Dunedin neighbors rally to stop development bordering Hammock Park

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 20:22:15-04

People in Dunedin are trying to stop condos from replacing the trees that border their city park. Many long-time residents were surprised to find out who actually owns the land. 

“This is my church, I come here every day,” Helen Laporta said. She has walked Hammock Park’s trails for nearly 30 years.  

“The quiet, the solitude, this is why people come here,” Pat Jennings said. After a combined 80 years walking here, neither one of them knew part of the park land actually belongs to Our Lady of Lourdes church. 

“This is our trail up to here and then it becomes the church property,” Jennings said. 

The eight-acre piece of land borders Hammock Park and the church plans to sell the land to a developer. Dunedin’s mayor said the church offered to sell it to the city in November, but the city never dreamed that someone would actually develop the land.

“It is criminal to do this, something that God gave all of us,” Laporta said.

“We always thought it was our land, because the city has maintained the trails for 50 years. The church has never said a word to us,” Jennings said.

The Pastor with Our Lady of Lourdes said people use this land as a walkway, but it really belongs to the church. The mayor of Dunedin said the city is now offering to pay $1.385 million for the land.

That draft offer needs to be approved by the city commission at the end of the month. The city wants companies to step up and help and they’re also asking the county to throw in some of BP settlement money. 

“This ask is legitimate and more than a legitimate ask for that kind of money,” said Dave Eggers, county commissioner.

The Friends of the Hammock hope this home to gopher tortoises and nature-lovers alike can still be saved.

“It’s not just for me but it's for generations to come,” Laporta said. 

“This would just be one more stake, you know, in the heart of Dunedin if we do more concrete block buildings. It would be very hurtful,” Jennings said.

The Friends of the Hammock have raised $5,000 to save the land so far.