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Thursday, Aug 16, 2018
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Tarpon Springs commissioners to vote on future of troubled motel

Tarpon Springs commissioners will vote again tonight on the fate of a motel city officials have long labeled a nuisance.

Commissioners will decide whether to buy the troubled Sunbay Motel for $895,000 plus $55,000 of attorney's fees, paving the way for potential redevelopment on the land just steps from Spring Bayou. That's $15,000 less than the purchase price commissioners rejected by a narrow margin in October in part because it was too expensive.

The 12-room motel at 57 W Tarpon Ave., along with an inn across the street and a nearby apartment complex, have long been police and code enforcement hotspots. City officials began discussions to buy Sunbay under pressure from the public soon after a fatal shooting there in August 2016.

Working with motel owner Peter Fanoudis' initial offer of about $1.5 million and a city-ordered appraisal of $690,000, the two parties eventually landed on a purchase price of $910,000 plus attorney's fees through an intensive mediation process.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to reject that proposal and directed staff to go back to the drawing board, with commissioners Jacob Karr and David Banther dissenting.

Anthony Policastro, the lawyer representing Fanoudis, wrote in a letter to the city that his client was disappointed commissioners turned down the first proposal but that "in the spirit of cooperation" he was willing to lower the amount to $895,000.

Leading up to the meeting Tuesday, both Karr and Banther told the Tampa Bay Times they still support purchasing the property. The money would come from the Community Redevelopment Area fund, which is devoted to revitalizing downtown, and a loan from another city fund that would be paid back over four years, Karr said.

"I can think of no better use to eliminate blight than a motel that is full of various sorts of crime that is tarnishing the west end of Tarpon Avenue," Banther said.

Commissioner Susan Miccio-Kikta said she was leaning toward rejecting the deal as she did in October but wanted to hear from residents at tonight's meeting.

"I'm going to reward a poor neighbor and buy his business for his poor behavior in our community?" she said. "I just don't see why we would do that."

Mayor Chris Alahouzos said he was undecided. Commissioner Rea Sieber could not immediately be reached for comment.

The meeting is 6:30 p.m. today at Tarpon Springs City Hall, 324 E Pine St.

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