Firmenich Issue Goes Back To County Commission Today

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

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

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Board of County Commissioners will convene for its regularly scheduled session, and there is one item on the agenda that is of great importance to the City of Safety Harbor.

The BCC, acting in its capacity and the Countywide Planning Authority, will hear a proposal to amend the Countywide Future Land Use Plan that would allow a developer, the Richman Group of Florida, to build an apartment complex on the site of the former Firmenich Citrus Center on State Road 590.

After a modified version of the developer’s original plan was approved by both the Safety Harbor Planning and Zoning Board and the City Commission in 2012, the proposal was ultimately rejected by the CPA on May 17 of last year.

At the time, the 7-member board cited a need to preserve land in the county designated for industrial uses as the reason behind their unanimous “nay” vote. The Richman Group’s proposal would require a change of the zoning from Industrial Limited to Residential Medium in order to build the 246-unit apartment complex plus an additional 20,000 square feet of office space that would occupy the 34.5 acre parcel.

Unhappy with the results or the reasons behind the CPA’s decision, the applicant appealed the ruling to an administrative law judge in August. After reviewing the case, Judge Bram D.E. Canter recommended in November the CPA approve the applicant’s proposed amendment to the Countywide Planning Map.

“The Richman Group of Florida, Inc. filed an appeal after hearing last May challenging the County’s basis for denying the amendment on industrial land preservation policies that have not yet been adopted into the Countywide Rules,” Safety Harbor Community Development Director Matt McLachlan told Safety Harbor Connect.

“The (judge’s) Recommended Order contains a finding of fact that concludes with a recommendation that the Board approve the amendment.”

Judge Canter’s ruling stated, in part:

“Based on the foregoing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, it is RECOMMENDED that the Countywide Planning Authority issue a final order approving the amendment.”

Due to Canter’s ruling, the issue returned to the CPA for another public hearing on the proposal.

“The BCC hearing is the final vote on the City’s amendment application to the Countywide Future Land Use Map,” McLachlan explained. “If the County approves the amendment to the Countywide Future Land Use Map, the City will advertise the adoption hearing on the local amendments to the City’s Future Land Use Map and Zoning Atlas for February 3, 2014.”

The BCC hearing takes place today at the Pinellas County Courthouse, located at 315 Court St. in downtown Clearwater. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., with the Firmenich item slotted fifth, according to the agenda.

Stay with Safety Harbor Connect.com and our Facebook page for complete coverage of the Board of County Commissioners meeting, including an update on the outcome immediately after the issue is voted on by the County Planning Authority.

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