Christina Jackson speaks from experience when it comes to the Firmenich property issue.
As a former resident of Wesley Chapel who still owns a home there, she went through a similar situation when the city decided to build a school directly behind her property.
“They said they were going to put a buffer in between the properties, but they never did,” Jackson, who now lives on Harbor Hill Drive in the Wilder Oaks community, said.
And as a national marketing manager for a large company that has three offices in the area, Jackson knows how important business and development are to a community.
But as is the case with many residents in the immediate vicinity of the Firmenich property, she doesn’t not believe the Richman Group’s proposal is the right fit for the community.
The City Commission meeting on the Firmenich property will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4. The meeting will take place at Safety Harbor City Hall, located at 750 Main St. in downtown Safety Harbor
“I’m not against development. I work for a manufacturing facility, I get it,” she told Patch just days before the City Commission was scheduled to vote on the proposal. “But we want something there…that makes sense for our city.”
“This project is going to be packing a lot of people into a small area, because half the land can’t be developed.”
Jackson said she would like to see single-family homes on the 34-acre site that sits near the corner of State Road 590 and McMullen Booth Road.
She also believes the city should use “green” contractors who build products with less environmental impact, and she would like to see the existing wetland space become a center of attention on the property.
“Keep the wetlands and do something with them. I think our schools would appreciate that.”
Want to read more about development and other local issues? Sign up for the free Safety Harbor Patch email newsletter and you won't miss a thing!
Across the street, Jackson’s neighbor Russell Norman has been poring over plans, documents and proposals relating to the Firmenich issue for months.
A 22-year resident of the neighborhood, Norman is fearful that a development of this size will reduce property values while diminishing Safety Harbor’s quaint, small-town charm.
“We’re not opposed to developing the property,” Norman said as he pointed to a giant zoning map that was loaned to him by the city. “We’re opposed to the density, the height and the traffic.”
“Whatever goes in there has to fit in with the character of the community.”
Norman said he put his name in for a spot on the Planning & Zoning board due to his strong feelings about this issue.
He believes the city should form a committee to sit down and come up with a plan for the property that would be beneficial to all parties involved.
“I would hope the city would sit down and say what can we do to work this out,” he said.
“This is the place where my wife and I wanted to live, and this deal has me questioning that.”
Norman believes the commission will pass the proposal Monday night – “I think they’re going to rubber stamp it,” he said.
Jackson also believes the commission will approve the proposal, if for no other reason than the threat of a lawsuit from the property owners looms should they shoot down the plan.
"I believe the city is listening to us. But I think due to the legal aspect, their hands are tied," she said.
But even if the proposal is passed on Monday, the pair vow to keep fighting the fight as the issue makes it way to the county level.
“We’ll be at 8th Avenue Pub after the meeting to thank everybody involved with the effort and to start rallying the troops for the next stage,” Jackson said.
“We will continue to protest this, call our congressman, whatever it takes,” Norman said. “We’re not going to take this lying down.”
Note: The residents of both Wilder Oaks and the Old Harbor Place communities have come together to form an organization called the Citizens of Safety Harbor. They have started a petition online for people who are opposed to the Richman Group’s proposal. The website for the petition is www.tinyurl.com\signonline.