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Trinity deal is reached

A deal between Schiller International University and the owners of theformer Trinity College site has been committed to paper, possibly signaling the end of the city's search for a new occupant.

Walter Leibrecht, president of Schiller, said Thursday that the university finalized an agreement recently with the owners of the property, John and Darlene Van Harlingen.

He declined to say how much the university plans to pay for the property but said the closing of the agreement should be completed by March 1.

The property has an assessed value of $1.6-million.

"The only thing left now is for us to get the proper zoning," Leibrecht, 62, said from his home in Ingersheim, West Germany. "I believe that this is going to work out."

Schiller applied last month for a zoning exception for the site, which now is designated single-family residential. The sale would be contingent upon the university receiving the exception, Leibrecht said. The Board of Adjustment and Appeal is scheduled to discuss the zoning exception Feb. 28.

The zoning allows for special exceptions for semipublic and institutional facilities such as schools or hospitals.

Kevin Campbell, the city's director of development services and planning, has said the zoning exception probably will be approved as long as the new use doesn't have any negative impact on the city.

The proper zoning of the property has been the subject of an ongoing argument waged in both City Commission chambers and the courts.

The site has been considered by the city for a luxury hotel, a Christian center, a retirement home and another college.

The Van Harlingens, who planned to build a retirement facility, bought the property from Trinity College in April 1988 but failed to get the proper zoning.

Trinity College, which moved to Pasco County, filed a $1.4-million

foreclosure lawsuit against the couple, saying they stopped making payments on the property in December 1988.

Mark Merrill of Tampa, attorney for Trinity College, said he expected the college would have settlement with the Van Harlingens by next week.

"Trinity College is very excited about Schiller purchasing the college because now we will be able to collect what we are owed," he said.