Roads. Where the proposed Anclote Harbor residential community is going, it might need roads.
The Tarpon Springs City Commission again postponed a vote to rezone 74-acres of land along the Anclote River after more than eight hours of public hearing. Traffic safety and environmental factors have emerged as concerns.
Developer the Morgan Group and environmentalists hoping to preserve the land pleaded their cases to the Commission in a hearing that started Thursday night, ended early Friday morning and was eventually postponed until next Friday afternoon.
More than a decade ago Environmentalists fended off big-box giant Walmart when it wanted to develop on the land. The site contains more than 21 acres of wetlands and 14 acres of uplands; a live oak habitat; bald eagle nests and is home to gopher tortoises – Environmentalists still hope to see it turned into a park.
But for the commissioners whose job it will be to decide whether or not the land gets rezoned, the decision seems to be based on roads.
A single gated entrance
The developer is asking for a waiver to allow only one entrance, on U.S. 19. But with more than 400 units proposed, it’s well over the 50-unit threshold for requiring additional entrances. Concern has been raised over whether or not motorists would be able to safely enter and exit the property going to and from southbound U.S. 19.
Joel Provenzano spoke on behalf of the Florida Department of Transportation.
“A review of the traffic shows that it should operate at an acceptable level of service,” he said. “That means that all motorists should successfully be able to negotiate this.”
But a traffic expert hired by the group Concerned Citizens of Tarpon Springs said he wouldn’t approve the project. He said the median that would be constructed wouldn’t allow enough time for vehicles to travel across the highway. He added the traffic studies that have been conducted don’t take into account increased traffic once the pandemic is over and fewer people are staying home.
“In my opinion this project does not meet code and should not be approved,” transportation planner Eric Houston said.
Who builds it
One condition of a waiver could be a second road on the eastside of the property. It would not only increase the projects impact on wetlands, but the developer and city can’t seem to agree on who would be responsible.
Cindy Tarapani, a design consultant representing the developer said the Morgan Group would only be responsible for connecting their land to a road that would have to be constructed by the city. But vice-mayor Jacob Karr said without the project, the city would have no need to construct the road in the first place.
“I’m not gonna approve that waiver based on what I’ve seen,” Karr said. “I do expect the applicant to construct this other road. Because there’s no need for the road right now, unless this application goes through and is approved.”
The hearing on the land will continue Friday, Jan. 15 at 3 p.m. in Tarpon Springs City Hall.