Monday, May 7, 2018

Developer Wants Land Use Changes & Opposition Shows Up En Masse

Guest post from Shirley Wood, a resident of south Hillsborough County

Talk to any resident in southern Hillsborough County and they will tell you about what they deal with daily- unbelievable traffic jams, numerous accidents, and a rising crime rate- and it will soon be even worse if the developers get their way. The push now is to allow for more density in development by changing the County Land Use Code* from R-2, which allows 2 units per acre to R-3 which will allow 3 units per acre. In one planned “village” this will mean up to 13,200 houses on 4,400 acres way out by Balm, which sets a precedent for more sprawl all over the county's rural areas.

Residents showed up last Thursday evening at Riverview High School for a public meeting to listen to those representing the developers. The meeting, supposedly organized by the developers, although held in a public high school, using county A/V equipment, and with a Hillsborough sheriff deputy provided, was advertised as a chance for residents in the area to hear about the planned village and the enhancements it would bring to their area. 

The meeting was attended by well over 500 people from the areas including Balm, Wimauma, and Tropical Acres- many who had received a letter inviting them to attend. Food and beverage was provided and a short presentation was made by David Smith, an attorney for one of the developers before citizens were allowed to speak and ask questions. 

According to the developers this change will only apply to this one development- So the question asked by some residents- then why change the entire land use code?? Why not just apply for a zoning change for this one parcel of land? Of course the developers know this will set the precedent for any future developments anywhere in Hillsborough County. Among some of the claims Smith made in his presentation: 
  • In order for R-3 to apply a development must have over 160 acres with “enhancements”. 
  • R-3 is not about rezoning property- it is about changing the county’s Land Use Code 
  • At this time the only property that would be affected would be the one proposed development in southern Hillsborough County (of course no comment from him about the precedent this change would set and the fact that this code change would allow any developer to apply for this change in the future anywhere in the county.) 
  • Said this would not automatically change from R-2 to R-3, but would give the developer the “opportunity” to seek that change 
  • Claimed that the water and sewer in any development would be paid for by the developer in agreement with the county. 
Then it was time for public comments and it was obvious the residents were NOT impressed with all of the promised “enhancements” this “village” would bring to their area. Citizens lined up at the mic to take their turn asking questions. The first was a question concerning the term “public housing” in the proposal. Smith claimed that term was not in the proposal at which the citizen turned to the audience and asked how many had read the proposal with the words “public housing” and several raised their hands. Smith assured him he would reread it and get back with him on that. The follow up was a question asking if Smith could assure them there would be no zero-property line housing, to which Smith said he could not. As for the promise of more parks- one resident told them that their neighborhood already has a park, but no money to maintain it or to provide security so it can safely be used. Another said that before the developers showed up with their thousands of houses they had all the “green space” they needed. Improved roads was also mentioned by Smith as a plus that would come to southern Hillsborough and the residents jumped on this reminding him that traffic now, before this proposed development is built, is already a nightmare, and the county has said that any relief to the congestion is 10 years in the future*. Some honestly said they were afraid of what this meant to their neighborhoods and their way of life.

The questions continued for an hour and ended with the final citizen reminding everyone that the people they were addressing their comments to were not the ones who could do anything about their concerns or even cared about their concerns, and telling them that the fight must go to their county commissioners and the county planning commission. He then turned to Smith and asked, “This development has already been approved hasn’t it? The only difference is whether the density will be 2 houses to each acre or 3 houses to each acre?” To which Smith said yes. So sprawl has already been approved by our county, and the question now is only how dense these developments will be. 

Citizens must speak up now if they want to stop this change to our Land Use Code with even more density in already over-developed rural areas. Future meetings are planned and hopefully the turnout will continue to grow and citizens will continue to contact their county commissioners about this issue. Dates of scheduled meetings are:

July 12, 2018, 6:30p Public Meeting - Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Rd. Riverview, FL 33569

July 23, 2018, 5:30p Planning Commission Hearing - 18th floor County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Downtown Tampa

August 16, 2018, 6:00p County Commission 1st Public Hearing - 2nd floor County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Downtown Tampa

October 11, 2018, 6:00p County Commission 2nd Public Hearing - 2nd floor County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Downtown Tampa
An Eye note: The Developer's Contact listed in the first link above includes Attorney Vincent A. Marchetti

The Times published this article about Marchetti last month.Hillsborough commissioners are concerned about sprawl … until this guy shows up

This Times article last year reported Marchetti hosted a fundraiser for Hagan after he filed to run again for a District seat he had already held.

Are county taxpayers are paying for these meetings hosted by the Developers?  If so, why?

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