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As chlorine plant moves out of Tampa’s Rattlesnake Point, development readies

A private buyer for Chemical Formulators means that potentially dangerous industrial activity will no longer hinder hundreds of units being contemplated for the peninsula near the Gandy Bridge.
Hundreds of apartments and single-family homes will sprout at Rattlesnake Point adjacent to a chlorine plant that has worried activists and some Tampa City Council members about the potentially dangerous consequences of an industrial accident.
Hundreds of apartments and single-family homes will sprout at Rattlesnake Point adjacent to a chlorine plant that has worried activists and some Tampa City Council members about the potentially dangerous consequences of an industrial accident. [ Southeastern ]
Published Jun. 30|Updated Jul. 1

TAMPA — For years, a chlorine plant on a narrow peninsula once infested with the venomous reptiles it was named for concerned activists even as its 30 acres enticed developers.

Activists and some City Council members worried that an accident could spread deadly gases on a narrow peninsula with no easy way to escape.

As developers eyed the attractive waterfront real estate just south of the Gandy Bridge, a longtime occupant, Chemical Formulators Inc., became increasingly worried as well. An attorney for the company last year argued it was a potential disaster in the making.

But a nightmare threat of a World War I-style cloud of deadly gas trapping nearby residents is coming to an end.

Southeastern, an Atlanta-based development company, has bought the plant’s parcel for $19.5 million, along with an adjacent 23-acre parcel. Part of the deal requires Chemical Formulators to relocate by the end of 2023.

Aerial view of Rattlesnake Point showing a chlorine plant near residential areas on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 in Tampa.
Aerial view of Rattlesnake Point showing a chlorine plant near residential areas on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Chemical Formulator’s exit has brought relief to the neighborhoods south of Gandy, which already have protested the construction and plans for thousands of apartment units in the area. They say the new construction has increased traffic and strained daily life, while the continued presence of the chemical plant added a layer of danger on top of that.

“It was a long hard fight,” said Stephanie Poynor, president of the Tampa Homeowner Association of Neighborhoods and founder of the Stop Overbuilding Gandy group, which led the effort against building residential units while the chemical plant remained on the peninsula.

Tampa City Council members initially voted down a rezoning request in March 2021 for hundreds of apartments after residents and Ron Noble, an attorney representing Chemical Formulators, warned of the potential danger. That led to lawsuits and discussion of the city stepping in to help Chemical Formulators relocate.

Related: Should Tampa allow hundreds of apartments to go up next to chemical plant?

Chemical Formulators manufactures water treatment supplies on what was formerly a large industrial patch of land now undergoing residential development. The company uses chlorine and caustic soda to make its products. Both chemicals are highly dangerous if they leak or explode.

In the end, Southeastern’s purchase ends the “public risk,” as Abby Feeley, the city’s deputy administrator for development and economic opportunity, told council members on June 16.

Southeastern has worked with residents on amenities, including a three-acre proposed waterfront park that would link to a pedestrian walkway.

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“We’ll have our own Bayshore (Boulevard) over on our side of the peninsula,” Poynor said.

Under a lease agreement, Chemical Formulators has until December 2023 to move its operations. That process is ongoing with no location decided upon yet, Noble said, although some operations have already begun winding down.

City Council members recently approved the adjacent 23-acre site also purchased by Southeastern, more than 600 residential units are planned with a 6,000-square-foot restaurant just east of the Salt Shack, a popular eatery, along with other new retail.

Rhodes Seeger, a senior vice president for Southeastern, said the company is working with the city to create the park. He said it was important to the company to cultivate good relations with the neighborhoods.

“I guess everyone is pretty happy we came along,” Seeger said.

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