Voters deny Temple Terrace tax hike
A majority rejects a plan to redevelop the city's core that would have cost $125 extra per year on a $150,000 home.
By JOSH ZIMMER
Published August 3, 2005
TAMPA - Voters put the brakes on an ambitious plan to overhaul one of Temple Terrace's main commercial strips, rejecting a referendum Tuesday that called for a tax hike to help pay for the project.
The proposal failed 57 percent to 43 percent, representing a sound defeat for a coalition of city officials and residents who had campaigned for months for a plan to construct a stronger core for the city along N 56th Street near Busch Boulevard. It was to be anchored by City Hall and a performing arts center, and ringed with homes, stores and offices. The coalition had been banking heavily on residents' support for the tax increase. A "yes" vote would have let the city issue up to $20-million in bonds for road and other improvements. The city wanted to transform the 38-acre site, a once-thriving commercial corner, into a mixed-use development.
Had the referendum succeeded, the owner of a $150,000 home would have paid an extra $125 per year after the $25,000 homestead exemption.
Voters were in a contrary mood Tuesday night. By 67 percent to 33 percent, they also rejected a proposal to annex a large area north of Fowler Avenue between Telecom Park and Morris Bridge Road.
Mayor Joe Affronti, one of several candidates elected last year on a pro-redevelopment platform, blamed negative campaigning for the defeated tax increase.
"We're very disappointed, naturally," he said. "We'll have to regroup and see what we can do. It's just a shame out there there was so much garbage out there that confused the people. I just don't want to talk about it until we get our wits together ... because we're not going to let this deteriorate as it has for many years."
Opponents, however, hailed the results as a victory for common sense.
"We were able to communicate to our citizens the reasons this whole redevelopment plan is upside down," said Temple Terrace businessman Ken Tozier, who lost his race for mayor last November while opposing the city's redevelopment plan.
"They don't even have a plan; it's a vision. They have no handle on the costs. All we have seen ... is at every point the costs have escalated. And there's no promise these costs will not continue to rise."
The project site is located at a spot where the city's original planners hoped to build a town center before the Great Depression scuttled such hopes. The latest cost estimate has more than doubled from the planned $150-million, one of several issues "no" voters seized upon.
"I don't want to pay any more taxes," Cinnamon Webb said after casting a late-day vote at the old Woodmont School near the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club. And, "I feel there needs to be a little more competition."
The referendum may have suffered from uncertainty over the master developer. Following an intense vetting process that whittled a list of 10 possible master developers down to three, only one finalist remains - Orlando-based Unicorp National Developments Inc. But the city still hasn't decided whether to enter contract negotiations with Unicorp. That vote is scheduled Aug. 16.
Austin Simmons, the company's vice president of development, said Unicorp still wants to lead the redevelopment project.
"Without the money, the project will have to be retoooled," Simmons said. "Something will happen there. It's always been a question of what the city wants: how big, how grand."
However, the referendum's defeat will mean less money for public amenities, including plans for lush landscaping and a riverfront park, he said.
Josh Zimmer can be reached at 813 269-5314 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Should voters allow the city of Temple Terrace to increase property taxes by one mill in order to raise up to $20-million in bonds to pay for land, parks, greenways, roads, highways and related infrastructure in the Downtown Temple Terrace Revitalization Master Plan?
Yes: 1,960 (43 percent)
No: 2,605 (57 percent)
[Last modified August 3, 2005, 00:35:13]
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