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Commercial rezoning request in Tampa Palms gets initial approval

TAMPA PALMS — Residents in the Buckingham and Tuscany subdivisions are not happy about new development plans for an area of Tampa Palms that is southeast of the Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Interstate 75 interchange.

At a recent Tampa City Council meeting, they said the influx of new retail businesses and residential housing would increase traffic and lead to more trees being cut down near their homes.

But their concerns did not deter the City Council from granting development company New Tampa Inc. tentative approval to rezone the property to add new stores, shops and restaurants on 247 acres east of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

By unanimous vote on a first reading, with Councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin absent, the council approved the development company’s request to add 116,700 square feet of commercial use from near Cypress Preserve Drive north to I-75.

After the hearing, Warren Kinsler, president of New Tampa Inc., said his company’s only request was to add commercial square footage to property already designated for retail use on the east side of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

“We are not adding anything new,” Kinsler said.

A portion of Tampa Palms Area 3, a triangle-shaped swath of 785 acres that runs east of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and north of Compton Park and adjacent power lines to I-75, has been developed for nearly a decade.

In 2004, New Tampa Inc. began developing Market Square shopping center just south of the Bruce B. Downs/I-75 interchange. The shopping center is home to several big-box retailers such as BJ’s Wholesale Club, Ross, Bed Bath & Beyond, PetSmart, Staples, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, and a nearby Lowe’s. Other storefronts include a Dollar Tree, a nail salon, a CVS Pharmacy and a Regions Bank.

Nearly a dozen people who said they were unaware of the details in the developer’s latest plan before the council meeting made the 30-minute trip from Tampa Palms to City Hall downtown to ask the council to reject the request.

“This proposal should have been rejected,” Buckingham resident Rammohan Ramadoss said, citing increased traffic concerns and strong resident opposition in Area 3.

Calvin Ball, also of Buckingham, said he feared the rezoning would permit the loss of more neighborhood trees.

“If all those trees are (cut) down, we all are going to be in trouble,” Ball said. “Our homes will lose value.”

Ball said he and his neighbors are still angry a patch of trees separating Buckingham and the interstate were cut down in 2010 by Florida Gas Transmission to run a natural gas pipeline adjacent to I-75 through parts of Tampa Palms.

Some Buckingham residents now have an unobstructed view of the interstate and complain about interstate traffic noise. Ball said he is fears the latest development plan could cause a similar result.

Andrea Zelman, the attorney representing New Tampa Inc., said her client’s rezoning application did not include any plans to remove trees near the residential neighborhoods.

She said New Tampa Inc. would have to submit new traffic studies and appear before the city council for every new development proposal.

More single- and multifamily housing is included in Area 3’s long-term plans, but was not apart of the rezoning application.

The Tampa Palms Owners Association, which represents nearly 2,300 single-family households and more than 1,000 apartment dwellers, supports the development company’s rezoning request.

City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione, whose district includes Tampa Palms, read parts of a letter from the owners association president Bill Edwards.

“I want to place on the record both the overwhelming support of Tampa Palms and my personal support of this project,” Edwards stated in the letter.

Maggie Wilson, who lives in the Sanctuary in Tampa Palms, spoke in support of the rezoning request. She said the completion of Tampa Palms Area 3 has been a part of the community’s plan since 1994.

Wilson said residents of Tampa Palm Areas 1 and 2, the original parts of the community, have a personal stake in Area 3 because the success of the mixed use community will directly impact the value of their homes.

Montelione urged New Tampa Inc. representatives to meet directly with area residents before the next hearing.

“I request you go out of your way to meet with people in Buckingham and Tuscany to share with them what you want to do,” Montelione said.

A second reading and final vote is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 7.

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