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Rezoning clears way for new townhomes

Despite concern over adding traffic to an increasingly congested area, the City Council has given initial approval to a proposed $25-million townhome development near Wal-Mart.

The council on Tuesday night unanimously approved rezoning 16.42 acres to PUD, or planned unit development, from residential. Developer Berton R. Thomas still needs final approval and must obtain environmental permits, but the council's action is a positive sign, he said after the meeting.

The development would be called Post-Park View Townhomes and would include up to 128 units, priced at between $160,000 and $260,000. Thomas of Dunedin said it would appeal to people who enjoy natural surroundings _ there is a nature preserve within walking distance _ yet also like close access to shopping.

City Manager Vince Lupo expressed support for the project, telling the council that it would add significantly to the tax base. The project would generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in road, water and police impact fees.

Since Wal-Mart moved in several years ago, traffic near U.S. 19 and Ridge Road has become a pressing issue for residents and council members alike. More development is on the way, including a restaurant and bank in front of Wal-Mart, and there is another housing development planned on Koons Road.

The townhomes, with an entrance on Old Post Road, could exacerbate the traffic problem, council member Pat Guttman said. "I think there is going to be a tremendous impact on that neighborhood."

After more than an hour of discussion Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously for the zoning change. A second, final vote will likely take place next month.

In a previous interview with the Times, Thomas said two- and three-bedroom townhomes could be on the market by winter 2005.