Four and half months after the Richman Group of Florida brought their first proposal for the Firmenich property to the city, and four and a half hours after the Safety Harbor City Commission convened to decide its fate Monday night, the issue is going back to the drawing board.
On a night when it appeared as if a final decision was going to be made regarding the developer's plan to put a 276-unit residential apartment complex on the old citrus center property, the commission told the Richman Group to try, try again.
The commission unanimously passed a motion to continue the application being presented to them during the special meeting at City Hall, rejecting the latest development agreement and asking the company to come up with another reworked proposal.
"I'm open to some sort of multi-family (development) on this property," Mayor Joe Ayoub said as the clock approached midnight. "But I'm not comfortable with the four-story plan ... and I would like to see the number of units come down.
"So I am open to some sort of compromise."
The commissioners discussed what parts of the proposal they would like to see changed, and most agreed reducing the building height and number of units were top priorities.
"I was really disappointed to see after our discussions that basically everything remained the same, twenty units were dropped," Commissioner Nina Bandoni said of the latest proposal. "I thought we were going for three-story product."
"I like the idea of a smaller footprint and I like the idea of three stories," Vice Mayor Cliff Merz said. "But I'd still like to see it at around 200 units."
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Commissioner Nancy Besore, who had been a staunch opponent of the proposal, said she would be agreeable to looking at a reworked plan from the developer.
"I'm uncomfortable with the adverse impact, and I'm uncomfortable with the traffic," she said. "I like to continue with the same footprint ... take it down a floor, and make it attractive to Safety Harbor."
After a consensus was reached, Mayor Ayoub told Richman Group representative Robert Pergolizzi what they would like to see happen if the project is to move forward.
"I'd like to see nothing higher than three stories ... the footprint to remain as is or smaller...a reduction of at least 30 units and assurances the buildings will be of the highest architectural standards that Richman is capable of."
Pergolizzi readily agreed to the requests.
"I believe your next meeting would be Monday the 18th?" he asked. "We will be here, with two- and three-story buildings."
With that, a marathon meeting that featured testimony from lawyers, residents, experts and city officials wrapped up with most everybody satisfied with the outcome.
"Before this meeting tonight I thought this was going to get approved, hands-down," Mike Brundage, an attorney who unofficially represented area residents, said afterwards. "The way the commission decided this meeting was clearly in reaction to what they heard tonight."
"I feel like the commission listened to the public, which is very gratifying to me."
So Harborites, what do you think about this latest twist to the Firmenich saga? Are you happy the commission listened to the residents, or would you have liked to have seen the whole issue scrapped forever? Let us know in the comments below.