Patch Podium: Bob Hackworth on Spurring Development
Each of the mayoral candidates took a moment on the Patch Podium to explain what can be done to spur development in Dunedin.
This week, we asked the candidates:
- In reference to some of the stalled developments in the city (i.e., 570 Edgewater, The Gateway Project, and Fenway), what could be done to lure and spur development in Dunedin, should you be elected?
Bob Hackworth responds:
I believe the city, first and foremost, has a responsibility to keep a land development code in force that reflects the agreed upon planning and development goals of the community; it should then be applied with consistency to all comers and without micro-management from elected officials sitting in judgment during the final approval process of a specific project.
This philosophy also assumes that it is a bad idea for a city government to play real estate developer. The city should buy a property only when the purchase meets a clearly stated public purpose and should then put its plan into action the next day. Build a park, library, parking garage, or other needed municipal facility but put your public purchase into a productive public use immediately. Do not speculate on nor subsidize a private-sector real estate development.
The Gateway Project, with the benefit of hindsight, is just such an example of the city trying and failing to play developer. In fact, the current plan being pitched by Pizzuti on the still city-owned land would allow it to do almost exactly the same residential project the city stopped a previous developer from doing close to 10 years ago when it swooped in to buy this property. The land was under contract at the time and that company then sued Dunedin for tortuous interference. This parcel has now sat idle for almost a decade due to the city’s attempt to dictate development not supported by the market.
Today the best outcome for Dunedin is to let Pizzuti or some other developer do a project which is allowed under the current codes, get out of the way, and not continue to publicly subsidize the project any further. We’ve lost 10 years and it’s past time to build something!
For the record, without the benefit of hindsight, I cast the lone vote on the commission in 2003 against that purchase. Dave Eggers voted for it.
We can currently identify many public facility needs, such as downtown parking garages, a municipal services building, perhaps a new library, more parks. Now is a great time to start work on these critical long-term needs and to invest with the private sector in innovative public-private partnerships.
The Fenway property is a prime example of a site with great potential for a creative public and private partnership that retains the historical significance of the old hotel structure on the waterfront while recognizing the financial viability of some public uses that could be incorporated behind it. What we don’t want is a developer who simply seeks the highest and best use now allowed under our code and then bulldozes the entire property for a brand new development. We want a developer interested in a win/win outcome for all of Dunedin.
Again, the city shouldn’t speculate in real estate development but should work with interested developers to create public-private partnerships that preserve and protect Dunedin’s unique history and special charm. As your mayor, that’s the approach I’ll again embrace.
See also, Mayor Dave Eggers' response.