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Ringling Shopping Center owner opposes proposed city rezone

As the city considers rezoning the vacant commercial site to encourage redevelopment, the owner of the property wants to avoid a protracted public process.

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  • | 11:00 a.m. June 15, 2015
Although Doyle has advocated for the rezone of his property, he's still opposed to the city's proposal that would reclassify the shopping center site.
Although Doyle has advocated for the rezone of his property, he's still opposed to the city's proposal that would reclassify the shopping center site.
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With the city scheduled to consider a proposed olive branch to end litigation and encourage redevelopment at the Ringling Shopping Center, one significant opponent to the deal has emerged: the owner of the largely-dormant retail complex.

In a letter today, Ringling Shopping Center owner Louis Doyle voices his opposition to a proposed rezone and comprehensive plan amendment for the property, located at the corner of Ringling Boulevard and Lime Avenue. The city will discuss offering those changes at tonight’s meeting, a response to the latest in a line of legal issues following the 2013 rejection of a proposed Walmart in the center.

The city offer would allow a broader mix of uses on the land — including, potentially, the same use the City Commission denied two years earlier, according to City Attorney Robert Fournier. Beginning last month, Vice Mayor Suzanne Atwell has also publicly called for the city to take action to spur activity at that property. Fournier agreed the city would like to see redevelopment, despite claims to the contrary in a series of lawsuits filed by the property owners.

Still, Doyle is wary — and wants to discuss the future of the land with the city out of the public eye. He says the potential redevelopment of the site has been hampered by a "vocal minority," and encourages City Commissioners to vote against the recommended rezone offer. Instead, he wants the city to enter a formal mediation process with him to discuss the future of the property.

Doyle writes the comprehensive plan amendment and rezone "will lead to another lengthy delay of public hearings, divisive dialogue and a litany of meetings and discussions that will only be a repeat of what has occurred over the past ten years."

Already, people on both sides of the issue are beginning to stake their territory. Last week, a resident created a Facebook page called "We Don’t Want Walmart at Ringling Shopping Center." Since last Wednesday, the page has amassed 453 likes. That page was itself a response to another Facebook page, called "Revitalize Ringling Shopping Center," which was created by a PR firm hired by the property owners and has 575 likes.

In addition to a pair of lawsuits — one of which has been resolved in favor of the city — Doyle most recently filed a claim under Florida’s Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Protection Act alleging the city’s actions devalued the shopping center by $8.4 million. The Harris Act is designed to protect private property owners when governmental bodies "inordinately burden, restrict or limit private property rights."

Although Fournier has strongly challenged the validity of that Harris Act claim, the proposed rezone and comprehensive plan amendment is designed to bring an end to all ongoing litigation, if accepted.

Also on the agenda at today’s City Commission meeting:

  • The city will continue discussion about the future of Lift Station 87 from a meeting last week. The oft-delayed, over-budget project now comes with a projected price tag above $30 million and completion date as late as 2020.
  • Fournier will provide a report on the possibility of allowing businesses to place A-frame signs in the public right-of-way downtown. Currently, the code prohibits all private signage in the public right-of-way.

The full agenda for today’s meeting can be found on the city website.


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