By Ron Wolfe

Do you realize that Hillsborough County population might increase by more than 450,000 over the next 20 years? That’s a 46 percent increase in population density and an annual increase of more than 24,000. This is the projection being made by the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission.

How will this growth impact your community and the area of SouthShore? SouthShore is the area bounded by Bloomingdale Avenue on the north; the Manatee County line on the south; Tampa Bay on the west; and just east of County Road 39 on the east. This represents 385 square miles or 36 percent of the 1,072 square miles of land in Hillsborough County. SouthShore includes the communities of Apollo Beach, Balm, Gibsonton, Riverview, Ruskin, Sun City Center, Sundance and Wimauma.

Many are suggesting that SouthShore is looked upon by developers as the "last frontier." Recognizing that most other areas of Hillsborough County are at or nearing "build out," and that SouthShore continues to provide developers with large tracts of undeveloped land (100 acres or more), this may be true.

If we accept the projection of 450,000 new people locating to Hillsborough County over the next 20 years, how many of these will be located in SouthShore and what impact will this have on our communities? Will SouthShore be required to absorb a proportionate or disproportionate share of this growth? How much growth can be accommodated before we outrun the availability of roadways, water resources, greenways, sewage and schools?

To be sure, it is a cloudy crystal ball for all of us when trying to predict the share of this inevitable population increase that will be coming to SouthShore. One thing is for sure, it will dramatically change the character and the quality of life in SouthShore.

Let’s assume that SouthShore will receive only a proportionate share of this population increase based upon its land area. Remembering that SouthShore’s 385 square miles of Hillsborough County’s 1,072 square miles represents 36 percent of the county land area, it follows that SouthShore may receive a population increase of 162,000 of the 450,000 projected for all of Hillsborough County over the next 20 years. This amounts to 8,100 persons annually.

The current population density varies among the eight recognized SouthShore communities. Some are closer to the build-out stage than others.

For example, Ruskin had a population of 10,542 based upon 2003 data. When taking into account the planned developments for just the next five years, the Ruskin population may increase by more than 100 percent. Yes indeed, the sleepy town of Ruskin is about to wake up.

How do you feel about the residential building boom that seems to be coming to SouthShore? Do you feel this growth can be managed to retain some semblance of the character and quality of life in the area? Or, do you feel that with the emphasis placed upon individual property rights, there is little a citizen can do? Are you in favor of this growth coming to SouthShore or do you feel that this rapid growth is unwanted and should be slowed-down to a more moderate pace? Do you feel there should be a pause in this development to allow each of the SouthShore communities to put their community development plans in place?

Please share your views with me, along with your permission to publish your comments in a future column.

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


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