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Couple: Return part of estate

Roger and Lila Kumar thought they needed a change of scenery.

So the longtime Oldsmar residents agreed to sell their waterfront estate and mansion to Oldsmar and planned to move to West Palm Beach to be near their son and his family.

But after spending a few weekends in their new South Florida townhome, the couple realized they didn't want to leave Oldsmar, their home for more than 30 years.

Now the Kumars are asking the city if they can keep part of their 6.34-acre estate so they can build a new home. The City Council is scheduled to consider that request at a special meeting at 4 p.m. today at Oldsmar City Council chambers, 100 State St.

"They spent a couple of weekends down there," said Tom Lykins, real estate agent for the Kumars. "They get back home and she says, "You know what, I like it here better.' They know everybody in town. They like the town."

The Kumar estate has 440 feet of waterfront at the top of Old Tampa Bay and a 23,000-square-foot-home. The house is the first floor of a hotel built in the 1920s. Roger Kumar, 68, is the former owner of the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

The couple's new home would be constructed on 0.8 acres on the west side of the property and take up about 100 feet of waterfront. It would not be visible from the main property, Lykins said.

If that's the case, building a home there shouldn't affect the city's plans, Oldsmar Mayor Jerry Beverland said.

Beverland had proposed approving the Kumars' request at Tuesday night's council meeting, but council member Marcelo Caruso asked to postpone a vote. Caruso and Vice Mayor Don Bohr on Wednesday asked for today's special meeting to discuss the Kumars' request.

"This is a large enough project that we should talk about it," said Caruso. "Why did we buy this land in the first place only to sell it back?

"I want to make sure we sell it for the right price," he said. "That we aren't underbidding ourselves."

Last month, the City Council unanimously approved applying for a $2.6-million, 20-year loan to buy the Shore Drive property. The Kumars have offered to reduce their asking price for the entire parcel by $250,000 if the city lets them keep the part where they want to build a new house.

The loan, which is through the Florida League of Cities, requires the city to use utility tax revenue to repay the debt. City officials have until Dec. 30 to close the deal.

"I think personally they'd make a great neighbor," said Beverland. "I would like to keep them in the city. That particular piece of land is not going to impact anything. You can't even see it."

Beverland is envisioning building a cultural arts facility on the property. The city has already started looking at rezoning the property to recreational open space.

Some of the residents on Shore Drive are concerned about the impact of a cultural center in their neighborhood. The Kumar estate is in the middle of a quiet, residential area.

"I am in favor of them buying the property," said Cecil Ruckart, 71, who lives across the street from the Kumars. "I think a cultural arts center would be fine if it was like they were describing with art classes. I don't want to see like a mini Ruth Eckerd Hall."

Council members say they don't want that, either.

Beverland says he doesn't want anything on the property other than walkways, gardens or benches. "We just want the building there," he said. "It's going to be a cultural arts center and that's that."

_ Megan Scott can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or mscottsptimes.com.

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