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New Port Richey scraps plan for citywide brownfield designation

NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials have indefinitely scratched controversial plans to declare nearly all of New Port Richey a brownfield.

The designation could have paved the way for economic incentives for redevelopment. But numerous residents questioned whether the benefits would outweigh the stigma.

City Manager John Schneiger told the council Tuesday night he would pull the plug on a fact-finding work session slated for Dec. 13 on the issue.

He said feedback from the public has been so "exclusively negative" it overshadowed any benefit the brownfield program would have, at least for now.

"Maybe if we went about it a different way, at a different time, it might be more beneficial," Schneiger said. "But right now we have so many other important things to deal with that I felt we needed to move on."

The council began considering the designation last month, when members gave initial approval to a resolution seeking brownfield status from the state.

Such a designation would allow the city to identify specific sites that could be contaminated — such as former gas stations, dry cleaners and other businesses that used chemicals — and offer tax breaks and other perks to property owners to clean up the properties.

The proposed resolution sought brownfield designation for the city's 2,250-acre Community Redevelopment Area, a near citywide swath that the council already declared blighted back in 2001 to qualify for other grants and tax incentives for redevelopment. Anticipating the brownfield label might be perceived as a negative, New Port Richey development director Lisa Fierce called the proposed plot an "Economic Incentive Area."

But a final vote on the resolution stalled two weeks ago, when more than a dozen residents voiced their objections at a council meeting. Much of the opposition came from local real estate agents who said including residential neighborhoods in the proposed brownfield area might send property values plunging. Agents also said if the resolution passed, they would be legally bound to disclose the brownfield status of properties to potential buyers.

The council opted at that Nov. 1 meeting to postpone the matter until a workshop could be held next month to provide more information about the proposal.

The council voiced no opposition Tuesday night to Schneiger's decision to cancel it.

New Port Richey scraps plan for citywide brownfield designation 11/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 6:36pm]
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