CRESTVIEW — A public-private effort that would improve city infrastructure while bringing two residential developments and a retail and restaurant center — reportedly with national chain establishments — here has ground to a halt a week before earthmovers were set to begin work.
At issue is a disagreement over sewer impact fees. The developers say they were promised the fees would be waived, but the city says it couldn't do that because Florida law states the fees are "pledged revenues to the state for environmental protection," according to city attorney Jerry Miller.
An agreement among the city, Beach Community Bank — which owns the land under consideration for the shopping center — and D.R. Horton, a nationwide residential developer, was announced in May 2012. The bank acquired the property, which includes the site of a former flea market beside Lowe's and stretches east to State Road 85 across from Hospital Drive, in foreclosure.
The planned Redstone Commons, a low-density, single-family subdivision, and Bishop’s Landing, an assisted living facility, would locate on S.R. 85’s east side off Redstone Avenue and behind Wal-Mart, respectively.
D.R. Horton workers had planned to break ground next week, the developer’s spokesperson said, at a Feb. 25 Crestview City Council workshop.
The shopping center development is already under contract, Scott McCormick, Beach Community Bank’s vice president, said.
"The project would help draw in national clients in the restaurant and retail industry," he said.
In August 2011, Public Works Director Wayne Steele said there was no reserve capacity in an existing 8-inch sewer line that runs from the Redstone Avenue area down to the Rasberry Road sewage lift station. Unless a larger line was laid, no future development would be possible in the area, he said.
Under the agreement, the bank and developers would pay for the installation of a 14-inch sewer line in exchange for a tax cap. Neither Steele nor documents submitted for the workshop on the matter discussed waiving the sewer impact fee.
"This has been in the works for almost two years," Mayor David Cadle said. "They (the developers) expected this thing (the shopping center) to open in the latter part of this year. The city and the developer are trying to come to an understanding on how to proceed that would be beneficial to both parties."
Council members at the workshop were unanimous in desiring a rapid and successful outcome of the dilemma. City Finance Director Patti Beebe agreed to immediately calculate the available finances within the structure of the city's debt for possible incentives and submit her finding to Miller.
"We understand there is a very strict timeline," Council President Ben Iannucci III said. "We definitely want to make this work the best way we can."
While the city can’t waive sewer impact fees "because the money is encumbered," it could offer incentives such as an ad valorem tax break for five years, or sewer tap-on fees could be waived, Cadle said.
"I think it'll work out," he said. "The people of Crestview want this."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.