SAFETY HARBOR — Developers can build their controversial seven-story condominium downtown, and there's nothing opponents can do about it.
A little-known state law designed to stimulate a lagging economy gives the developers an extra two years to build at the high-visibility intersection of S Bayshore Boulevard and Main Street, though their city permits would have expired this year.
The news stunned residents who were prepared to rehash a bitter fight they lost five years ago, when a divided City Commission approved the plan for two stories of parking topped by five stories of residential units.
Opponents had hoped the commission would deny developer Farhod Nikjeh, who is poised to buy the property from Wells Fargo, an extension that normally would be needed to build under the current permits.
"We've already started to organize against this," said Karen Kallal, who sharply criticized the project before the Planning and Zoning Board this month.
Nikjeh said he did not previously know about the law, which applies only until Jan. 1, 2014. He had been concerned he couldn't begin construction by the time the city permits expires Nov. 17. Under the newly discovered law, he has until Nov. 17, 2015.
It was the bank's attorneys who notified city staff about the law.
"Glad it was on the books," Nikjeh wrote the Times in an email. Wells Fargo owns the property; the previous owners filed for bankruptcy.
Unless Nikjeh negotiates, the Planning and Zoning Board's request that the condominiums be reduced from 65 feet to 55 is now moot.
The revelation averts a potential political crisis for commissioners, fresh off a beating from residents over the Firmenich apartment complex proposed for State Road 590 at McMullen-Booth Road.
Nikjeh still plans to face the commission on another part of his project: He wants to build six single-family homes off Iron Age Street, facing Second Street S, rather than the two four-unit quad buildings that were previously approved.
Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected] or 850-323-0353.