Tarpon voters to decide hospital land sale on Jan. 31 ballot

TARPON SPRINGS — City residents who are not Republicans may think they have no reason to go to the polls during the Republican presidential primary Jan. 31.

But at the very bottom of the ballot is a Tarpon Springs referendum question on which registered voters of any party — or no party — in the city can vote.

The Tarpon Springs Hospital Foundation wants to sell less than an acre of undeveloped land at Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital to a developer who needs it to complete a medical office building next door.

In exchange, the hospital foundation would get $500,000 and the developer would improve the parking lot in front of the hospital.

Hospital officials have said they don't need the 0.62-acre sliver of land on the north end of their parking lot, but they are eager to see the medical office facility built next door. They think it could help them recruit medical professionals to the hospital.

If you are a Tarpon Springs voter and this all sounds mighty familiar, it could be because you voted on the same issue in 2008. Voters approved the land sale 1,960 to 505. That approval can't be used now, though, because the 2008 referendum question stated that the developer, in exchange for the land, planned to build a parking garage the hospital could share.

A parking garage is no longer in the developer's plans. Because of the economic downturn, the developer downsized the plan for the medical building from 195,000 to 60,000 square feet and needs only a surface parking lot, not a garage.

The city already has approved developer CRP II's amended site plan, but the property sale cannot go forward unless voters approve. The referendum is required because the Tarpon Springs Hospital Foundation leases the city-owned hospital and the lease must be amended to allow the foundation's property to be sold.

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

Tarpon voters to decide hospital land sale on Jan. 31 ballot 01/19/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 7:39pm]

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