SEFFNER - A development group proposing to build a Wawa convenience store and gas station close to a drinking water source for a community in eastern Hillsborough County has withdrawn its request.
T. Austin Simmons of Brightwork Real Estate had filed a request with Hillsborough County for a permit to allow underground gas tanks within 1,000 feet of a protected wellhead.
Facing an uphill battle with opposition from the county staff, a hearing officer and nearby residents, Simmons withdrew the request before it could reach Hillsborough County commissioners this week. Simmons had been working with property owner Charlie Springer and Wawa to get approvals for the gas station and convenience store on the corner Williams Road and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Sabrina Brand, a Seffner resident, had planned to attend the Tuesday hearing to oppose the plans.
"It would not have been in my neighborhood, but I am a concerned citizen and I know that once things go underground, you don't know what is going on."
Brand said she was also concerned because about 30 white pelicans use the pond on the corner property each winter. "I hope this means the end of that particular proposal," Brand said.
Several Wawa and Thorntons gas station and convenience store combos have been constructed throughout eastern Hillsborough County in recent months. But this location had specific issues.
Hillsborough County established rules in 2004 to protect the area's drinking water supply, including one that prohibits placement of underground gas tanks within 1,000 feet of a protected wellhead. This well provides potable water to the nearby Davpam Mobile Home Park.
The only way to get around that rule is to get a "prohibited use operating permit," something the county has yet to issue since approving the wellhead protection rule, said Managing County Attorney Adam Gormly.
Wellhead Hearing Master George F. Gramling, III said in his report to the county commission that Wawa had failed to demonstrate that the technology it would use for the underground tanks would prevent gasoline spills within the protected wellhead area. He also cited a report from the state Department of Environmental Protection showing that there were 152 petroleum releases from underground storage tanks in the state during 2012 and 10 of them were in Hillsborough County.
Terry Flott, director of United Citizens Action Network, or U-CAN Hillsborough County, said she was surprised the developers didn't withdraw their request sooner, given the push-back from the county staff and others.
The public was ready to fight against issuance of the permit, Flott said. "And their lack of evidence to support their claims" that the tanks would not leak worked against them, she said. "I'm glad the hearing master saw it the same way we did."
The owner of Davpam Mobile Home Park could not be reached for comment.