The Safety Harbor City Commission approved a conditional use permit for a parcel of land near downtown on Monday, paving the way for a small resort to be built on the site.
The two-story, 5,468-square-foot resort will be constructed on a small portion of the nearly three acres of property located at the northeast corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Philippe Parkway, adjacent to Mullet Creek.
According to property owner John Mahan, the facility will feature three vacation rental units plus a common area and will provide Safety Harbor visitors with a unique experience in a perfect location.
“This is the northern gateway to downtown,” Mahan told the Commission. “When you come into downtown, it’s the first property you see, and it’s a hidden asset.”
“We looked at the economic, the social and the environmental benefits that this certain type of use will have,” he added. “We’re looking for something that becomes a brand, or a destination point, in Safety Harbor.”
Mahan, who already operates a vacation rental home on the northern part of the property, explained that he bought the land in 2002 and has been working with the city for the past 13 years to clean up the site as well as get it rezoned in order to maximize its potential.
“When I bought it it was multiple lots, all residential zoned, and could have single family houses going up and down the street,” he explained. “That use did not make sense, so I worked with the city over that time to get it rezoned.”
During the quasi-judicial hearing, a number of residents who live near the site expressed concerns about fluctuating water levels in the area, especially in the wake of the recent heavy rains.
Commissioner Janet Hooper and Vice Mayor Andy Zodrow also voiced their own reservations about building on the parcel.
“I like the project, it’s just not in a really good spot,” Zodrow said. “It’s a tough site, a very small area…next to a creek.”
“Creeks move. Creeks meander…and then suddenly it becomes the city’s problem.”
“It isn’t that I don’t like what you’re trying to do,” Hooper added. “I just think you’re trying to put something on a small piece of property and it’s facing the wrong way to be a gateway.”
A civil engineer hired by Mahan countered that the building would be placed three feet away from the 25-foot wetland setback and will sit well above the 100-year flood plane line, and Mahan stated he has no intention to disrupt the neighboring environment.
“Our point is to show the creek, not impact the creek,” he said.
After a lengthy discussion, the commission ultimately agreed to approve the permit, with four conditions, by a vote of 5-0.
Following the conditional use approval, the commission had to vote on the proposed site plan.
Again, concerns were raised over the location of the project, with Hooper stating she believes it will be “too close to the wetland.”
But Commissioner Carlos Diaz reiterated the fact that the building would be placed beyond the 25-foot wetland buffer, and after Mahan agreed to plant a dozen — instead of the required 8 — trees to replace the 3 protected ones that would have to be removed for the project, the commission voted 4-1 in favor of the plan, with Commissioner Hooper voicing the sole “nay” vote.
Afterwards, Mahan expressed his joy, and relief, over the commission’s decision.
“I’ve been working with the City on this for a long time,” he told Safety Harbor Connect. “The City has been terrific throughout this process, and I’m thrilled they approved the project tonight.”
Mahan added that he hopes to break ground on the project in November, with a tentative completion date sometime around October of 2016.
“We’re fully funded and ready to go,” he said.
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