Kissimmee cancels selection of affordable housing developer, plans to rebid

The city of Kissimmee has canceled a February solicitation for developers to build affordable housing on 19 acres just west of downtown, and plans to rebid the project at a later date.

In their rush to select a developer, city officials overlooked the fact that the project was ineligible for Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) financing because it isn't properly zoned for multifamily housing.

The city issued a Request for Letters of Interest on Feb. 9, hoping the offer of free land less than a mile from downtown's Lakefront Park would entice a developer to build up to 400 affordable or mixed-income rental units on the property, which is owned by the city and Toho Water Authority.

Respondents had less than two weeks to submit LOIs outlining their plans, financing arrangements, experience and conceptual design. A solicitation of this nature typically has a 30-day response period.

At least two prospective bidders requested extensions to prepare their submittals, but the city officials held firm on the accelerated timeline because they were hoping to select a developer who could meet the Florida Housing Finance Corporation's April deadline to apply for LIHTCs.

Two firms adept at dealing with tax credits submitted LOIs, and the city's selection committee had planned to make a recommendation to City Commissioners next week. 

Some industry insiders complained that the solicitation was unnecessarily rushed, and raised questions about potential conflicts because one of the bidders partnered with Titan Land CEO Domingo Sanchez, who sits on TWA's Board of Supervisors

Florida Housing Spokeswoman Taylore Maxey told GrowthSpotter the agency has never waived the zoning requirement. 

"The (Request for Applications) process does not include any exceptions to the zoning requirements," she said. "Applicants to all RFAs must submit applicable local government zoning forms.  Due to the competitive nature of the process and statutory requirements, applicants must demonstrate compliance with the RFA requirements, including appropriate zoning, as of the application deadline."

Even a city-initiated rezoning would take months to go through the standard review, advertisement and public hearing process. 

When GrowthSpotter inquired about the zoning discrepancy last week, Kissimmee spokeswoman Melissa Zayas-Morena said the issue was being evaluated by staff, but the intention was still to make a recommendation on March 20.

On Wednesday, however, Purchasing Director Debbie Luke withdrew the RFLOI, saying the city would work with TWA to rezone the property and reissue at a later date.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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