Here's the vision: 52 cottages, each one a little different. All of them will have front porches and rear garages that open onto back alleyways. The mostly modest-sized homes will be different colors. They'll be energy-efficient. They'll be spaced close together, but every home will border green space or another special feature of the neighborhood.
On Tuesday night, Oldsmar leaders got a first look at initial plans for Hayes Park Cottages, a 52-home development that would be built on vacant city-owned land near downtown.
They liked what they saw. After viewing a proposed neighborhood layout and artists' renderings of cottage designs, the Oldsmar City Council unanimously approved a site plan for the project.
"We still have a lot of work to do, but we're making great progress," said John Bews, an Oldsmar resident who has a home design company and is partnering with the city to develop the site. "We think we've got something special here in a built-out county."
The goal is to provide affordable workforce housing that is near businesses, schools and recreation, said Marie Dauphinais, Oldsmar's director of planning and redevelopment.
The 3.8-acre property south of Hayes Road and east of Pine Avenue is near Richard Rogers Park, Cypress Lakes Industrial Park, Brooker Creek Corporate Center and Forest Lakes Elementary School.
No one is ready to break ground yet. City Manager Bruce Haddock noted that the city and Bews haven't finalized a development agreement at this point. "We've got a long ways to go," added Vice Mayor Jerry Beverland.
Bews intends to start construction next year.
The size of the homes will range from 840-square-foot "micro houses" or "studio cottages" to 1,700-square-foot mid-sized homes. A few will be duplexes. Many will be clustered around a "village green" area.
The new homes are to be priced competitively with older houses in the region.
"The whole reason for this community and the partnership between us and the city is to essentially lower the sales price to make it affordable," said Bews, managing partner of Davis Bews Design Group. "We suspect there's some pent-up demand."
The Hayes Park Cottages are named for Lorenzo Hayes, the first black chief of Oldsmar's Fire Department.
At Tuesday night's Oldsmar City Council meeting, one of the development's neighbors said he was worried about flooding.
James Pasco Jr., who lives on nearby Douglas Road, has previously wrangled with Oldsmar over code enforcement issues on his property and the city's construction of a road through his front yard nearly three decades ago.
Pasco said he's worried about water runoff from the new neighborhood because several feet of fill is being used to elevate the site.
"Right now our properties are getting flooded," he said. "Everything around us is built two or three feet higher than we are."
However, Bews said the Southwest Florida Water Management District would require that stormwater runoff from the site be piped to a retention pond. "We are required to keep basically all the water on our property," he said.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4151. Send letters to the editor at tampabay.com/letters.