By Ron Wolfe

Based upon my observations, itís beginning to look like a race against the clock. What race you might ask? Whoís running in the race?

This race is between developers who are filing rezoning and plan-ned development applications at an unprecedented pace and volunteer citizens who are working to put a Community Development Plan in place to serve as guidelines for future development in Ruskin.

In the absence of a comprehensive community development plan, it is very difficult to determine how each proposed housing project fits into the future of Ruskin. Further, the developers who have presented their proposed housing projects to the Ruskin Community Planning Group, have been well received and with the exception of minor tweaking, given overall acceptance. Itís the cumulative effect of all this development that bothers most people.

Assuming that the rezoning and planned development applications being filed are approved and result in residential building projects, some 4,200 new homes may be built in Ruskin over the next 3 to 5 years. How will this impact Ruskin and how does this rate of growth compare to the past?

According to information I received from the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner, only 84 platted single family homes were added to the tax roles in Ruskin from 1999 to 2003 (1,894 to 1,978). This includes census tracts 214015, 214014 and 214004. Incidentally, the average market value of Platted Single Family Homes increased from $63,011 to $104,339 over these same years.

With the prospect of thousands of new homes being built in Ruskin within the next 3 to 5 years, is it any wonder that Ruskin residents are rightfully concerned about this rate of growth? They are fearful that this growth may overrun the existing and planned infrastructure and dramatically change the character and quality of life in Ruskin.

The handful of volunteers who are serving on the Ruskin Community Planning Group are working hard to create a plan so that developers will have an understanding, at the outset, of the views of citizens. These should be the views of all Ruskin citizens who attend the monthly planning meetings. This strategy is good for both developers and citizens. Most developers that I know would prefer to gain full community acceptance of their building projects by being sensitive to the declared needs of the community.

The Ruskin Community Planning Group wants their findings and recommendations to represent a consensus from the largest group of citizens possible. This should include input from all social, ethnic and economic segments of the Ruskin community. If you have the time and interest, you are invited to join the Ruskin Community Planning Group and get connected to the e-mail information exchange network. If your time is limited, your attendance and input at the monthly meetings will be helpful.

The next monthly meeting is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17 at the Ruskin Neighborhood Service Center, 201 14th Ave. S.E.

To be sure, developing a consensus during these planning meetings is a difficult task. While the goal is to gain input from the largest number and broadest segment of the population, the reality is that often the minority is challenged to make decisions for the majority.

Finally, a special thanks to 72 persons who responded to my recent SouthShore Litter Survey. The results are now being tabulated and will be published in a future column.

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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