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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

City of Winter Haven Agrees to Transfer Ownership of Three Parcels of City-Owned Property to Private Individuals

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City of Winter Haven Agrees to Transfer Ownership of Three Parcels of City-Owned Property to Private Individuals

by James Coulter

Believing that the properties would be better off in private hands, Winter Haven City Commissioners voted unanimously to transfer three parcels of city-owned land, each to a private individual.

At their recent city meeting, Winter Haven City Commissioners voted unanimously to pass two resolutions, each for the disposition of property within their city’s Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs).

The first resolution was for a .06-acre parcel located at the northeast corner of 1st Street and Ave. P NE. The property will be transferred from the City of Winter Haven to Terry Dewdney, who had offered $4,000 for the property.

Dewdney expressed interest in obtaining the property after the city published a Notice of Public Hearing in the Winter Haven Sun on Jan. 17. On Feb. 12, 2024, he offered a written, hand-delivered proposal saying that he was interested in purchasing the property.

Dewdney wrote that the property was adjacent to his business, Dewdney Plaza, and would be utilized to expand it. He planned to construct two buildings: a single-story building to house Cheryl Cakes, and a two-story residential apartment building to offer affordable housing “with an emphasis and outreach to fire and public safety families.”

“I believe the plans I provided will make good use of the property,” Dewdney wrote. “I am asking for your consideration in donating this property to me so I can continue the vision of improving Winter Haven and the Florence Villa area.”

Commissioner Brian Yates emphasized that Dewdney will pay all costs associated with transferring the property to hisownership. Also, on the off-chance Dewdney does not keep his end of the bargain by maintaining the upkeep of the property and utilizing it as part of the contemplated redevelopment, the lot will also revert to City ownership.

The other property considered that evening included two adjacent parcels with a combined size of .18 acres, both located south of the intersection of US Highway 17 and 6th Street SW. The property will be transferred to Bob Cameron, who had offered $25,000 for the parcel.

Cameron sent a written proposal via e-mail on Jan. 12 expressing his intent to purchase the property, which the city offered in a Notice of Public Hearing in the Winter Haven Sun on Jan. 17.

Cameron, who has offered to purchase the property for $25,000 intends to use the property to construct a small retail building with limited parking for bike sales and rentals. Also, per the agreement associated with this transaction, the property can be purchased back by the city at the same price if the owner does not develop it.

City Commissioners motioned and seconded to pass each resolution, and voted unanimously to approve them.

One resident approached the commission for public comment concerning the transfer of the first parcel from the City within the Florence Villa CRA. He asked why the city would give away City-owned (and, by extension, taxpayer-owned) property to private individuals rather than selling it to them.

City Commissioner Bradley T. Dantzler replied that they were giving away the first parcel because the adjoining street hadchanged from two to four lanes, thus “gutting a lot of properties” and leaving them with “zero value to the city.”

He argued that giving the land to Dewdney would allow it to be better utilized and that its use would help generate potential tax revenue for the city.

Mayor Nathanial Birdsong added that the property in its current ownership and state was costing the taxpayer money through its continued maintenance by the City with no associated taxable revenue.

“The property is actually costing taxpayer money because we have to tend to it by having it mowed because nobody does it for free,” he said.

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