Harborside Church Access Drive Wins Initial Approval from SH Commission
The Safety Harbor City Commission agreed to explore a development agreement with Harborside Christian Church that would create a shared access drive, providing the City with access to its landlocked Messenger property.
Under the terms of the agreement the City would contribute $200,000 towards the design and construction of the 24-foot-wide drive in exchange for 6.4 acres of land adjacent to the 10-acre parcel it acquired in 1999.
The church would use the drive as an alternate ingress/egress point for its visitors during certain specified times.
The plan was repeatedly praised by many as a win-win situation for all parties, although some commissioners and residents expressed concerns about the agreement.
“I just want to make sure…by voting tonight, the Commission is not obligating itself in any way to make a final decision on this road,” Commissioner Andy Zodrow said.
“Because I do have a lot of concerns about this project, but I think it would be imprudent to just throw this out right now and say ‘no.’”
City Manager Matt Spoor and Community Development Director Matt McLachlan assured the Commission that approving the item did not automatically signify an approval of the agreement.
The public then weighed in with concerns ranging from traffic backing up in the adjoining neighborhoods to making sure the Messenger property, which was deemed a public conservation space in September, was not overdeveloped in the future.
Officials countered the concerns by pointing to an analysis conducted by the church showing traffic would not be greatly impacted by the addition of the drive, and by revealing they plan to turn the whole 17-acre parcel into the Green Springs Preserve.
A representative for Harborside Christian Church also pointed out that without this agreement, the church could apply for a permit to build the drive on its property, cutting the City out of the deal and leaving open the option of selling the unused acreage to a residential home developer.
“The City will be able to down-zone Harborside’s property that we’re swapping and take away the potential for us to do nine single-family homes,” Charlie Babcock said.
Babcock estimated the cost of the property the City would acquire in the deal to be worth more than $720,000, and he assured residents they wouldn’t be donating that land in order for the City to sell it to developers in the future.
Following the public comments, the commissioners gave their opinions on the matter.
“I think it’s a win-win. I like the idea of having 17 acres of pristine preserve land in a county as jammed as we are,” Vice Mayor Cliff Merz said.
“I think this is as an important potential piece of property that we have…and I’m very comfortable with going ahead with continued discussions.”
“Where I stand right now, I think it’s a win-win situation,” Commissioner Carlos Diaz added.
The commission ultimately voted unanimously to move forward and continue exploring the agreement.
Harborites, how do you feel about the proposed shared access drive? Let us know in the comments below.
This will be a blessing. There are no traffic lights where we turn on Marshall St and it is dangerous trying to drive, plus, if you are coming from Highway 19 area, you have to drive a long distance to make a turn to come back. Waste of gas. PTL!!!!!
We need this in place before a second building Thank you everyone working on this
It’s a Win Win!