The Safety Harbor Planning and Zoning board on Wednesday night approved a site plan amendment for a downtown parcel that would allow a developer to build six single family homes on the property.
The request, which passed by a vote of 6-1, will go before the City Commission for approval on first reading next month.
The site plan for the property has undergone numerous changes over the years, most recently being approved for a pair of 4-unit townhomes in 2008.
Under the new proposal, Harbour Place, LLC. would construct six two-story homes, ranging from 2,800 – 3,000-square feet in size with an elevated porch out front and a two-car garage in the rear, on the half-acre lot, which sits on the corner of Iron Age Road and Second Avenue South.
Developer Mark Maconi, who purchased the parcel in September, said he would rather build a small subdivision than the quad homes, believing single family structures are more in-line with the character of the downtown district.
“We think the single-family design is far superior to the quad home design,” Maconi told the board. “It doubles the amount of parking that’s available…and makes for a much safer environment on Iron Age for through traffic.”
However, not everyone agreed with Maconi’s assessment of the plan.
“I love the single-family look, I like the idea there are no driveways,” board vice-chair Tammy Vrana said. “But then I look at quad homes and think that is a more fitting downtown development and it provides more opportunities for green space,” she said.
“And from a stormwater management perspective, quad homes are much more desirable.”
The new plan would mean a 25-percent reduction in the approved density for the property as well as create the opportunity to save more of the trees currently located on the land. The old proposal called for just one of the 13 oak trees on the property to be preserved.
While many board members agreed that the new proposal is better than the existing plan in some ways, especially when it came to saving trees, there were a number of concerns raised by officials as well as by residents in attendance.
“These six houses are an improvement over the quad homes and townhomes that were proposed before, so I think we’re getting closer,” Sharon Mcauley, who lives near the property, said. “But I believe that the six houses, 2,000-square feet to 3,000-square feet on 42-foot lots, is not conforming to the neighborhood.”
“I think bringing these houses in will detract from that quaintness, and I think they will eventually lower our property values because the area is going to lose its charm if we keep building townhomes and detached duplexes.”
Fellow downtown resident Sandy Huff concurred with Mcauley.
“I’m against this large a development on that tiny little space,” she said.
Maconi expressed surprise over the opinions that building large, well-designed homes with an “Old Florida” feel could be seen as a negative. He also guaranteed he would be building on the property no matter what was decided at the meeting.
“I very rarely have come to a meeting where I’ve had somebody say that my bigger, nicer houses are going to lower property values,” he said.
“But I would like to remind everybody that this has already been approved for the quad homes and…we have already purchased the property, we won’t be walking away. We’re either going to build the quad homes, or we’re going to build these houses. We just think these houses are much more compatible with the neighborhood.”
After more deliberation, plus a guarantee that every effort will be made to save trees, including requiring a preservation plan for each building permit that is submitted for the site, the board approved the applicant’s request, with Vrana voicing the sole ‘nay’ vote.
The proposal will be voted on by the City Commission at its meeting on Monday, December 2.