Friend: Sweet Caroline the Tabby Kitten

Find A Friend: Sweet Caroline the Tabby Kitten

Put your paws in the air like you just don’t care! Sweet Caroline thinks good times never seemed so good. A bundle of gray stripes and spots, she and her litter mates were rescued at three weeks of age. Caroline’s the most social of the...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Women's Expo to feature Tampa Bay Times staffers

Women's Expo to feature Tampa Bay Times staffers

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Times presents its inaugural Tampa Bay Women’s Expo and the event will include an opportunity to meet many of its key women staff writers and editors.Susan Taylor Martin (Senior Correspondent/Real Estate) and Manag...
Updated: 3 hours ago
USF assistant VP rides AHN wave of support to success

USF assistant VP rides AHN wave of support to success

Editor’s note: Academy of the Holy Names junior Tress Jacobs spent the summer of 2018 shadowing Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper. To conclude the experience, she interviewed Academy alumnus Kim Wilmath Hill and filed this report.By Tres...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to  testify at Kavanaugh hearing

Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to testify at Kavanaugh hearing

The woman who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers has committed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, her lawyers said Sunday. The lawyers said some details — including whe...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Stolen smokes: Florida man gets 20 years for cigarette theft

Stolen smokes: Florida man gets 20 years for cigarette theft

PENSACOLA, Fla. — A Florida man who stole $600 worth of cigarettes from a convenience store has been sentenced to 20 years in state prison.A jury in Pensacola convicted 48-year-old Robert Spellman of burglary and grand theft in August. Authori...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

One of the dominant storylines heading into Monday Night Football between the first-place Buccaneers and the last-place Steelers will be the things we didn’t expect to see. It’s the team that usually melts down against the team that actua...
Updated: 6 hours ago