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Port Richey approves purchase of two lots for future parking for Cotee River Landing

Two adjacent home sites have a purchase price of $350,000
 
Port Richey City Hall
Port Richey City Hall [ Times (2019) ]
Published July 2, 2021

PORT RICHEY — As Port Richey city leaders have planned their waterfront redevelopment effort, known as Cotee River Landing, they have been realistic about what they will need to pull it off, including parking in the confined area near the river.

This week they made a move that could be a big help, but it also comes at a price.

Thursday evening, during a special meeting of the Port Richey Community Redevelopment Agency, which is the Port Richey City Council members wearing a different hat to manage their redevelopment funds, the agency agreed to offer $350,000 for two houses and joined lots at the corner of Old Post Road and Cotee Avenue.

The property is on the west side of U.S. 19, just north of the bridge over the Pithlachascotee River, or Cotee River.

Port Richey is moving to purchase two house lots at the corner of Old Post Road and Cotee Avenue for future parking for Cotee River Landing.
Port Richey is moving to purchase two house lots at the corner of Old Post Road and Cotee Avenue for future parking for Cotee River Landing. [ City of Port Richey ]

“The purchase of the two properties is well within the purpose of the Community Redevelopment Agency. The cost of purchase, demolition, and improvements is well tolerated by the CRA’s currently available funds. The public purpose benefits are, in the opinion of staff, strong,” wrote city manager John Dudte in his recommendation to make the offer.

The current balance for redevelopment agency funds is just over $2 million, with about $1.2 million not currently committed to other expenditures.

The vote for the purchase was four to one, with council member Todd Maklary voting no. He said he wasn’t sure that the benefit was worth the cost. With the demolition costs and parking lot development costs potentially bringing the total closer to $500,000, Maklary said the deal didn’t make sense.

The area already has sufficient parking for nearly all of the local businesses, it does not match with the overlay plan for the area and he didn’t see the city’s job as to be a speculator for future uses, Maklary said.

Dudte noted in his memo to the council that while there is likely interest in the property by rental home investors, he anticipated that the city’s ability to pay cash and close quickly would likely be attractive to the seller. County property records show the seller is G & O Solutions Enterprises, a corporation that lists two New Port Richey residents as principles in the company, Joe Gambino and Leo Orlando.

The homes, which were both built in the 1950s, would be demolished and the approximately one third of an acre of property could yield up to 50 parking spaces.

“The CRA has approved significant streets, lighting, and landscape improvements within the Cotee River Landing. Purchasing the two properties provides two immediate opportunities that are consistent with the CRA purpose,” Dudte wrote.

Dudte told the Tampa Bay Times there was much discussion about the potential parking lot, but there would be other possible uses for the site in the future. The redevelopment agency’s job is to raise the value of property and potential in the city, and he said this purchase will do that.

He noted that as the area develops, the city will be able to direct development of the land in the zone. “This ensures the development of the property remains consistent with the vision of the broader area where safe vehicle and foot traffic combined with entertainment/commercial activities are envisioned as the primary purpose,” he said in his memo.

The city’s past community redevelopment agency spending and operations have been under scrutiny by the Florida Auditor General for months now. Dudte said that his staff continues to respond to questions but that he has not been told when the audit will be completed.