CRESTVIEW — The City Council will try to jumpstart the Crestview Power Center, a 144-acre retail project on pause after the landowner demanded more than the $1.25 million impact fee relief the city had provided.
At a special meeting Tuesday night, the council unanimously agreed to hold a June 4 workshop with all involved parties to try to resolve the impasse.
The proposed mall is part of an agreement between the city, landowner Beach Community Bank, and developers of the Redstone Commons residential development and Bishops Landing assisted living facility.
The partnership would fund a new sewer line and lift stations to replace an existing line that is at capacity, precluding any growth in the area north of Interstate 10.
The city turned to Beach Community Bank for easements on property it owns north and east of Lowe's to complete the project. The City Council approved the partnership in August 2011.
A 'deal killer'
As the project began last August, Beach Community Bank's engineer, Darrell Barnhill, sent Public Works director Wayne Steele an email stating the bank's $1.046 million city impact fees would be a "deal killer," according to Steele.
The fees, calculated by the bank, were nearly the same amount as the cost of Florida Department of Transportation-mandated improvements to State Road 85, Steele said.
In February, Beach Community Bank requested a waiver of $554,730 in city sewer utility impact fees. However, those fees could not legally be waived, Steele said.
"It is my opinion that Beach Community Bank or Mr. Barnhill is now using the easements as leverage because they overlooked the cost associated with D.O.T.-required improvements to Highway 85," Steele wrote in a report to the council.
"This is just my opinion, but I find it interesting that the D.O.T. requirements are almost the exact same amount as their water and sewer impact fee total."
Redstone Commons and Bishops Landings have met their obligations under the agreement and deserve city sewer and water services, Steele said.
If Beach Community Bank can't work out an agreement with the city, Steele said an alternative plan would be a $585,000 upgrade to another existing line using city-owned easements.
Making it work
Council members have sought ways around the impasse.
Mayor David Cadle and Fire Chief Joe Traylor said public safety impact fees could be reduced if the Power Center's fire suppression systems reduced the impact on Traylor's department.
"This is something the city has been looking for for years," Councilman Mickey Rytman said. "Over the long term, the tax base from retail sales is going to even out" losses in impact fees.
"I don't think any member of our council or any city representation is opposed to this project," Council President Robyn Helt said, adding that the current and previous city councils worked diligently to see the project through to fruition.
"I think the council's willingness to put a moratorium on traffic impact fees to the tune of more than $1 million shows our commitment to the project," Helt said.
Though his department has an alternative plan in case an agreement isn't reached, Steele said his recommendation is to work with the bank, obtain the needed easement and "move forward."
"We do want to find a happy medium for this easement," Beach Community Bank senior vice president Scott McCormick said.
Want to go?
The Crestview City Council will discuss the Crestview Power Center project during a June 4 workshop at 4 p.m. at City Hall.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.