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Oldsmar split on change that could allow more apartments in downtown redevelopment

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday
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Posted at 8:03 AM, Dec 07, 2021

OLDSMAR, Fla. — On the north shore of Tampa Bay is Oldsmar, a quiet community loved by many like Ginger Tatarzewski.

“I moved here, because it reminds me of the very small town that I am from in Upstate New York,” she said.

But right now, she and others are worried, because change is in the air.

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Oldsmar city leaders are poised to transform the city’s downtown by attracting development at an 8-acre piece of city-owned land that’s adjacent to Oldsmar City Hall. The city has described the site as a potential “catalyst” for downtown development.

Right now, according to the city, any number of things could be built on the land, including “150 residential units plus a separate parking garage to a height of 6 stories.”

However, the city is considering 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.” In other words, 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.

“We’re trying to build workforce housing,” said Doug Bevis, a former Oldsmar mayor who describes the change as a win-win. “(Local companies) have employees that are looking for places to live that are close to their office.”

But over the past few weeks, bright red yard signs have been popping up across the city as some residents, like Dave McDonald, organize in opposition to the proposed density bonus.

“It’s going to severely impact the local traffic, the hurricane evacuation routes are going to be impacted,” he said.

McDonald also feels members of the public haven’t been adequately informed throughout much of the process.

“It’s not good government,” he said. “It’s actually reckless government.”

Tuesday evening, he and others plan to pack a 7 p.m. public hearing on the issue at Oldsmar Council Chamber.

“In the words of Tom Petty, we won’t back down,” McDonald said. “We’re going to stand our ground.”

But others in support of the change will also be there. Some, like Michael Boylan, feel the potential mixed-use development would be undoubtedly positive.

“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,” he said. “My thing is, bring it to Oldsmar.”

While the city says it is negotiating with a potential developer for the property right now, it says 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.

You can read the ordinance here.