While the New Port Richey City Council considers a proposal to redevelop the Hacienda Hotel, there are still many questions that remain unanswered.
And members of the public are invited to share their comments and concerns.
The City Council is being asked to make decisions in March that would pave the way for the city and a developer to reach a legally binding deal to redevelop and expand the Hacienda.
It is being proposed that those decisons include a resolution that would express that the council agrees to the westward expansion of the Hacienda and the relocation of the Sims Park “Super Playground,” which sits in the proposed path of the expansion, and the nearby restrooms.
A proposed expansion of the Hacienda that would have encroached into a northern section of Sims Park was effectively taken off the table. The city learned in summer that the expansion might put the project in conflict with a city ordinance that restricts how that section of park can be used.
So negotiators looked at a westward expansion into a different section of Sims Park.
City officials do not believe that the westward expansion would put the project in conflict with the same ordinance that took the northern expansion off the table.
Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe still has concerns about the possibility of restrictions that would affect development in that direction. He said that is crucial that the city “make sure that (the expansion) is in fact possible.”
“My concern is that we exercise an abundance of caution so that we get this thing done right,” he said at a Feb. 21 city council meeting..
Lawyers are assessing the section for titles and easements that could affect development of the western section of the park.
“We’ve talked and talked about this,” said Councilman Bob Langford. “I don’t know how we can be more overly cautious than we’ve been. So looking forward to next week and moving forward.”
According to city development director Lisa Fierce, the term agreement calls for the city to get a residual from profits generated by the hotel.
City Councilwoman Ginny Miller weighed in on a part of the term agreement related to leasing and ownership of the Hacienda.
“I think that's going to be a real sticking point going forward given the debt service the city has and will still be paying on the property,” she said.
The city Community Redevelopment Agency agreed in 2003 to pay $2.2 million to purchase the property.
The possibility of the destruction of the wooden Sims Park playground has drawn concern from people who use it, including members of Occupy New Port Richey who showed up at a Feb. 21 meeting. City officials expressed that the playground has suffered from age.
Mayor Bob Consalvo, a former parks and recreation director for the city, said that he was around during the creation of “Super Playground” in the 1990s and has an attachment to it. However, it’s deteriorated, which upset him. He said he has taken a look at other playgrounds the age of the one in Sims Park and seen they’ve been replaced.
“I’m more inclined to replace that one now than I was before,” he said.
Land O' Lakes resident Clay Colson questioned the council on the need for expansion onto public property.
"You're going to be giving it away to someone when right now it belongs to the people of New Port Richey," he said.
Councilwoman Ginny Miller expressed that the playground's days are numbered, but a replacement could be a "real opportunity" to recapture the spirit it took to build the first playground decades ago.
On the project, Miller said the following:
"The economic development is the most important thing. Historic presevation follows right after that. But the situation that we're in, our taxpayers are expecting us to move forward."
The council meets in a work session to discuss the hotel's expansion Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 5919 Main St.