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Dunedin considers a pause in building

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Officials are concerned that future redevelopment projects will alter the character of the city. The city attorney says a moratorium would last about six months. By MEGAN SCOTT Published July 13, 2005 DUNEDIN – This quaint, charming community is worried that it is growing too fast. So commissioners may put a stop to redevelopment – at least for now. Commissioners are considering enacting a ban on development projects, while a consultant reviews Dunedin’s land development code. Where and what the moratorium would affect has not yet been determined. But commissioners, who are going through a visioning process for Dunedin, seem to be in agreement with the idea. “A real concern from residents is that the character of the city might be altered by big ugly boxes,” said Vice Mayor Julie Scales. “Redevelopment is a force. We can help change and redirect that force. I don’t think we can stop it.” City Attorney John Hubbard said the moratorium would limit the height on buildings and last about six months. That should be long enough for consulting firm HDR to review the codes, which date back to the 1980s. “We are concerned that the regulations we have are no longer keeping up with the times,” Hubbard said. “The times have changed dramatically. “An extraordinary change in property values has made this type of redevelopment, where you buy a small building and put a great big building in its place, economically desirable. Is that what you want your community to be?” Developer Richard Gehring can attest to the new type of development coming to Dunedin. He, along with Bill Kimpton and Jim Egnew, plans to construct a five-story building of condos, shops and offices on the site of the Bay Palms Motel and Sun Blest Apartments. Another developer, Lehigh Realty Inc., intends to replace the derelict Stirling Hall and Dicus building on Broadway with something similar. While city officials welcome the centers, they are concerned that future redevelopment projects may not fit in as well with the character of Dunedin. “I think we’re at a critical time where we need to give scrutiny to the issue,” said Commissioner Bob Hackworth. “There has been a rash of new development. All of a sudden people are realizing that we have a vulnerability that could potentially result in undesirable redevelopment. “We need to wrestle this bear now instead of later,” he added. Gehring, who has done a number of projects in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, said he could not comment on the moratorium without specifics. Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the issue at their meeting next Thursday. “It seems like a smart idea to me,” said Commissioner Deborah Kynes. Earlier this year, Clearwater considered a nine-month construction ban on new condominium buildings on a portion of Clearwater Beach. City planners believed the moratorium could give them time to clarify inconsistent planning documents for a transitional area located between condos and the northern residential neighborhood. Residents, developers and business owners protested. The City Council ultimately rejected the plan. Moratoriums are “generally the worse thing a community can do,” according to Joseph Narkiewicz, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Builders Association. He said they discourage developers. “There are a lot of communities that feel blessed that there is an opportunity for redevelopment,” he said. “Constructing some new buildings enhances the tax base. “There are communities that would welcome the opportunity for new development, especially when many communities are facing flat lines on ad valorem revenues,” he added. Economic development director Bob Ironsmith said he doesn’t believe a moratorium will hurt redevelopment. It may give them “pause,” he said, but he believes the temporary ban will encourage developers to work closely with city staff. “The projects are happening so quickly that cities and municipalities that have a lot invested in their downtowns want to make sure they have enough time to review their codes and preserve the character of the community,” he said. “But we still want to encourage redevelopment,” he added. “That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do downtown.” Megan Scott can be reached at 445-4167 or mscott@sptimes.com Source: http://www.sptimes.com/2005/07/13/Northpinellas/Dunedin_considers_a_p.shtml
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