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Fountain Shoppes in Temple Terrace, once expected to jumpstart downtown, now creating concern

The Fountain Shoppes is home to places like Chase Bank, Starbucks and Rocking Crab and Seafood Bar.
 
The Fountain Shoppes was supposed to be a big driver in downtown Temple Terrace, but problems have plagued the property.
The Fountain Shoppes was supposed to be a big driver in downtown Temple Terrace, but problems have plagued the property. [ John C. Cotey, Tampa Beacon ]
Published Feb. 9

TEMPLE TERRACE — Following months of ignored citations and failed attempts to get the developer of The Fountain Shoppes at Temple Terrace to respond to that property’s issues, the city is headed to court over the matter.

According to court documents, Jared Moon, manager of Paragon Property Group, will appear in court on Feb. 15 after being served with a notice to appear for seven code violations dating to early last year.

The Fountain Shoppes, home to places like Chase Bank, Starbucks and Rocking Crab and Seafood Bar, is at 8942 Bertha Palmer Blvd. in what is hoped to be the city’s future downtown area.

The violations by Paragon are dated Sept. 9 but various issues were brought before the Municipal Code Enforcement Board at meetings in April, June and July.

Moon is being cited for nuisance having to do with the maintenance of the fountain, a lack of proper landscaping, sanitation issues and garbage being strewn on the property and in the parking lot.

“We’re working to take care of those. It’s a slow process,” Moon told the Beacon. “I don’t know that I necessarily agree with all violations. But I mean, I’ll adhere to the code. So they’re in process.”

He was also cited for unlawful practices, according to city attorney Pam Cichon, that had to do with the onsite trash compactor not working (the compactor was removed entirely from the property instead of being repaired).

Cichon told the City Council on Jan. 16 that there are currently two liens running on the property — one for $100 a day that now totals $12,600 and another for $250 a day that totals $54,250 as of Jan. 10.

“Seeing that the imposition of running fines was not solving the problem, the legal department and the code enforcement department brought the owner to court on the five that had gone in front of the Code Enforcement Board.”

The city’s case was filed on Dec. 7. Moon was served with papers to appear at a Dec. 14 hearing, where he pleaded not guilty to all seven counts of violating city ordinances.

“We sent him letters, emails, phone calls, and we got no response from him,” said Tom Borroni, the city’s code compliance director. “However, when we sent it to the county court, the violations, for the fountain and stuff, he showed up, and we got his attention. He was not that happy that we took them to the county court. But now, we have his attention. We’re pretty happy that he’s on the clock. Now, he knows he’s on the clock.”

After that hearing, Moon agreed to walk the property with Borroni and deputy city attorney Ernest Mueller. Borroni said Moon took a lot of photos and wrote down notes, but other than some improvement with the trash in the parking lot, “everything else is still the same.”

Borroni said as of last week, most of the violations still hadn’t been addressed, other than there being less garbage on the property.

“The business owners are very agitated with Paragon and they felt as though he was not helping them in any way,” said Borroni. “They are not happy with Mr. Moon.”

The fountain, which serves as the primary entrance and the namesake of The Fountain Shoppes, is in a high-visibility location at Bullard Parkway and 56th Street and remains out of service.

The water is dark and dirty and there is trash and other debris lining the bottom. An empty liquor bottle and Campbell’s Chunky Soup can float nearby, and the stench of garbage or urine is noticeable.

A dirty fountain is one of the problems a The Fountain Shoppes property in Temple Terrace.
A dirty fountain is one of the problems a The Fountain Shoppes property in Temple Terrace. [ John C. Cotey, Tampa Beacon ]

Moon said he had to turn the fountain off because homeless people in the area were bathing in it.

“And due to shutting it off — this is what I’m told by Mr. Moon — it led to a malfunction,” Borroni said.

Borroni added that replacing the fountain’s pump would cost around $30,000; Moon said it’s more like $40,000, and due partially to the loss of a tenant (Abbott’s Frozen Custard), he can’t afford the repairs.

Included among the other violations in the 11-page affidavit were landscape maintenance, as the areas around the businesses lack proper care and are overrun with weeds. The area has a “substandard” mulch covering, and some of the bushes had garbage in them. Dead plants hadn’t been removed.

According to the city complaints, the landscape in the perimeter of the development does not have a “functional irrigation system.”

The dumpsters and their enclosures were not being kept free of trash and debris to meet garbage regulations, and the parking lots that abut the property are not being kept free of trash and debris, the violations stated.

Moon said many of the violations are just oversights. He had an “internal staff member” serving as the property manager, and that employee is no longer with him.

“And I’m not out there every day. I don’t see some of this stuff,” Moon said. “I mean, some of the water is working. I do have another service out there that took a picture of a sprinkler that was shooting up. So we’re trying to diagnose what is working and what isn’t. A big complaint has been the mulch and, to be honest, I didn’t know that was a landscape requirement. So, some of this is just not knowing exactly what’s what.”

Additional time in court could be in Moon’s future. Another case has recently been brought to the Municipal Code Enforcement Board concerning fire alarms and sprinklers not being in working order in some of the businesses, due to unpaid electric bills.

David Pogorilich, the chairperson of the city’s Code Enforcement Board, said that the fire alarm company had been carrying the monitoring and servicing of the fire alarm for about a year, but the fire alarm itself hasn’t been inspected in two years. And the electric bill for the meter for the fire alarm system hadn’t been getting paid. So TECO came out and turned off the electricity. “He hadn’t been paying that for about a year,” Pogorilich said.

Moon was served notice to remedy the fire alarm situation immediately, and he said he is working on it.

“If the fire alarm violation is not corrected,” said Cichon, “that one is going to go to county court.”

Mayor Andy Ross seemed perplexed by Moon’s lack of action, or even response, to any of the citations and attempts by the city to reach him.

“That’s been the puzzling part of this whole thing,” he said. “Like, what’s going on? I mean, it’s like he just fell off the face of the earth and stopped paying everything.”

The Temple Terrace City Council picked Paragon in 2017 to develop the north sector of the city’s property as part of its plans for downtown.

Paragon paid $3.58 million for the 2.85 acres on the corner of Bullard Parkway and 56th Street. The council chose Paragon over three other developers, including two that had plans to build apartments.

Borroni said it was only the second time he could remember code enforcement taking a property to county court. He said the goal is always to gain “voluntary compliance.” And he was pleased with the improvements with the garbage in the parking lot his last visit to the property.

City Manager Carlos Baia also would like to see a solution that doesn’t involve going to court.

“I will tell you, the owner recently picked up the phone and actually answered one of our calls and paid his water bill, which was different,” Baia said. “So that was good. That was a step in the right direction. He obviously showed up to court, which is also a positive. He could not have shown up, but that would have been bad for him … so everybody’s working, trying to get this issue resolved, as best we can.”

Moon said he is continuing to make the necessary changes, even if he doesn’t agree with all the violations.

“I’m not saying they’re not accurate. I just feel like some of them are nitpicky,” he said. “And I mean, certainly with some of the other ones, I do feel like I’m being made an example of. But you know, it’s the rules that we have to play with within the city. So I’ll play by the rules.”

John C. Cotey is the managing editor of the Tampa Beacon. He can be reached at jcotey@tampabeacon.com