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    Dunedin postpones vote on complex

    Homeowners in a neighboring subdivision want to negotiate more with the townhomes' developer.

    By AARON SHAROCKMAN
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 8, 2002


    DUNEDIN -- Weathersfield, an upscale subdivision of single-family homes along Virginia Street, may soon have a new neighbor.

    Exactly what kind of neighbor is what the fuss is all about.

    The homeowners and community association asked the City Commission to hold off approving a developer's plans to build a 52-townhome complex adjacent to the quiet residential property.

    In their meeting Thursday, the commissioners agreed.

    Homeowners want to continue negotiations with Michael Willenbacher, division president for Rottlund Homes, as to what kinds of homes will be built. The area in dispute is land along Virginia Street across from the Weathersfield development. The land is a leftover chunk of the Weathersfield property.

    "Our goal is to make that area fit our community," homeowner and community association board member John Smith said. "We take a lot of pride in our community and we want to make sure what goes in that lot complements Weathersfield."

    Willenbacher and the local residents have been in back-and-forth negotiations. Willenbacher originally wanted 58 units on the site. That plan was rejected by the Dunedin planning commission at the residents urging. Smith called Willenbacher's first offer a form of "low-cost housing."

    Willenbacher said the original plans would have been to sell properties between $130,000 and $160,000. Willenbacher redeveloped his project to better accommodate the city and the Weathersfield homeowners, by making the property more attractive to wealthier residents. If built, the new houses will sell for about $200,000.

    After talks and new plans presented by Willenbacher, the parties are closer to an agreement, Smith said, though nothing has been finalized. He hoped a deal could be struck soon. Willenbacher agreed, though he stressed that a plan couldn't "gouge" his potential new residents.

    Also a point of contention are homeowner association dues. Weathersfield residents pay $40 a month. They want new tenants to pay $36 each month. That money is used to beautify the community.

    Willenbacher said the amount should be substantially less.

    This isn't the first time Weathersfield has asked the commission for help.

    In December, the community asked the commission to slow down speeders along Virginia Street. A city traffic study showed that motorists did not use excessive speed through the area and that any traffic calming measures were unwarranted. The commission denied the group's request. Smith, who lives at 1056 Weathersfield Drive, said that decision won't affect the commission's stand on this issue.

    "We love our neighborhood. We've probably put more money into Virginia Street than the country club put into their entrance," Smith said. "We don't want that investment in our neighborhood destroyed."

    The homeowners board next meets Monday to discuss the topic. Smith expects Willenbacher to attend. Willenbacher, who did not know of the meeting Friday, said he'd be there if asked.

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