By Ron Wolfe

The expectations of Riverview and Ruskin residents have been raised by the prospect of putting in place, "Community Development Plans," to provide guidelines for the future growth of these communities, based upon citizen input.

Several planning meetings have been held in each community, with excellent turnout and participation. The schedules for future meetings will be published in this newspaper and you are invited to attend. Also, the initial community-planning meeting was held in Apollo Beach on Oct. 14, with nearly 300 persons attending.

During my discussions with County Commissioners and Hillsborough County staff, all have expressed an interest in community planning and in hearing from citizens regarding the future development of their communities. They agreed that you and I have both the right and responsibility to participate in the process.

The Florida Legislature recognized that the voice of community citizens needed to be given more consideration in the development of their communities and that state and regional guidelines were not serving the best interest of small communities and its citizens.

In 2002, the Legislature created a program giving certain qualified local governments "less state and regional oversight of the comprehensive plan amendment process." It is entitled the "Local Government Planning Certification Program."

It is clear to me that the present emphasis being placed on community planning by Hillsborough County elected officials is influenced by this recent state initiative and this creates an opportunity for SouthShore citizens to play an active role in influencing the management of growth in their communities.

This must begin with each community-planning group conducting their own research to gain familiarity with the many state and county initiatives now available to small communities. One big question we should all be asking is: "Does the current Hillsborough County Comprehensive Land Use Plan support the desires of the majority of SouthShore citizens?" If not, what specific changes or amendments must be made to meet the needs of SouthShore citizens?

While Iíve tried to stay in touch with the community planning activities among all SouthShore communities, being a resident of Ruskin Iím more familiar with the status of the Ruskin plan and the mood of citizens who are participating in the process. Many are dismayed over the rate of development that is already occurring and the number of rezoning and planned development applications that are on file. Because of the time required to complete and implement a Ruskin Community Plan, they are rightfully concerned that this rate of development may render the plan irrelevant.

Ruskin citizens have a long history of caring for their community and demonstrating an interest in participating in the process to preserve the quality of life that now exists.

Next week I want to share some of these initiatives with you and to suggest ways it might be continued under the present set of circumstances.

Send letters to: THE VOICE of SouthShore, P.O. Box 476, Ruskin, FL 33575-0476. Phone: 813-273-8976.

E-mail: Ron@thearjaygroup.com.

Web site: http://www.buysouthshore.com.

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