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.