Oldsmar City Council nixes downtown townhome development

Despite additional changes made to the design by developer Tony Tanico, the Oldsmar City Council voted 4-1 against the proposed 50-unit town home development on St. Petersburg Drive on second reading, killing the plan.

For nearly a year, Oldsmar officials have been working with Tony Tanico, a Palm Harbor developer who wanted to build a 50-unit town home complex next to the Oldsmar Public Library on St. Petersburg Drive.

The proposal went through several iterations featuring many contentious discussions about everything from the lower-than-expected-sale price of the four-acre parcel to a complete redesign of the units.

In seeking an extension of the development agreement as well as amendments to the site plan last month, Oldsmar City Council members voted 3-2 in favor of the request, with a caveat that Tanico, president of Oldsmar Town, LLC, come back with a revised design for the now Colonial style units on second reading.

A developer planned to build a 50-unit town home community on this vacant lot next to the Oldsmar Public Library.

However, during the item’s second reading on Tuesday, June 5, Tanico’s long gestating plan to build a high-quality residential development in town came to an abrupt end, as four of the five council members decided the project wasn’t up to the standards they want to set for the redevelopment of the downtown district.

“When the USF students did the study of downtown, they envisioned integrating the entire city and having everything flow together—St. Pete Drive, State Street, downtown,” Mayor Doug Bevis said. “It all works together and ties into the city.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

“This is the first development to come before us that sets the mark on that property and our vision…and I don’t know that this is the catalyst for starting these developments. I don’t envision this being the benchmark that we set for that.”

Bevis went on to reiterate what he said previously, that the new design “looks like any town home in Any Town, USA,” despite recent upgrades made by Tanico, and he added the project “doesn’t have a ‘wow’ factor for me.”

The mayor’s concerns were backed up by Planning and Redevelopment Director Marie Dauphinais, who conceded the new design was better, but still not the right fit for the area.

“It’s not really appropriate for adjacent to the library,” Dauphinais said. “It’s a nice development, but not in the CRA. It just doesn’t flow. It’s not unique.”

Council member Jerry Beverland, an opponent of the project from the start, agreed.

“We built an incredible library, and we’re going to downgrade it?” Beverland asked. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The original concept for the St. Petersburg Drive town homes featured Mediterranean style architectural design and three-story units. (City of Oldsmar)

Council member Gabby McGee said she felt the height of the now two-story units would be overshadowed by the imposing library next door.

“I appreciate the design additions. I think it’s much nicer,” she said. “My concern is the height. If this (development) is shorter than the library, it’s only going to make it look smaller. I don’t think it’s a good fit there.”

City Council member Eric Seidel.

Ironically, the one council member to approve of the new design was the one who started the initial lengthy dialog on the project due to the sale price of the land.

“I’m on the complete opposite side here,” Eric Seidel said. “I saw this and I really like it.”

He added, “I didn’t like the three-story structure. I don’t think the development needs to be the size of the library. I don’t think it should be. So I just view that differently.”

Despite the dissenting view, by that point it was clear which direction the vote was headed, and by the time the city clerk called the roll and registered four votes against (Bevis, McGee, Beverland and Vice-Mayor Dan Saracki) and one for (Seidel), Tanico had stormed out of the room, his dream of building a “quality project” the city ‘would be proud of” effectively over.

A few days after the meeting, Mayor Bevis spoke about the decision.

The Oldsmar City Council wants to be selective about what is built next to the public library on St. Petersburg Drive.

“I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think it was the marquee development we wanted in our Community Redevelopment Area,” he said. “It was just ‘any town home in Any Town, USA.’ It just didn’t pop.”

“Outside of the CRA, fine. But because we own the property, we have a say what goes there.”

When asked what the next step would be, Bevis said they would have to wait and see.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen now, but I do know that’s a valuable piece of property,” he said.

“Something will be built there, eventually, and we want to make sure it’s the right project for the city and the downtown district.”

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