Residents from the Briarwood Travel Villa came to Largo City Hall on Tuesday hoping the commission would sympathize with their plight and not approve an agreement that would ultimately demolish the RV park they call home.
But despite a pre-meeting protest and numerous comments during the meeting, the commission voted unanimously to approve the development agreement between the city, the owners of the property and the developer.
Promising to work with residents on relocation arrangements and costs, all six commissioners signed off on the agreement, which paves the way for a 260-unit apartment complex to be built on the site at 2098 Seminole Blvd.
"I understand your plight. I understand your needs here," Commissioner Curtis Holmes told the residents. "But this is private property. There's a limit to what we can do here."
Commissioner Jamie Robinson expressed concern over what would happen to all the trees and other natural aspects of the property he saw after touring the RV park last week.
"One of the big things you notice when you get in that park is the amount of trees that are in the park," he said. "What are we gonna do? I mean obviously we're going to have to cut down hundreds of trees.
"Along with the residents of the park, that's another big issue, the environmental impact."
According to Briarwood manager Tina Harper, the property owner is hiring professional arborists to study and number every tree on the property; she said they fully intend to preserve as much of the natural aspects of the land as possible.
Robinson also brought up the potential cost of relocation the nearly 100 residents of the park.
"What kind of cost is going to be involved with moving these homes?" he asked. "If you're living on $700 a month, you're going to need a lot of help."
Harper stated the property owner is fully committed to helping the residents relocate, lining up trailer moving services and calling neighboring RV parks to see if they can accommodate the displaced Briarwood residents.
The commission also discussed diverting city funds to the residents.
In the end, none of the counterpoints mattered, much to the dismay of Christine L. Allamanno, the pro bono attorney for the residents.
"Of course my clients and myself are disappointed that things seem to be moving forward," she said after the commission vote.
"On the bright side, we're heartened that finally, as we're well into this process, the developer and the city are starting to talk about the problem of what's going to be done with the permanent residents in the park."
Allamanno was also quick to point out that this isn't the end of the issue.
"This isn't over yet. There's another public hearing at the county level before the county commission to approve the land use designation."
Afterward, the Briarwood residents were left to contemplate what comes next for them.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," 10-year Briarwood resident Roland Riggle said. "I never cross a bridge before I come to it."
Asked if he thinks the city and the developer will do what they can to help them move, Riggle was cautious.
"They said they're gonna help us, but that remains to be seen. People say that all the time. We'll see."
- Blog: The Briarwood Dilemma in Largo
- Apartment Complex Considered for Briarwood RV Park
- Neighbors Raise Concerns About Proposed Apartments at Briarwood RV Park
- Largo May Consider Development Agreement for Proposed Apartments at Briarwood RV Park
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