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Developer fed up, pulls plug on affordable housing in Sarasota

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - A Suncoast developer known for providing affordable housing is abandoning a project that would have brought hundreds of inexpensive residences to the edge of downtown Sarasota. Harvey Vengroff claims building costs and impact fees have made the project no longer affordable.

Vengroff planned on building 368 affordable apartments on 8 acres of land in the 2200 block of Fruitville Road, but after receiving yet another bill Friday morning for $1,600 from the City of Sarasota, he's calling it quits. Vengroff says he's spent $300,000 in paperwork.

"There's a lot of stuff that you have to go through to build affordable housing that you don't have to if you're building condominiums," Vengroff says. "We've had three or four years worth of planning board meetings. We just want to build some affordable housing, and the city needs affordable housing. I'm not going to spend any more money on it."

The city hasn't talked to Vengroff about his plans to quit the project, but city manager Tom Barwin says his concerns about high impact fees are valid. He says it is something that needs to be looked at on a city and state level.

"Developers just can't dish out that 25, 30, 40 percent profit margin on these types of projects when they are paying those big impact fees," Barwin says. 

Barwin says the city did what they could for Vengroff by waving fees and doubling the zoning for the property, which doubles its value.

"We were working very proactively with him to get this done," Barwin says.

But Vengroff has had enough. He plans on building affordable housing elsewhere in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville.