Negotiations to proceed with two nonprofits on offers for such an initiative on North Tamiami Trail site in Sarasota
With the Sarasota County Commission’s approval, administrative staff will advertise for affordable housing project proposals for a second county-owned site, this one on School Avenue South, close to both Sarasota High School and Alta Vista Elementary School.
Although no formal vote was taken on Feb. 25, commissioners by consensus agreed to that after a presentation by Matt Osterhoudt, director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department.
In November 2019, Osterhoudt reminded the board members, they authorized staff to undertake a similar process in regard to a county parcel located at 4464 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, which comprises about 6.23 acres.
As a result, Osterhoudt continued, the county received three proposals from nonprofit organizations — which was part of the commission’s direction — for projects on that site. Jan. 31 was the deadline for submissions, he noted.
One of the nonprofits ended up withdrawing its submission, he said. As a result, staff will be moving forward with negotiations involving the other two. Ultimately, Osterhoudt continued, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis will come back to them with a proposal “for consideration.
The November 2019 direction followed multiple commission discussions about the potential for fostering an affordable housing initiative by offering a builder use of county land. Osterhoudt also explained on Nov. 6, 2019 that staff had hired a consultant — Colliers International South Florida, which has offices in Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale and Miami — to review all county-owned parcels and then provide a list with the best prospects for development sites.
Altogether, Osterhoudt said on Feb. 25, Colliers ended up analyzing 11 properties. Those parcels also had been recommended by the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, he noted.
The following general criteria were used for creation of the list of sites, Osterhoudt continued:
- Location within a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Qualified Census Tract or a Difficult Development Area (DDA) — both references to federal government housing initiatives.
- Proximity to hospitals, schools, mass transit and drug stores.
- Zoning and/or current use.
- Parcel size.
The three “best fits” for those criteria, Osterhoudt said, were the parcels located at 4464 N. Tamiami Trail, 899 School Avenue South and the “Quads” parcels adjacent to the Celery Fields in the eastern part of the county.
Referring to the North Tamiami Trail property, Osterhoudt added, “This is their prime opportunity site.”
A slide he showed the board noted that the parcel is located within a Qualified Census Tract, and it is near single-family home developments.
Although the parcel located at 899 School Avenue South has been identified as a “great location for workforce housing,” he continued, it is “long and slender.” That configuration could pose challenges, he added.
The Colliers International report suggested that townhouses possibly could work on the site.
As for the Quads: Osterhoudt noted that in early November 2019, the County Commission approved a proposal from the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, based in Osprey, and the Sarasota Audubon Society to place conservation easements on three of the Quads. That action would ensure any improvements to the land would be passive, consistent with the natural environment of the Celery Fields, commissioners pointed out. Staff is at work on that process, Osterhoudt said.
In regard to the 899 School Avenue South site, Commissioner Alan Maio asked whether staff would engage with the Sarasota County School Board as it considers options. During the January Convocation of Governments, which the School Board hosts each year for local government leaders in the county, School Board members talked about their desire to provide workforce housing “for new teachers moving into our area,” Maio said.
He had met individually with school district representatives to discuss such a prospect, he added.
Perhaps County Administrator Lewis could contact Interim Schools Superintendent Mitsi Corcoran to discuss the issue with her, Maio said.
“We’ll be glad to explore that with County Administration,” Osterhoudt replied.
Then Commissioner Nancy Detert told Osterhoudt she would like to have what she called “real numbers,” including potential home prices and apartment rent ranges, in materials submitted with affordable housing proposals in the future.
“We can absolutely create that criteria,” Osterhoudt replied, including a request for the period of time the developer or nonprofit would plan on keeping the units at affordable rates: “10 years, 50 years, 100 years,” for examples.
He added that he would send her a copy of a report staff had made available earlier to the board members, explaining the use of Annual Median Income (AMI) for determining the types of numbers she was seeking.
A copy of that report, which the county’s Public Records Division staff provided The Sarasota News Leader at its request, explains that AMI “is the starting point for determining housing affordability for a specific geography, typically a metropolitan statistical area (MSA). The AMI represents the income level of an area where half the households have incomes below the AMI and the other half have incomes above the AMI.”
The report adds, “Eligibility for several federal housing programs are based on income limits that are derived from the AMI.”
In 2019, the report notes, 80% of AMI in Sarasota County was $56,720. The maximum rent for a household at that level would be $1,418, while the maximum mortgage would be $212,303, the report said.
For households with 100% AMI — income of $70,900 — the maximum rent would be $1,773, and the maximum mortgage would be $283,305.
One other suggestion
Finally, Osterhoudt asked whether the board members were interested in having Colliers International focus on other county properties on the list the company had provided them.
Detert replied that she would like to see attention put on the 114-acre site at the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Tuttle Avenue in Sarasota. The address is 2501 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
The Colliers report says the property is zoned for single-family homes. It is half-a-mile from Booker Middle School and 3.3 miles from Manatee Healthcare System.
The county purchased the property in 2013 with the intention of constructing a major athletic complex for North County. The sale price was $2 million, county Property Appraiser’s Office records show. In 2019, the land was valued at $2,824,700.
The report explains that the land “was found unfavorable for an affordable housing development because it was not close to a grocery or retail store. … The prospect of adding Affordable Housing as part of a larger development raises the odds of bringing affordable units to the area.”
“Furthermore”, the analysis noted, “an Affordable Housing component will play a role in helping the master developer get favorable funding.”
During his Feb. 25 presentation, Osterhoudt paraphrased that, saying the site “would probably need to have some sort of mixed-use component.”
In December 2017, the commissioners first discussed the possibility of an affordable housing project on that site.
“I’d like to explore that, see if we can get some interest,” Detert told Osterhoudt on Feb. 25.