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Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Proposed county zoning change irks group suing Hillsborough

BRANDON — When Hillsborough County officials approved a land-use category allowing a future big-box store on property next to the Bloomingdale Regional Library, area residents were so angry they filed a lawsuit.

The land-use designation — “traditional neighborhood development/mixed-use development” — only has been used once.

Now Hillsborough leaders are considering killing the classification. An informal public meeting is set for 6 p.m. today to discuss its possible demise.

Meanwhile, those same upset residents received welcome news this week when Circuit Court Judge William P. Levens denied the county’s motion to dismiss their lawsuit and ordered mediation before June 30.

Fred Brown, president of the residents’ group called CAN-DO, or Coordinated Active Neighborhoods for Development Organization, said the county’s announcement that it plans to “sunset” the land-use designation came as a surprise.

“It’s a little shocking, to be honest, that all of a sudden now they want to ... be transparent with the community and that they are going to change this,” he said.

“Nobody discussed it with any of us. They just put it out there in a public-notice email,” Brown said.

“CAN-DO finds it outrageous, as well as suspect,” said group member George Niemann. “If the county is deciding this land-use (classification) is no longer viable, why let a single landowner keep it?”

Joe Moreda, the county’s development director, said the change would simplify the process. Under the revised approach, the county would require such rezoning applicants to provide a site plan, with more detail about what they would like to do with a property. The existing designation is complicated, he said.

Moreda didn’t directly address whether the residents or the lawsuit had an effect on the proposed change.

According to the county’s meeting announcement, the land-use designation would be killed, “while allowing existing development under the district to remain ... .”

Red Cast Bloomingdale LLC plans to build what is thought to be a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the site, as well as an apartment complex. Residents say those uses are too intense for an area with a library and high school that already faces major traffic problems. They say the county went about making the land-use change in a sneaky fashion that did not allow for public comment.

The county approved a series of changes to its land development code between 2002 and 2011, including one that was considered a countywide change that affected only the 43.5 acres adjacent to the Bloomingdale Library. The way the code change was advertised gave residents no indication it would affect land in their area.

Brown, on behalf of CAN-DO, sued the county for what the group calls a “zoning bypass,” or a way to change a parcel’s zoning without notifying surrounding property owners.

Today’s meeting is scheduled to take place in the 20th floor conference room at the County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

There will be two public hearings before the county commission votes on the proposed code changes, Moreda said. The hearings are scheduled for April 24 and May 29, with the vote scheduled to take place at the second hearing.

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