SUN CITY CENTER – Four Hillsborough County staff members artfully arranged a dozen maps and charts on easels throughout the Donald and Nancy Morse Community Hall Aug. 19, and were ready to answer any questions residents might have about the South Shore Areawide Systems Plan, which helps county government plan improvement projects.
However, the anticipated crowd never materialized. The second of three community meetings on the plan attracted only a handful of residents.
Pedro Parra, a principal planner for the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission was puzzled by the low turnout.
“This is very unusual,” he said. “Normally, we get a pretty good turnout any time we have a community meeting in Sun City Center. The residents here are very interested in what’s happening in their community.”
Sandy Council, president of the Ruskin Community Development Foundation, offered one explanation. She said residents in South Shore are generally pleased with the results of the decade-long process to develop and implement plans for the future growth of Apollo Beach, Balm, Gibsonton, Riverview, Ruskin, Sun City Center and Wimauma. And, when there’s no controversy, there are no crowds.
“I like what they’ve done here,” said Council, examining the maps and charts on display. “I think the end product is something we can all live with.”
Council’s endorsement was high praise for county planners. She’d been an active participant in the process to shape future growth and protect natural and historic resources in South Shore.
Nevertheless, Parra said he wished more residents had shown up to review the areawide systems plan, which integrates the goals of all eight South Shore community plans.
“This is the plan residents will use to argue for county funding,” he said.
With limited dollars to spend, he said the county commission will have to make some tough choices about which projects to fund but residents can use the systems plan to lobby for their projects.
Major unfunded SouthShore goals include running a high-speed ferry from Apollo Beach to MacDill Air Force Base and creating a South Coast Greenway system in South Shore, a paved bicycle and pedestrian trail connecting its communities.
Another goal of the plan is to promote agri-tourism in South Shore, said Simon Bollin, agribusiness manager for the county’s Economic Development Department, which would benefit u-pick farms, farm stands, petting zoos and horse stables, said Bollin.
“These are small businesses that provide agriculture-related educational and entertainment activities, and are a source of both jobs and tax dollars,” he said.
Residents who didn’t make the community meeting still have an opportunity to provide input by taking an online survey at www.imagine2040.org.
Freelance writer D’Ann Lawrence White can be reached at email@example.com.