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Pasco approves deal to clean up Trinity Town Center

Since the summer of 2008, the Trinity Town Center project at Little Road and Trinity Boulevard has been mired in financial and legal problems. The center is about half finished.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Since the summer of 2008, the Trinity Town Center project at Little Road and Trinity Boulevard has been mired in financial and legal problems. The center is about half finished.

DADE CITY — Pasco County has struck a deal to get the Trinity Town Center owner to clean up the unfinished project.

The agreement approved by Pasco commissioners Tuesday requires Bill Planes' Trinity Town Center to make improvements by certain dates. The improvements include removing debris piles and construction equipment by Dec. 20 and painting unfinished buildings and removing visible tar paper by Feb. 15. By June 1, the bare dirt areas must be covered with plants or grass.

In exchange, officials agreed to drop an administrative complaint against Trinity Town Center for expired building permits and to cut the company a break on the due date for the $35,000 in fees Planes owes the county to extend the permits.

Typically, the money is due up front. But as part of the deal, Pasco agreed to give Planes until December 2012 to come up with the money.

"I just think we're in tight economic times. We're trying our best to bring jobs to Pasco," said Commissioner Pat Mulieri. "I'd just hate to lose this opportunity."

Since the summer of 2008, the project has been mired in financial and legal problems, which became public when subcontractors began complaining about bounced checks and a lack of full payment for their work.

After construction stopped, Trinity residents began complaining about safety issues and the appearance of the half-finished site at Little Road and Trinity Boulevard.

Planes is the key principal in both the company that owns the property and the general contractor on the Trinity project, South Capital Construction.

The deal approved Tuesday is a result of a recent push by Pasco officials to get Planes to improve the half-finished buildings or risk demolition. Planes of Tarpon Springs has been cited by county building officials for 116 permits that expired in 2009.

Planes, who attended Tuesday's meeting but did not speak, has blamed the stalled project on his New Jersey-based lender, Kennedy Funding, saying the group failed to deliver on a $47 million loan.

But Kennedy has denied that charge, saying that Planes got the required draws on the loan when he met the necessary contractual obligations.

The dispute between Planes and Kennedy, as well as the claims by dozens of subcontractors, are now lumped into a slow-moving court case that one lawyer quipped was "the legal labyrinth of doom."

The $35,000 in permit extension fees isn't the only money that Planes' company owes Pasco County taxpayers. His Trinity Town Center owes nearly $212,000 in delinquent property taxes from 2008 and 2009, according to online records from tax collector Mike Olson. The company also owes $74,000 for 2010.

Assistant County Attorney Kristi Wooden said the county has options if Trinity Town Center does not pay the $35,000, including withholding certificates of occupancy when the project is completed.

As the Times has reported, Planes and his companies have faced lawsuits on other projects as well, including the construction of the private school he owns, St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian School in Tarpon Springs.

Also, Planes and his wife have been sued in federal court by former employees of a veterinary clinic he owned on Keystone Road. Those former employees say they routinely received paychecks that bounced, were not paid minimum wage in some cases and were not paid overtime.

But commissioners on Tuesday said they are looking forward to a finished project in Trinity.

"We appreciate Mr. Planes moving forward to create something special," said Commissioner Jack Mariano.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Pasco approves deal to clean up Trinity Town Center 11/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 9:00pm]
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