ZEPHYRHILLS — City officials hope to avoid a potential lawsuit by looking into swapping a 10-acre piece of land for about 24 acres at the north end of the airport.
Acme Development Corp., which owns the airport property, maintains the city failed to follow through on a 2005 agreement to either purchase or trade about 42 acres, split into two parcels. The city bought one of the pieces, a 17.5-acre tract, in May 2011 for a possible airport expansion, and agreed to a land swap for the remaining 24.5 acres. Council member Lance Smith and others said the swap was contingent on approval from the Federal Aviation Authority, which eventually nixed the exchange.
The council held a special meeting Thursday to discuss the dispute and decide how to proceed.
With a 3-1 vote, members directed city staff to get appraisals on the properties, negotiate with Acme, and bring a recommended solution back to council. Smith voted against the measure; Jodi Wilkeson was absent.
"I don't want litigation, but we've already done what we said we would do," Smith said after the meeting.
Council president Ken Compton opened the meeting with a hope that litigation could be avoided.
"There are two sides to this issue," said Compton. "We're not here to say who's right or who's wrong, but to resolve our differences so that everyone gets a fair shake."
City Manager Jim Drumm presented four possible options for settling the disagreement. The first — do nothing — was quickly passed over. The second, borrow money to buy the remaining Acme property, was similarly dismissed. The third was to swap roughly 10 acres of unused land on the southeast corner of Henry and Eighth streets for the airport property; the fourth, swap a couple parcels of land in the airport industrial park for Acme's land.
Acme lawyer Diane Watson said her clients were not interested in the city's airport property because other adjacent leased properties would make it difficult for Acme to get any value on the traded pieces.
Watson said Acme officials are interested in exchanging its land for the city's 10-acre piece, provided it's a fair trade.