OLDSMAR, Fla. — It’s a topic that has divided Oldsmar for months: how to develop an eight-acre plot of land just feet from City Hall.
Oldsmar city leaders have described the site, on Tampa Road, as a potential “catalyst” for downtown development.
Tuesday night, the city is passed an ordinance that would amend the Comprehensive Plan of the City of Oldsmar and offer an incentive, or bonus, to developers that would allow them to put additional “residential units” on the property if they agree to build a “vertically-integrated mixed-use development.”
Instead of the current allowance of 30 units per acre, a developer could build up to 65 apartment units per acre, if the project also includes a combination of shops, restaurants, a parking garage, and public spaces.
“Hopefully, it would bring that community that we have around us — Safety Harbor, Palm Harbor, Dunedin. You know, I find our family goes to those other cities for that atmosphere, and everybody leaves our community and takes their money to those communities,” said resident Michael Boylan in a December interview. “My thing is, bring it to Oldsmar.”
Others, however, have argued strongly against the density amendment and say it would eradicate the city’s “small town” feel.
“In the words of Tom Petty, we won’t back down," said Dave McDonald, another resident, in December. "We’re going to stand our ground.”
Since then, the fight became a central campaign issue, and in March, the two men opposed to the downtown density amendment were elected to office by slim margins. Dan Saracki, then a councilman, ousted Mayor Eric Seidel. Additionally, Jarrod Buchman was elected to fill Saracki's council seat.
Buchman and Saracki voted against the amendment on Tuesday night.
“When I went door to door to meet the citizens of the City of Oldsmar — not one — not one of them said they wanted 317 apartments built in our downtown area,” Saracki, the new mayor, said Monday.
“All I can say is this vote will change our city forever,” Saracki said.
“I am basically going to tell them to listen to the people,” Saracki said before the vote. “Listen to the people’s voices. I can’t really tell them anything else.”
While the city said it's negotiating with a potential developer for the property, it said any specific development proposal for the site would have to go through a separate public approval process. According to a fact sheet on the city website, issues concerning “traffic, water, sewer, schools, environmental” would be studied during that process.