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Tarpon Springs commission gives voters chance to purchase marina for boat ramp

Voters will decide whether to purchase the marina in a November referendum, despite conflict within the commission.

The Tarpon Springs Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to let the public decide whether the city should purchase the M&M Marina.

The Commission discussed operating the 1.5-acre property, across from the city’s historic Sponge Docks, as a municipal marina and boat ramp. A referendum question about buying the $1.55 million property will be added to November’s ballot.

“This is something we really need in Tarpon Springs,” Mayor Chris Alahouzos said in Tuesday’s meeting. “(A city boat ramp) has been my goal and objective since 2007, and this is the best property that we have available.”

Tarpon Springs currently has two boat launches, one at Craig Park and the other at Sunset Beach, both over a mile away from the marina by boat.

City Manager Mark LeCouris discussed the potential of leasing the property across from the marina as a parking lot for vehicles and trailers. The lease would be paid for with marina revenue.

M&M Marina was previously brought before the commission as a potential property for a boat ramp by Commissioner Costa Vatikiotis on April 28.

Commissioner Connor Donovan raised concerns at both meetings about another commissioner’s involvement in the listing. Commissioner Townsend Tarapani, a real-estate broker, is the listing agent for the M&M Marina.

“I would never be in favor of voting on an item that would directly lead to another commissioner’s profit,” Donovan said in the April 28 commission meeting.

Vatikiotis said that the purchase of the M&M Marina was his idea.

“I recognize one of our commissioners has a listing on this property,” Vatikiotis said. “However, he has nothing to do with this. It’s simply a good fit.”

During Tuesday’s public comments, resident Panagiotis Koulias said that Tarapani’s involvement created an unfair advantage against other realtors in the area.

“Please answer how much the brokerage will make from this sale and the amount that will go to Commissioner Tarapani’s pocket,” said Koulias. “Be very clear on that.”

During the same public comments section, an email by former mayor Anita Protos criticized Donovan’s opposition.

“You recklessly take the position that no matter how beneficial a project is to the city, we should not consider it because a Board of Commissioners member who appropriately made disclosures and recused himself is involved,” Protos wrote. “You impugn and insult the electorate by not having the confidence in them to be able to analyze the situation.”

Commissioner Jacob Karr said he was comfortable letting residents decide.

“At the end of the day, this is in the best interest of the residents,” Karr said on April 28. “It’s odd that one of our commissioners is representing the property, but he’s recusing himself, so I have no problem talking about it and voting on it.

Tarapani recused himself from voting about the M&M Marina in both meetings.

The commission will move forward with the project after Tuesday’s 3-1 vote.

“I never accused any individual commissioner of doing anything,” Donovan said Tuesday. “I know we make our decisions as a board, so I believe that it is the board as a whole making this mistake.”