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Exemption to growth law sought for state building

A state agency will ask Largo's Board of Adjustment for permission tobuild a $13-million state office complex on a busy corner of Ulmerton Road.

City Attorney Gerald McClelland said Friday that it is the state Department of General Services (DGS) contention that the complex is "vested" because its construction has been planned for the corner of Ridge and Ulmerton roads since 1987.

Vesting the office project would remove a major new barrier to

construction. Largo civic leaders, who lobbied for years to have the complex located in their city, learned recently that it falls under "concurrency," a new state law that forbids construction near roads that can't accommodate more traffic.

If officials decide the project is vested, meaning it was under way before concurrency was enacted, it could be built without nearby Ulmerton Road being widened.

Friday afternoon, Richard Acurri, project director for DGS, and Chris Bell, one of the architects who designed the two-building complex, met with Largo Community Development Director Ric Goss and Director of Development Controls Jim Doyle.

Goss said Acurri was given a form to fill out "in accordance with our comprehensive plan explaining why the (complex) should be classified as vested."

The form is to be turned in to the city's Board of Adjustment by Feb. 23, Goss said. The board then would hear the case April 10.

"I think they're a good candidate for vesting," Goss said. "They've got a lot of money and time invested here. So have we."

Largo began negotiations for the state office complex in 1986. In 1988, negotiators closed a deal for 12.5 acres on the northwest corner of Ulmerton and Ridge roads. Largo contributed $307,900 toward the purchase price. The state paid the rest, $2.7-million.

When the office complex opens, it will house 600-700 employees and

consolidate several state agencies now spread out around the county.

A groundbreaking for the complex had been scheduled for April.

But a little more than a week ago, city officials learned that the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) would require that the complex comply with the city's new comprehensive plan for growth.

That plan requires that adequate roads, sewers and other services be in place before construction permits can be issued. The concept is known as "concurrency."

The complex is within a half mile of the Ulmerton Road/Seminole Boulevard intersection, which received the worst possible grade, an "F," from county traffic planners who rate roads.

The city and the state DGS knew that the intersection was an "F" but assumed that since construction permits are not required for public buildings, the complex would not have to comply with concurrency.

DCA spokesman Richard Morgan said Friday that his department still

maintains that the complex is subject to concurrency. He said he did not know how department officials would view an appeal for vesting rights.

"Obviously this would have to be discussed," Morgan said.