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Balm to join list of planned South County communities

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By MELODY JAMESON
mj@observernews.net

BALM – Following the trail blazed by a half dozen other South County planning processes, this community prized for its rural isolation now is scheduled to begin hammering out its guideline for future development.

The Balm Community Plan is to begin taking shape in October, according to Lisa Silva, the project manager and a member of The City-County Planning Commission staff. The process, involving focused planning discussions among various components of the community facilitated by a professional planner and often stretching over a period of 18 months or more, will get underway with the customary open house in the community, Silva added.

At that time, community leaders, other residents and large land owners will get an opportunity to overview the entire process, ask questions of planning staff and begin forming their advisory committee representing the community as a whole through the procedure.

Although the open house date has not yet been pinned down, Marcella O’Steen, Balm Civic Association president, said this week she expected it to be set after October 15 and probably conducted in the Balm Community Center.

Customarily, in the course of the planning process, the representative advisory group will take up such issues as housing densities in specific parts of the community, anticipated transportation requirements, environmental preservation, business district location, plus a number of other community quality of life topics. Balm is the site of a prison, a landfill, several barrow pits and a literal mountain of disposal material. Ultimately, the plan will pin down the community’s mutually agreed to goals and priorities for the next couple of decades.

Balm will be the eighth South Hillsborough community to undergo this initial planning process during the present decade. Using different approaches, previous plans have been formulated at the grassroots level in Apollo Beach, Gibsonton, Little Manatee River South, Riverview, Ruskin, Sun City Center and Wimauma. The various plans designed to guide future growth of the individual communities considering the priorities of their current residents were led mostly by planning professionals from either Hillsborough’s Planning and Growth Management Department or from The Planning Commission. One of the plans, however – Apollo Beach – was worked out through a “charrette,” a rapidly-paced approach aimed at pulling a plan together in two to three weeks.     

While the several other plans have preceded Balm’s effort, the little community tucked away east of U.S. 301, between C.R. 672 and S.R. 674 is not the last South County area in the current initial planning cycle. Boyette, a growing area of both subdivisions and open acreage southeast of Riverview, is to enter the process in 2014, Silva said.

That same year, she added, the community plan updating process in south Hillsborough is to get underway. Because community plans must be revisited every 10 years for any pertinent updating required, the South County’s earliest sets of community guidelines – Riverview and Ruskin, for example – will be scheduled for updating beginning in 2014.

Community plans, once hammered out at the grassroots level – often through compromises made by various factions in a community and reached through vigorous debate – are presented to the county commission. If approved by commissioners, plans are forwarded to Florida’s Department of Community Affairs for its agreement. Finally, when accepted at all three levels, the plans become part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan including its land use code.

Copyright 2010 Melody Jameson
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