Tarpon Springs residents launch legal battle against city, developer over Anclote apartment plan

Those living in Tarpon Springs are asking a judge to overturn the city commission’s approval of an apartment complex on the Anclote River.

The "Concerned Citizens of Tarpon Springs" filed the petition last week. It’s the group’s second legal challenge on Anclote Harbor. A Texas developer is planning to build five apartment buildings that are four stories tall in an undeveloped area east of U.S. Highway 19.

Opponents are concerned about the potential impacts on flooding, the environment, and traffic.

During the city’s board meetings, numerous people spoke out against the proposal. One meeting didn’t wrap up until 4:30 a.m.

PREVIOUS: Tarpon Springs commissioners approve controversial apartment proposal along Anclote River

The group also said the city violated the public’s due process by not allowing them to speak until 2:30 a.m. They said the approval process was "fatally flawed" because the city didn’t apply the right law.

During the first reading on the proposal, Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos explained the city does not own the land and therefore has no say in whether the property becomes home to apartments or a new park. Their approval focused solely on whether the plan is in line with city code and safety requirements.

The Morgan Group’s plan would place five apartment buildings, a total of 404 units, in a flood zone. The project would also add two new entry and exit points on busy U.S. Highway 19. Developers said they will only be building on a fraction of the 74-acre plot of land and that their impact on the environment will be minimal.

Last month, the city commission officially approved the plan, 3-1, in the early morning hours following another marathon meeting. Neighbors and activists say they plan to continue to fight against the project in court – and they have a fairly successful track record there.

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Fifteen years ago, Walmart attempted to build on the same plot. After years of legal debate, Walmart ultimately moved on to develop in a different location not located on the river.

At the time, residents expressed similar concerns about the potential destruction of a natural habitat; sea-level rise, and building in a flood zone.

"Every permit will be challenged," Chris Hrabovsky of SaveTarponSprings.org told FOX 13 following the final vote. "The FDOT permit, if they ever issue it, will be challenged in court. The SWIFTMUD will be challenged, Army Corps will be challenged. All of these permits will be challenged and there is a long procedure for each."