tampabay.com

Friends of redevelopment project swept into office

The new mayor and three council members all support a $150-million project near the Hillsborough River.

By BABITA PERSAUD and JOSH ZIMMER
Published November 3, 2004


TEMPLE TERRACE - Residents voted for major redevelopment by favoring a mayor and City Council members who support a $150-million project near the Hillsborough River.

Joe Affronti Sr., a well-known figure in Temple Terrace politics, became the city's mayor Tuesday night in a substantial victory over his opponent, Kenneth Tozier, who started and owns a mapping software company.

"This is a referendum for the people who want this redevelopment really bad," said Affronti, surrounded by a hundred supporters at the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club.

Residents also voted in two council candidates Tuesday: Frank Chillura, a real estate investor, and Ron Govin, a business owner.

This is Chillura's second term.

"I'm very excited that the people believe in what I've done in representing them in the past four years," he said from his home, surrounded by family and friends.

Glenda Venable took the third open spot on the decisionmaking body.

"I'm very happy with third place," said Venable, a former teacher who joined the race late.

Despite emphasizing different issues, all the council candidates agreed that the project - targeting the southeast corner of N 56th Street and Bullard Parkway - is essential to the city's future.

The real drama involved the mayor's race. While Affronti strongly supports the project, Tozier vehemently challenged the plan as overly ambitious and a misuse of public money.

The plan calls for a high-density mix of homes, businesses and public buildings, including a new city hall and performing arts center.

The city expects to raise or borrow more than $50-million to buy private properties and build new roads and parking. Developers would pay Temple Terrace for the right to construct the project.

Tozier said the city should focus on attracting businesses, not home builders, and let developers finance all the construction. He also said residents deserve to choose from more than one plan.

Affronti, 72, a former paint company president, owns a truck repair business that employs 50 people. He was elected to City Council in 1998 and again in 2002.

The City Council seats became open when popular Mayor Fran Barford was forced out by term limits and Affronti, who still had two years remaining on his term, jumped into the race. Council member Jo Jeter also joined but later dropped out.