Rocky Point Harbor Basin developers sue Tampa over rejected ‘dredge and fill’ townhome project

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Developers say the rejection cost them at least $15 million.

A New York-based developer is suing the city of Tampa over financial losses incurred due to a rejected project.

Rocky Point Harbor Basin is claiming the Tampa City Council, in its unanimous rejection of a waterfront townhome project, violated its own land use regulations and bowed to public outcry.

At issue is a development that would erect 16 three-story townhomes in the North Rocky Point Basin on the Tampa side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway near Tampa International Airport. The project would have required filling about three acres of submerged land to erect the waterfront homes with private docks. 

The plaintiff, Rocky Point Harbor Basin, Inc., acquired the 8.8-acre man-made lagoon in 2010 for an undisclosed sum. The group’s plan shuttered, they now say the property lost $2 million in estimated fair market value and that the developer suffered upward of $15 million in related losses due to planning, engineering and other development costs.

They seek a settlement to cover its financial losses.

The Rocky Point Harbor Basin project would require what’s known as “dredge and fill” to submerged lands, a practice by which developers fill the water with soil to build. Since the 1970s as people became increasingly concerned with protecting waterways, the practice has become less prevalent. However, the Hillsborough County Planning Commission approved last May the developers’ request for a zoning change to move its project forward.

Residents in the neighborhood snapped into action, according to the Tampa Bay Times, claiming the project was harmful to the environment in a lagoon where manatee and dolphin sightings were a regular occurrence.

Residents and other opponents were further worried the project would drive more density to flood-prone areas at a time when sea level rise and climate change are at the forefront of political and environmental discourse. 

Last June, Tampa City Council unanimously rejected the project and further moved to change the planning commission’s comprehensive plan to ban dredge and fill projects. 

The Rocky Point Harbor Basin development group claims in its lawsuit the decision was unlawful because the comprehensive plan at the time contained no such language. They argue the city of Tampa ignored the planning commission’s decision and ignored its own land use policies, leading to a “confiscatory” taking of property. 

The city of Tampa does not comment on pending litigation. 

Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in Hillsborough County court June 26.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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