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Tarpon voters face decision on city nursing home sale

TARPON SPRINGS — In 1995, Tarpon voters approved the sale of the city-owned nursing home on Walton Avenue.

The sale never happened, but in a few days, voters will be asked to approve it again.

The Burnard Group, a New Port Richey property management and development company, wants to purchase and renovate the long-vacant and dilapidated former nursing home and open a 100-bed assisted living facility with the capability of housing Alzheimer's patients.

Burnard has agreed to pay $813,000 for the 3.4-acre parcel and has reached a development agreement with the city.

Under the city charter, the property can't be sold unless voters approve. So this referendum question will appear on the March 11 city election ballot:

"The City proposes to sell an approximately 3.4-acre parcel at 501 S. Walton Ave. for its appraised value of $813,000 subject to the terms of an approved Development Agreement. The property formerly operated as a nursing home and has been vacant and deteriorating for nearly 10 years. The City desires to sell it to allow for redevelopment as a multi-care assisted living facility and generate new tax revenue. Shall this sale be approved?"

The ALF will employ 60 to 100 people and pay the city about $13,000 per year in property taxes. No zoning or land use amendments will be necessary for the project.

The city has been involved with the Walton Avenue property since the late 1970s, when a nonprofit borrowed more than $2 million to build the nursing home. Tax laws at the time required that the city become the owner after the debt was retired.

In 1995, the city wanted to sell the property to the company that had leased and operated the nursing home since 1982, Beverly Enterprises. Voters approved the sale in a referendum.

But negotiations dragged on and lawsuits against Beverly made the company lose interest in the purchase. Another operator took over the lease, but by 2004, that operator pulled out and moved residents to other accommodations.

The building has been empty since then. While the city had hoped for a developer to propose some new and exciting use of the property, Burnard, with its plan to renovate rather than build, provided the first solid offer.

The city has negotiated a tough development agreement with Burnard to spur quick improvements on the property.

Within six months of the sale, Burnard must remove overgrown landscaping, install new plants and paint the facade. By 12 months, stucco must be repaired and windows replaced.

If the ALF doesn't have a certificate of occupancy within 30 months, the developer will have to pay a penalty of $1,000 a week.

Diane Steinle can be reached at (727) 445-4152 or dsteinle@tampabay.com.

Tarpon voters face decision on city nursing home sale 02/28/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 28, 2014 6:48pm]

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