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Reworked Firmenich Proposal Receives Planning & Zoning Approval

The board voted 6-1 in favor of the Richman Group’s latest plan, which includes a reduction in units and a turn lane on SR 590.

The proposed development of the Firmenich Citrus Center property took another step towards becoming a reality when the Safety Harbor Planning & Zoning Board approved the Richman Group’s latest proposal by 6-1 vote Wednesday night. 

The new proposal calls for fewer units and a mixture of three and four-story buildings as well as increased buffer space and preservation areas. Richman Group also agreed to eliminate the commercial aspect of the project, replacing it with office space only.

In addition, a traffic study was also completed, with the results showing a potential slight increase in delay time in the morning and evening, but a potential 38-percent reduction in traffic overall as compared to now. A 255-foot turn lane was also recommended for the east side of SR 590.

“We’ve been working on this since the summer of 2012, and we’ve gone back to the drawing board based on concerns that had been raised at prior public hearings and modified the plan,” Robert Pergolizzi of Gulf Coast Consulting said. 

“We firmly believe this project is compatible with the existing land uses.”

As has been with the case with prior meetings and hearings, there was much opposition to the project from residents in attendance.

“You volunteered to be our eyes and ears and to protect the image of Safety Harbor,” Russell Norman told the board. “If this was in your backyard, would you agree this density and height is compatible?”

“We’re not against development, but not on this scale.”

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“We the people have spoken very loud and clear on our feelings yet…you people are really not listening to what we’re saying,” Barbara Hugg said. “Why are you so gung-ho on this project when we’re…opposed to it for many different reasons?”

Karen Kallal was the one member of the board who voted against the proposal.

“I still have serious problems with the height…and I can’t get over the problems we have with the density and the parking,” she said. “I don’t think this project is ready at this point to go to our commission.”

“I don’t believe we have to change the whole application, I just don’t like it as it is.”

Other board members expressed their full support of the proposal. 

“I appreciate the adjustments the developer has made,” Dean Hameson said. “I understand the element of change is scary to some people, but I would not have a problem having this in my backyard.”

Board vice-chair Tammy Vrana concurred with Hameson. 

“I would definitely live next to a project like this,” she said.

“I know it’s not popular. But I don’t understand…how we can’t approve this project,” Joe Faw added.

The board then approved the proposal by a 6-1 vote, with Kallal casting the only nay vote. Alternate board member Frank DeLuca cast a vote in place of board chairman Chris Logan, who had a conflict of interest with the issue due to owning property adjacent to the land.

The next step is to present the new proposal to the city commission at a public hearing to be held on February 4.

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Patrick Henry January 14, 2013 at 06:35 PM
There is a meet the Mayor party at the spa at 6:00 on Friday the 18th. All commissoners will be on hand.
Barbara W. Hugg January 17, 2013 at 04:20 AM
Curious, does anyone know if Safety Harbor would be providing any funding to help development this project? Also, is there any requirement by the developer to provide a mix of both low income and or subsidized apartments along with the advertised rental charges that have been presented? For example, 200 would rent for the normal fees, but the other 76 units would be rented at a significantly lower amount or subsided by the government. I am researching this but thought perhaps someone much smarter than I on these matters might know the answers. Thanks...
Russell Norman January 28, 2013 at 11:12 PM
The firmenich site has 56 parking spaces out front. And yes it would be replacing an aging plant but the size would dwarf all the surrounding residentual neighborhoods and reduce the property values. The addition tax revenue the city will get is only about 90K per year (they are planning on spending 65k for a new GMC truck this year) in the budget. The traffic well it speaks for itself. I say reduce the size there are no other 3 or 4 story building in the city except for the one in front of the SPA, the SPA itself and the Hospital. I'm not against development just over development which has been what keeps Safety Harbor different.
Russell Norman January 28, 2013 at 11:17 PM
need to get everyone who wants to slow this down to sign the online petition. www.tinyurl.com\signonline
Joan Schmid February 02, 2013 at 07:12 PM
With housing prices on the rise perhaps the developer would consider townhomes. Less density and less traffic impact. Also, a small retail development, included in the overall plan, is better than offices as it cuts traffic, provides services to the whole neighborhood, and acts as a buffer to the new homes. A quirky idea that has been implemented in other cities is a "Live above your shop" model that encourages local small business ownership.

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