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Developer Planning More Changes to Firmenich Proposal

The Richman Group has decided to revise its current proposal, reducing the size of the commercial development as well as the residential density. The new proposal would have to be presented to the Planning & Zoning Board in January.

Representatives of the Richman Group of Florida have made it apparent that they would really like to put a mix-use residential and commercial development on the Firmenich Citrus Center property on State Road 590.

After receiving strong reactions from city commissioners and residents regarding the initial proposal, the developer went back to the drawing board to make amendments they hoped would help alleviate the community’s concerns.

This week, the latest such changes were announced, with Richman agreeing to file a revised proposal that would reduce the potential commercial development on the property, from 37,900 square feet to a maximum of 25,000 square feet and limit the height of the general office use buildings to one story.

It also agreed to limit the residential density to 276 units, down from the original number of 296.

“I spoke with several residents after the last workshop, and since then I have been trying to sift through all the comments and suggestions to come up with a proposal that works for all parties,” Richman Group associate Damon Kolb told Patch.

“There were several specific concerns regarding the commercial application of the proposal, so we wanted to address those by requesting less intensive commercial development on the site.” 

The amended proposal will also include a traffic study to be paid for by the developer, based on the lower density of the commercial and residential components of the plan.

While there has been much debate over every aspect of the planned development, Kolb believes his company's proposal will benefit the entire community. 

“I think there have been many misconceptions about this proposal from the beginning,” he said. “It goes back to the fear of the unknown.

“I plan on doing a better job of refining my presentations in order to clarify all concerns."

Because the amended proposal contains adjustments to the proposed land use and zoning of the property — from residential, office and retail to residential/office and general office — the whole process must begin anew.

“If they want to amend the proposal and change the land use, we must start the process all over again,” community development director Matt McLachlan said.

“That would include going before the Planning & Zoning board again and holding public hearings before it went before the city commission again.” 

The next Planning & Zoning Board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 9.

Kolb said these types of situations are common whenever a developer is proposing changes to the existing structure of a community.

“Any time there is change, there are issues,” he said. “Here, you’re talking about a pocket of Pinellas County that hasn’t seen residential development of this size in 20 years.” 

But he also believes his company’s proposal is far more favorable to what is there now, and what could be built on the land in the future.

"If a large commercial development is allowed to go in there, it will have an even greater impact on the community."

“We’re protecting wetlands, keeping the development away from the neighboring communities and clustering the buildings towards the center of the property,” he said. 

“We are checking all the boxes as far as what needs to be done, and we’re hopeful that everyone will judge us by what we’re presenting and what we will be required to do.”

Previous Firmenich Coverage on Patch:

  • Commissioners Respond to Alternate Proposals for Firmenich Property
  • Reader Spotlight: 'Renters Have No Permanent Loyalty To the Community'
  • Developer to Present Alternate Proposals for Firmenich Property
  • Reader Spotlight: 'Growth May Be Threatening'
  • Commission Concerns Could Derail Firmenich Deal
  • Community Reacts to Firmenich Property Decision
  • Community Members Voice Opinions On Firmenich Property Proposal
  • Residents Prepared to Speak Out On Firmenich Property Proposal
  • Commissioners Split On Firmenich Property Proposal
Michael December 03, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Desi, You're making too many assumptions with too many doubts. Especially if you don't live in the immediate neighborhood ie. a few blocks in either direction. When speaking of high end renters what price point is high end? I submit that with today's economy high end is over $1,500/mo. and up. Anything less in my book includes wealthfare mom's with 3 or more running wild kid's, who will be sending them to our schools that don't need more overcrowding and problem children. Let alone more crime. I say my taxes are already paying for enough renters and low income homeowners that know if they spend money to improve their homes value they get penalized with the honor of higher tax evaluations. Whether you think so or not, many of us think we are paying more than our fair share. It's called "taxed enough already". So, I guess the project is Ok just as long as it's not in your part of town. As far as Old Hyde Park as a shining example. Maybe 25 years ago, but not so much now. I'm not against growth, just growth that adversely impacts my neighborhood. I would much prefer high end home owners to high end renters. My example is the northeast corner off Main and McMullen-Booth with townhomes starting at $220,000. range. That's not all that high end, but none the less suitable for the area.
Desi December 03, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Michael, I would rather see townhomes/condos but there are a lot of nice apartment homes too. Agree with the "taxed enough alread". That is why I do not want to see another park. Hyde Park is still a beautiful neighborhood community. Just moved from the area and know several business owners that have been there a long time and still very sucessful.
Michael December 04, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Desi, Hyde Park community is nice, but busy. When Jacobsen's and Brooks Brothers left I was disappointed and didn't see much to be optimistic about. Yes, many good restaurants though. I agree on the park issue, but much of the McMullen-Booth frontage is low and swampy. Not suited for development. You know a lot of the problem could have been avoided by the commission when the Main Street and McMullen-Booth entrance was redone. Matt Spoor was not interested in getting the county to allow a right hand turn lane off north bound McMullen-Booth going into downtown and for that reason Old Harbor Place subdivision get's periods of high traffic passing through. That's why I'm opposed to a high impact development to the south. As I see it, OHP will see more traffic with commercial business fronting McMullen-Booth. The turnaround traffic at Oak Ridge Rd. and Clearwater Christian Center is really dangerous for drivers accessing McMullen-Booth, both from OHP and the church and another 276 dwellings regardless of rentals or owner occupied homes won't make the neighborhood safer. It seems to me the city wants high traffic coming into downtown, but don't have the streets well suited for that traffic from any direction and as a consequence the outlying neighborhoods will be forced to endure high traffic, higher taxes and more crime if this development is allowed to go forward. But, then that's just one tax payers opinion.
Don December 16, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Not fear mongering, but read the article in today's Tribune about developers converting their apt/condo complexes into low income housing in order to become eligible for tax credits. Not saying the Richman Group would do this, but are there protections that the city can stipulate to prevent such an action from occuring? Again, nothing against low income housing, but that is not what is being sold on the proposal to the city.
Michael December 17, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Let's not mince words. From what I've read after googling Richman Group is a company that has a not for profit group already in place and functioning in any way to improve their investors profits. What makes the mayor, commission or manager think that when it is financially expedient the developer won't change the apartments over for tax saving purposes. Is there really anyone living in Safety Harbor that believes we would be better off with over 275 rental units not paying taxes? For that matter everyone in Florida is just waking up to the problem. Safety Harbor would only add to their tax problems along with Pinellas and all of Florida. We don't need this pig with lipstick. A taxpaying homeowner development is the only way to secure our best interests.

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