City To Seek Input On Firmenich Property Development

A developer wants to build an apartment complex on the Firmenich Citrus Center property.

The Safety Harbor City Commission plans to host a community workshop to discuss the fate of the Firmenich property.

The Safety Harbor City Commission agreed on Monday night to hold a workshop to receive input on what should be done at the long-vacant Firmenich property.

The proposed meeting would involve representatives from the city and county as well as members of the community; it would most likely take place at the Safety Harbor Public Library.

The idea was suggested by Commissioner Carlos Diaz and was prompted by a recent meeting with Firmenich Citrus Center officials regarding the fate of the 34-acre parcel of land located on SR590/10th Street South.

“The future of the Firmenich property is coming up again,” Diaz said during his Commission Report, “and we need to try to get the Pinellas County Economic Development people involved and see what kind of ideas they have to market that piece of property.”

Vice Mayor Cliff Merz concurred with Diaz’s statements, saying “being proactive and getting involved is the right thing to do” in regards to the matter.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Firmenich saga, it began nearly two years ago when a developer wanted to build an apartment complex and office park on the property.

After receiving approval from the Safety Harbor Planning and Zoning board and the City Commission, the proposal went before the Board of County Commissioners in May of 2013; the board, acting as the Countywide Planning Authority, unanimously rejected the plan not once but twice, ignoring a judge’s recommendation in the process.

Commissioner Carlos Diaz wants to address the Firmenich property issue.

Commissioner Carlos Diaz called for input to address the future of the Firmenich property.

Following the latest rejection of the Richman Group’s proposal this past January, a spokesperson for the developer said they were looking at all their options regarding the ruling, which could have included taking legal action against the county.

But instead of fighting the decision, the developer decided to back off and abandon its plans to built a 246-unit residential complex, complete with 20,000 square feet of office space, on the site, according to city officials.

In the wake of these recent events, Mayor Andy Steingold and Community Development Director Matt McLachlan met with representatives from Firmenich last week, and they learned that officials for the citrus scent manufacturer are committed to implementing a plan for the property that will be beneficial to all parties.

“The Mayor and Mr. McLachlan met with Firmenich, and they had a very positive meeting,” City Manager Matt Spoor said. “They discussed the support the city and residents have for trying to develop what the site will look like in the future.”

“We provided some proposals for Firmenich to consider, and we’re waiting to hear back from them,” he added. “They’re very willing to to work with the residents in the surrounding areas to come up with something that works well for everybody.”

After asking what type of format the commissioners preferred for the meeting, after some discussion, they ultimately settled on a workshop at the library at a date and time to be determined at the next City Commission meeting on June 16.

“I think we need to have a city-wide workshop at the library to involve the residents,” Vice Mayor Merz suggested.

“I think it’s a very good idea to involve the residents…before we take any action,” Mayor Steingold agreed.

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