Joseph Cranney , firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-213-60357:33 p.m. EST December 5, 2016
The Naples City Council will consider a real estate developer’s request on Wednesday to buy parking credits needed for a downtown redevelopment, a proposal that some members said amounts to a short-changing of city taxpayers.
Angele and Hadley Warwick, owners of the three-story condo project at 505 Fifth Ave. S., want to pay the city $20,000 in credits for each of the 25 required parking spaces rather than build the spaces on site. Council members opposed to the plan said payments should be based on a previous analysis that set the price of the credits at $28,900 each.
“I’m totally opposed to the price of $20,000,” Councilman Doug Finlay said. ”It’s ridiculous, the way that number came about.”
Finlay echoed the earlier comments of a redevelopment panel member who said the parking plan amounted to a discount for the developer.
“I do think the building is beautiful, but that significant discount bothers me,” William Frantz said in October when the advisory board for the Community Redevelopment Agency voted 4-2 to recommend the council approve the plan.
In 2008 the council adopted a recommendation from city planners to charge $28,900 per parking credit when on-site parking requirements couldn’t be met. Adjusted for inflation, that recommended price is now more than $32,000 per space.
With the difference from the recommended price at more than $12,000 per credit for 25 credits, Frantz said the developer was getting a discount of more than $300,000.
Vice Mayor Linda Penniman said the 2008 analysis set a fair price and that there’s more scrutiny regarding Fifth Avenue development now than when the council approved a lower cost last year.
“The pressure on Fifth Avenue is much greater,” she said.
The city's Fifth Avenue parking requirements call for 39 spaces on the Warwick's project, which will include 7,400 square feet of ground-floor retail and eight condos on the building’s second and
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third floors. The project includes 13 on-site spaces, a request to add an on-street space at no cost to the city and 25 parking credits that would pump $500,000 into the redevelopment district. The Warwicks asked for the $20,000 price after the councilapproved another redevelopment with the same lower-cost parking plan.
About that earlier approval, John Passidomo, the Warwick's lawyer, said the council recognized the millions in economic impact the project would bring to the redevelopment district and that “city taxpayers are not affected one way or the other” by the parking funds that go into the district’s coffers.
“We respect that City Council will make a decision that’s in the best interest of the CRA,” Passidomo said.
But Finlay said the decision to lower the city’s asking price was done “on the fly” during a hearing in which the council was also considering the commercial project’s design. At the same meeting, a motion to charge $15,000 per parking credit failed.
Finlay called it a disservice to taxpayers to lower the price. He said the council should hold a separateisolated meeting to determine the cost of parking credits.
“You don’t follow one big goof with another big goof,” he said about the council’s earlier approval to sell credits for $20,000 apiece, which he voted against. “You don’t validate that number because of the way it was done.”
Mayor Bill Barnett said he thinks the price of the credits should be consistent, calling it an issue of fairness.
“No matter what the number is, I think it could be a stationary number,” he said. “I don’t think it should be fluctuating.”
John Lehmann, president of the Old Naples Association, said downtown homeowners are concerned the council isn’t charging that price.
“By underpricing these spaces by 40 percent instead of using an inflation-adjusted or replacement cost valuation, City Council seems to be handing developers over $300,000 of profit at taxpayer expense. CRA dollars are still tax dollars.”