Oldsmar officials disagree over terms of town home development agreement

The preliminary conceptual site plan for the town home development proposed for a three-acre parcel next to the Oldsmar Public Library. (City of Oldsmar)

After allowing the City Manager enter into a development agreement that would see 52 town homes built on a slice of City-owned property next to the Oldsmar Public Library in June, and following the unanimous approval of a rezoning request for the seven-acre parcel earlier this month, the Oldsmar City Council recently authorized the City Attorney to prepare a development agreement between the City and Oldsmar Towns, LLC.

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland.

But while the motion on August 15 ultimately passed by a vote of 4-1, the council was divided over one element of the proposal—the construction of a street that would bisect the development and connect Arlington Avenue with St. Petersburg Drive.

Council members Jerry Beverland and Eric Seidel both disapproved of the inclusion of School Street, a ‘paper street’ that was originally platted 80 or 90 years ago, according to longtime City Manager Bruce Haddock, in the terms of the agreement.

“I’m gonna vote for this,” Beverland said. “But I’m telling you this—if I don’t like it, and if School Street is paved, I will vote against it.”

“I think the natural barrier that’s there…I think that’s a good barrier,” Seidel added. “It keeps the integrity of that neighborhood.”

Haddock, who is set to retire on October 1, noted the benefits of the new throughway.

Oldsmar City Manager Bruce Haddock.

“There’s some very practical reasons for constructing the street,” he said, adding, “in my opinion, the construction of school street would be the difference between a good project and a bad project.”

Easy access for residents, emergency vehicles and delivery and utility companies as well as better connectivity with the rest of the developing downtown district were cited by Haddock as examples of why he believes the street needs to be part of the project.

“There’s another reason,” he added. “It creates a vibrant and thriving community.”

Seidel respectfully disagreed with the City Manager, stating “I appreciate your opinion, as always. I don’t know that I agree with it.”

The other three lawmakers said they were in favor of the inclusion of the street, with Vice-Mayor Dan Saracki stating it was “all about the Fire Department and the safety of the citizens,” Council member Gabby McGee concurring with the importance of connectivity in the downtown area, and Mayor Doug Bevis adding he lives in a one-exit community and “I can tell you it does not work.”

The Oldsmar City Council agreed to allow the City Attorney to prepare a development agreement that could see a 52-unit town home community built on 3.8 acres of land adjacent to the Oldsmar Public Library.

After an initial motion to approve the request to prepare the agreement without School Street failed by a vote of 3-2, a new motion to approve the request, with the street included, passed 4-1, with Beverland voicing the lone ‘no’ vote.

Following the meeting, Bevis cautioned they were still in the initial phases of reviewing the project.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

“I haven’t made my final decision yet on School Street,” the mayor said by phone this week.“But I’d rather have it in the agreement and then take it out later rather than leave it out completely now.”

He added, “if we don’t agree on multiple other issues, it won’t matter. (School Street) is just one piece of the development agreement.”

Bevis also spoke about the need to allow easy access for emergency vehicles, and the importance of the connectivity factor.

“I think it goes back to us wanting to have a connective city,” he said, noting the results of a partnership with USF students on the development of the downtown area. “And another huge issue is health and safety.”

“Overall, I think it’s a great fit for the area. I’m excited about it.”

According to Haddock, the agreement will go before the Planning Board for review in the future, followed by two public meetings before the City Council.

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