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    Developer asks Oldsmar to refund $97,500 in fees

    Now that a residential property is once again industrial, its new owner wants the city to refund the impact fees.

    By ED QUIOCO, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 10, 2002

    OLDSMAR -- When the previous owner of the Tampa Bay Park of Commerce talked about building 225 homes on the industrial property, city leaders worried the proposed neighborhood would tax the Fire Department and library.

    To soften the burden on municipal resources, officials imposed a caveat requiring the company to pay $97,500 in impact fees. Shortly after the deal was signed, a new developer bought the 400-acre industrial park and scrapped the plans for a residential development.

    That developer now is looking for a refund on the impact fees.

    In a letter to the city, Harrod Properties is asking to be reimbursed the $97,500. Because the homes never materialized, "the expected impacts that prompted the city to impose the impact fees will not take place," according to the letter signed by an attorney for the company.

    The city will look into the request to see if it needs to return the money, said City Manager Bruce Haddock.

    Other officials said they would need a lot of convincing.

    "As far as I'm concerned, they are barking up the wrong tree," Oldsmar Mayor Jerry Beverland said.

    Ben Nelson, project manager for Harrod, declined to comment.

    The impact fees came out of a 1998 compromise with the commerce park's previous owner, Michael Swerdlow Cos. After more than two years of negotiating, the city decided to allow 225 homes on about 70 acres of the commerce park.

    In return, the company agreed to pay the city $60,000 for a new fire station and $37,500 for a new library.

    A few months after the compromise was approved and the impact fees paid, Swerdlow sold the commerce park to Harrod, a commercial and industrial developer in Tampa and Pinellas County. As part of the deal, Harrod paid Swerdlow for the impact fees.

    In April 2000, Harrod asked the city to undo Swerdlow's zoning change for a residential development. Harrod had landed several large commercial developments on the commerce park and wanted to switch the rezoned land back to industrial and manufacturing.

    That would have been the right time to bring up being reimbursed, Beverland said.

    "We did them a favor by rezoning that," Beverland said. "Now they want to punish us for doing them a favor."

    The city spent the $60,000 when it built its new fire station on Pine Avenue N, Haddock said. The city has not spent the $37,500.

    Harrod is giving the city until July 22 to respond to its request "as we intend to pursue available remedies if necessary," according to the letter. "The fees paid in mitigation of the expected impact should be refunded."

    Because Harrod bought the property from Swerdlow, the company also is obligated to fulfill the agreements reached between the city and Swerdlow, Beverland said.

    "Somebody is going to have to really convince me that we have to give that money back," Beverland said.

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