The Safety Harbor City Commission earlier this week unanimously approved an annexation request for a six-acre parcel located at the intersection of State Roads 580 and 590 in the northeast corner of the city. The approval could allow a developer to build a three-story medical office on the land, to the chagrin of many neighboring residents.
The Safety Harbor City Commission unanimously approved an annexation request for a six-acre parcel at the intersection of State Roads 580 and 590 earlier this week.
The 5-0 vote on the second and final reading of Ordinance 2017-31 on Monday, Oct. 16 means all four lots on the property now fall under the city’s jurisdiction; during the first reading of the ordinance on October 2, it was revealed that a developer has plans to build a three-story medical office building on the site.
Mayor Joe Ayoub acknowledged Monday the annexation has raised some concerns in the community, specifically with the neighbors on Parrish Lane, a quiet, tree-filled cul-de-sac.
Aerial view of the parcels involved in the annexation request. (Google Maps)
“Any time there’s a proposal for a new development, especially in a residential neighborhood, you get people that are concerned about what’s gonna pop up near them,” he said, adding “the owner of this is determined to do something with it.”
But Ayoub also noted annexing the lots into Safety Harbor gives city officials more control over the development of the property.
“If we annex it in, the city has more control over it, and whatever development goes there will fall under our, more strict, regulations than what the county has. So that’s just something to keep in mind.”
Safety Harbor City Commissioner Cliff Merz.
Unlike the previous meeting, when nearly every Parrish Lane resident spoke against the issue, only one audience member addressed the commission on Monday, though officials said residents sent the city a letter expressing their thoughts.
“Depending on where the actual site plan and the building is gonna be located, you’re gonna have on the third story, them having the ability to look into the neighbor’s yard,” Chris Lord, a resident of nearby La Playa Court, said.
However, Commissioner Cliff Merz said he would work to make sure there is a suitable buffer between the homes on Parrish Lane and the empty lot located immediately across the street, as the development is expected to be constructed on the other side of the property.
“The only thing I had some hesitation on myself was the areas immediately across the street from Parrish Lane,” Merz said. “That isn’t defined at this point, and…the areas that were presented are far enough away, (there’s) buffers and things that we’ll be able to do.
“I would have some discussion, and the City would have some discussion, of course, with that.”
An artist’s rendering of the annexation of a six-acre parcel located at the intersection of State Roads 580 and 590 in Safety Harbor.
In response to Lord’s suggestion that traffic would increase, and property values in the area would decrease, should the proposed medical building move forward, the mayor reiterated the importance of allowing the city to retain control over the land.
“As far as the use of that property, the westernmost portion is already zoned Office,” Ayoub said. “So, if we were to say ‘no’ the applicant has the option to do what’s called a joint development agreement between the city and the county where they could still move forward on their plans, it would just give us a lot less flexibility on what’s there. So this would give us more control.”
“At the end of the day I don’t think anybody is happy with 100 percent of things, but I think all of understand the issues and concerns…and we’re all looking out for the best interests of the community.”
Safety Harbor Vice-Mayor Carlos Diaz.
Vice-Mayor Carlos Diaz said he believed the proposal was great for the city, as the development would create new jobs for county residents.
“Pinellas County is the most congested county in all of Florida,” Diaz said. “It’s a place where people have to live and people have to work. We can’t afford to have people taking rides over to Tampa or down to St. Pete to work. We need to start thinking about how to keep employment local.”
Diaz added he understood the residents’ concerns, and he reinforced Cmmsr. Merz’s promise to work to keep buffers between the neighborhood and any new development on the property.
“There’s a way that you could design stuff, architecturally, with buffers,” he said, adding he met with the applicant and he believes they’re “planning on being good neighbors.”
After all the comments were heard, the commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance.
Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub.
Following the meeting, Mayor Ayoub elaborated on the decision.
“I’m keeping an open mind as to what eventually happens with this property knowing that the approval of the annexation request will most likely lead to the owner submitting a request to change the land use and zoning so that they can build offices there,” he told Safety Harbor Connect via email on Wednesday. “My number one concern is to see that whatever happens with that property is compatible with the existing homes and neighborhoods.
“Keeping that in mind the owner has the option to build something there whether or not they annex the entire property into the city or not so I like the fact of having the property annexed to give us a greater say over what happens there.”