Does New Port Richey need more waterfront land? You bet, officials say

New Port Richey City Council members have approved the $1.1 million purchase of land fronting the Cotee River that has been a priority acquisition of city leaders for several years now.

The property, known as the Montemayor parcel, is sandwiched between a boat ramp park to the south and the “Potter Property” to the north bought by the city several years ago.

All told with the purchase of the new land, which is set to close in October after the new fiscal year begins, the city will own 2.73 acres along the river with 522 feet of frontage.

“It’s really an impressive piece of property on the river,” said Greg Oravec, city economic development director.

While the members of the New Port Richey City Council, sitting as the community redevelopment agency board, approved the purchase, there is not yet a specific plan for the adjacent properties. That will come later as city officials continue to discuss what they want to do along the water to enhance other work that has been underway throughout the community.

Getting community input is part of that process. As Oravec explained, some residents are concerned about the fate of the boat ramp. He said the city can keep it, but that the larger property could get reconfigured to create a more functional riverwalk, if that is what city leaders ultimately decide.

While the city is paying more than the most recent $900,000 appraised price, Oravec said that the parcel is “the holdout which unlocks the full potential and value of this assembled site on the waterfront, in downtown, across from Sims Park on both Main Street and River Road.”

Oravec said that it was not unusual to pay a premium price for a holdout property.

“It seemed like a generational opportunity,” he said.

Council member’s didn’t flinch at the price, voting unanimously for the purchase. They were also briefed on the latest ideas from their consultant on New Port Richey’s future updates to their redevelopment plan. More detailed discussion on that plan is expected in a couple of weeks.

That ambitious plan includes work scattered all around the city from Railroad Square to the old community hospital site. One site on everyone’s mind, including some of those in the audience Tuesday night, was the historic Gulf High School, also known as the Schwettman facility.

The city had hoped to buy it from the Pasco County School District but there was reluctance to sell when school officials learned that one of the options was to turn the building and property over to a private developer. Citizens who filled city council chambers also didn’t want to see that outcome, urging the city to turn the property into a cultural center, which could be used by numerous groups.

City Manager Debbie Manns told the City Council on Tuesday that conversations with the school district continue. One other related plan had been for the city to potentially purchase another parcel on the same corner at 5462 Grand Blvd. along with a parking lot adjacent to the school’s extra parking lot.

While the council previously gave Manns permission to bid $575,000 for that parcel, the planned auction didn’t take place this week because the owner decided to pay off code enforcement fines himself and fix up the property on his own.