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Mayor Ayoub Suggests Selling Messenger Property

The City of Safety Harbor has owned the 10-acre parcel behind Harborside Christian Church since 1999; Ayoub believes selling it could help fund other parkland areas.

The City of Safety Harbor is teeming with property development issues.

In addition to the waterfront park and the Firmenich proposal, the city recently agreed to a lease-to-own arrangement on the old Safety Harbor Secondary School land, which could become a park in the future.

One more item was added to the list Tuesday night, when Mayor Joe Ayoub said he would like to consider selling a 10-acre parcel behind Harborside Christian Church known as the Messenger property. 

“In light of the fact that the city recently purchased the Secondary School site from Pinellas County ... I would like the city commission to consider selling a piece of land commonly referred to as the Messenger property,” Ayoub said during his commission report at the end of the city commission meeting.

“The city purchased this property back in 1999 ... and we haven’t done anything with it for almost 15 years,” he added. “I thought we could earmark the money and use it for either the new waterfront park ... or for improving the Secondary School site.”

The idea elicited a variety of responses from the commissioners and city officials.

Commissioner Nina Bandoni said she would like to do more research on the property before making any decisions, while Commissioner Cliff Merz said his initial reaction was not to sell it, but that he would be willing to listen to options.

“I want to know how close it is to a creek ... could it possibly morph into a subdivision? I want to know what trees are there. I just have all sorts of questions,” Commissioner Nancy Besore added.

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The property, located behind the church on Marshall Street and stretching out to Green Springs Drive, was originally purchased at a cost of $300,000 with the idea of putting sports fields on the land. 

But disputes with adjacent property owners as to how to access to the landlocked parcel put the piece in developmental limbo.

Walking the plot earlier this week, Harborside Church facility manager Kirk Hynes pointed out that very few people would have a need for the property other than the church or neighboring homeowners.

“It’s completely landlocked, so I don’t know who would want it except for us and surrounding property owners,” he said, adding he had no idea if the church is interested in purchasing the parcel.

City manager Matt Spoor also made a similar statement during the meeting. 

“Right now the potential buyers are going to be only those landowners that abut the property,” he said. “There is no right-of-way, there is no public accessway to the property. It is definitely landlocked.” 

Hynes said he occasionally has to chase homeless people and teens off the property, and the site has been used as a dumping ground for landscape debris. 

He has also witnessed “a lot of coyotes” on the property, and he mentioned the fact there is a SFWMD main that runs through the site that is regularly maintained by the district. 

While Spoor said if the city decides to sell the land “there is a process we have to follow," Mayor Ayoub said he merely wants to look into the possibility of what can be done at this time.

“I don’t see any harm in starting the process of gathering information," he said. "We're not rushing to put a 'For Sale' sign on the property tomorrow. Let's start looking in to it.

What do you think, Harborites? Should the city sell the Messenger land and divert the money to other projects? Let us know in the comments below.

David Conkle January 25, 2013 at 01:32 PM
Jeff, my fellow citizens have expressed many reasons why this is a bad idea and I agree with their assessments. Also, letting surrounding owners buy and own the property does not ensure that when land prices are higher these private owners won't sell to the highest bidder. Why isn't the city more interested in perserving land to the benefit of all our citizens as opposed to selling the land to a developer who would benefit the most at the expense of our community. Given that resourses such as water are becoming increasingly more scarce, do we really have to develop every bit of open space left in Florida? How does the city propose to support more development with the increased infastucture that will be needed? I feel that, like many politicians, Mayor Ayoub is thinking short-term with out considering the long term impact that more development will have on our city.
Harborite January 25, 2013 at 05:21 PM
David, You are exactly right when you say that selling the 10-acre Messenger property is a classic case of short-term thinking. City officials need to think about our City in the long term and not think in the short term by selling this property for a relatively small amount of money. The City may need this space for a future park, ball field, public building, or simply as open space. We need to hold on to this valuable 10-acre parcel of land which we couldn't ever go back out and purchase again. Since there is already a lack of open space in Safety Harbor, this parcel of land will only become more valuable over time. Let's hope that our City officials realize how valuable this open space is to our City and how it may be needed by future generations of Safety Harbor residents.
Dee Dokumaci January 25, 2013 at 06:50 PM
I would love to be able to purchase that land & build a first class B&B with a mini golf course but I need to sell a lot of clothes in order to do that, would the city be willing to finance this with easy terms for this dream of mine :)
David Conkle January 25, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Has anyone considered that Mayor Ayoub by bringing up the sale of city property at this time might perhaps be using a diversionary tactic to cause the residents of Safety Harbor to lose focus on the Firminech development project?
Dee Dokumaci January 25, 2013 at 11:07 PM
I think our Mayor knows most of us are not going to lose our focus on the Firmenich Development, I also think that if funds need to be raised to beautify our city we need to have a merchants association where the business community can become active in helping with raising funds, we can have fundraisers which I have a few ideas on this & would be happy to present those ideas, for one idea I like to use as an example would be to have events during the summer months like Palm Harbor does, couple years ago they had a summer concert with Jimmy Buffett which I attended it was jam packed where they raised a lot of money so one way would be to have a major name entertainer performance, I have many other ideas which I don't mind discussing, ask Jeff he knows ;)
Dee Dokumaci January 26, 2013 at 06:07 AM
I would like to turn everybody's attention to the 3 problems at hand with homeless & teens using the property; dumping ground for trash & serious problems with coyotes which can be deadly if a homeless person or teens getting attacked by these wild animals on this property which can also be a huge problem for people living around this area so I object to what some of you expressed by leaving the area as it is, sorry that is not acceptable, lets use logic & come up with a suitable solution before these serious problems accelerate to even bigger issues, we all know coyotes are wild animals & will use any means to attain food source even though wild life officials claim they are not dangerous to humans but according to some reports I read about the serious coyote problem in Pinellas county how brazen these creatures are with daily sightings in all hours of the day, all you have to do is search on google & you'll see the problem is widely growing with the coyotes now getting access to screened in porches of residential homes, personally I feel that is too close for comfort well anyway do the research & you will see what I am talking about....
David Conkle January 26, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Good thoughts Dee, however, don't we already have a merchants association called the Chamber of Commerce? Is this organization not meeting the needs of our business community? While, most festivals or events support local charities, I feel that using one or more of the events to raise monies to the betterment of our city and and the lives of the citizens who live here is an idea well worth implementing. Have you talked to the Chamber or any city officials about your idea's Dee? If not, I believe many would support you and your endeavors to better the community we all live within.
Harborite January 26, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Dee, Are you saying that this Messenger property has problems with coyotes, the homeless, and with teens? I have never heard of these problems on this property, before. Even if this were true, are you saying that we should eliminate our natural spaces in order to solve our homeless, teen, and coyote problems? Because if you believe that this is the way to solve these problems, then we would also need to eliminate all of our city parks like Marshall St. Park, Mullet Creek Park, Safety Harbor City Park, and even Philippe Park. The homeless, coyotes, and teens also go to these parks too. The Messenger property is one of the few open spaces still existing in Safety Harbor and it should remain just as it is.
Jeffrey Rosenfield January 26, 2013 at 05:19 PM
Harborite, yes the property does have these issues. I spoke with the facility director for the church and he told me about them. It is mentioned above in the article. Thanks for the comment.
Dee Dokumaci January 26, 2013 at 05:54 PM
All good questions David & yes we have the Chamber of Commerce who are doing a great job, which I am a member but please they are a non profit organization who rely on our support to stay afloat therefore not able to help bring funds to our city, this is where the merchants association is important! Here's the Pros for having a Merchants Association: Networking Opportunities: A business association provides its members with opportunities to network and share information and resources. In other cases, association members can help one another directly with referrals for services such as accounting, building maintenance, recruiting staff and marketing. Joining a business association provides a new business owner with contact information for other local businesses, speeding up the process of integrating into the community. Political Participation: Business associations allow members to join forces politically. While most associations have no specific party affiliation or political agenda, the political issues that affect business owners are among their concerns. For example, a business association would likely be against a state sales tax increase, since such an increase would directly affect business by forcing customers to pay more. Business associations can contact legislators on behalf of their members and fund political campaigns to push forward legislation that favors commerce. Running Out of Space In This Post, Continued On Next Post :)
Dee Dokumaci January 26, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Here's 2 More Pros of Having a Merchants Association :) Social Advantages: For a business owner, the opportunity to participate in a business association can be as much of a personal consideration as a business decision. Associations hold dinners and special events for their members, giving them chances to meet with their peers and enjoy the company of fellow entrepreneurs. Participation in a business association may also serve as a social expectation in a community where small business owners know one another through work as well as outside of it. Improved Business Climate: The result of participating in a business association, whatever immediate benefits it provides, should be an improvement in an area's business climate. As business owners get to know one another they find ways to share resources, unite on important issues and develop new tools for securing their profitability in the community and creating an atmosphere that encourages competition and attracts customers. With effective leadership and adequate participation, a business association can make it easier for its members to make money and also enjoy the process. I obtain these Pros from the Small Business Chronicle website!
Barbara W. Hugg January 26, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Harborite, Will you be at the meeting in Feb 4th? You write so eloquently, and I am sure you speak the same. . Hope to see you there. I hope all the the writers here are at the meeting because all of you have such valid points and write intelligently. The more the merrier, showing that we are not such a small group against the Firmenich project and the selling of our property...
Barbara W. Hugg January 26, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Interesting thought David. I for one have not forgotten. We have to take the sign down this evening. I find it rather interesting that is was the city of Safety Harbor that filled the complaint with the county. There were no other complaints, just the city. I wonder why? Harvor
Barbara W. Hugg January 26, 2013 at 08:15 PM
Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Mayor Ayoub only has a 1 year term. He is filling out the term left open by our former mayor Andy Steingold...
Dee Dokumaci January 26, 2013 at 08:20 PM
Thank you Jeff :) Harborite please read what I posted again, you will see that I never said to eliminate the parks all I said was Let's Not Leave It The Way It Is, Lets Use Logic & Come Up With A Suitable Solution now if you are all for keeping this beautiful property as it is maybe you need to think about it as if you own it, you would want to get rid of all the trash that is piling up & the homeless people who are living on this land are the ones that are trashing it which causes the problem with the Coyotes going through the trash that the homeless left, do you see the connection with where I am going with this, you see it is the advantage of reading this article completely & I always read it a second time to make sure I didn't miss anything before posting so one more time "Which I Know You Will Agree With Me On This, Lets Come Up With A Solution To Get This Beautiful Land Cleaned Up, If It Is The Homeless Who Are Causing The Trash Then They Need To Be A Part Of The Clean Up, Then I Bet The Problem With Coyotes Digging Through The Trash For A Food Source Will Stop! Here's my solution, I am off on Mondays, I like to form a volunteer group of able bodies, this can be Phase 1, we'll need to bring lots of gloves, trash bags, we will need people with lawn movers & other gardening equipment, City will need to put a trash container on the land; as for Phase 2 lets build a nice garden, with walk ways & fountains, lets be proud volunteers for this special project, who's with me? :)
Sheryl Hollen January 26, 2013 at 08:25 PM
While I understand that these are valid problems, I don't believe that selling the property is the way to handle them. Homeless people and nature are going to find a place to go, no matter that piece of land or another. Let's get to work on those issues! However, I think we have a bigger problem brewing in Safety Harbor. I believe that our new Mayor is trying to shake hands with his developer and realtor buddies. I have not met anyone yet that believes he is not out to reap what he can from his seat in Safety Harbor. I believe a lot of peoples opinions are turning out to be true, whether I wanted to believe them or not. Really?...his first NEW piece of business as the new mayor is to bring up the selling of another piece of land? Does nobody else see it? Selling this piece of land, shoving this Firmenich project through, with NO explanation as to WHY, and building UP our water front to no longer be a quaint, charming little town are things that will have him laughing his way to the bank.
Jeffrey Rosenfield January 27, 2013 at 12:26 AM
That is correct Barb. Mayor Ayoub has a little over a year left on Mayor Steingold's term before he would have to run again.
Jeffrey Rosenfield January 27, 2013 at 12:27 AM
Great points, Dee!
Dee Dokumaci January 27, 2013 at 06:13 AM
Thank you Jeff, you know me when it comes to important issues such as this which affects all our businesses, I have a specific goal to bring more customers to our quaint & friendly town which in turn is profitable for all the business owners & to attract more visitors to all our wonderful resources like the art gallery, library, museum, resort/spa & must not forget our Chamber of Commerce which is full of information about our area's history, nature & sparkling waterfront, there are activities galore & here's another million dollar idea which can benefit our city a great deal would be for our city officials to put together a tour of our city by putting in charge a tour guide to attract more visitors, now as business owners we can participate in this program by telling guests who are staying in our resort/spa, I am at an advantage being right across from the resort, I am also a condo owner at Top of the World largest retirement community many of the seasonal retirees are looking for activities, we also have a great in house bus system who can bring the retirees, this can be advertised in the local paper of Top of the World, there is so much that can be done, these ideas I present is just tip of more greater things, if anybody is interested please come see me at my boutique anytime during my business hours, it is difficult for me to leave since I work long hours but everybody is always welcome, this is all for now till we meet again right here :)
Dee Dokumaci January 27, 2013 at 06:22 AM
I just thought of another possibility, I am not ready to mention it yet but Jeff I appreciate if you can visit me this week so I can first tell you about it, I would really appreciate it, thanks & good night :)
Jimmy p January 27, 2013 at 04:37 PM
We need to keep this place and others green: Hi! I just signed the petition "The City of Safety Harbor Commission: Vote No to Richman Group of Florida's proposed Development Agreement." on Change.org. It's important. Will you sign it too? Here's the link: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-city-of-safety-harbor-commission-vote-no-to-richman-group-of-florida-s-proposed-development-agreement-2 Thanks!
Terrie Dahl Thomas January 27, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Given the people involved, it would be wise to be suspicious.....
Cristine Kreplick January 27, 2013 at 10:29 PM
How about a community garden? We could rent plots and garden on them? Then volunteer a certain number of hours a week on the "community" parts of it?
Cristine Kreplick January 27, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Gary, I didn't read your post before I posted mine... I love the community farm idea. This has been successful in other nearby towns and the benefits are more than many people may realize! I'd love to hear more about your thoughts on this! And sign me up, I'm renting an apartment, and I'm always trying to rent space in friend's backyards for a garden!
Dee Dokumaci January 28, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Cristine it is wonderful we think alike this was what I posted earlier in this post if you scroll up you'll see my post on Phase 1 being the clean up of this land & Phase 2 where we can plan a beautiful garden on this property :) Here it is I am reposting it; Here's my solution, I am off on Mondays, I like to form a volunteer group of able bodies, this can be Phase 1, we'll need to bring lots of gloves, trash bags, we will need people with lawn movers & other gardening equipment, City will need to put a trash container on the land; as for Phase 2 lets build a nice garden, with walk ways & fountains, lets be proud volunteers for this special project, who's with me? :) Kristine I think we are unto somewhat of a solution, come on everybody please let us know how you feel about this, hey Jeff can you attach a poll on this idea? :)
Russell Norman January 31, 2013 at 01:35 AM
I like everyones take on what is happening and some great suggestions about what can be done in certian areas and to create more business for the downtown merchants and to clean up some unsightly areas. Lets not take our sites off of what is happening with the Firminech property this is huge. If this gets approved many people are going to be thinking much differently about Safety Harbor and there elected leaders. The traffic will be a nightmare and the green space gone forever. I for one will take a hard look and see if it is time to leave after 27 years here. My property is one of the ones that will be affected. We built our house with intention of staying here because of the small town atmosphere and the developement has been kept in check. We felt that the leaders looked at community first above all else and did not overdevelope. I for the life of me can't see how this even got thru the Planning and Zoning and believe it is time for a change there. I am also surprised the the City Planner Matt would even say this is a good fit for the city. Where else are there 3 and 4 story building in all of Safety Harbor.Maybe it time for a change there also. If our elected officials aren't going listening what are we going to do????? It is time to show them we mean business. We need people to be there at the commission meeting, we need the petition signed at www.tinyurl.com\signonline we people telling their neighbors.We need the merchants downtown speaking up like Dee.
Joan Schmid February 02, 2013 at 06:06 PM
So the obvious missing point: Why did the City purchase a landlocked parcel for so many $$$? Let us explore ways (buy add'l lots to gain access and parking. Offer incentive to church to use their parking at low use periods...) to make this property useful to the community. A managed wild habitat is a great use....
Christine Petellat February 02, 2013 at 09:01 PM
I wish I could buy it and do absolutely nothing with it! We have many volunteers here to help keep it clean if there is dumping. Have parks and rec do drive by checks on the way to North Cit Park. Coyotes will chase off the homeless and the teens. If years down the road the Church itself wants to expand, not a developer, then sell it. Try to make a profit not a loss. The Church could also want to sell their land to same developer and we all will be in the same Firmenich situation again. I haven't heard of any complaints about that property until now, I personally have heard how much the neighboring homes love the birds and small wildlife like rabbits there. Also, over how many years ago were each of these problems? Things do happen and get addressed and move on. We just can't take back the loss of land. Developing that land only costs the city money, water, infrastructure, traffic, schools and I can go on. This just seems to be short term fix to long term regret. No thought has gone into it, obviously. No need to even look into selling it right now.
Gary Greer May 29, 2013 at 04:45 PM
I am a homeowner for one of the properties that backs up to that 10 acres of land being discussed. For that past 22 years I have walked a trail and hiked through the woods in that 10 acre parcel that is adjacent to our property probably a hundred times. I have never seen teens or homeless people, and one time, in all that time, I did see what was either a coyote or a wild dog, and I tried to get a photo of it with my phone, but as soon as it saw me, it took off. So it didn't appear to be interested in attacking people, let alone letting them get close - again, that was just one time in 22 years. Of bigger concern is the growth of the church and their school, and the environmental impact they could cause. There already is flooding during the summer months when it rains in that wetlands area, and adding more pavement with a raised road will create a dam and additional water runoff flooding. As the church and it's school continues to grow, and with another access route to the church property, it could eventually be another property like the Baptist church on McMullen and Drew street, complete with a high school sports stadium that would need to build and pave on open land to create additional parking. Check out the Baptist property on Drew St. and McMullen Booth, drive around it - asphalt, lights, traffic and noise - do we really need to have more of that, and especially in Safety Harbor?
Don June 04, 2013 at 05:10 PM
Good news: At the June 3rd City Council meeting, the Mayor gave assurances the Messinger property is not going to be sold, although this current City Council's decision does not bind future Councils. It was suggested that the City designate the Messinger property as "P" for "Preservation", which is the closest you can get to a guarantee that it will never be sold (who's going to purchase land designated as a preservation than can't be developed?). The Commissioners are going to look into that option.

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