PORT RICHEY — In January, city officials reached an impasse with the sellers' attorney in an attempt to buy a blighted mobile home park.
But with the 1.6-acre Port Richey Mobile Home Park heading into foreclosure, city officials are once again ramping up their efforts to buy the property at River Gulf Road and U.S. 19.
The City Council gave its unanimous blessing Tuesday night for City Manager Richard Reade to buy the property, either through negotiations or when it ultimately goes up for auction. No date has been set for the auction, according to the Pasco County clerk of the Circuit Court.
The council left it up to Reade's discretion on how high to bid on the property, which will be paid for with redevelopment funds.
"In my opinion, Rich has shown nothing but good judgment," said council member Perry Bean. "He is our quarterback, and I trust him 100 percent."
The council has yet to solidify plans for the property, located on the east side of the city.
City officials say the area, once a haven for drug use and prostitution, could be used to store dredging materials, or as a location for a new City Hall.
City officials plan to clear the vacant mobile homes from the area as early as next week. The price tag for cleanup is about $65,000, which will also come from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency fund.
Residents have mixed opinions about acquiring the property.
"In today's economic times, I can ensure you that there's no rush," Jim Priest, a former council member, said Tuesday night.
But Michael Hogg, another resident, said the city needs to take control of the blighted property.
"It's been a point of contention in this town for awhile," Hogg said. "I think we would be crazy not to go for it."
The contention stems from council discussions that began late last year on purchasing the park without a plan for its use.
In December, the council voted 3-2 to try to purchase the park. Council members Steven O'Neill and Mark Hashim dissented.
Coldwell Banker's Wikle Properties put the park on the market in 2006 for $799,000. The property was appraised for $853,000.
Initially, the city agreed to pay no more than $847,000. In January, it offered $785,000 for the property.
But the seller's attorney wanted $847,500, and wouldn't lower the price. So city officials stalled their plans and said they would revisit the issue at a later date.
Mayor Richard Rober, who negotiated with the seller's attorney, said Tuesday night he would like to see Reade negotiate the sale in the ballpark of $685,000, $100,000 less than the city's last offer.
"It'll have good redevelopment value in the future," Rober said, "whether a business center, a City Hall or commercial retail."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.