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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Tampa poised to settle condo suit for $3.75 million

TAMPA - City council members on Thursday will consider authorizing a $3.75 million settlement agreement in a lawsuit against the city stemming from a long-brewing battle about plans to build a condominium tower along Bayshore Boulevard. Citivest Construction Corp. and City National Bank of Florida sued the city for denying their 2004 plans to build a 24-story condominium tower at Bayshore and DeSoto Avenue. The parties have agreed to a $3.75 million settlement. But it requires city council approval. "A prior city council blatantly ignored the advice of the city attorney and put the city at great financial risk had we lost the case," city of Tampa spokeswoman Ali Glisson wrote in an email to The Tampa Tribune. "The potential exposure to the city was over $16 million. This resolution closes a case that had they listened to legal counsel, we never would have found ourselves in."
The settlement agreement said the $3.75 million is a compromise and "is not to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of the city. Indeed; the city expressly denies and disputes any liability; and the city expressly denies and disputes any allegations of wrongdoing in this litigation." John Grandoff, who is among the attorneys representing the developer, declined to comment. The condo tower battle dates to 2003, when Citivest submitted plans for the high-rise project. Because the property falls within the Hyde Park Historic District, the proposed project was subject to approval by the city's Architectural Review Commission. Hyde Park neighbors adamantly opposed the proposal, arguing the tower would block their view of Bayshore, heighten noise and traffic, and cause other problems. In 2004, the architectural commission rejected the plans, maintaining the proposed high-rise was out of character and inappropriate for the district. The developer appealed the decision to the city council, which eventually voted to uphold the commission's position. Citivest sued the city to overturn the commission and council rulings, and won. In 2007, the council reluctantly approved a proposal for a 19-story tower, and the commission later signed off those plans. Residents appealed to the council, which in February 2010 narrowly voted to uphold the approval of the revised plans. As legal wrangling dragged on, the condo market tanked and the developers decided not to move ahead with the project. Citivest sued the city for damages and legal fees, arguing it lost millions as a result of the city's actions.

Information from Tribune archives was used in this report. jpoltilove@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7691

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