Pensacola City Council ‘nitpicks’ but approves Blount plans

By Sammi Sontag

By a 5-1 vote on June 8, the Pensacola City Council granted local developer ParsCo LLC the opportunity to redevelop the former Blount School property into residential housing.

But there is a caveat. Council members also voted to review and finalize the project’s details before the build process begins.

“I’m excited about this project,” Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn said. “However, I would like after the negotiations with the mayor that it come back to the council.”

She continued, “Because I do have some questions that concern me with the project.”

The council felt comfortable with ParsCo taking on the job. However, some members worried the project was not economically sound for people in the work force.

“The city was looking to develop the Blount School property into workforce housing and affordable housing,” Councilman Gerald Wingate said. “And looking through this RFP, the houses that are to be developed on this property will not be workforce housing or affordable housing.”

He added, “Those houses are $199,000 and no school teacher, fireman or policeman would be able to get one of these houses at that particular price.”

Councilwoman Sherri Myers was concerned with the proposed green space and its purpose, upkeep and size.

“Is this park going to be a city maintained park? Because if it is, I have a real problem with that,” she said. “It just looks like we’re building an awful lot of parks, and I can’t find a justification for this one especially because it’s only three blocks from Legion Field.”

ParsCo CEO Amir Fooladi assured the council his plans were not set in stone, and he would work to iron out the wrinkles.

“The company worked really hard on putting together a clear and concise response for the project,” Fooladi said. “A lot of these designs are conceptual right now. We still need to do community forums, but we really want to be a partner with the city and help it develop.”

After the ParsCo vote, the council continued to nitpick the plans. Councilman P.C. Wu objected to the discussion.

“I feel the need to say this,” said Wu. “If you go back and examine this tape tonight we have cherry picked every project that has come before us.”

He added, “We’ve done this to properties that have sat vacant for years and that produce zero income for this city. And now we have people stepping forward to fix these properties and were doing everything we can to discourage them. And then we wonder why people will not come and do business with us.”

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1 thought on “Pensacola City Council ‘nitpicks’ but approves Blount plans

  1. First, the proposal calls for a possibility that a interior so-called open area fronted by 14 of the lots could become a city park maintained by city taxpayers. The rationale was that the neighbors want part of the property to be a park. One option might have been to put a park at one end of the lot. That is not what is proposed. The “park” would be an interior park not unlike one in the interior of an apartment complex. It is a dumb idea. Dump the park idea and let the property owners pay their fair share of property taxes on the open area that “they” will enjoy.

    Second, for those who actually “read” the proposal, the price range is $199,000 to $240,000. The City Council and public has been told that this is “workforce housing” being designed for police offices, firefighters and teachers – not for young lawyers, accountants and public relations specialists, etc. If that is the story line being used, the Council should have asked to know how long a person would have to be a Pensacola Police Officer, Pensacola Firefighter or Escambia County School District Teacher until they earned enough to qualify for a mortgage for one of these homes. By my rough math, they would have to have a salary in the $60-70,000 range. The city government at least knows how many police officers and firefighters are made that much money. It would have been simple to tell the City Council and for the developer to enter into an agreement to give such persons first crack at the homes. In fact, what seems most likely to happen is that real estate investors will buy them and flip them for a lot more money by the time they are built. When the project comes back before the Council, they should require the developer to report who bought each property so we can see how many police offices, firefighters and teachers benefited from this project.

    By the way, because the site is located inside a Tax Increment Financing district, whose property owners receive the benefit of a percentage of all city and county property taxes diverted for their extra benefit, what is the projected amount of new property tax revenues that would be retained in the city’s General Fund. We know is will only be 5%. That small number would have been good to tell the Council too.

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