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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Commissioners rezone Brandon wetlands for RaceTrac

BRANDON - The Hillsborough County Commission, sitting as the land use board on Tuesday, approved a controversial rezoning for a RaceTrac gas station and convenience store at the southeast corner of Lumsden Road and Kings Avenue.
But the matter of wetland destruction, required before anything can be built, is still unresolved. Several commissioners stated that despite their vote to approve the rezoning, that is no guarantee they will vote to allow destruction of a 1.3-acre wetland on the corner.
The county’s Environmental Protection Commission staff had previously denied a request from the land owners to destroy the wetland and mitigate it elsewhere. The landowners have appealed that decision and the EPC is planning to hold an administrative hearing on the appeal in July. Without EPC approval, no development can occur.
Once the appeals process is finished, the matter will come back to the county commission, which also sits as the EPC.
Nearby residents, environmentalists and community activists oppose the plan for the gas station and store, saying it goes against county policy meant to avoid environmentally sensitive lands when approving development.
The 18 building owners in the nearby Lumsden Executive Park fully support the plan, saying the RaceTrac would bring more visibility to their office park and more security during non business hours because the gas station will be open 24 hours a day.
Planning Commission Executive Planner Stephen Griffin told the commission the only reason the office park was allowed to be built in 2002 was because the wetlands on the property were set aside for conservation. To come back now and overturn that is not something the planning commission and county policy will support, he said.
Commissioners Mark Sharp and Les Miller voted against the rezoning. They wanted to wait to hear from the EPC before voting on it.
“We are not the EPC and it’s not our job here to determine whether they can mitigate (the wetland),” Sharp said. But, he said he agreed that when the planned development for the office park was approved, it established a wetland conservation area. “Our own land development code clearly states we can consider environmental features,” he said.
Commission Chairman Ken Hagan said he did not believe the board had a basis to deny the rezoning, but did not commit his support for the wetland destruction.

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