SHCC approves Main Street mixed-use project site plan, development agreement

The Safety Harbor City Commission approved a site plan and development agreement for a mixed-use project on Main Street Monday night, paving the way for the first new development in the downtown district in over a decade. (Credit: Bay to Bay Properties)

The Safety Harbor City Commission approved the site plan and development agreement for a mixed-use project on Main Street Monday night, paving the way for the first new development in the downtown district in more than a decade.

The project calls for two three-story buildings, one residential, one office/commercial, to be built on a vacant lot at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue North, with 30 parking spaces added to the perimeter and 32 spaces on the interior of the property.

Local developer Bay to Bay Properties plans to use the top two floors of the non-residential building as its new office space, with retail or restaurant space on the ground floor, while the residential building facing Second Street North would house 24 multi-family units.

While Bay to Bay made several concessions regarding the plans, including reducing the allowable height of the buildings, including architectural designs and setbacks to make sure the project fit in with the surroundings and prohibiting offices from occupying the ground floor of the commercial building for a period of five years to help encourage economic development downtown, the vote was not unanimous.

Commissioner Andy Zodrow voted against the project, citing concerns with the residential structure as well as the city’s decision to waive $160,000 in CRA fees for the developer.

City Commissioner Andy Zodrow.

“I know the neighbors to the north are concerned, and I’m gonna support it if it’s done right,” he said. “But three stories immediately adjacent to that property, again, I’d be much more amenable if it was two stories.”

Zodrow said he’d prefer if there were a dozen units in a two-story building, and he went on to lament the lack of greenspace on the project and said, “I don’t know if the five-foot reduction in height is worth $160,000.”

Mayor joe Ayoub, however, said he believed the concessions the developer made outweighed the concerns.

“We are getting a reduction in size, a reduction in setbacks, we are getting additional parking,” Ayoub replied.

He also noted “if you quantify the dollar value of those parking spots, the land for the parking spaces was quantified at $175,000, and the finished parking after construction an additional value of $475,000. So, if you look at the reimbursement to the developer from the CRA fund of $160,000, I think you can make an argument that just the parking alone, forget about the height and setbacks increases that we’re getting, the parking alone pays for it almost three-fold or more.”

City Commissioner Cliff Merz.

Ayoub also pointed out Bay to Bay “could’ve done something greater in scale” on the property, as the maximum building height allowed for the property is 45 feet. According to the plans, the residential structure will be 35 feet high, matching that of the surrounding neighborhood, while the non-residential building will be 40 feet.

Commissioner Cliff Merz, who in previous discussions about the project expressed concerns about the residential building, said he was satisfied with the latest plans.

“Initially on, I had concerns,” he said. “But the fact this has been brought to the level of the zoning across the street…and the fact that it’s setback I think helps offset some of the physical impact, plus the parking which is there.”

“I also recognize that fact that it could be a monolithic 45-foot structure that takes up the entire piece of property, as well,” he added, noting it “seems to be a fair amount of concessions.”

After Vice-Mayor Carlos Diaz and Commissioner Scott Long both expressed support for the project, the commissioners voted on the site plan and development agreement; both items passed by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Zodrow casting the “nay” vote for each.

The Main Street mixed-use development will feature two buildings consisting of residential, retail and office space built on a vacant lot in downtown Safety Harbor. This rendering shows the proposed residential building that would be located at the back of the property. (Credit: Bay to Bay Properties)

According to the agreement, the plan is for Bay to Bay start on the project immediately, with the work to be completed in one phase and take roughly a year to complete.

“We’re extremely excited and looking forward to getting a shovel in the ground,” Bay to Bay co-owner Joe Faw told the commission during the discussion of the agenda items.

Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub.

Following the meeting, Mayor Ayoub commented on the city’s first new mixed-use project since the Harbour Pointe Complex was completed in 2006.

“I’m very excited about this project being approved and look forward to the completion of it,” Ayoub told Safety Harbor Connect via email.

“This project is going to turn a currently vacant and underutilized piece of property in the heart of our downtown into a thriving area. Bay to Bay Properties has an outstanding reputation for building quality projects and by moving forward on this development we are going to keep the headquarters of this growing and successful business right here in our very own downtown.”

Ayoub added, “by negotiating this project through a development agreement, we were able to require enhanced architectural standards, reduced height, greater setbacks with surrounding homes and added parking for our residents.

“This is what I call a Win-Win!”

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