Are Safety Harbor Residents Being Lied To?

Harbor Place at Safety HarborAs the March 14th, Safety Harbor Mayoral race heats up – so are the rumors, or what many frustrated residents are calling flat out “lies”.

From social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, to the passionate “door knockers” pacing your neighborhood, there’s no lack of information being spread like wildfire about the Safety Harbor Mayoral candidates – Joe Ayoub and Janet Hooper. But how do voters decide what is true and what is false? There are many “issues” that these candidates have fired back and forth at each other over the past month, but perhaps the most contentious has been the truth about the 7 story condominium building called Harbor Place near Starbucks and Bayshore Blvd.

In the emails pictured below, Mayoral candidate Joe Ayoub sent out an email on February 5th stating…

Joe Ayoub“…it has just come to my attention that as I am writing this my opponent’s supporters are going door to door handing out the below door hanger to residents, which contains flat out lies about my record… Let me address these lies head on:

  1. ‘He voted for the 7 story condos on Bayshore’ – THIS CLAIM IS FLAT OUT FALSE! The 65 ft. condo project was first approved in 2003 and consisted of two buildings. I was not elected to serve on the commission until 2007.In 2008 I voted in favor of a major site plan amendment, which reduced the design from 2 buildings to 1 building. The height and the number of units remained the same but due to the more compact design the footprint was reduced by 41%, creating more open & green space and improving the views of the bay. As part of my campaign I have pledged to work with the developer to negotiate a reduction to the height and scale of this project if I am elected.”

In response to Ayoub’s email, his opponent Janet Hooper sent out the following email (pictured below) on February 10th stating…

Janet Hooper“First let me apologize for emailing you, but you recently received an email from my opponent, Joe Ayoub, complaining that my supporters are spreading lies about him while he is running a “positive,” issue-centered campaign. I would like to correct the record…

  1. Mr. Ayoub ‘voted for the 7-story condos on Bayshore’.

– At the Nov. 17, 2008 City Commission meeting, Commissioner Ayoub motioned and voted for a major amendment to the condos to increase the building from 5 to 7 stories, (5 residential and 2 parking). No one said he voted for the 5-story condo in 2003. But he did in fact vote for the amended 7 story condo building in 2008, which kept the project alive. http://safetyharbor.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=438&meta_id=24684

– He supported an additional 5-year period to get a permit and an additional 15 years to complete the condos.

– The major objection to this project is the height; the City has a 3 story (35 feet) height limit. This is 7 stories and 65 feet. The amendment did modify the footprint, but left the height at 65 feet.

– Mr. Ayoub says he is trying to renegotiate the condo project. He has no authority to do so.”

As with most things, there’s a backstory. If you’re not an elected official or someone who has a responsibility to know and understand pending developments in Safety Harbor, there might not be any reason that you would know the truth about “issues” like this one that the Mayoral candidates are so passionate about. So it would be very easy to simply believe what you are being told through social media or passionate door knockers.

As it turns out, one of Janet Hooper’s biggest supporters and advocates, Barbara Hollen-Hugg wanted answers. So she inquired about the truth, and she received the answer. Hollen-Hugg sent an email to City Manager, Matt Spoor on February 10th with the following questions (Hollen-Hugg’s questions are italicized and Spoor’s answers are in bold text for convenient referencing within the in-line email answers):

“Could you please explain to me what happened during the 2008 commission vote on the amendment to the condo project? Different versions of the story, including mine, don’t match and I would really like to know the truth. Had the permit time run out?”

No, the original approval had no timeline attached to it. The developers, Olympia at the time, had site plan approval and began constructions of the Harbour Pointe (Crispers) Building within the timeframe established by city code. The property owners were arguing that since they began construction of the first building within the time frame that their site plan could NEVER expire; the original approvals had no time frame for each phase. The City suggested a phased plan (schedule). The developer proposed a greater period of time and the CC approved less time than the developers initially requested. This occurred in 2008 with the major modifications to the site plan. All of which would have expired in 2013 if not for Governor Scott and the State of Florida, see link below.  ( http://hgslaw.com/article/house-bill-503-may-extend-permits-and-development-orders/ )

“Is permitting time up again, or is the developer meeting their deadline?”

Permit time is not up, they have submitted for a building permit and staff is reviewing. Any day now they could pay the permit fees and receive a permit to begin building the project.

“Did the commission grant an extension of the original project or was it starting fresh?”

The Commission approved a major modification to the original site plan. It was not starting fresh, it was a modification or change to the original approval.

“Would the project have been dead if the vote had gone the other way?”

No, the previous site plan approvals would have stood if the CC did not approve the major modifications.

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Ayoub and Hooper Campaign Emails

Stay with Safety Harbor Connect for complete coverage of the 2017 municipal election, including more “backstory” reports of the election issues that are important to you.

For video of the Safety Harbor candidate forum, please click here: RECORDED LIVE COVERAGE OF 2017 CANDIDATE FORUM. 

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