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Debate ends with Oldsmar's growth

In a complex deal that took more than 10 months to work out, here's the bottom line:

The city of Oldsmar gets to build a road it wanted, spend $373,000 on a piece of land it has no immediate use for, and welcome 12 new office buildings to a development site that some officials thought was full.

"Look, this was going to all happen with or without us," Mayor Jerry Beverland said. "To me, it's a win-win."

City Council members last week gave developer Dale Bleakley the go-ahead to build 12 one-story office buildings on Pine Avenue behind Steak n Shake. His project is called Cypress Lakes Office Park West.

In return, the city now owns roughly 1 acre northwest of the intersection of Forest Lakes Boulevard and Pine Avenue, and an alternate route to the city's fire station can be completed more than two years after construction began.

Everybody gets something in this scenario, the principals say, but there were headaches.

"This was shoved down our throats," Vice Mayor Don Bohr said before voting for the deal at the council's meeting last week.

Ten years ago, officials agreed to let Bleakley make the area around Wal-Mart a shopping center. But as Bleakley developed the land, city officials said, it wasn't the single building holding many stores that they had envisioned. Rather, it was a bunch of individual retail shops. In addition to the Wal-Mart, there is a Steak n Shake, a Subway, an Eckerd Drugs and a Discount Auto Parts store, and Bleakley wants to add the office park.

"To us, a (shopping) center is a building that has contiguous walls," community development director Greg Scoville said.

But officials had a greater worry than a project that didn't match their vision. According to a formula that planners use, a lot of smaller businesses that aren't grouped together will generate more traffic than a single shopping center. Add to that the traffic from Bleakley's proposed office park, and the area's roads could become overburdened.

"And that's where we have a little bit of heartburn," Scoville said.

Bleakley disagreed, saying that the Wal-Mart site is a shopping center and, according to the 1993 guidelines, that the area can handle further development and more traffic. He said last week that city officials "just can't change" the original agreement.

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council sided with Bleakley, saying the project is "proceeding in a manner consistent with the development order."

The office park, to be built on a 4.79-acre site, will be the last major construction in the area, Bleakley said. Site preparation will start in November and construction will begin after that.

There's already been significant interest in the properties, said Bleakley, who wants to sell the 12 one-story buildings, ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 square feet, rather than leasing them.

The city purchased a 0.93-acre site from Bleakley for $373,000 as part of the agreement.

There are no immediate plans for the property. Beverland said purchasing the land keeps a gas station or a convenience store off the property, a goal of his and nearby residents.

Beverland said the city probably will end up selling the property to develop office space. He said with the rapid growth around the city's acre, the land will be worth a lot more in five years.

"It will produce a huge profit," Beverland said.

The third part of the agreement allows the city to use Bleakley's retention ponds to collect stormwater running off an extension of Bayview Boulevard north of Douglas Road to Pine Avenue.

The quarter-mile extension, which will be named Hayes Road after former city volunteer fire chief Lorenzo Hayes, will give firefighters at the new Pine Avenue N station quick access to the city's industrial district.

_ Aaron Sharockman can be reached at (727) 771-4303 or asharockmansptimes.com.

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