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Tampa, following St. Pete’s lead, could require developers to give back to community

Mayor Jane Castor’s administration said an ordinance isn’t necessary, citing similar agreements on recent large projects, but council members want a say.
Tampa City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes wants Tampa to emulate St.Petersburg's ordinance requiring developers that get significant amounts of city money to reinvest in the community.
Tampa City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes wants Tampa to emulate St.Petersburg's ordinance requiring developers that get significant amounts of city money to reinvest in the community. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jan. 27

TAMPA — It wouldn’t be the first time that Tampa City Council members have gazed across the bay for new ideas.

Last year, the Tampa City Council passed a modified version of a St. Petersburg ordinance requiring companies to hire apprentices for large city projects.

Related: Tampa gives initial nod to apprenticeship ordinance

At a workshop Thursday, council members discussed adopting another recent St. Petersburg program that would require developers who receive significant city funding to invest in the community.

The Sunshine City’s Community Benefits Program, as approved by the St. Petersburg City Council, mandates that developers receiving city money for projects of at least $2 million.

Related: St. Petersbug requires developers who receive city money to give back to community

Depending on the amount of city money involved, developers would build new affordable or workforce housing, provide job training or pay into a fund in lieu of those benefits that would funnel money to projects including improving local schools or renovate historic buildings.

Residents would have a say because developers would be required to hold public meetings.

So far, no project has qualified, but St. Petersburg officials anticipate the redevelopment of Tropicana Field will be the first major example of the new policy getting put to use, said Susan Johnson-Velez, Tampa’s senior assistant city attorney at the workshop.

Rob Rosner, Tampa’s director of economic opportunity, said Tampa already pursues similar goals without an ordinance. He cited the recent agreement with the Related Group that is developing the Rome Yard, a city-owned property on the west bank of the Hillsborough River north of downtown, to provide a cultural center, workforce training center, affordable housing and other public amenities.

An ordinance isn’t necessary, Rosner said, but if council members decide to adopt one “it would need to be tailored to Tampa’s needs.”

Council chairman Orlando Gudes said it was important for the city to codify in an ordinance that it expects developers who receive city funds to give back to the community.

“Another administration might not do that,” Gudes said. “I don’t think it will hamper development.”

Council member Luis Viera said it might be prudent to take a wait-and-see stance.

“I don’t know if there’s something to learn from yet and that’s the challenge,” Viera said.

Viera led the effort to pass the apprenticeship ordinance in Tampa, which had lower levels of apprenticeship involvement in city projects than St. Petersburg.

Council members unanimously approved revisiting the community benefit program discussion at an April 28 workshop.

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