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Processes to redevelop a SCC brownfield site for bank branch underway

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Residents will have opportunity to weigh in on the environmental question bearing on one of the most prominent commercial locations in the community.

By MELODY JAMESON

SUN CITY CENTER — Still more changes in the banking scene here are being signaled as a South Carolina developer seeks an environmental damage designation for the prospective site of a new branch.

And, residents this week will have opportunity to weigh in on the environmental question bearing on one of the most prominent commercial locations in the community.

Developer GC Partners, LLC, is seeking a brownfield designation for the former site of a gasoline service station on the northwest corner of the Pebble Beach Boulevard and S.R. 674 intersection, according to Mary Yeargan, brownfields coordinator with Hillsborough’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPC).

Operators of the service station, built early in the community’s history, had sold products and services under a number of major oil company banners, most recently with the BP label. The station has been closed and available for sale for a year.

At least one auction aimed at selling the site was conducted there but did not produce a sale when no buyer stepped up to negotiate a price in the asking range of $600,000 for the property of a little over a half acre. 

A community meeting, required as part of the process involved in gaining a brownfield designation, has been scheduled for 6 PM, Thursday (November 10) at the Sun City Center Inn on the east side of Pebble Beach Boulevard. Residents will be able to learn more about the designation and the developer’s plans during the meeting, Yeargan indicated.

The site was cleared of debris from the razed filling station building, tarmac and pump island during the last month . In the last week, the underground gasoline tanks also were excavated and removed by a Tampa firm, Progress Engineering, headed by Bridget Morello, P.E. 

Both Yeargan and Morello, when pressed by The Observer, acknowledged their information is a Chase Bank branch is being planned for the site. However, both also cautioned that they have nothing in writing to substantiate that projection and that it is possible the developer and the bank management have not yet executed an agreement cementing the arrangement.

Brownfields are defined by the Florida Brownfield Redevelopment Act as sites that “are generally abandoned, idled, or underused real properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by actual or perceived environmental contamination.” Sites of gasoline service stations, with their underground gasoline holding tanks that can fail with age or damage, qualify under the statute, Yeargan indicated.

The purpose of the act is to assist property owners with remediation of environmental contaminations to that the property can be safely redeveloped.

The law also provides certain advantages for the developer or builder who undertakes a redevelopment project involving a brownfield site, Yeargan noted. Among those advantages are voluntary clean-up tax credits applicable to Florida corporate income taxes and in an amount up to $500,000, the EPC coordinator noted. In addition, such tax credits, if earned but not used, can be sold one time to achieve the benefit, she said. The concept is supported by a portion of the gasoline taxes paid by consumers at the pump when retail purchases are made.

Rather than wait for the state to underwrite a site clean-up after the brownfield designation is granted, Yeargan explained, this developer is stepping up, willing to pay the clean-up costs at the front end, and then, upon gaining the designation, probably either claim the allowed credits or make use of the credit sale option. 

Named “brownfields” to distinguish such sites from “greenfields,” the program initiated in the late 1990s has proved highly useful in getting assistance for properties with environmental contamination issues but still suitable for productive functions, Yeargan said. Such properties are not contaminated to any degree approaching the “Super Fund” level, she indicated.

EPC does not issue the brownfield designation. Yeargan said she reviews the environmental data and county commissioners make the final recommendation as part of their frequent routine land use evaluations.

 As efforts pertinent to the former filling station site are proceeding, another change in the local banking scene is on the horizon. The SCC area Superior Bank branch in the Kings Crossing shopping center anchored by Publix Supermarket is slated to begin operating under a new brand this week. 

The Superior network, based in Birmingham, AL, was acquired by Community Bancorp LLC in April and now is merging with another of the holding company’s banking networks, Cadence Bank, N.A.  The blue and gold Cadence Bank signage, replacing the red and white Superior logo, is expected to be in place by Friday, Nov. 11.

Managers with the former Superior Bank have notified their customers in writing of the pending name change and promised that while the brand is different, nothing related to account numbering, loan arrangements, debit card use, account statements or hours of operation will change.

Still another recent alteration among SCC financial institutions was takeover of the troubled SouthShore Community Bank by Texas-based American Momentum Bank (AMB) during the summer.  The former community bank branch on the south side of S.R. 674, immediately behind the CVS Pharmacy, now carries the AMB logo.

In the same timeframe, the former Wachovia Bank branch, in the banking cluster at the southeastern edge of the SCC Plaza, began sporting the Wells Fargo insignia and signage, capping off last year’s integration of the smaller Wachovia network with the multi-faceted Wells Fargo combine.

If the Chase Bank branch is built on the former service station site as projected, it will become the 11th financial institution offering retail banking services in Sun City Center. 

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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