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Seminole gets ball rolling on Bay Pines chunk of land

SEMINOLE — City Council members took the first step last week of a long process that could eventually see a hotel, restaurant and homes on property that once housed the Bay Pines Mobile Home Park.

The council unanimously approved a preliminary development agreement and gave a tentative go-ahead to a zoning change from residential to mixed use. A conceptual plan shows space for housing on the north and west of the almost 60 acres. The southern portion of the property, at 10005 Bay Pines Blvd., would have retail, and the eastern portion would have a fire station and mixed uses.

Required under the agreement is a hotel with at least 60 rooms, said Mark Ely, head of Seminole's development department. City officials asked that of Kitson & Partners, the property's owners.

"The city wants a hotel," Ely said. "Another thing the city wants is a sit-down restaurant."

Some neighbors objected to the proposal, saying they feared traffic and noise. They also wanted to make sure the council keeps a close eye on the development.

"We are painfully aware there is a traffic issue," Ely said.

The plan is to reconfigure 100th Way N and the entry points to the land, he said. Those changes should improve the traffic situation.

Ely also assured the property's neighbors that Seminole and other agencies will keep a close eye on the development.

"The council will have its fingers and eyes on this process," Ely said. "There's going to be a lot of input as this moves up the chain. … This is the first step in a long process."

The city will submit the plans to the Pinellas Planning Council and then to the County Commission. The plan will then come back to the Seminole council for final approval. That could happen as early as April.

The council will also have its say once Kitson finalizes its plans.

The Bay Pines property has had a tortured history in recent years. It was once a mecca for seniors who lived in the 550 tree-shaded mobile homes. Many were there because the Bay Pines VA Medical Center is across the street.

Developer John Loder bought the land in May 2006 for $38.5 million. Loder's Bay Pines LP evicted the residents to make way for 800 upscale townhomes. But Loder went under and the land has remained vacant since.

Kitson, of Palm Beach Gardens, bought the land last year for $7.65 million.

Kitson, founded in 1992, is a large-scale developer responsible for such communities as the 18,000-acre Babcock Ranch in Charlotte and Lee counties that is to be the site of a city powered entirely by the world's largest solar photovoltaic array.

Kitson's website says the Bay Pines development will take some of its cues from Babcock Ranch and the company's other "smart growth" projects.

"K&P looks forward to working with the city of Seminole and Pinellas County to create a dynamic mixed-use development with hotel and retail space, apartments, townhomes, and assisted living facilities that together create a more livable, sustainable lifestyle for residents," the site says.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Seminole gets ball rolling on Bay Pines chunk of land 01/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 15, 2011 3:30am]
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