Tarpon sets 2014 referendum on property sale

TARPON SPRINGS — City commissioners have voted to hold a special referendum to decide the potential sale of a city-owned property. The item will go to voters during the municipal election scheduled for March 11.
The land in question is at 501 S. Walton Ave. The vacant building on the property was once a nursing home.
City officials have been in discussion with New Port Richey-based Qualified Property Management as a potential buyer since earlier this year. The company is interested in renovating the existing building and operating an assisted living facility.
QPM, doing business with the city in this potential deal as the Burnard Group, would buy the appraised fair-market value of $813,000 for the 3.46-acre site.
Beyond reaping the one-time payment into city coffers, the sale would return the land to the property tax rolls.
Speaking during a meeting earlier this month, the city’s economic development manager, Karen Lemmons, said the land could generate roughly $50,000 a month in property taxes to the county and $12,000 to Tarpon Springs. Those numbers were based on the site’s $2.1 million appraised value in 2004, when it was still functioning as a nursing home.
A special referendum could have been held in November, but it would have cost the developer $30,000.
Nobody has operated the building at 501 S. Walton Ave. since 2004 and its exterior and interior conditions have fallen into disrepair.
During both August regular meetings — the last being Aug. 20 — Commissioner Jeff Larsen questioned the building’s condition and its ability to be rehabilitated.
“I’m concerned about their decision about wanting to rehab the existing building, which I think is in questionable condition,” he said, “as opposed to getting rid of that building and starting over.”
Larsen cast the lone dissenting opinion during both related motions held on the matter this month.
Prior to March’s referendum, the city and QPM are attempting to reach an accord on a development agreement for the property.
City Attorney Jim Yacavone stated last week that the crux of those deliberations will be agreeing on compliance mechanisms that ensure the company follows through on its plans and does so within certain time constraints.
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