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Rezoning with added restriction calms over-development fears

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image The acreage is located at the western end of 19th Avenue, north of Ruskin between E.G. Simmons Regional Park and Dickman Island where descendants of one of the area’s colonizing families have personal homes.

New home owners eventually may share a sensitive wetlands area here with herons and cranes, fish and crabs, raccoons and possums if rezoning for a Dickman Island development is approved.

By MELODY JAMESON

RUSKIN – New home owners, but no more than 10 of them, eventually may share a sensitive wetlands area here with herons and cranes, fish and crabs, raccoons and possums if rezoning for a Dickman Island development is approved.

Dickman Investments LLC has applied for a Euclidean district rezoning of 174 acres along Tampa Bay’s eastern shore immediately north of Ruskin, most of it wetlands, from an AR (agricultural rural) use to an ASC-1-R (agricultural/conventional dwelling - one per acre) with restriction, according to Hillsborough County planning records. The site includes just 29 acres of uplands.

The application, signed by Glenn Dickman, names Kevin Mineer, a consultant with the Genesis Group, as the representative.

A rezoning hearing based on the application is set for Monday, July 25, at County Center, Tampa.

Acknowledging that planners have been receiving a large number of letters and emails expressing concerns about possible over-development of an environmentally sensitive portion of invaluable habitat on the bay frontage, David Hey, principal planner with The Planning Commission, suggested this week the fears are unfounded.

“There are not going to be 170 condos built on the bay” in the area up for rezoning, he said. “It just can’t happen.”

On the other hand, Mariella Smith, a Ruskin resident and community advocate, was among those initially questioning the proposed rezoning for development. She pointed to the fact the area is designated by the county as significant wildlife habitat for a wide range of mammals, birds and marine life, to the protected mangrove growth along the shorelines, and to the public safety risks inherent in high density development in coastal high hazard zones.

She also was greatly concerned about the potential for a developer with ASC-1 zoning on wetlands area in hand to later claim credits and cluster high density housing “in a Little Harbor style wad of condos” along the waterfront.

Hey, however, emphasized the application is for a “Euclidean District” project, meaning that all of the land use code standards imposed anywhere in the county are imposed on this project as well. The ASC-1 zoning designation would allow one dwelling per acre, the planner added, but that density on the upland acreage, for example, would have required a planned development rezoning application. Wishing to leave no doubt about the limitations, both planners and the owner agreed to add a restriction that ensures no more than 10 homesites will be developed, Hey said.

Smith attributed the added restriction to the strong public reaction, suggesting that neither the developer nor the planners wanted to head into “a buzz saw of public opposition.”

She also allowed that the county comprehensive plan years ago envisioned what some might think of as light development in the Dickman Island area.

None of the reviewing agencies have raised any objections or sought any additional restrictions, said Isabelle Albert, senior planner in the county’s planning and zoning services division. The county’s Environmental Protection Agency, water utilities, waste water services, fire rescue, school board and transportation department all have reviewed the proposed project, she added.

The project site is located in a Coastal High Hazard Area which would have triggered a planned development approach if there were to be more than 10 lots and where septic tanks are prohibited, she noted. However, Albert added, there are exceptions under the rules if it is not feasible to extend sewer lines to the site portion in the urban services area and if criteria are met.

But, the proposed project, located at the western end of 19th Avenue, may require some roadway improvements for safety reasons, the planner also noted. These would be determined during the concurrency review segment of the approval process.

The rezoning could go to Hillsborough’s Board of County Commissioners for final approval on September 13.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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