The future of the city's long-sought downtown redevelopment district could be in jeopardy.
A plan to build a 214-unit apartment complex at the north end of a new town center project drew opposition from many of the nearly 300 people attending a special Temple Terrace City Council meeting Thursday night.
Several speakers urged the council to make the developer live up to his promise to build a downtown sprinkled with homeowners rather than renters.
However, master developer Mike Vlass said building luxury apartments was the best way to create a downtown where people would want to shop, walk and live. No one would finance a condominium project.
Some speakers asked the board to delay a decision until economic conditions improved. Others wanted the apartment project to proceed.
In the end, the council voted 3-2 to give the developers one month to consider changes aimed to put the plan in line with the original signed agreement with the city.
The public hearing resumes on March 20.
"I have a major issue with the apartment complex," Temple Terrace native David Long said. "From day one we said we wanted upscale condos."
Bob Staley agreed. "The intent was this was supposed to be a destination," he said.
Brenda Breeden was among a handful of speakers with an opposing view.
"You have got to look at the long road," Breeden said. "Why would you destroy what we have already started?"
Inland Atlantic Development Corp. has proposed building a luxury, four-story apartment complex, with one- and two-bedroom units on all floors.
The community, to be called Towne Park Residences, would feature elevators and air- conditioned hallways in all three buildings. Each unit would have a balcony and interior storage for a bicycle. A pool and fitness center would be among amenities available at the community clubhouse.
In addition, the complex would be surrounded by a 6-foot-high fence extending 900 feet from Bullard Parkway south to near the Sweetbay supermarket. Residents and guests would enter and exit the complex through controlled, access gates dotting the property.
Several speakers expressed concerns the apartments could become available for Section 8 housing if they are built and could not be leased, Section 8 is a federal program that aids the poor with housing.
Inland chief executive officer Barry Lazarus called that concern ridiculous.
Vlass agreed, saying his company would not have invested millions of dollars and spent the past two years redeveloping downtown Temple Terrace if it thought the project would fail.
Owen Beitsch, a consultant hired by the city to review the proposal, said he found the apartment proposal more likely to succeed than a mixed-use plan that included housing above first-floor shops and restaurants.
The four-hour debate mainly centered on whether the developer's planned development modification and final site-plan proposal were in compliance with the original master agreement approved in 2010 and a city code known as Chapter 29.
The city code established the city's downtown community redevelopment plan overlay zoning district.
Vlass insisted the proposal complied with the master development plan.
Temple Terrace Community Development director Charles Stephenson also raised concerns over whether the proposal was in compliance with the long-term comprehensive plan, as the Hillsborough Planning Commission determined. .
City Councilwoman Allison Fernandez made the motion to continue the zoning public hearing until next month. The extra time would give the developer a chance to review its plan and make changes to ensure it complies with city codes and policies, she said.
Council members Ron Govin and David Pogorilich cast dissenting votes.
Mayor Joe Affronti and City Manager Kim Leinbach urged both sides to keep an open mind to seek a workable solution for the good of the city.
"It's too important to our city's future to walk away from this now," Affronti said.