Anclote River development gets go-ahead from commissioners despite pending lawsuits

The fight over land along the Anclote River isn’t over for concerned neighbors in Tarpon Springs who have filed three lawsuits to stop an apartment project from being built on 74 acres of green space.

The Concerned Citizens of Tarpon Springs, also known as Friends of the Anclote River, is the nonprofit protesting the development. Its members want to stop any dirt from moving until the lawsuits play out. But city commissioners denied that request Tuesday, forcing residents to weigh their next move. 

Attorney Jane Graham is working to preserve the land on behalf of the non-profit. 

"It's important habitat for the environmental community as a whole. It's a key habitat corridor," said Graham, an attorney with Sunshine City law firm.

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The group is suing the city of Tarpon Springs, objecting to the plans to build a 400-plus apartment development known as Anclote Harbor. On Tuesday, Graham argued before city commissioners to stop any new building permits for the project, but the city voted 3-1 to let the project go ahead, despite pending litigation.

Neighbors now worry moving dirt will hurt mature trees and other wildlife in the area.

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"If you start removing trees and you damage the habitat, then that's something that you can't recover. It's not something like, 'Oh well, we'll plant 10 new trees and we'll make it all right.' I mean, it's disturbing the habitat forever," said Graham.

In Tuesday’s commission meeting, an attorney for the developer, the Morgan Group, called the move an attempt to kill the Anclote Harbor project. Some residents called it a chance for city leaders to pause, but a majority of city commissioners felt it was OK to move forward.

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Graham said the fight isn’t over, while they wait for the judge to make a decision on the lawsuits.

"My client really does have a stake in this. They have been involved for a very long time, and so they care very much about the outcome and ultimate preservation of this property," said Graham.

A representative for the Morgan Group said the developer will not comment on pending litigation. No Tarpon Springs city commissioners responded to FOX 13’s request for comment.