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City reverses course on affordable housing project

Just two weeks after Harvey Vengroff's apartment plans appeared to be in serious jeopardy, the City Commission unanimously approved a land use change necessary for the development to proceed.

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  • | 8:45 p.m. May 16, 2016
Vengroff's plans call for a campus of multiple apartment buildings on the 7.9-acre property.
Vengroff's plans call for a campus of multiple apartment buildings on the 7.9-acre property.
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Earlier this month, entrepreneur Harvey Vengroff stormed out of a City Commission hearing and openly declared his intent to withdraw plans for a 393-unit apartment complex at 2211 Fruitville Road.

Today, the City Commission unanimously approved a proposed comprehensive plan amendment that is necessary for the project to proceed — placing the development back on track.

Vengroff was seeking a land use change to allow for height and density increases on his 7.9-acre property. Both city staff and the planning board endorsed the amendment with certain conditions in place — conditions to which Vengroff had agreed.

The day of a May 2 commission meeting, city staff asked Vengroff to agree to another condition in exchange for the approval: The city wanted to conduct an annual inspection of the property. Vengroff said the project wouldn’t go forward if the city was intent on asking for that provision, upset by what he viewed as inequitable treatment compared to other private developments.

Commissioners ultimately voted to revisit the hearing at a future meeting. On May 4, representatives for the Vengroff project met with city staff to discuss a possible compromise. Staff agreed to endorse the amendment and drop the inspections, instead asking for the right to review the property’s annual insurance reports.

On May 2, the City Commission voted 2-3 against approving the amendment without the inspections. Today, the board voted 5-0 to approve the amendment with the revised conditions.

That’s not to say the project will definitely be built, now. The city still needs to approve a more detailed site plan for the apartments, and Vengroff is seeking a special exception to build fewer parking spaces than the code dictates.

Still, after the future of the project seemed bleak, Vengroff was encouraged that his proposal cleared this initial hurdle.

“Everybody knows you need affordable housing,” Vengroff said following the meeting. “They finally came around.”


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